Deck Log Entry # 122 A Forgotten Gem: World's Finest Comics # 149 (May, 1965)

“The Game of Secret Identities”

Editor:  Mort Weisinger  Writer:  Edmond Hamilton  Art:  Curt Swan (pencils); Sheldon Moldoff (inks)




The big news from National Periodical in the spring of 1964 was the debut of Batman’s “New Look”.   As part of an editorial shuffle, Julius Schwartz had been assigned to the floundering Bat-titles.  Schwartz jettisoned the science-fiction plots into which the Dynamic Duo had been awkwardly shoehorned, along with all the bat-detritus that had collected over the previous decade.  The fans were intrigued to see Batman and Robin back in their old milieu as sleuths.  Visually, the New Look was marked by the addition of a yellow circle to the Gotham Gangbuster’s chest emblem and vastly improved art, overall.


The New Look got all the buzz, but Batman and Detective Comics weren’t the only DC titles to enjoy a renaissance because of the shifting of editors.


As part of the shake-up, Superman editor Mort Weisinger inherited World’s Finest Comics from Jack Schiff.   Weisinger had established a detailed mythos around the character of Superman, and since World's Finest featured joint appearances of Superman and Batman, there was a certain logic in assigning him as the title’s new editor.  Immediately, Mort set about folding World’s Finest into his Superman family of magazines.


For the readers the most noticeable indication of that was the assignment of Curt Swan as the regular artist.  Swan was regarded as the Superman artist and his rendition of the Man of Steel had become the standard for all of Weisinger's comics.  Also reporting on board, as the series’ writer, was Edmond Hamilton.  Hamilton had a talent for investing his characters with humanity, providing motivations for their actions more than “just because the script says so.”


World’s Finest Comics now had the same look and feel as the rest of the Superman titles, and it paid off with the same dividends.  It invigorated the title.  Readers were drawn by the sleekness of Swan’s art and the dimension of Hamilton’s stories.


Just about any Hamilton/Swan tale from that magical era of 1964-to-1966 deserves examination, but one more than any other stands out for me.  Curiously, there is no villain in this story, no threat to humanity, nor even any real danger to Our Heroes.  Yet, it exemplifies all the things that made Weisinger’s Superman-Batman team something that fans are nostalgic for, even to-day.




“The Game of Secret Identities” starts with the normally implacable Clark Kent getting the bejeesus scared out of him.  He finds, shoved under his door, a message stating he is Superman.  As it turns out, it’s just a handbill advertising, “At least you’ll feel like Superman---when you take Smither’s Tonic.”  Still, it’s enough to put a nagging thought in the back of his mind.  Just how safe is his secret identity, he frets, from someone with enough wherewithal and desire to really want to uncover it?


Now, if you or I had something gnawing at us like that, we’d probably just head down to our favourite watering hole and guzzle enough brewskis to wash our worries away.  But the Metropolis Marvel is a man of action!  Before the end of the first page of the story proper, he’s flown to Gotham City to present his good buddy, the Batman, with a proposition.


“Batman, you’re the world’s greatest detective!  I want you and Robin to test my security by trying to find out my secret identity!  If you two can’t do it, nobody can . . . and I’ll be sure I’m safe!”


The Masked Manhunter points out one slight flaw in his super-pal’s plan:  they already know that Superman is Clark Kent.


But the Man of Steel has thought of that, too.  He’s brought along a selective amnesia-inducer from the bottled city of Kandor.  Kryptonians use the device to remove painful memories, without causing complete amnesia.  With it, he can erase the Dynamic Duo’s knowledge of his identity.


Batman and Robin agree to the challenge, and when Superman departs, they submit themselves to the inducer.  After it does its work, they have forgotten Superman’s secrets and his real identity. 




They buckle down to the task that the Man of Steel has asked of them.  The next day, in Metropolis, during one of Superman’s scheduled public appearances, Batman and Robin, in a lead-lined “television truck”, use an encephalograph to record the Kryptonian’s distinctive brain-wave pattern.  They’re thwarted when the device reveals that Superman has no brain-wave activity at all.


Realising that it’s a Superman robot in the Man of Steel’s place, the Batman resorts to plan “B”.  When the robot flies off, the Caped Crusader sends his flying remote surveillance camera, the “bat-eye”, to follow it.  The Dynamic Duo knows that Superman has a Fortress of Solitude, though they can no longer remember its location, and they hope that the robot leads the bat-eye right to it.


