Saturday 24 April 2010

Superman in DC-18 100 page Super Spectacular

Superman 100 page super spectacular, cover
If the past was a different country, then DC's 100 page comics would often transport us to a whole Whicker's World of foreignness. Many had the good manners to include a new story or two to return us to familiar haunts but some gave us nothing but reprints and, in that realm did we learn of lands most strange.

The obliquely titled DC-18 was a perfect example. It was otherwise known as DC 100 Page Super Spectacular Presents Superman but see how far you get trying to find it under that title on the Grand Comics Database, and it gave us a whole bunch of old tales to chew over.

First up it's the 1940s and Superman helps the war effort by smashing Hitler, Hirohito and all forces between to restore peace to the world.

Well, no, he doesn't. He does it by hanging around a military training camp for a few days and doing everyone's work for them. I can't help feeling he was missing the big picture here.

Superman 100 page super spectacular, the Golden Age Atom and his telescope
Yes. "Accidentally."
Next up, a deliriously silly tale featuring the Golden Age Atom who, somewhat disappointingly, doesn't have the power to shrink, leading to the question of just why he's called the Atom. He's also lumbered with the name of A Pratt in his civilian identity, which, in retrospect, may not've been the greatest naming decision in the history of comic books. Happily he has some sort of magic telescope because through it he sees an old woman being shot and stabbed. He calls his girlfriend who rushes round. She looks through the telescope - which is pointed straight up into the air - and also sees the woman being shot and stabbed, which, by my reckoning, makes this the longest-lasting shooting and stabbing in history. Anyway, it all turns out the woman was murdered by her identical twin brother who then took her place. It all makes perfect sense to me.

Superman 100 page super spectacular, the Silver Age Atom and Dr Light
Or you could just squash him.

Now we get the real, I mean the Silver Age, Atom, drawn by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson. Kane's artwork here's noticeably more conventional than some of us are used to. I don't think we get a single shot up a single person's nose. Somehow I feel cheated. Basically, Dr Light's escaped from prison by using a light bulb to open a doorway to another dimension. The Atom uses the same technology to follow him and is then put in a light bulb designed to disintegrate him to death in a mere five hours. Those super-villains, they can never do things the simple way, can they?

Next we get a story in which Superman discovers that something he did on his last day in Smallville will cause a soon-to-be released prisoner to get his hands on a million dollars. The main interest of this tale is we discover the people of Smallville are complete cretins. Superboy leaves Smallville to go to Metropolis on the same day Clark Kent - who looks exactly like him - leaves Smallville to go to Metropolis and still they don't figure it out. We also learn that, without Superboy, Smallville would've been completely third world, devoid of prisons, roads or even street lighting. What a local authority that town must've had.

Superman 100 page super spectacular, TNT Dan and Dyna-Mite, have the Social Services been informed?
TNT knows how to treat a child.
Then we delve into the worlds of insanity as we're introduced to TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite. Like Batman and Robin, they're a grown man and a boy who have adventures together. Unlike Batman and Robin, every time they touch anything it explodes. Highlight of the tale has to be them touching each other to make each other's clothes fly off. Here, they deal with an evil clown who kills a man dressed as a deep sea diver. Why he's dressed as a deep sea diver is anyone's guess. Why the social services haven't had a word with TNT about his constantly putting a child in danger is an even bigger one.

Next up, a hopeless drug addict, I mean Hour Man, comes up against a mad scientist and his terrifying Gombezi, a cross between dogs and buzzards. It has to be said that, for a terrifying cross between dogs and buzzards, the Gombezi are remarkably docile, putting up no resistance at all while they're captured by a bunch of children with butterfly nets. Hour Man, who has to keep popping pills to maintain his powers, is surprisingly badly dressed, wearing a costume that brings to mind Daredevil's in Bill Bixby's Trial of the Hulk TV show. Oh well, when you're a drug addict, I suppose such things are only to be expected

No danger of drug addiction for our next hero as we get the most square-jawed adventurer of them all, Captain Triumph, dealing with some fraudsters who've sold his friend a dodgy goldmine that turns out to be the real deal

Superman 100 page super spectacular, Superman Red and Superman Blue get engaged to Lois Lane and Lana Lang. It's Lori Lemaris I feel sorry for. She'll probably have to settle for Krypto the Superdog.
Feminism, comic book style.
But of course, the big story of the issue is the epic tale of Superman Red and Superman Blue, a tale so legendary it clearly inspired a Russell T Davies Doctor Who episode. Here, a Kryptonite accident splits Superman into two beings - both genii - who promptly solve all the world's problems with a mix of Orwellian mind control and a whole bucketful of dodgy science. At the end of tale, we're left to ponder whether the two Supermen are happy with the way their lives have turned out. I certainly was. The whole thing's lunatic, displaying no grasp of logic, science, morality or even basic human emotion but you can't help loving it.

And so our journey to foreign lands comes to an end.

And what can we conclude from it?

That the past was indeed a strange and alien realm -- but also one blessed with a sense of fun and a lack self-consciousness that, however crude and unsophisticated, might, if one lets it, sweep us along for an hour or so with its tide of madness.


Kid said...

I have this comic in my collection. I must dig it out and re-read it some day. Thanks for reminding me of it.

Steve said...

This has always been one of my favourite 100 pagers. I'm not sure why but there's always been something about it that's grabbed me. It's probably the Superman Blue/Red epic.