Observation for Now

There was a star danced, and under that I was born.

-- Wm Shaks-spar, “The Tempest”

Monday, March 02, 2015

The End of Superman #176

Here is the ending of this great comic from 1965.

The letters pages were always fun, this one being a great example.  The first letter catches an "inaccurate" depiction of a Tommy Gun in a previous issue, to which the reply is, "This was a movie prop."

The second letter calls out a depiction of Clark wearing his glasses to bed, to which an inferior wisecrack was rejoined.  A much better response would have been, "He wore his glasses to see his dreams better!"

Note the third letter, from some MPs stationed in Korea.  Even the Army loved Superman!  The question posed, "Why does Superman need a Secret Identity," was answered in the tale that's plugged in the editorial reply.  It's Action #305, covered in this podcast.  It's a great tale, ripe for the page-by-page treatment.

The final letter to the editor basically brings up the whole "status quo" problem of serial fiction.  The reader wants something exciting to happen, but the creators are constrained by format to resolve the conflicts so that everything is back where the story started (generally).  "Dreams, hoaxes, illusions, pranks, doubles, and imaginary tales" were one way around this.

The inside rear cover page was another get-fit-quick come-on.  DARE you risk a dime?

And the rear cover, a color ad, was for the familiar "MAKE MONEY - GET PRIZES" attractions of American Seeds.  Thank heaven I never answered ads like these, or I would be a muscle-bound Green Nut!

Thanks for joining me on this roller-coaster ride through a great and somewhat representative Silver Age comic.  We're taking off the month of March.  Come back Wednesday, April 1st, for the beginning of 2015's April Foolishness !


Friday, February 27, 2015

Superman Explains His Radical Honesty

It's the end of the final story in Superman #176, "Superman's Day of Truth!"  We learned that Superman and Supergirl spent the day being brutally honest in honor of a Kryptonian holidy.  This celebration commemorated Val-Lor, who once stood up for freedom against Kryptonian invaders, even though he was killed for it.   His honesty inspired a revolt that chased the occupying Vrangs from Krypton.

As he explains his super-powered fudging that allowed him to SAY the truth even if the puny Earthlings couldn't understand it, Lois asks him, what about when you told the world your Fortress's location?

Aha! he informs them.  That's the middle of the ocean, where he ONCE did indeed have a fortress.  (This was in 1958's Action #244, "Superman's Undersea Kingdom.")

And so, our story comes to an end with the supporting cast understanding the reasons behind "Superman's Day of Truth!"  Typically, the final panel depicts our noble hero departing while Lois and Lana *sigh* dreamily.

The next page in this issue contains a DC house ad, touting the upcoming The Flash 80-Page Giant that, for some of us, was our generation's introduction to "Flash of Two Worlds!" and the concept of parallel Earths.

The bottom half is one of those typical "start a hobby" ads.

See you Monday for the final pages of this comic!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

MA-30 - Visitations

It's another compilation of Space-Age silliness in song form.

1 -   Introduction    Frank Stranges   
2 -   Flying Saucer  The Solid Senders   1952
3 -   Rocking to the Moon To-Night     Big Charles Green With Lil' Dusty Fletcher & His Front Page Clefs         1958
4 -   Satellite No. 2  Carl Mann    1958
5 -   Minus One-Blast Off      Sonics  1958
6 -   Moon Man   Gloria Lambert 1959
7 - Cruise to the Moon The Chaperones 1960
8 - On the Dark Side of the Moon Frank Comstock 1962
9 - Orbit Twist Joyce Songer and Rufus Shoffner 1962
10 - Les Martiens Arrivent Les Guitares 1963
11 - Rocket to the Moon Glen Holden's Astro-Notes 1964
12 - Space Race Ho-Dads 1964
13 - Country Music on the Moon Jack Broadwell 1964
14 - Do the Robot Marveluss Mickey and The Rock-a-Sonics 1965
15 - Purple People Eater Screaming Lord Sutch 1966
16 - Rocket Ship The Lost   1967
17 - Quasar 45   Sun Lightning Incorporated 1969
18 - Space Truckin’ Deep Purple 1972
19 - Flash Queen 1980
20 -  Fred from Jupiter Digette 1984
21 -  Dance of the Planets The Chromatics 1991
22 -  Martian Girl  The Aquabats 1997
23 -  Planet of the Apes Frankenstein Drag Queens from Planet 13 2001
24 -  Astrouniverse Kay Weaver 2002
25 -  Invaders from Mars Shock Therapy 2003
26 -  I Married a Monster from Outer Space The Tables 2003
27 -  Space Girl The Phenomenauts 2005
28 -  Space Invaders Pornophonique 2007
29 - In My Spaceship Jan Turkenburg 2009
30 - Space Ship in My Garden Jessica Dowdall 2009
31 -  Conclusion Frank Stranges

