Monday, February 02, 2015

Dumb Animals Heap Plenty Smart!

Superman, along with Beppo the Super-Monkey, Comet the Super-Horse, Comet the (sometimes) Super-Cat, and Krypto the Super-Dog have traveled back in time to 1866 ( a hundred years in the past) as a circus performer and his animal troupe, to investigate the forgotten misbehaviors of one Cyrus Atwill, a man whose animal cruelty is so legendary within his family that a nephew, in the present day, has endowed a $2 million animal shelter to atone for Atwill's sins.

So far, Superman and his herd have met Atwill, and seen him do everything from pouring tar on a (Super) cat to whipping horses and kicking dogs.  Interestingly, another fellow in 1860s Metropolis, Henry Bergh, is a "snooping do-gooder" who, as an antithesis to Atwill's cruelty, been standing up for the decent and proper treatment of animals, especially servant animals.  He smiles with relief when Superman surreptitiously "jams" a water pump open so that overheated dray horses can drink their fill on a hot day.

Now "Superb-O" and his surreptitiously super-powered animal confederates have begun a campaign to teach the horrendous Atwill the errors of his ways.  That dog he kicked, for example, was super-hard Krypto, and now Atwill has some sore toes.  The horse he whipped somehow took him for a little zoom into the sky and back down to a bumpy landing (Comet, we salute you).  On the page before this one, Atwill poured tar over Streaky.  Superman burnt the tar off with his heat vision and has assigned Streaky a specific task as he watches Atwill start wagering on a game of horseshoes.  Our story continues ....

Streaky doesn't know why he was told to rub his fur against Atwill's horseshoes (at invisible super-speed), but we readers see (and are told by a helpful thought balloon) that all that cat-hair rubbing (sounds like a Ted Nugent song) did a little magnetic re-arranging.  The steel post and the iron horseshoes repel each other, and Atwill can't make a single ringer!

Soon after losing his money, we see the depths of meanness in Atwill's heart.  Not only is he opportunistically cruel to animals, HE PLANS THINGS.  Some time earlier, he found a coconut, hollowed it out, and filled it with red pepper ... all to torment Superb-O's sweet little panhandling monkey.

Good thing ol' Superb-O saw a nearby hornet's nest and performs a little switch....

The top left panel of this page is priceless!   I'd say, mean ol' puddy-tat    -- er, nasty ol' Cyrus Atwill, has gotten what's coming to him!  I'd like to hear Atwill explain to the police how he came to mistake a hornet's nest for that spiked coconut.  Can't you just imagine a cop taking Atwill back to the street and asking him to "identify" his coconut by taking a big sniff?

Also, isn't it refreshing that the actual bad acts of the bad guy causes actual retribution?  There's no New-Age change-of-heart, with no consequences for the villain.  While it's too bad that in THIS instance, punishment doesn't lead to repentance, that's the way life is sometimes.  Care Bear Stares don't always work.

In the final panels we learn more about Henry Bergh. BY THE WAY, he was a real-life guy who did indeed found the ASPCA in New York, in 1866. (We know that in DC-Land, Metropolis = New York City.)

I love how Beppo's curious monkey-ness leads to a strategic newspaper tear.  And the final panel shows our heroes gazing at a model of the future animal shelter, endowed with money from Mark Dane, the millionaire whose uncle, Cyrus Atwill, was such a heel.

This story's over, with a fine moral -- be nice to animals, especially the ones you're in charge of -- and some history, along with some wonderful art of this long-ago period, by Super-Artist Curt Swan.

 See you Wednesday for our next few pages of Superman #176!


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