It occurred to me while I was doing this months’ Previews roundup that there may be some of you out there who don’t understand why I’m so excited about DC’s upcoming Saga of the Super-Sons trade paperback. Of course, those of you who have actually read a Bob Haney story will already understand my desire for this thing–especially seeing as it includes a lost story from the pulped Elseworlds 80 Page Giant–but for those of you who haven’t, allow me to explain.
Ladies and gentlemen… I give you the Super-Sons:
Yes, springing from the pages of Haney and Dick Dillin’s World’s Finest #215 are the college-age sons of Batman and Superman, who take on the imaginative names of Batman Jr. and Superman Jr. and hit the grim and perilous world of 1972 head on, against the wishes of their heroic parents.
Incidentally, despite the fact that being married to perpetually faceless women and having kids in their twenties contradicts just about every story published about these guys since 1940 or so, Haney assures us that the stories of Clark and Bruce Jr. are, and I quote, “not imaginary, not fantasy, but real, the way it happened.”
Then again, Bob Haney said a lot of things. It’s probably best to just move on.
True to form, Haney doesn’t waste any time with the story, and rather than giving us anything other than the basic premise on the first page–specifically Superman and Batman have kids that are exactly like them, right down to their names–he gets right to the action. There are, for the record, exactly four panels of a tense phone call between Clarks Jr. and Sr.–wherein Superman reveals his surprisingly uncharacteristic disapproval of Junior’s job working at a community center where he helps others “struggle agains that octopus of despair, the ghetto”–before we get to the main event: Biker Fights.
Having apparently lost their battle with the octopus of despair and turned to crime, Satans’s Shockers crash through the walls and start hassling Clark Jr., who, even though he’s been expressly forbidden by his father to fight crime, decides that he’s had all he can stand and he can’t stands no more!
Hey Clark! How aged do you like your Scotch?
Man, that guy’s a mean drunk.
Needless to say, the bikers–whose names run along the lines of “Big Alice” and “Crumbum”–are no match for Junior, and even though he only has half of Superman’s powers, what with being half-Kryptonian and all, he beats the crap out of them pretty easily. Of course, once the Old Man shows up to chew him out for going banana on those guys, he decides he’s had enough of the older generation and storms out.
And by “storms out,” I mean “punches through a wall.” That’s just how Superman Junior rolls.
Meanwhile, in Gotham City, it turns out that the Waynes have it even worse than the Kents, because their son… is a hippie:
Or maybe he just talks that way because he’s a Bob Haney character.
Either way, it seems that, much to the dismay of Wayne the Elder, Bruce Jr.’s been dressing up as Batman and punching out criminals at night. It seems things have been pretty rough between father and son, what with the fact that Batman didn’t bother to tell his kid he was Batman until two years previous, a bizarre fact that would stand for all of two stories before Haney contradicted it in a tale where the Super-Sons decided to find out whether man was inherently good or evil by screwing with cavemen in the Arctic.
Anyway, Bruce Jr. jumps off the balcony before his ‘rents can revoke his crime-fighting privileges, and once we find out that he is quite possibly the most stylish dude in comics history…
… the “spiritual brothers” hook up and decide to make a go of crimefighting themselves.
Rather than sending them out untrained, however, the Super-Dads decide that it’d be a better idea to arrange a test for them to see if they can actually cut the mustard as crime-fighters, so they decide to pit them against mob boss Rocco Krugge, who rules the streets of Sparta City with an iron fist.
Yes. Sparta City. Feel free to make your own joke now.
Of course, rather than throw them into the real Sparta City, Superman gets the bright idea to create a duplicate city so that nobody’ll really get hurt when things inevitably go wrong. Seems like a solid plan, but the question here is how he’s going to pull it off.
Now, the record will show that I’ve read a lot of Silver Age comics, and have a passing familiarity with how people get things done in those things, so I assumed that Superman would use his incredible powers to actually build a duplicate city, maybe going so far as to stock it with life-like robots that would mirror the actions of their real-life counterparts.
I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
In actuality, Superman decides it’s a far more expedient idea to grab the San Andreas Fault and crack it like a whip, which causes Sparta City to accelerate to the speed of light, thus creating a duplicate Sparta City that exists one day in the past.
I have read a story where a man in red pajamas runs through the sun and back while holding his breath and vibrating his molecules. I have read a story where the Atom shrinks down and goes into Batman’s corpse and starts kicking him in the brain to get him to get up and fight crime. I have read a story where a shape-shifter and his caveman sidekick/nemesis team up to play a game of football with an atomic bomb against robots. But that?
That’s the craziest thing I have ever seen.
Needless to say, the rest of issue pales in comparison, but really: What wouldn’t?
The Super-Sons eventually arrive in Sparta City without realizing that they’re actually in an incredible simulation thereof, and promptly get into a running gun battle on their motorcycle. And then they have a pillowfight.
While all that’s going on, it turns out that the aged Rocco Krugge–who has bullied his son into the “family business” in the most subtle parallel since Hewoes–has made an amazing recovery from being super-old. Thus, with the Super-Sons causing him trouble, Krugge dispatches his kid for a hit on Superman and Batman Junior, which he glumly carries out to its conclusion.
Superman Jr’s buried alive in cement–unable to escape due to his weaker powers–and in a surprisingly violent twist, Batman Jr’s shot in the head execution style at a construction site. So there’s that.
Incidentally, Dick Dillin goes to great lengths to hide the identity of Superman and Batman’s wives, to the point where poor Mrs. Wayne is made to wear a giant sun hat at breakfast. The overall effect, I’m sure, was intended to convey an air of mystery that allowed the kids to have mothers without “spoiling” the long-term love triangle of Superman, Lois Lane and Lana Lang (or Batman, Catwoman and Talia, I guess), but it comes off as… well, creepy, especially given Haney’s editorial about how this stuff really happened. That’s right, kids of the ’70s: Superman’s got a secret, faceless wife stashed away somewhere in Metropolis that nobody knows about! Enjoy!
Anyway, the rumors of their deaths, et cetera and it all turns out to be a trap to lure Krugge to the graveyard, where it turns out he’s stashed the key evidence that’ll bring down his empire. Then, in yet another example of this story just getting darker and darker, he trips over his own wife’s tombstone, accidentally shoots himself in the gut, and dies.
As it turns out, the events in the ersatz Sparta City seem to reflect those in the genuine article, as demonstrated by Batman, who is incredibly happy that somebody died:
And that, it seems, is considered a success. Thus everything works out okay, and the Super-Sons are free to ride off on their motorcycle–their one motorcycle–in search of further adventures involving events that not only don’t make sense, but actively seek to destroy it, and Haney is able to once again wrest the Crown of Insanity from the vicelike grip of Bob Kanigher.
But we’ll see what happens when that Metal Men Showcase comes out.