It does, and the caped crime-fighters head for the Arctic in the Batplane.  They manage to circumvent the security devices and enter the Man of Steel’s sanctum, hoping to find a clue to his secret identity there.  But Superman has anticipated this, as well.  He’s removed everything that might suggest that he is Clark Kent.  Before they depart, though, Batman secretly disables all of the Superman robots.


As Batman had hoped, Superman doesn’t discover the tampering until it’s too late, the next day, to send one of his robots to his next public appearance.  Once again on hand with the encephalograph, this time, the Dynamic Duo records the genuine Man of Steel’s brain-wave pattern when he arrives to lay a building cornerstone.  Using the device to home in on Superman’s powerful brain-waves, they track him down to Clark Kent’s apartment house.


Studying the building’s tenants, Batman and Robin narrow the field to four men, including Clark Kent.  But when they secretly record the brain-waves of each of the four, none of them match Superman’s.  Now, if it were Lois Lane, she’d would have packed up her toys and gone home, once again figuring she was wrong about Superman being Clark Kent.  But the Batman is made of sterner stuff.


“He suspects our plan, and by his super-mental control, is altering his brain-waves to deceive us,” the Masked Manhunter deduces. 


Laying a trap, the Batman requests the help of the four suspects.  He brings them to a small theatre and asks them to view some film clips.  “You may help me break a case simply by watching them,” he tells them.  Clark guesses it’s a ruse of some kind, but he can’t refuse without drawing suspicion.


The four men watch the films; they are recordings of previous Superman-Batman cases.  (In a nice touch of continuity, some of the clips depict events from earlier stories, such as their battle with the Composite Superman.  Hamilton often made reference to things from past issues.)  Meanwhile, Batman and Robin monitor each of the men’s brain-wave patterns.


At first, none of the four brain-waves match Superman’s.  But as the films continue to roll, one pattern shifts until it is identical to the Man of Steel’s.  The brain-wave pattern of suspect number four---Clark Kent!  Batman had expected this.  “His super-mental control relaxed because of his emotion at seeing those old scenes,” he explains.


Privately, the Dynamic Duo confronts Kent with the evidence, and he admits exposure.





Now, if the story had ended here, it would have been nothing more than a pleasant little tale, good enough for a nine-page back-up filler.  But here is where Hamilton does what he did best---he advanced the plot logically, based on simple, human emotion.  In this case, the emotion of pride.


Instead of being grateful for being shown the weaknesses in his Clark Kent guise, the Man of Steel shows that his pride as been stung.  He tells his bat-buddy that, if he wanted to, he could find out who he and Robin really are.  Since that’s not such a big trick for someone who has X-ray vision, Superman double-dares him, insisting that he won’t use any of his super-senses to do it.


Take your best shot, says the Batman.


Part II begins with Superman using the selective amnesia-inducer to remove his knowledge of Batman and Robin’s secrets.  Then he goes on the offensive.  First, tries to follow the Batplane back to the Batcave.  But the caped crime-busters discharge a cloud of green-kryptonite dust behind their ship, forcing the Metropolis Marvel to veer off.


Next, Superman scoots down to Kandor to pick up a telepathic hound, and when the Dynamic Duo appears at the public dedication of the new Batman Museum, he uses the pooch to lock in on Batman’s thought patterns.  When Batman and Robin leave, Superman follows on foot, being led by the telepathic hound.


But Batman, recalling telepathic hounds from their adventure in Kandor, back in World’s Finest Comics # 143 (Aug., 1964), has figured out a way to dodge the pursuit---and rub his super-pal’s face in it, at the same time.  Superman is astonished when the hound leads him to Clark Kent’s apartment!  Then he finds the encephalograph machine planted there, with it set to broadcast a recording of Batman’s brain-wave pattern.


Meanwhile, the Cowled Crusader is afraid that Superman’s attempts to learn their identities may become an obsession with him.  He approaches his old friend and attempts to call the contest off.  The Man of Steel, still irritated over Batman’s success, refuses.


Moreover, it appears that Superman is, indeed, obsessed with proving that he is as good a detective as Batman.  Wrapped up in his planning, he puts off requests for help and responds to emergencies almost too late.


Then, Superman announces to Batman and Robin that he will have solved the secret of their true identities within twenty-four hours.  Concerned, the caped crime-fighters investigate a large citadel built by the Man of Steel on the outskirts of Metropolis.  As they try to enter, electric-eye alarms, triggered by the colour schemes of their costumes, alert Superman via a receiver worn around his neck.


