Friday, August 14, 2009

Hi Ho, Into the Past We Go!

Our third stop on our summer vacation was not only a place but a time. England … May, 1588. Queen Elizabeth I of England and King Phillip II of Spain, two of the world’s most powerful monarchs, were only peripheral characters for this tale which began …

On a Metropolis street corner?

That’s what we find in this story from Superman 89, cover-dated May, 1954.

Yes, a news shill for the Evening Compass is shouting the latest front-page story, about the cruelest pirate in history: CAPTAIN KENT THE TERRIBLE!

And, sure enough, the news story lists Metropolis reporter Clark Kent as the only living descendant of this foul scurvy cutthroat.

At the Planet offices, there’s a funny aside when Perry White wishes Clark could make the competing newspaper walk the plank! But then he assigns Clark to dig up the true dirt on this slander-by-ancestor.

Interestingly, as Clark transforms into the Man of Steel, we read by his thought balloon that “I was only an ADOPTED SON of the Kents.” Why is that interesting? Why, because nobody else in this story seems to know that Clark was adopted. Yes, to the world he is the Kents’ natural son. Evidently, the latterly-common knowledge of Clark’s adoption has not yet been shared with the world at large.

So, round and round Superman spins, into the past, to investigate these foul allegations.

Upon arriving in 16th Century England, he immediately intervenes in an ambush of Queen Elizabeth I’s ambassador, saving the royal messenger.

He then heads to the Sea-Side Inn for news of the infamous Captain Kent, but nobody has heard of the fellow – at the inn or at the wharf. No one, that is, until the Ambassador enters the inn with a Captain’s Commission for Superman – er, “Kent,” himself, for saving the ambassador’s life. The swash in Superman “Kent” ’s buckle has given the Queen an idea – she wants him to be “Captain Kent, the cruelest, deadliest pirate of all time,” in the hope that the Spanish will try to recruit him. Once recruited, “Captain Kent” is to mislead the Armada when Spain’s feared invasion is prepared.

Therefore, Superman has to become the evil ancestor he came back in time to investigate!

Soon, Superman is putting on a show for his crews, seeming to be a murderous swab, forcing captives to walk the plank, destroying villages, and such.

Before long (in comic-book time), Captain Kent is face-to-face with King Phillip of Spain himself, offered a dukedom to lead the invasion of England. The Queen’s plan is going perfectly!

Except that Supes discovers that he was recognized as a British spy, and the Armada has left without him!

So, in haste, “Captain Kent” grabs his ship and breaks it into pieces, scattering the bits throughout the fog-laden English Channel, thus convincing the Spanish that there’re whole tons of British ships playing peek-a-boo in the mist. This scares off the Spanish Armada, and saves the day – and history.

Back in the present, a fortuitous fellow shows up at the Planet offices with proof that the wicked Captain Kent was in actuality a British agent. The Kent family honor is saved!

Being the snide type, I urge you to correct Perry’s “300 years ago” goof in the last panel. Three centuries earlier than this story would have been 1654 – a little later than the 1588 loss of the Spanish Armada in the English Channel.

Next stop on our vacation tour? How about a lion hunt – in Metropolis?!?!

See you next Friday!
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© by Mark Alfred