And Then There Was the Time That Superman Learned About The Origin of Humanity

 

 

In Marty Pasko and the phenomenal Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez’s DC Comics Presents #1–recently reprinted in handy Showcase format–Superman discovers that life on Earth evolved from the waste products of alien spaceships, which are themselves organic creatures genetically engineered to travel through space.

So to put this another way, in the DC Universe, life on Earth–and also Krypton, as it turns out–is directly descended from alien poop.

Seriously.

The Crank File: Jimmy Olsen and the Planet of the Capes!

Saying that an issue of Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen is crazy is like saying that the Pacific Ocean is wet, or that Rad, the Hal Needham bike racing picture from 1986 where young Cru Jones faces the Helltrack and goes on a prom date entirely on his BMX, is rad. It’s sort of a foregone conclusion.

Jimmy’s craziness, after all, is one of the things that makes him the iconic character Silver Age. But every once in a while, an issue comes by that involves a viking robot girlfriend or a trip through time to meet Hitler that’s so completely bat-shit insane that it transcends even the normal Olsen standards.

Leo Dorfman and Kurt Schaffenberger’s Jimmy Olsen #117 is one of those.

 

 

The fact that this cover has Jimmy being literally sold into slavery and yet the caption box is fixated on his potential owners’ fashion choices might just be the least crazy thing about this issue, and that’s saying something.

The whole thing gets kicked off with Jimmy tooling across the desert with Professor Lewis Lang (the archaeologist father of Superman’s ex-girlfriend who occasionally went to the future and turned into a horrible insect creature, because, you know, the Silver Age) when they stumble across a monolith left by an alien civilization. A giant pink monolith.

 

 

As it turns out, the giant pink monolith is in reality–no joke–the Dimension Penetrator, a strange device with the potential power to destroy the universe. As you might expect, the aliens are junking it on Earth so that they don’t have to deal with it anymore, and I’ve gotta say, that’s a dick move aliens. The crazy honeycomb tunnels that run through it are actually dimensional portals, and while they’ve written a warning in a complex mathematical code that I’m sure was a big tip-off to Mr. Brontosaurus up there, they didn’t actually bother to put any doors on it, apparently forgetting that a handle you have to turn will generally keep out most people who can’t figure out a puzzle that combines sudoku and cryptograms. One can only imagine that in the millennia that this thing sat around, all kinds of dinosaurs were wandering through to parallel dimensions and causing trouble, which….

Huh. Now that I’ve actually written that down, it seems like a pretty good plan to make other dimensions more awesome. Carry on, aliens.

Back in the present, Professor Lang translates the math into a warning, and despite the fact that they remembered to put the word “Dangerous” at the beginning of the warning, Jimmy is Jimmy, and this happens:

 

 

Once he’s through the dimensional honeycomb (which of course vanishes behind him), things seem more or less normal, until he and Professor Lang get to customs, and the TSA agent notices something awry:

 

 

Yes, Jimmy has entered a parallel universe whose main feature is a law that anyone not wearing a cape can be immediately taken into custody and sold as a slave. Now, I don’t make laws, but that seems to go beyond draconian and into the realm of the psychotic, which is pretty much the defining feature of this universe. Well, that and the fact that everyone’s an asshole, as we see when Parallel-Professor Lang totally pulls a St. Peter on him:

 

 

With no way to prove his identity–the Daily Planet building of this reality is the Daily Palate, a rooftop restaurant shaped like a globe–Jimmy is sold on the auction block for less than a dollar, and this is about where the story starts to get really weird:

 

 

For one thing, he’s sold to Clark Kent, who in this reality is a wealthy playboy who needs an extra hand to throw a pool party, which is strange for two reasons: One, it’s a pool party for people who wear capes, and two, as Jimmy finds out, all of the clothes in this dimension are made of metal threads, thus begging the question as to who the hell thought it would be a good idea to put on a cape and metal pants and then go swimming.

Thanks to the Comics Code, Clark’s drown party goes off without a hitch, and with no need for an extra hand, he bounces Jimmy off to a few more owners before he’s finally bought by…

 

 

Himself!

