Thursday, December 14, 2017

MA-106 – Uppin’ Atom!

Welcome back to the month of comp-sharing.  This week we’ve got another amalgamation of atomic angst, from all camps of popular music.  The tracklist , in chronological order, extends from the beginning of the 1950s to the Double-Oughts.

01 - Got My Call Card - LB Lawson and James Scott Jr   1951  (3:27)

02 - Uranium Miner’s Boogie - Riley Walker and His Rockin-R-Rangers   1954   (2:53)

03 - Atomic Bounce - Johnny Latorre and the Rhythm Rockets   1955  (2:31)

04 - The Merry Minuet - Bud & Travis   1960  (1:53)

05 - Overseas Blues - Memphis Willie Borum   1961  (3:10)

06 - It's Good News Week - Hedgehoppers Anonymous   1965  (2:04)

07 - Thirteen Women - The Renegades   1966  (3:28)

08 - The World Beyond - Bobby Goldsboro   1968  (2:17)

09 - Fireside Favourite - Fad Gadget   1980  (4:22)

10 - Man at C&A - The Specials   1980  (3:35)

11 - Yes to the Neutron Bomb - The Moderates   1980  (4:15)

12 - Final Day - Young Marble Giants   1980  (1:40)

13 - Last Rockers - Vice Squad   1981  (4:16)

14 - Our Condition - FK9   1981  (2:38)

15 - Back in 1984 - Cerebral Hemorrhage   1984  (4:58)

16 - Pictures - Atoms for Peace   1985  (3:44)

17 - Atom Drum Bop - The Three Johns   1986  (4:10)

18 - Yellow, Black and Rectangular - Negativland   1987  (2:14)

19 - Discussing Missile Size - Dada   1988  (2:51)

20 - Symbols of Our Fear - Rage   1988  (3:31)

21 - We're So Small - The Epoxies   2002  (2:41)

22 - Nuclear War (On the Dance Floor) - Electric Six   2003  (1:16)

23 - Safe - M83   2004   (4:12)

24 - Miss Atomic Bomb - The Killers   2012  (4:49)

            Have a fine week, see you back here next Thursday for another comp!


Monday, December 11, 2017

An Open Secret, Part 4

An Open Secret
by Mark Alfred

            9)  In June, 1968, the Secret Identities of both Batman and Superman collapse before a relatively simple trick of technology.  As told in World’s Finest #176, the brilliant scientist Desmond Jason lets his actor brother Ronald in on an astounding discovery:  “I’ve been working with voice prints ... which are as distinctive as fingerprints!”  The researcher’s simple comparisons have proved that Clark Kent is Superman, and that Batman is secretly Bruce Wayne.

           As if in fateful retribution, an unstable radioactive element in Desmond’s lab explodes with horrific results.  The dying scientist gasps to his brother, “You can’t help me ... or yourself!  Radiation will kill you ... within four weeks!  No cure ...”
            Holding his brother’s body, Ronald Jason resolves to use this blood-bought, unsought knowledge to “make these last weeks the most exciting of my life!  I planned a performance to fool Superman and Batman!”  By the end of the story, Jason’s deceptions involve dual impersonations of aliens, while bringing Supergirl, Robin, Batgirl, and Jimmy Olsen into the mix.
            Jason’s affliction finally brings a collapse.  He confesses his ruse, dying in happiness at his bizarre achievement.  After he’s gone, Superman and Batman declare, “He’ll always be remembered for his great screen roles!  But his greatest performance was a private one ... just for us!  That’s a memory we can all treasure!”
            Just between thee and me, dear reader:  The heroes are much more forgiving of this heartbreaking con, than I would have been.  I might have wished I could bring this jerk back to life, just to kill him again.  What right did he think he had, to cause such an Identity Crisis, just to serve his twisted, vainglorious urge for duplicitous double-dealing?  Such turncoat treachery!  Such conniving counterfeit!   Such alliterative aberrance 
            10)      In November, 1973, Clark Kent comes across a very unsettling thing, in a most prosaic place.  As told in Action #429, Clark is visiting the Daily Planet “morgue” and its curator Ryan Lowell.  On impulse he uses his super-vision, reading his own file.  What a shock when he discovers that:  “the file holds an obituary for Clark Kent – in Kryptonese language – which includes an entire life history ... and detailing every event in my ‘double’ life up to the present.”  How hipsterly recursive, I say!
            Superman investigates and learns that Lowell’s news ticker has somehow become “linked to my diary through an electronic fluke.”  After teaching himself Kryptonese via English transliteration, Lowell has been updating this chronicle of Superman’s feats.  As the story concludes, Superman asks the fellow, “What do you suggest I do about the fact that you know my Secret Identity?”
            “Why do anything?” Lowell replies.  “After all, I’ve known it for a long time! ... A good reporter doesn’t tell privileged information for any reason.”