Confident, Superman shows them the giant computer within the structure.  The machine has been programmed with the data of every person recorded in the 1960 census.  Superman has fed the computer with all the information known about the Dynamic Duo, and within the day, he declares, it will identify which two persons in the country are Batman and Robin.


That night, they return to the citadel as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, to avoid setting off the electric-eye alarms.  But once inside, the lights flash on and they are surprised by Superman.  It was a trick all along.  Not even the colossal computer could have deduced Batman’s identity, but the Man of Steel calculated that they wouldn’t take that chance.  And he knew they would return in their civilian identities to prevent triggering the alarms.


Smug in his victory, Superman flies off to handle the urgent missions that he has been ignoring.


In this case, however, victory is a matter of perspective . . . .



“He doesn’t dream that we purposefully let ourselves be caught by him,” says Dick, once the Man of Steel is out of sight.


“We had to do it,” replies Bruce.  “Superman was neglecting vital missions in his obsession with the contest!”





The first thing that will probably strike you about “The Game of Secret Identities” is that Superman was a real sorehead.


That was Mort Weisinger’s approach to Superman.  He understood that there was little physical drama in a lead character who could shrug off H-bomb explosions and juggle planets.  Mort preferred scripts that emphasized Superman’s humanity, that he was heir to the same emotions as the rest of us---love, anger, loyalty, regret, jealousy, and all the rest.   This was the key that enabled readers to relate to him.


Edmond Hamilton’s style dovetailed with this approach perfectly.  His scripts weren’t awash with emotion, as Jerry Siegel’s could be.  (When Siegel’s florid technique worked, it resulted in a powerful effort---“The Death of Superman”, for example; but when it didn’t, one was left with a soggy melodrama.)  Hamilton would often turn a character’s motivation around a single, logical emotional result, which would propel the rest of the story to its conclusion.


We saw this a great deal in Hamilton’s World’s Finest tales.  “The Game of Secret Identities” showed that Superman had a bit of an ego, after all, and what happened when his pride was stung.  In “The Feud Between Superman and Batman”, from World’s Finest Comics # 143, the events flowed from the Batman’s inferiority complex after being shown up by the Man of Steel just one time too many.  And both heroes give way to despair, in “The Composite Superman”, from issue # 142 (Jun., 1964), before digging deep inside themselves to find the courage to take on their overwhelmingly powerful foe.


Early in the story, Hamilton lays the groundwork for the Man of Steel’s peeved reaction.  Despite his worry, Superman is confident that he has securely protected his identity.  Before the Dynamic Duo even begins their investigation, Superman tells them, “I feel sure you’ll fail, which will quiet my worries!”  So, no doubt, he’s embarrassed when his pals come up with the goods in only three days.  It’s a blow to his ego.



Another notable feature of “The Game of Secret Identities” is that it strongly defines just what it is that the Batman brings to his partnership with Superman---his keen, analytical mind.  Bear in mind, Superman was no dummy.  He anticipated Batman’s use of the encephalograph by sending a robot to that first public appearance.  The Man of Steel even expected that Batman would locate his Fortress and scrubbed it of any identity-revealing clues. 


Nevertheless, the Masked Manhunter was able to out-think his super-pal on every turn.  That’s not a small thing.  More than any of his other abilities, his razor-sharp mind and quick wits make him a super-hero.  And they enabled him to outsmart his super-partner.  Many times over the course of the series, Superman is shown to respect and value this.



As strange as it may seem, Hamilton uses the competitive theme of the tale to underscore the deep friendship between Superman and Batman.  It begins with the Man of Steel asking the help of the man whose abilities and intelligence he trusts more than anyone else’s.  And later on, the Batman worries at how obsessed Superman has become in ferreting out his and Robin’s secret identities.  And as his fears are borne out by the emergencies mishandled or ignored by the Man of Steel, the Caped Crusader knows how much his friend will regret this, when he comes to his senses.


So, for the sake of Superman’s conscience, as much as that of the world, Batman sets his ego aside and throws the contest.


Antagonism between the two super-heroes was also a frequent refrain in Hamilton’s World’s Finest plots.  Note, I’m not talking about the “I constantly ride him but I really love him like a brother” kind of “friendships”.  Those invariably come across as unrealistic and contrived.  What Hamilton did was find a story wedge to drive between Superman and Batman, then examine its effect on their friendship.