Yes, the stage is now set for a good old-fashioned doppelbang–the term coined by Kevin and Dr. K to describe just such an occasion–but it turns out that Cape-Jimmy (or as I’ve taken to calling him, The Deuce) just needs a stunt double. Also, the Deuce turns out to be the only non-douchebag on the entire planet, even going so far as to help Jimmy gain the attention of the mysterious Dr. X, who designs all the capes.

That’s right, folks: This story just became about Jimmy trying to entrap a mysterious fashion designer. Deal with it.

At long last, the mystery is revealed, as it turns out that Dr. X is none other than…

 

 

Jor-El of Krypton!

At this point, any shred of internal logic this story might’ve had is out the window. See if you can follow along: On Earth-Cape, Jor-El’s entire family came to Earth but didn’t gain super-powers (except that Clark, who is actually Kal-El and is living under an assumed name for reasons that are never explained despite the fact that he was never raised by the Kents, actually does have super-powers, except they’re not Superman’s, he has shape-shifting face-changey powers like Zartan), and while he came from an advanced culture with science far beyond Earth’s, Jor-El’s inventions are roundly rejected and he’s forced to live in a shack out in the desert, possibly because he wears the same green pantsuit every day.

Still with me? Okay, because this is when the Justice League shows up:

 

 

Except that it’s not really the Justice League. It’s Superman–the real Superman, or at least the Earth-1 version that Jimmy’s friends with–and a bunch of other super-heroes (all of whom wear capes), accidentally straying into a parallel dimension during a tour of the universe, mistakenly identified as an invading alien army by Jor-El, who tries to shoot them and instead uses a duplicator ray (did we mention he invented a duplicator ray? Because he did) at the exact moment they turn around, duplicating their capes as they leave. And since cloth is so rare on Earth-Cape, it is immediately ratified that all citizens will wear capes or be forced into slavery.

Then, in a move that’s perfectly logical when you consider the sequence of events that led up to it, Jor-El shoots Jimmy with the Dimenson Zone ray (did we mention he invented a Dimension Zone ray?) but instead of sending Jimmy to the Phantom Zone, it just blasts him back to the more-or-less normal universe of Silver Age Earth.

And all of this happens in three pages.

Take a bow, Jimmy Olsen #117: You’re the craziest Goddamn thing I’ve ever seen.*

 

*: This week.

They Saved Hitler’s Gold!

Look, I’m no expert here, but if I was running a comic book company and I had a story where Adolf Hitler returned from the grave to re-start World War II

 

 

…I would probably put that shit on the cover.

But no: Blackhawk #115′s “The Tyrant’s Return” is bumped to interior pages so that we can focus on the mind-bending terror of that time the Blackhawks found a hand on the beach. And it’s a shame, too, because it is without question one of the best stories in the entirety of the Blackhawk Showcase. I mean, Hitler comes back! The ultimate villain of the 20th century! Even in the world of comics, that’s not the sort of thing you get every day!

So here’s how it goes down: It’s July 4, 1957, and while Blackhawk and his crew of international aviators are celebrating Independence Day (because, you know, the fifties), more sinister forces are at work announcing the return of der F├╝hrer, who has hired a dynamite PR firm this time around:

 

 

Flyers, people. That’s how you know it’s serious.

Clearly, this is the sort of thing that’s going to require the intervention of a skilled team of highly-trained independent super elite fighting men whose weapons are the most powerful science can devise. But since Megaforce wouldn’t be created for another 25 years, the Blackhawks will have to do.

Thus, they leap right into the fight against the resurrected Nazis, although one has to imagine that they’re only doing it to counterbalance their previous record of racial tolerance, which wasn’t all that great.

Before long, though, Hendy, the team’s erstwhile Dutchman, is shot down and crash lands on the Nazis’ uncharted island, where he proves his mettle by punching Hitler so hard that it knocks his moustache off.

 

 

Or not, really.

