Friday, October 26, 2007

Remember the Monsters!

Here we have the ad from the rear cover of Superfman #165, featured on this week's Weirdo Wednesday.

Yes, in times past you could buy an Aurora monster model for 98 cents. In my childhood, there was a 2% sales tax (total). That means you could buy Frankenstein, or the Wolf Man, or the likes, for EXACTLY one dollar.

Cool, huh?

Now, that was at the local TG&Y store. The same place where you could buy balsa-wood glider planes for a nickel. Then you'd tape exploding pop-bottle rockets to the planes. Light the fuse, throw the plane, and watch the show as the thing swooped into the air and then exploded into fragments. Way neat!

Back to the models ... it was a momentous day when Aurora released King Kong and Godzilla (as separate kits) and raised their model price to $1.49.

*sigh* Those were the days!

In case you wondered, I've still got the Dracula, Wolf Man, and Frankenstein models in pretty good shape. Their good repair is because they were bought and assembled by my big brother, who's a great craftsman. Then he grew up and got married, and I inherited the models, just like his Erector set.

I gave back the Erector set.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Not a Hoax, Not a Dream, but REAL!

Yes, thanks to a suggestion from a correspondent (Hi, Allen!), this week’s Three-Part Thursday features a sad and gruesome tale from Superman #156, cover-dated October 1962, “The Last Days of Superman!”

This Great Three-Part Novel was written by Edmond Hamilton and features more stupendously affecting art by Curt Swan and George Klein. And, it’s …

Not an Imaginary Tale! Not a Super-Computer Prediction! Not Acted Out by Kandorian Doubles Who Look Like Our Characters!

As our story begins, a chest expelled from Krypton at its destruction swings into Earth orbit. Naturally, like the “Decoy of the Doom Statues” encountered by Superboy and Krypto long ago (for Superman) in Superboy #136, the chest and its contents have turned to Green Kryptonite.

As it lands on Earth, Superman and Jimmy Olsen approach it. Since Jimmy hasn’t yet been to Kandor with Superman, he’s had no chance to learn Kryptonese. So Superman rapidly translates. Oops, the chest contains Virus X, “a contagion fatal in 30 days to any native of Krypton!”

Superman quickly uses a boulder like a cue ball to drive the chest miles underground as Jimmy snaps a photo, but … was the wind blowing towards the Man of Steel? Suddenly he feels … faint! Were the Virus X germs blown onto Superman? What other reason could there be for this sudden weakness and fever? Oh, no!

The Man of Tomorrow quickly faces the deadly prognosis, confirmed by a doctor. He’s doomed! Quickly the Action Ace comes up with a list of super-feats to be accomplished before his strength completely fades away..

But it’s too late. As Jimmy overtakes him in a distant desert, where Superman plans to dig irrigation trenches, the hero collapses. He quickly summons his robots to build him a lead-glass isolation booth so he can let the world know of … his doom! With Jimmy inside (he might be a carrier of Virus X!), Superman shows Supergirl his list of dream projects, all designed to help mankind long after his passing.

The next two parts of the tale are made up of various achievements, wrought in Superman’s name by Krypto, Supergirl, the Legion of Super-Heroes, Lori Lemaris, the Superman Emergency Squad, Superman’s robots, and more! They do things like terraforming Earth by digging irrigation ditches in the desert, melting the polar ice to make room for future population growth (and you thought global warming was a new idea!), destroying future threats to humanity on Earth and in space, and – just a ton of stuff goes on in this story!

Superman directs the deeds, performed by “The Super-Comrades of all Time!”, while faithful friend Jimmy stays by his side for moral support.

Then, a dramatic … discovery! Supergirl journeys to Krypton’s past to verify that there is no cure for Virus X. But she also returns to Superman’s side with the knowledge that the disease germs mentioned on the outside of the Kryptonite chest were destroyed on Krypton! (They forgot to chisel off the inscription I guess.)

Then, with a nudge from Mon-El, in the Phantom Zone, to Saturn Girl, we learn the true cause of Superman’s descent into the abyss of death, and a cure is effected.

Read the story yourself to find out! To read the entire story online, visit Superman Through the Ages’ website. Here’s the link:

With the Man of Steel back to full power, the only thing left is to erase a certain pesky confession. You see, with his last burst of super-powers, the Man of Steel had used his heat vision to etch into the moon this inspiring message: “Do good to others and every man can be a Superman – Superman (Clark Kent).”

So Krypto and Supergirl help erase his Earth moniker from the cosmic billboard.

What makes this story so wonderful (besides its happy ending, natch!) is the depth of plotting and characterization. Superman, contemplating his doom, doesn’t go on a carouse … he contemplates how best to use his remaining days to help others. He looks back upon his life and is thankful. He appreciates the kind support from his super (and non-super) friends.

The deeds performed to fulfill Superman’s legacy range from the silly (melting the ice might lead to flooding of coastal areas much?) to the insightful (destroying a planet whose orbit will intersect Earth; dealing with a space cloud that someday will menace mankind).