In the previously mentioned World’s Finest Comics # 143, Batman develops an inferiority complex in light of the Man of Steel’s overwhelming array of super-powers and breaks up their partnership.  Significantly, Superman genuinely believes that Batman is a contributing member of the team and tries to shake him out of it.  That idea goes south in the worst possible way.   In “Prison for Heroes”, from issue # 145 (Nov., 1964), a hypnotised Batman holds Superman captive on an asteroid prison under a red sun.  The plot examines the Man of Steel’s sense of betrayal and anger under Batman’s sadistic treatment.  And in “Batman, Son of Krypton”, from issue # 146 (Dec., 1964), the Masked Manhunter throws himself between a blinded-with-rage Superman and an Earth scientist believed responsible for Krypton’s destruction.  Batman puts his own neck on the line to keep the Man of Steel from making the biggest mistake of his life.


Every time, the strength of their friendship overcomes all conflicts.


If you’re from a newer generation of comics readers and you wonder why older fans long for the days when Superman and Batman shared adventures as good and trusting friends, World’s Finest Comics # 149 is a good place to find out.


Views: 1642

Comment by Figserello on April 13, 2011 at 11:53pm

There are lots of ways the world of the SA Superman differs from our own.  One of them is the emotional tenor.  At the end of the day, Superman's world and the Daily Planet etc was a child's world dressed up as a grown-up's world. 


The characters in them act out the emotions of the playground.


This doesn't make them any less valid to me, as we've all been in the playground and we all carry the little kid we were around with us.  That's why there's still a 'truth' in these stories.


Of course Superman would be upset when people don't think he's the bee's knees.  Who wouldn't, in their heart of hearts?  Even if adults ACT above these things, its still just an act.


Superman is only human Kryptonian, after all.

Comment by ClarkKent_DC on April 14, 2011 at 12:29pm

Lee Houston, Junior said:

While World's Finest #149 sounds like another great Silver Age story that I unfortunately have yet to read, I cannot help noticing the vast difference in eras between the more peaceful Silver Age feel compared to today's more dramatic/action packed comics.

The subject of secret identities came up recently here,, yet this post raises the question once more of who does one dare share such knowledge with, if one must do so at all.

Barry Allen and Hal Jordan were friends and trusted each other. While the same can be said about the Dynamic Duo and the Man of Steel, the story reviewed in this article just shows that there are risks involved, although obviously not the ones you would first suspect in this instance.

But what makes the Silver Age different than today? If a villain discovered a hero's real identity back then, why wouldn't they go out of their way to ruin the hero's career (even to the point of killing loved ones) in the SA, compared to the fact that fear exists now?

So basically, I'm asking when did things grow darker, and why?


I couldn't pinpoint when things started to grow darker, but I certainly believe the course was firmly established with Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns.


Before then, it was still credible that Superman and Batman were and are friends. But that story, which gave us a cynical, bitter Batman and a Superman Strawman who was a running dog lackey of the military industrial complex, unfortunately inspired too many comics creators who followed to keep writing them that way, even though The Dark Knight Returns was (a) an Elseworlds in all but name and (b) set 30 years or so in the future.

Comment by Mr. Silver Age on April 16, 2011 at 5:13pm

The characters in them act out the emotions of the playground.

I think that's very much the approach that was used in Superman comics, as they were written for a younger audience than Schwartz's super-heroes. Girls were pests and marrying one would spoil my fun put them in danger, the new guy in class town might be more popular. 

A lot of the WF stories in that period were about pitting Superman and Batman against each other in some way, either at their own instigation or forced by aliens, etc. But frequently, they resulted in the two teaming  up again in the end any way.

Certainly DKR and Watchmen deserve a lot of credit/blame for persuading writers that making everything grim was a more sophisticated and popular way to address superheroes. I think that was the wrong message to take from those stories, as there was humor to offset the grimness,but it was pretty much the only one most writers seem to get.

I think Superman started going dark with his reboot, starting with Alan Moore's final story just before. The villains were ramped up to sheer ruthlessness and a lot of people died. Then Mr. Mxyzptlk ridiculed the SA stories by suggesting that anyone who believed he was so benign was a cretin. The most famous line, "Aren't they all?" ridicules the Imaginary Stories that had been so popular, implying that those stories were for children and the simple minded--but this story wasn't.

Then Byrne's Superman reboot mini-series started off with Lex Luthor torturing Lana Lang to reveal Superman's real identity in #2, and the tone was set.