           In a response entirety consonant with this story’s Watergate, power-to-the-pen era, Superman surprisingly agrees.  “If I can’t trust a fellow journalist, who can I trust?”
            Similarly, it was a good bet to trust this tale of meta-commentary to the scribes Elliot S! Maggin and Curt Swan.

            As you have learned by now, friends and acquaintances, as well as total strangers, have come across Superman’s secret.  His three closest friends on the planet – and on the Planet – have also uncovered the truth from time to time.  Of course, for continuity’s sake the revelation can’t hang around for long.  A few examples:

            In Action # 297, cover-dated February, 1963, Perry White has gone undercover for a story, only to be stricken with amnesia.  An underworld kingpin recognizes White and takes him into his employ, figuring, “He could be just the man we’ll need to uncover Superman’s Secret Identity!”  Astoundingly, Perry accomplishes the assignment; he unmasks Clark in Metropolis’s Hall of Fame, as shown on this issue’s cover.  But Superman’s desperate ruse (involving the levitating statue of “Great Caesar’s Ghost”) snaps Perry back to himself, and out of his discovery.  Clark ruminates, “Little does he realize that he had the greatest scoop of all time ... and now he’s forgotten it completely!”
            Lois Lane has likewise caught onto the Secret, and more than once.  As told in the September, 1958 story “Mrs Superman” (Superman #124), Lois and Clark become trapped on a small island, surrounded by a Kryptonite cloud which prevents Superman’s departure.  “I’m marooned here for life!”, Clark quickly decides, and immediately proposes.  He convinces Lois he’s really the Big “S” by showing off his weakened powers.  Soon afterward, of course, the Green-K cloud dissipates and Superman must come up with a way to prove his confession a lie.
            In issue #35 of her own magazine, Lois stumbles across the secret – twice!  In one story, a super-computer devised by Professor Potter deduces the secret in order to help her marry Superman; but the crucial paper printout blows away just before anybody can read the thing!  In the second tale, one of those pesky blows on the head transmogrifies Our Girl into the alter ego Sheila Dexter, who comes on to Clark and despises Superman.  The Kryptonian Crusader decides that the best therapy is an overdose, so he snatches Lois/Sheila to his Fortress, where he boggles her mind with quick-changing between identities.  This snaps her back to herself – “And, just as I’d counted on, she doesn’t remember anything that happened during the period of amnesia!”  It seems that on-again, off-again, instant amnesia was as popular in the 1960s as the evil twin became in the 1980s.

            Of all Superman’s friends, Jimmy Olsen may have learned and lost the secret more times than any other.  The August, 1957 issue of Superman’s Pal, Jimmy Olsen, #22, included “The Super-Brain of Jimmy Olsen,” a story later reprinted at least twice in latter comics.  an Evolution Accelerator gives James the intellect of a man from 1,000,000 AD.  Along with such powers as levitation and telepathy, he also acquires X-ray vision.  This enables him to blackmail Superman, to avoid an earth-shattering “kaboom.”  In Jimmy Olsen #81, the Transparo-Scope, a Professor Potter device, bestows X-ray-like vision powers, unveiling a Superman/Clark switch to the lad.  While in “Super-Brain,” the Secret fades when the future mind fades, in JO #81 Jimmy gallantly takes some “amnesia drops” to forget the whole thing.

            In the cover story of Jimmy Olsen #121, Jimmy extracts one of those tell-a-dying-man revelations from his Super-Pal.  But a swift recovery jeopardizes their friendship as well as the Secret, until Jimmy jumps to a helpful assumption as to why the confession happened in the first place.

            As you’ve seen from this brief survey, some of the tales are more-or-less light-hearted, some more somber.  In some, the big reveal is a central plot element; in others, it’s merely a bridge to spotlight the character who has possession of this bit of inside knowledge.
            What makes the Secret Identity trope so resonant?  I think part of its fascination lies in the fact that Superman’s situation is the reverse of our own.

            After all, each of us at times fancies himself a hero, a noble being, whose true worth is hidden inside.  If only we could reveal our best side to the world!  If only I could behold the true hero at the heart of your best intentions!

            Superman’s state is the converse.  He cloaks his surpassing abilities with the persona of the humdrum Clark Kent.  Ironic, isn’t it?
            And how wonderful if the hero inside us could be revealed by a simple change of clothes!  Wouldn’t we have it made?

The End

See you on Thursday with a new music compilation!
All original content
© by Mark Alfred