As it turns out, the rumors of Hitler’s death weren’t exaggerated at all, actually, and the whole thing’s just a plot to make a loyal Nazi who escaped after the war with $25 million in gold show up to hand over the money to a gang of what I can only assume are extremely desperate criminals.

As to just why they’re going to such lengths to pull off the crime of the century, we may never know. And it’s that question, I’m sure, that drives Hendy to attempt to infiltrate the ersatz Nazis (ersatzis?) disguised as the guy who’s disguised as Hitler, but before he can get to the bottom of things, he trips, bumps his head, and–because this is always what happens when you bump your head in comics–loses his memory and thinks that he’s Hitler.

 

 

Fortunately, Blackhawk himself is able to figure out exactly what’s been going on just by seeing the bandage around Hendy’s head, and once the Real Fake Hitler shows up and conks him one on the noggin again, everything eventually works out okay.

Except that I’m still pretty damn confused. I mean, yeah, there’s $25 million in gold on the line here, but the Ersatzis already have enough money that they’re able to find an uncharted island, set up a perfect recreation of a WW2 German airfield–complete with planes, artillery, and a full staff of pilots and ground crew–and make a pretty good show of attacking ships and dropping leaflets, all for the off chance that a fanatical ex-SS officer’s going to show up and hand over a pile of cash.

Admittedly, we’re talking 25 mil in 1957 dollars, but… well. Comics. Whatcha gonna do?

The Satanic Son of Superman!

Superman is a lot of things. He’s a great hero, certainly. A symbol of all that’s good in the world, sure. He’s even a halfway decent reporter.

But he is not a very good father.

I mean, look at the evidence here: Whenever we’ve seen Superman as a father, the results have tended to fall somewhere between disappointing and disastrous. Sometimes, he raises a disaffected youth who travels the country on a motorcycle doing the “Funky Robot.” Sometimes, he raises a daughter who can’t stop making out with her cousin. And sometimes… He ends up raising the mass-murdering spawn of Satan.

 

 

Or at least, that’s the case in 1972′s Action Comics #410, which predates The Omen by a good four years and proves once again that Cary Bates–whose return to comics last month with True Believers included the phrase “weaponized WiFi”–was way ahead of his time.

Anyway, in this particular imaginary story Superman’s kid is Krys, who… Well, I’ll let Bates & Co. explain:

 

 

That’s right, folks: In addition to looking like Li’l Spock from that one episode of the Star Trek cartoon, Krys is pure evil, and possessed of the vast, ill-defined plot-driving power to do pretty much anything, up to and including turning water to sulfur and dragging chunks of a white dwarf star all the way across space and chucking them at a restaurant on the moon.

And if that wasn’t enough for a single super-parent to deal with, Superman also has to deal with the pressing threat of these guys:

 

 

The Trolvs–or as I like to call them, the Klandroids–are an indeterminate number of evil killer robots in bathrobes that were created by, and I quote Superman, “a dying criminal scientist who hated me bitterly,” which begs the question of why Bates went all vague instead of just saying “Lex Luthor.” I mean, it’s not like he was kicking off a whole series of the adventures of Widower Superman and his Satanic Offspring that might feature Luthor in future installments or anything, so why the hell not? Oh well, no point worrying about it now. More on these guys later, when they become relevant to the plot.

At this point, any questions about the Trolvs are going to have to take a back seat to wondering just how Superman’s kid turned out to be such a bad seed anyway. Is he the horrible result of Lana Lang mating with Superman in some bizarre insect form? Could it be that Lois Lane’s poison womb had finally gotten its revenge on a world that hated and feared her?

No, the actual cause comes from Superman’s one true love, Krysalla!

 

 

What? You guys don’t remember Krysalla, who appeared one time in an imaginary story by Cary Bates where she married Superman, revealed she was a witch, gave birth to his son and then died off-panel? Hmph. You kids today. No respect for the classics.

It’s worth noting that when she reveals her witchity nature to her husband, Clark’s awfully indignant for a guy who hasn’t bothered to tell his wife that he’s actually Superman. Remember, kids: Grown-up relationships should be built on honesty, unless there’s something you really don’t want to tell your wife. In any case, when the truth finally comes out, it’s because she’s worried that her dark powers will cause complications for their son, and, to nobody’s surprise, she is absolutely right.