-- MSA

Comment by Figserello on April 16, 2011 at 9:43pm

Then Mr. Mxyzptlk ridiculed the SA stories by suggesting that anyone who believed he was so benign was a cretin. The most famous line, "Aren't they all?" ridicules the Imaginary Stories that had been so popular, implying that those stories were for children and the simple minded--but this story wasn't.


I'm on the same page as you for most of that post, but I think you might be going a bit too far regarding Moore's attitude to the people who enjoyed SA stories.  “Whatever happened ...” works by shifting gears with the aforementioned emotional tenor of the stories, but I'm sure he knew as well as anyone that his story depended for its effect on how well crafted and emotionally 'true' the Silver Age stories were.  There would be nothing at stake in "Whatever happened ..." without that.


I didn't read the 'Aren't they all?' statement as saying that 60's Imaginary Stories were mere fluff for children, or the developmentally impaired.  That's a bit of a reach.  Alan Moore dedicated his career and craft to 'Imaginary stories' of one kind or another, after all.  Its not a term of disparagement to him.


If he was having a dig at anyone, it was a gentle dig at those literalists who somehow thought that the in-continuity Superman stories were somehow more ‘real’ than those labelled ‘Imaginary Stories’.


Moore applied himself to the task of making a story that would hit his older, more jaded readership with the same wallop that the 60’s stories hit their audience.  That’s all.


FWIW Morrison's JLA is where the World's Finest team became true chums again post-COIE/DKR. 


Comment by Doc Beechler (mod-MD) on April 16, 2011 at 10:58pm
True and true
Comment by Philip Portelli on April 16, 2011 at 11:53pm

"Whatever Happened To..." was a celebration of the "Earth-One" Superman as well as his own personal Ragnarok. Moore doesn't mock the past, he lets it flow into the present. Everything occurred but now there was a dark manipulation warping events and people. Smallville fans will appreciate the reason why Superman really doesn't marry Lois and the bond that frees Luthor. When the teenage Legion arrive with the younger Supergirl, finally Superman questions them about his future, something that was a long time coming!

I would imagine that Silver Age fans, as I did later, always wondered what would happen if Mister Mxyzptlk decided to attack Superman for real! Jimmy, Lana, the Legion, Perry, Bizarro and especially Krypto get their moments but it is the mythology of the Man of Steel that is the focus. Death, destruction and destiny colllide with the consequences of his most cherished vow are forced by a simple statement:

No one has the right to kill, not even Superman, especially not Superman!

But it does end with hope and a figurative wink at the reader!

Comment by Mr. Silver Age on April 17, 2011 at 1:22pm

I agree it was a celebration of the Earth-1 Superman, by way of being a wake as he disappeared. I enjoyed the story a lot, and I liked Moore's other Superman work. Even so, it's hard to look at those two elements as being admiring, IMO.

It's like Harvey Kurtzman noting in his "Starchie" parody that Betty and Veronica are drawn exactly the same except for hair color. It may be poking gentle fun at something he is celebrating by spotlighting it, but it's hard to see it as a compliment.

I think too often that writers took the wrong ideas from Moore's work and decided that more sophisticated meant darker and more violent. There was some of that, but there was an underlying morality and heroism, especially in that Superman story, that seemed to be overlooked in an effort to make it more "realistic." That's continued through today with things like WW killing Max Lord.

They did seem to take to heart his notion that all stories are Imaginary, so designating some to be that especially is a bit silly, as it took a long time before anyone realized all the fun stories they were leaving undone. They seemed to ignore his notion that you'd have to be naive to think an all-powerful magical creature would dress as Mr. Mxyzptlk did, as he was reintroduced with nary a change pretty quickly.

Frankly, Mxy and Bizarro would've been two concepts I would have been a little reluctant to reintroduce so fast, as their implications always seemed to be on part with stuff like Super-Tot, Beppo and Krypto, all of which disappeared for a good long time.  

The mid-1980s is when I think we can trace a lot of the darkness that overcame comics. I think, with the shift to the direct market and the acknkowledgement that kids weren't the ones buying comics, there was a real desire to make comics "grow up." I don't know that it should have been as pervasive as it became, but that's a discussion for another thread.

-- MSA

Comment by Prince Hal on April 17, 2011 at 3:11pm

As always, your analyses are engaging, and your insights uniquely perceptive, Commander.

I reread this story when I saw you were writing about it and was struck by much of what you mentioned, in particular Superman's touchiness and egotism. It seemed like one of those stories so common in Weisinger titles in which Superman's personality change was a sure indicator that something was up. I kept waiting for the shoe to drop right up until the final panel. When it didn't, I saw yet another reason why so many fans see Batman as Superman's superior. Batman's understanding of human (Kryptonian?) nature, his humility, and his selflessness inevitably come to the fore when his mettle is tested.