The intro and outro are sound bites from the man who, like Doctor Friedrich von Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein, is both famous ... and infamous.   One of the earliest UFO theorizers of the modern era, Dr Frank Stranges was a Christian minister who also claimed inside knowledge of Saucer inhabitants.

He also claimed to have attended a meeting at the Pentagon between military types and Saucer Commander Valiant Thor.

Now, with the solemn knowledge of the vastnesses of space (between a pair of human ears), I present to you MA-30 - Visitations, or here.


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Another Reason Why Kryptonians Are Better Than Humans

Now we will learn the secret behind "Superman's Day of Truth!" as narrated in Superman #176 from 1965.  It seems that Superman and Supergirl have been going around today, saying THE ABSOLUTE UNVARNISHED TRUTH, with no regard to social niceties or people's feelings.

Now, they have descended into the shrunken last city of Krypton, Kandor, to participate in a mysterious ceremony with all of the Kandorians.

It begins with the reading from a mysterious Book of Deeds, and tells of how, thousands of years ago, the peaceful Kryptonians had been invaded by the warlike Vrangs.

The Vrangs look like humanoid rats, don't they?  They have lots of fun making the peaceful Kryptonians fight in arena-style games, and using them as slave labor to mine the Jewel Mountains.  They provide only the barest minimal sustenance.  "Its far better than you Kryptonian slaves deserve!" one of the captors says.

(Kinds of sounds like a day in the life of a US taxpayer enslaved by Congress, regulations, and Presidential orders-by-fiat.)

Finally, after years -- YEARS -- of this, one man stands up for his basic rights of liberty and self-determination.  As you might have guessed from the beginning of this narration from the Book of Deeds, his name is Val-Lor.  He speaks the feelings of all enslaved people to his oppressors:  "I hate you and I wish you were dead!"

As you would expect, the Vrangs deal harshly with this upstart.

But what's this?  The murder of Val-Lor has brought his fellow slaves to a remembering of their freeborn state.  A great rebellion sweeps across Krypton, and (after many deaths) the Vrang are swept from Krypton.

As the ceremony honoring Val-Lor draws to its end, it's up to Superman and Supergirl to go back to their friends and explain their actions on this day of "total truth."  That will be covered on our next instalment.

First, I want to think again about the (fictional, I grant you) story of Val-Lor and how his truthtelling inspired his fellows.  Krypton became free again!  And all because one man stood up and told the truth -- that slavery is wrong.

Now, you can read all sorts of allegories into this tale.  Certainly the "standing for truth" angle is applicable to nearly all human struggles.

However, we Earthlings don't have it as simple. We don't have the luxury of fending off an invading alien race.  No, our oppressions come from each other.  And sometimes we are both oppressed and oppressor.

Sermon over.  Let's get out there and tell the truth, ameliorated by kindness!

The rest of this story on Friday.


Monday, February 23, 2015

Secrets Behind Inconvenient Truth-Telling

In these important panels from 1965's Superman #176, we begin to learn the causes for "Superman's Day of Truth!"

After Superman and Supergirl have demonstrated that today they will tell the honest, unblemished truth -- direct truth unshaded by normal conversational pleasantries -- then a few of the charatcers in this story decide to take advantage of this unexpected veracity.

