Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Composite Superman!

Pity poor Joe Meach. He's just one of those people who seem to go around with a cloud hanging over their heads. He can't even get it right when he tries to be a high diver off a Metropolis building. He jumped before noticing that his water tank was leaking. If Superman hadn't been flying by, Joe would have been sidewalk pizza.

Joe's story is told in World's Finest #142, cover-dated June, 1964. In this story written by SF great Edmond Hamilton and drawn by the incomparable Curt Swan, we learn of "poor pitiful me" Mr Meach.

Maybe Meach's name was inspired by the words "leech" or "mooch," because that's exactly how ol' Joe features in this story.

(Is it just me, or does the interior splash page art remind you of Adolf Hitler at the Nuremburg Rally, being saluted by his minions?)

As featured on the cover and the story's splash page, suddenly our World's Finest heroes are confronted by somebody who is virtually a one-man Legion (of Super-Heroes). The Composite Superman demands that Superman and Batman take him on as partner, or he'll reveal their Secret Identities.

As the CS zips around "saving" things, through narration we learn of his origin as Joe Meach. After being rescued by Superman, he gets a job through Superman's influence, as the custodian of the Superman Museum. But does Joe get down to his work, thankful to be alive and to have a job? No, he grumbles about how "the Man" is keeping him down.

In his introductory tour of the Museum, Joe notices some statues of the 30th Century's Legion of Super-Heroes, and Superman is glad to oblige by satisfying Meach's curiosity. The statues were made by successfully duplicating every particle of the Legion members' bodies, only smaller.

So it should come as no surprise that, when lightning zaps into the Museum and strikes the statues next to Joe, then the previously-unknown DUPLICATED POWERS of the Legionaires flow into Joe's body on a current of electricity. After all, quantitavely, there's no different between a live body and a dead one. Each has the same amount of particles.

OK. Let's assume that YOU have received the accumulated powers of the entire Legion of Super-Heroes. What do you do? Do you become a hero and help, save, and redeem?

Not if you're Joe Meach. Like a lot of folks that you or I know, who blame their misfortunes on others, he simply wastes his great opportunity on showing up the true heroes, our World's Finest team. Motivated by resentment and a sense of entitlement, Meach works to squash the careers of "our two favorites heroes."

He uses all the powers of the Legion to stymie Superman and Batman at every turn. Eventually he demands that Superman, Batman, and Robin give up their roles as costumed heroes so that the Composite Superman can have all the world's adulation.

But our heroes decide not to take that dictate lying down. They sneak away and discover a strange castle constructed by their foe, a castle made of mixed metals (kind of like his abilities). Inside is a disturbing wish-fulfilment statue of the Composite Superman grappling with the whole world. Uggh, creepy, huh?

Batman and Superman are discovered by their enemy, who quickly cobbles together a deathtrap which is only thwarted by Batman's quick thinking. But as they escape, the Composite Superman is nowhere to be found.

Why? because Meach's powers, and memories, have worn off.

And that's how the story ends, with the uneasy realization on our part that Superman, Batman, and Robin did not defeat their opponent. No, he simply forgot about them!


Frederick said...

I always enjoyed the Composite Superman stories, silly as he was. A tale where he comes back, which I bought in the 70's, was good, but the dumbest moment came when Superman tries to look through the half-Batman mask with his x-ray vision and thinks "he's mask is lead lined, I can't tell who he is!" COME ON! It's HALF a mask!!!

Mark Alfred said...

Other ideas:
1) Supes could make the mask a little hot with his heat vision, making the enemy say "Yee-ouch, this mask is hot!" and yank it off
2) Supes could use a super-whistle to vibrate a soundwave to use as Doppler radar and map the inside of the mask (and therefore the guy's face)
3) Batman could karate-chop the guy and pull the mask off
4) Batman could hurl a diamond-edged Batarang at the precise angle to shatter the mask
5) Superman could use super face-molding power and super-ventriloquism to imitate the bad guy's mother saying, "Honey, I'm so disappointed in you. Take that silly mask off!"
6) Batman could use Bat-makeup and a Bat-voice-changer to do the same
7) Superman could whip up a dust cloud and under its cover Batman and Superman could whisk their enemy away to a preconstructed setting where it appears that an Atomic War has killed everybody and therefore there is no need for them to fight, and no need for the mask

... or a hundred other ideas ...

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© by Mark Alfred