I'd agree that, given the younger audience for whom these stories were written, the childishness of Superman's behavior here, as in so many other stories, is understandable. However, even if Ed Hamilton, et al were only trying to write for kids, it strikes me that Superman, a hero of epic and mythic proportions, is no less puerile emotionally than Hercules, Odysseus, Theseus, and a dozen other gods. Maybe for its silliness, the great hero comics' Silver Age was closer to the Silver Age of myth than we think.


PS: The sequence in which Superman trails Batman from the museum he built and transported to Gotham is as good an example of what some love and others hate about the Silver Age as one could find.



Comment by Figserello on April 19, 2011 at 9:24pm

Then Mr. Mxyzptlk ridiculed the SA stories by suggesting that anyone who believed he was so benign was a cretin. The most famous line, "Aren't they all?" ridicules the Imaginary Stories that had been so popular, implying that those stories were for children and the simple minded--but this story wasn't.


I'm sorry to return to this, but this reading is just so far from what I took from WHTTMOT, and your reply to my earlier query didn't really elaborate on it - although I agree with just about everything else you've said.  Later writers did take the wrong message from Moore's work.


SPOILER WARNING for anyone who hasn't read Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow yet. (What's keeping you?)


Here is the page in question, as we've both been interpreting what's on this page, rather than focusing on what Moore actually wrote.


(Click to enlarge)  Mxy uses the word 'naive' but not the word 'cretin'.  :-)


Even then its not quite true to jump from this page and say that Moore accuses the SA readership of being cretins naive.  That's Mxy, the fork-tongued villain, talking to Superman, after all, not Moore to the readership.  At worse Moore is comparing the readership to Superman, which is hardly an insult.


I look at that page and get the opposite messge to you.  That the readership were too naive see an awful, powerful amoral 5th dimensional being in Mxyzptlk, looks like Moore saying that the Silver Age Superman mythos was more powerful and resonant than anyone suspected, not more stupid.  It contained things like 5th dimensional beings (and tons of other fundamentally awe-inspiring concepts) which people took for granted.


Here Moore is letting the true grandeur of one concept that hid behind kiddie-story imagery come out and shine darkly.



There was a great issue of Unwritten a while back that referred to something like 'negative space' in works of art, where a lot of their power is in the things that they try to block out.  The example in that comic was children's stories like Winnie the Pooh which leave out age and death and all sorts of fundamental things.


What Moore did in WHTTMOT was bring all the negative space stuff in the SA Superman mythos into the light.  The horror and death was always there, as Philip's response above attests.  Why else did Superman go to such lengths to make sure Supergirl didn't turn out a selfish, irresponsible monster?  Didn't Superman's enemies want him actually killed?


Yes, the SA stories celebrated an innocence, but at the end of the day experience trumps innocence.  Moore took it upon himself to bring Superman around that corner.


Perhaps Moore shouldn't have let all those horrors out of the box, as they have been impossible to put back in, but his responsibility at the time was to tell the best story he could, which he did, Mxyzptlk twist and all.

Comment by Doc Beechler (mod-MD) on April 20, 2011 at 3:58pm
I really don’t think Marvel and DC are helping things by having gritty, R-rated versions of their superheroes in their main comics – what they sell as the “real” versions – while simultaneously selling those exact same characters in kids’ comics and plastering them all over lunchboxes and animated cartoons… Casual readership by kids, or by parents for their kids, is effectively impossible the way things are currently structured. And I think the waters are muddied too far now to claw that ground back. I think it’s insane that DC have spent 70 years making Superman as big as Mickey Mouse, and branding him to be understood by parents as being pretty much as kid-friendly as Mickey Mouse, only to piss that brand away in a decade. Nothing wrong with doing mature content in comics – in fact, it should be encouraged as often as possible – but doing it with characters who are on your kids’ lunchboxes is kind of moronic. Take a lesson from Watchmen and come up with new characters for that stuff. And then go back to Superman and Batman and put the same kind of love and effort and craft and intelligence you’ve been putting into all those rape scenes and body mutilations into something kids can read, and adults can also be proud to read because of all the love and effort and craft and intelligence you’ve put into it, and make those the “real” versions.
—Roger Langridge, writer of the kid-friendly Thor: Mighty Avenger and The Muppet Show comics


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