First, Superman is in court to testify against a typical lowlife scum -- ahem, I mean, against a citizen who has the presumption of innocence -- when the creep's canny lawyer decides to ask (totally irrelevantly) Superman what his Secret Identity is.  Using that super-fast brain of his, Our Hero agrees that he's write it on a chalkboard once only.

And, "Fssstt!"  super-speed and super-friction come into play.  Outfoxed you, smart guy!  Nevertheless, the shyster comes back demanding the location of Superman's "secret Fortress of Solitude!"  As we all know from our fan tradition (and also from the story earlier in THIS VERY ISSUE), Superman's Fortress of Solitude is in the arctic near the North Pole.

HERE is the location given by Superman in his testimony, according to Google Maps:

... Of course, we kids wouldn't know that.  We would have just cringed at the idea of the Fortress's location being public, and then gone on to the next panel.

These next panels depict another attempt by sneaky Lois-and-Lana to trap Superman into "deciding" between them.  Of course, any super-shout that's so loud they cannot understand it, might also permanently damage their hearing, eh?

That little bit of sidestepping out of the way, Superman meets Supergirl in his Fortress, and they descend into Kandor for "the ceremonies."

What better place for "ceremonies" related to truth-telling, than Kandor?  (Think "candor.")  And now, in this accidentally preserved piece of Old Krypton, we the readers begin to learn the secret behind the truth-telling rules.  We learn of the ancient Book of Deeds, from which "the Elder" reads the lore of "Val-Lor, greatest hero of our home planet, Krypton!"  Quite a catchy name for a man of valor, you will agree.

Now we learn of an untold era in Kryptonian history, when Superman's home planet was invaded by the Vrangs in their flying saucer-like space ships.

(When I read the Vrangs' opinion of Kryptonian society -- "like sheep!  They know nothing of war!" -- I'm reminded of John Philpot Curran's statement, "The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."  -- or, as they say, "Freedom isn't free.")

As we will learn in our next instalment, the price paid by the Kryptonians for their non-vigilance was indeed slavery.  Also, we'll learn what an ancient invasion of Krypton has to do with Superman and Supergirl telling the truth, TODAY.

See you Wednesday!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Tell the Truth and They Think It's Hell!

In pages 2 and 3 of "Superman's Moment of Truth!" from April 1965's Superman #176, we learn a little more about Superman's sudden attack of truth-telling.  And it's not just him, Supergirl, too.

Superman tells the truth about a baby pageant from hell, and when Lois upbraids him, he replies that he just told the truth as he saw it.

Meeting Supergirl, he hears her tell a similar story about a dinner the Supergirl Fan Club.  Well, they DID ASK how she liked the food.

AS you can tell from their conversation, this sudden spate of candor isn't something our Super Heroes are doing on a whim.  It seems as if it's a duty, a task they must do, if only for today; a day that's "going to be the longest day of the year for both of us!"

More examples of perhaps unwanted honesty, as Superman  informs Jimmy that his date is a fake (wouldn't YOU want to know?).  I like the tossed-in reference to Jimmy Olsen's canonical girlfriend, Lucy Lane.  (As an airline stewardess, perhaps she's on a long assignment overseas.)

But aren't we glad that Professor Potter's onion-juice squeezer isn't a facet of every municipal installation?

But as we can tell, the "psst -- get a load of this!" (once known as the clothesline or back-fence network) information system works fast!  Perry White sort of knew what to expect when Superman laid the stinky truth on him about that ever-present cigar.

And that afternoon. when Superman takes his place at a scheduled trial, who knows what will happen to him at the hands of a tricky defense lawyer?

Since I'm very experienced in courtroom etiquette (hundreds of hours of Perry Mason, Matlock, Law and Order, and Judd for the Defense), my first thought is:  Why doesn't the prosecutor yell, "OBJECTION, Your Honor!  Relevance?"

I suppose that our hero's super Kryptonian brain plotted out a few branching possibilities and was prepared for some trick like this, because Supes doesn't bat an eye at the defense attorney's outrageous demand to learn the Secret Identity.

Over the weekend, we'll wonder along with Lois ... what will Superman do?  Come back Monday to find out, in the next pages of this dynamic Super-Tale!


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© by Mark Alfred