Friday, February 26, 2016

Action #305: Between the Stories

Meanwhile, messages from our sponsors.

I always considered these ads, but never followed through on subscribing.  Heck, I bet my folks would have GIVEN me the money for a subscription!  Have you ever seen a comic book in somebody else's stack that has an apparent white vertical crease down the center?  It's my understanding that the subscription comics were folded in half to mail.  Thease creased copies wer subscription copies.

I always love reading the letters in the letter columns,  I'd wonder why I hadn't thought of this objection, or that bit of inconsistency.  I also enjoy cringing (now as then) to the atrocious attempts at humorous ripostes by the editorial staff.

These letters are a typical mix of praise and finger-pointing.  The letter from Harvard students is the kind of letter you'd see several times a year.  Sometimes a bunch of guys from an Army post overseas would write; sometimes it was a couple of girls in an advanced high-schoool math class.

But the effect was all the same:  We're smart/important/substantial types, and we read DC Comics.  So take heart if your big brother or parents or the older kids at school tease you about reading them.  They have redeeming social value!

If I could only say that about myself, dear readers!  See you Monday.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Action #305: Sippin' Nitro, Burpin' Trouble!

Here are the last two pages from "Why Superman Needs a Secret Identity!" from October 1963.

Superman has lost his Clark Kent identity during the rescue of his friends from a mad bomber.  He tries a different street name, but his new persona doesn't have a history.  He can't provide information about previous employers, or a childhood he didn't have.  What's left?

How humiliating!  The Man of Steel forced to become a bum on Skid Row, because there's nowhere else to turn.  Then he's run in for vagrancy!  Sheesh!

I have two comments about this sorry sequence of affairs:

The cop that runs Superman in looks like a self-portrait by artist Curt Swan!  LEFT IMAGE:  Close-up of cop.  MIDDLE IMAGE: Photo of Swan.  RIGHT IMAGE:  Swan self-portrait from 1983.

Secondly:  In this story the fictional character Superman is a wonderful type of how a true hero might act.  His only concern is for the people he serves.  His saving mission is not only worth casting his own identity aside to save them, he's also willing to live among them as their apparent equal.  Not only that, he doesn't turn up his nose at living with the bums and cast-outs, if that keeps him near to the people he has sworn to serve.

Hmmm .... what other true-life hero might this also describe?  HINT: He is risen.

In this story, our hero has a brainstorm and figures out one way to neutralize the liquid nitro -- by taking out of its danger zone!  He quickly converts a glass test tube to a kind of super-straw ...

... and while all eyes are on the clock for the end of Benny the Blaster's countdown, Clark ever-so-carefully actually SIPS THE NITRO from the flask into his super-stomach.

Quick!  When can you see Clark Kent burp?  Why here, of course!  *excuse me* -- It must have been something I ate!

Then we get to see a rare example of Clark Kent nabbing a bad guy.  In the final panel of this fine tale of alternative choices, Perry reclines in his Isolation Ward hospital bed reading the headline nobody expected to see:  CLARK KENT CAPTURES MAD BOMBER.  When Perry says, "Of course you were never in any danger," he's referring to Benny's vial, which evidently didn't contain nitro -- after all, it didn't explode.

Of course, unknown to Perry and Jimmy but known to us, Clark Kent's physical safety wasn't being threatened, even by the REAL NITROGLYCERIN.  No, it was the security of the Kent persona  that was threatened.  And after these examples of what could happen to Superman without Clark Kent, we can only say, "Whew!" and be glad for that ol' staple of the Silver Age, bulletproof continuity.

Perhaps one day we will check later issue's letter columns for any readers' comments about this story.  In the final panel, such comments are invited.

The bottom half of this page is an ad for Tootsie Rolls.  To me, the tongue-twister is rather lame.  I prefer the one that goes, "I'm a mother-pheasant plucker, I pluck mother pheasants.  I'm the pleasantest mother-pheasant plucker whoever plucked a mother pheasant."

Believe it or not, I can reel THAT ONE off pretty fast!

See you on Friday for some of the middle pages of this wonderful comic from DC's Silver Age.


Monday, February 22, 2016

Action #305: Superman's Secret Identity Is Blown!

This tale from October 1963 riffs on the necessities of our hero's Secret Identity.  The springboard is a visit by Clark and Jimmy to Perry White in the hospital, where he's in Isolation for measles.  However, at this same time, Benny the Blaster has decided to stick up the hospital for its radium supply.

Is there any way that Clark (Superman) Kent can save his friends and still save his secret persona?  Here's one answer:

Oh, great! [sarcasm]  The day is saved, by the nitro blowing the lid off of Superman's secret.  But Perry White's suggestion, while forthright, seems too simplistic to be true:  Just get another identity!

So, our hero figures that he can try fighting crime in both identities,  and applies as "Mark Trent" to the Metropolis PD.

While I understand the dramatic reason for this sequence of events, it doesn't make sense that a candidate would perform all the physical tests before filling out the basic application paperwork.  Also, you can tell that Superman doesn't really care if people get a taste of his superhuman capabilities.

BTW, the right-hand panel in the top row is not all that improbable.  When a couple of months ago, my son went under the knife for "a minor procedure," the anesthesiologist broke the first needle trying to hook up my son's tranks.  I knew I had a super kid, but really!!

If you take the final panel and multiply it by about fifty gajillion, you can get an idea of how hard this kind of story point would be hard to live out in today's real life.  Considering the amount of documentation accumulated nowadays by transactions from smartphones to frequent-buyer clubs, somebody with no backstory would be exiled to the fringes of employability pretty fast.

Besides, The Donald would impugn his citizenship!

Please check back on Wednesday for the end of this great "What-If?" story.


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© by Mark Alfred