Monday, January 26, 2015

Works of Everyday Genius -- Page-by-Page Through Superman 176

When you consider that dozens of comic books were published monthly by several comics companies, and that each concern cranked this stuff out eight or ten times a year .... it amazes me that this "product" had so many good stories and art.

I'm not talking the Louvre or the MOMA.  I'm just talking about competent plot assembly, characters that look consistent when drawn from various angles, and (usually) a glimmer of genuine human reaction or motivation.

This kind of "everyday genius," as I call it, is also present in most old buildings that were built more by hand than by machine; in furniture or toys or other items that were well-designed.  A 1962 Chevy Impala or 1968 Ford Galaxie  is a thing of beauty and a joy forever!

So for the next few weeks we're going page-by-page through Superman #176, cover-dated April, 1965.  I would have been about nine and a half years old when it hit the stands in March or late February 1965.

This may have been an instance of a cover scene being concocted  and then assigned to a writer.

Still, even a nine-year-old thinks this is a dirty trick.  Here we have our hero in a jam.  He has come to this court room and was sworn in (we assume) to put some lowlife crook away.  Now here out of left field, the judge is ordering him to reveal his Secret Identity?

OBJECTION, YOUR HONOR!  Relevance?  Superman has been deputized under that name as a law enforcement agent for the entire membership of the United Nations, as well as the Metropolis Police.  Any further explication of his identity is irrelevant to his testimony, and may predicate acts of revenge upon his acquaintances, in the same way that a secret witness's family is endangered when someone in Witness Protection is exposed.

This full-page ad was the inside cover of the mag.  Evidently, children of the 1960s were a lot less likely to swallow tiny magnets.  Other factors include the likelihood of (comparatively) closer supervision by parents or siblings, and the fact that generally, society was expected to conduct itself with COMMON SENSE.  If you deliberately tried to use a consumer item in a damaging way, then instead of a financial windfall through a lawsuit you might be laughed off the playground.  Of course, BB guns could put out an eye or you could break your leg tree climbing; but to deliberately try to get damages from the manufacturer of a fun product?  That's un-American.

"The Revenge of the Super-Pets!"  Comic Vine reports that this story was written by Leo Dorfman.  We can all see that the art is by Superman master Curt Swan, inked by George Klein.

This first of three stories is a morality tale whose main characters are the Super-Pets.  They're going to travel back in time with Superman to check out a one-man wave of animal cruelty.

Clark Kent is covering the reading of a millionaire's will, as his vulturous would-be heirs salivate.

Don't you love the tag at the end of the will, in which Dane leaves these weasels $1 apiece to use in riotous living? 

If you read the indicia at the bottom of the page, you will see that this comic is published eight times a year and that a subscription would cost you 95 cents.  A YEAR OF FREAKIN' COMICS for less than a dollar!  Outstanding!

Of course, that same dollar would probably buy you four gallons of gas or movies and hamburgers for two.

More of this story and this issue on Wednesday, see you then!

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