Sadly, Superman himself doesn’t catch on until ten years later, after a decade of Krys’s subtle mass murder:

 

 

The catch here is that Krys doesn’t actually know that he’s causing all these horrible disasters and he’s actually a decent kid at heart, which doesn’t stop Superman, who has decided that his son’s evil power can no longer run unchecked, from strapping him to a chair and shooting him with a Future Gun:

 

 

And this is where it starts to get completely insane.

No sooner has Superman put his son down like Old Yeller than the boy splits in two, and at this point I can no longer make jokes about it, because the culprit behind Krys’s evil deeds is revealed to be…

 

 

…his INTERDIMENSIONAL GHOST DEMON SIAMESE TWIN BROTHER.

 

Once he’s free of his host body, however, Krys’s Evil Twin’s reign of terror only manages to last a grand total of nine panels, screeching to a halt when the Trolv’s bust in and Superman–who can fly fast enough to break the time barrier and shoot death-rays from his eyes–conveniently fails to stop them until after they’ve killed the little rugrat.

Thus, Superman reveals that his Future Gun was only meant to put him into suspended animation until he could put together a proper exorcism, and everything eventually works out okay.

Still, though. An Interdimensional Ghost Demon Siamese Twin Brother…

 

 

Yes, Superman. Yes it is.

Trial of the Bat-Witch!

Every now and then, I’ll run across a story that I am convinced is The Craziest Thing Ever Published.

It happened when I read the issue of Metamorpho where he fights off a two-foot tall galactic conqueror by using a guitar that shoots laser beams; it happened when I read about the little man with a radio that lived in Sun Boy’s ankle and spied on the Legion; and it happened–of course–in the story that brought us both Bizarro Computo and Hate Face. And each time, I found something that was even more nuts to fixate on for a few weeks.

But this time? I don’t know if anything’ll ever top this:

 

 

Why is Superman hanging with a bunch of Puritans and accusing Batman of consort with the Author of All Lies? Because Bob Kanigher. That’s why.

Yes, springing from the pen of madness itself with pencils by the late, great Ross Andru is 1969′s World’s Finest #186, wherein Kanigher apparently read The Crucible and decided that it just didn’t have enough super-heroes, a theory that a sixteen year-old Christopher J. Sims would later pose in Ms. McDonald’s 10th grade English class. Unfortunately, this one’s actually a two-parter that ends in WF #187, which I couldn’t find, but I think there’s enough here to be getting on with.

The whole thing gets started at–where else?–Stately Wayne Manor, where we find Bruce Wayne brushing up on his family history with a volume about Revolutionary War hero “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a choice of recreation that, by the sheer coincidence that made up a good three quarters of the storytelling back in the ’60s, is going to be important in about three pages.

In fact, no sooner has he finished reminiscing aloud about his famous Redcoat-hating ancestor than Commissioner Gordon gives him a ring on the hotline, asking him to guard a priceless bust that’s just been donated by an anonymous collector, because apparently, crime had been completely eradicated by this point in history. Of course, due to the fact that the businesses of Gotham City are staffed entirely by incompetent maroons, his services are rendered unnecessary when the curator drops the bust–which has been covered in a sheet and never seen by anyone, including the museum staff, before it went on public display–and shatters it into a million pieces.

Clearly, this is a job for Superman.

 


(Click for a larger image)

 

The way I see it, there are essentially two possibilities here: A), that whomever sculpted said bust went through the trouble of carving out an exact duplicate of Anthony Wayne’s head, then (somehow) made a Batman mask out of marble and managed to fit it over; or B), which will seem far more likely after the next few pages, that Superman’s just messing with Batman. Either way, the fact that Superman shows Gotham’s museum-going public that Batman looks an awful lot like Bruce Wayne underneath his mask is never brought up again.

