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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Super-Pets Got Thoughts!

FROM Superman #176, 1965:

 For a news story, Clark Kent is attending  the reading of the will of super-rich (dead guy) Mark Dane.  So far, Dane has given $100K each to two children's charities, and ONE DOLLAR EACH to his leech-like relatives, who'd been hoping to live high off the uncle's dough.


Now we learn that the estate's remainder, some two million dollars, is to establish a shelter for homeless animals, to be administered by The Legion of Super-Pets.  This bunch of critters was first assembled in Adventure 293 in 1962.

The Super-Pets are:
  • Comet the Super-Horse, once a centaur named Biron but now a telepathic horse with super-powers.  He's one of Supergirl's critters.  His Bronco Bill persona does not figure into this tale.
  • Streaky the Super-Cat.  He's a stray befriended by Kara while she languished in the Midvale Orphanage.  You see, she was performing chemical experiments to try and make Green Kryptonite harmless.  One of her (unsuccessful) samples was encountered by Streaky, giving him on-again/off-again super-powers.
  • Beppo the Super-Monkey.  He first appeared in 1959's Superboy #76.  Turns out he is one of Jor-El's experimental animals who had the good luck to stow away in a rocket that happened to carry baby Kal-El to Earth.
  • Krypto the Super-Dog is the original super-pet.  He was sacrificed (thought at the time) to an experimental Kryptonian rocket launch during Jor-El's research to save his son (and wife) from Krypton's KA-BLOOIE!  His rocket drifted to Earth eventually.
Now Superman decided to take the Super-Pets with him to Metropolis  the 1860s, to discover Mark Dane's history, and to try and figure out the origin of his obvious devotion to animal welfare.  As noted, Comet is already telepathic.  The others have been given a brief "tele-charge" by the Legion of Super-Heroes' Saturn Girl.

If that makes no sense, shame on you!  (The WB/CW's complicated relationships have NOTHING on Silver Age DC comic stories!)

As they head to the past, all they know is that Mark Dane's largess is motivated to atone for the anti-critter sins of his uncle, Cyrus Atwill.  So, the Super Team Five will look for him.

A smart and hide-in-plain-sight idea.  They're an animal-performance act !  This explains their greater-than-normal intelligence and (sometimes) their super-powers.

While they haven't met the beastly (ha-ha) Cyrus Atwill, they encounter plenty of cruelty to animals, and encounter an animal lover, Henry Bergh.

What's great about the way this story is handled is this:  It depicts thoughtless acts and their possible outcomes, as just a dangerous as intentional cruelty.  Case in point:  the kid about to throw a bottle at the hippo.  He's a little twerp and doesn't really care about the hippo, but we young readers learned from scenes like this that bad things could also happen unintentionally.

And don't you love Comet giving the bear "trainer" a taste of his own medicine!  "We animals must be kind to dumb humans!" Krypto reminds him.


We finally meet Cyrus Atwill as Henry Bergh demands that Atwill show his tired, beat horse a little kindness.  Not only kindness, but it only makes economic sense to take care of your work animal, I'd think.  Keep this one going -- it's gotta be cheaper than having to buy a new horse!

Pretty tricky how, after mean ol' Atwill shuts off the water valve, how Superb-O (note it's one letter away from "superboy") manages to turn the water back on!

Already we can see Bergh as a hero, and Atwill as the heartless wretch that he is.  Now that Superb-O and Bergh have officially met, and we've encountered the black heart of Cyrus Atwill, what will happen next?  How will the Super-Pets help Superman even the playing field?

Tune in on Friday for the next instalment of this tale!

Tomorrow come back for another of my music compilations.

 

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