And the art! There’s an old story that an editor (Weisinger?) had picked nagged Curt Swan for drawing emotion lines (wrinkles) on Superman’s face. “It makes him look old!” Swan’s rejoinder was that even babies have wrinkles when crying!

George Klein’s inks do a masterful job of bringing those few penciled lines to life, indicating pain, sorrow, relief, and joy.

How could you classify such fine storytelling as "a kid's book"?

Thanks for stopping by. Feel free to leave a comment!
TOMORROW: Some monstrous reminiscences!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Momentarily Lion-Headed

Hi guys! Today we look at a two-part tale featured in Superman 165, “Beauty and the Super-Beast!”

Don’t be misled by your memory. The tale wherein a descendant of the witch Circe gives Superman a lion’s head was in Action 243 from 1958, with Wayne Boring art. It might have influenced this story, cover-dated November 1963.

But this one was written by Robert Bernstein, and has more Swanderful art, as seen here and there in today’s post. It supposedly features the “real” Circe, reawakened by … well, read on!

There are all sorts of socio-sexual aspects that might be read into this tale. I am woman, I’ll make YOU roar, perhaps. After all, Lois is a test-astronaut here, and Lana appears in her usual job, a TV investigative reporter.

At least one DC-commentary website makes a big comment about how with this story, DC was lobbying strongly for women astronauts. You could also say that tales like these also “empowered” women by these roles for Lois or Lana. Me, reading this as a kid, just didn’t see the big deal. Or now, either.

Why shouldn’t women, or men, be astronauts or cooks or TV people? Why make it a big deal WHO does it? I guess I’m too stupid to be sexist, because I just don’t see that it’s a notable thing, because a person’s sex, or color, shouldn’t matter! Even today, I think that people make too big a deal of such stuff. OK, so what that ST: Voyager had a woman captain. Maybe it’s earth-shattering to you (like the female shuttle commander and female space-station commanders on duty at the same time “for the first time in history”). To me, it’s just something that should happen, and so when it does, it should be commonplace (like a black or female president – why, oh why, won’t Condi run?).

Anyway, the focus of this tale isn’t on nice powerful ladies, but on a naughty one. Lana Lang gets a scoop via an ancient papyrus on where to find the Sorceress Circe. She (Lana) leads an expedition to the Mediterranean island, and lawzee, there’s a glass coffin with a knockout babe inside!

Not only that, the gal wakes up and flames into “woman scorned” mode when she hears about Superman, raving that he turned her down her advances when journeying into the past, and now she won’t take “no” for an answer! Whereupon she zaps Superman into having a lion’s head (for a fraction of a second, only long enough to get a cover out of it) and then a mouse’s noggin, before restoring him to his normal chiseled visage.

Part II of the tale continues, with Circe making Superman dive to the center of the Earth, and then juggle upside down. Still, the Action Ace manages to turn these humiliating demands into Super-deeds.

Finally Circe repents of her cruel treatment of the hero and, using her magic, disappears into the past. Whereupon Superman flies to a secret rendezvous with the siren, who takes off her head, and … (big reveal) – she’s REALLY (the now grown-up) Saturn Woman, from the 30th Century!

This was all a convoluted plot to thwart a couple of members of the Superman Revenge Squad. You see, they flew in on their flying saucer, and zapped Big Blue with a power-sapping ray, thinking to render the Man of Steel powerless. But Superman discovered that he still had his powers when UPSIDE-DOWN. Because, you see, when he is topsy-turvy, his magnetic poles are reversed, you see, and therefore the ray’s effects wane.

So clearly he had to have an excuse to REMAIN upside-down, and it was only logical to come up against a witch whose powers could force him to be upside-down, when he would (again) be Super.

Of course, after 24 hours exactly, the ray’s effects would wear off.

Of course. Sure. Makes perfect sense. Like Spock’s cross-circuiting from “A” to “B” in “The Enemy Within.” Well, thank pitchforks and pointed ears!

What about those lion’s and mouse’s heads? Well, that was produced by Saturn Woman’s shape-changing pet, Proty II, sitting on Superman’s head. Proty II changed shape ON TOP OF Superman’s head, making it LOOK like he face-changed, got it?

But I thought Protys One AND Two were Chameleon Boy’s pets, not Saturn Girl/Woman’s!
I’m so confused.

Somebody explain this Weirdo Wednesday to me!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Mr. Spock's Time Trek!

Here's another View-Master tale, this one D.C. Fontana's animated story about Spock going back in time, helping his younger self, and marrying his mother (except for the part about marrying his mother).

Oops, the part about the mother was Heinlein's story "All You Zombies ..."

Oops, in that story he WAS his own mother, and ... well, now YOU read the Heinlein story and find out!

See you tomorrow for Weirdo Wednesday, although we can't top that!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Takin' a Trek Detour

I'm saving my strength (and time) for Weirdo Wednesday and Three-Part Thursday this week by just sharing a couple of View-Master treasures.

Take a trip to Omega and find out why Kirk shold help the Meroks fight the Cohms!

All original content
© by Mark Alfred