Needless to say, this sparks Batman’s curiosity, so after Superman whips up a couple of Colonial outfits out of Wayne Manor’s drapes–no, really–it’s off on a trip through the Time Barrier to Colonial New England, which somehow manages to be slightly less historically accurate than, say, Colonial Williamsburg. No sooner have they landed, however, then they are immediately mistaken for British spies–probably because Batman’s drapes were made of a soft lavender, when everybody knows that earth tones were in during the summer of ’75–and attacked by “Mad” Anthony himself:

 

 

The World’s Greatest Detective, ladies and gentlemen.

Oh, and then Batman fights a horse:

 

 

During the scuffle, Anthony “Ol’ Stabby” Wayne manages to rip Superman’s Colonial outfit, and gets the idea from Superman’s red cape that he’s fighting a couple of redcoats, which leads Our Heroes to the completely logical conclusion that they’ll be far more inconspicuous if they just wander around in their super-hero outfits. The side effect of all this?

The Single Greatest Panel Of All Time:

 


I’m going to play Hamlet! See? S For Shakespeare!

 

Sadly, all copies of the Eighth Folio version of Hamlet, which included Laertes seeking vengeance as “a Bat-Man,” were lost to the ages.

The townspeople are pretty easy to convince, but to be fair, they’re a little distracted by the fact that they’ve got a witch trial going on, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that they’re actually living almost a full century after the famous Salem witch trials, but hey, they’ve got a long way to go before they get TV, and there’s got to be something to kill the time, right?

The lady in question–as is so often the case with this sort of thing–is actually completely innocent of witchcraft, a fact Batman is able to instantly determine from the evidence of her astonishing hotness.

 

 

Rather than let Sylvia–the soaking wet blonde in the previous image–die, Superman leaps into action faster than the eye can see, biting through the dunking stool in the hopes that the superstitious townsfolk will leap–however illogically–to the conclusion that she was freed by an underwater serpent. Seriously. That’s his plan. And amazingly, it works, although it doesn’t quite solve the problem of keeping a woman tied to a plank of wood underwater from drowning.

No, that’s the kind of thing that requires a Batman, and once he drags her to the shore and unties her, she rewards him with some good ol’ fashioned 18th Century makeouts, thus proving that every romance novel cover I have ever seen is 100% Accurate. Superman finds his attempts to get on some of that, however, totally shot down:

 

 

That is just how Batman rolls.

Superman doesn’t take this sort of thing lying down though, and while Batman’s off making time with Sylvia in a tavern, Supes sets out to have his best friend convicted of witchcraft and burned at the stake. How? By dyeing his costume and flying around on a broom and using Super-Ventriloquism to make it look like a black cat was talking to him, thus reminding us all that when it comes to Silver-Age Dicketry, nobody does it better than the Last Son of Krypton.

 

 

The townspeople immediately find Batman guilty and sentence him to be burned at the stake at noon the next day. Thus, Batman is left in the stocks to contemplate his impending death, and since he apparently forgot that he’s fucking Batman and could free himself from an 18th century pillory in less time than it takes me to make a sandwich, things are looking pretty grim for the Caped Crusader.

Is there anyone–anyone–who could help?!

 

 

Yes, Benjamin Franklin shows up, and hits on the brilliant idea of freeing Batman from the stocks by tying a kite to the lock and waiting for lightning to strike it. One can assume that after failing that, he would’ve attempted to spring Bats by burning him out with a pot-bellied stove, focusing light through a pair of bifocals, or banging a couple of French broads.

It doesn’t quite work out that way, though, and with Superman around to stop the lightning from reaching the lock, Franklin’s forced to call it a night and go back to founding the Post Office, leaving Batman to be burned at the stake in the next exciting issue.

But like I said, I don’t have that one, and after having my mind irrevocably shattered by the first appearance of the Batman/Ben Franklin team, I can only assume that everything works out okay. If I had to hazard a guess, though, I’d say that it involves a deception resulting in Anthony Wayne being mistaken for Batman, an appearance by Kryptonite that somehow pre-dates the explosion of Krypton, and the stunning revelation that Batman was making out with his own great great grandmother about five paragraphs ago.

Time Travel, folks: Never A Good Idea.