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: 1541

Comment by Philip Portelli on April 20, 2011 at 5:23pm

What he said!

Though I still want a Rorschach lunchbox! ;-)

Let writers do adult stories with characters like Man O'Steel, Darkbat, Arachnid and Colonel USA using Vertigo and Max and let the icons follow a more family-friendly path!

Comment by Mr. Silver Age on April 20, 2011 at 5:49pm

I think he's absolutely correct, and the "characters on lunchboxes" is a good way to put it. Even these characters could be featured in more adult stories if the formats and artwork make it clear that these aren't what parents think of as a comic book on the spinner rack. But the guys on the racks at the lowest price points should be all-ages, and I don't think many of them are, because they grew up with the recent audience.

MXYZPTLK: 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.

Yeah, we disagree on that point. The SA readers accepted Mxy and never questioned whether that was his real form--mostly because we'd seen an entire world of people who look just like him (in Action Comics #273, if not other places too).

Any time something has existed for decades in one form, and then the writer or character or whomever is saying the words, says "Of COURSE that's not the way it really is!" even though there are stories to support that it IS the way it is, I have a hard time seeing how it's not a knock on the character and the readers who accepted it.

That the readership were too naive see an awful, powerful amoral 5th dimensional being in Mxyzptlk, looks like Moore saying that the Silver AgeSuperman mythos was more powerful and resonant than anyone suspected, not more stupid.

Yeah, I don't get that. Moore is saying that Superman's/our view of those things was "naive," and I don't see it as a compliment to either of us. "Innocent" may have a positive connotation; I don't think "naive" does, but maybe you can see it.

I think there's lots of room to say that, if Mxy was really that powerful, why did he do this stuff or that stuff and not something like this, given all that power and his goals. But to say that OF COURSE he was a maligant demon who didn't wear a derby, nope, I'm not seeing how that's a tip of the hat to Supes or the readers.

Likewise, the "aren't they all" like comes across to me as minimizing or brushing off the fact that Mort designated so many stories as "Imaginary." Moore seems to be saying, "What's the difference? They're ALL imaginary!" and that's not the way I see it.

-- MSA

Comment by Figserello on April 20, 2011 at 10:22pm

Ah, so it's crimes against continuity that Moore is being accused of.  I thought it was for writing 'aren't they all?' in an offensive manner.

 

Well, it was (as we have been discussing) an 'Imaginary Story', after all.  They alter continuity to make their point.  And why not?

 

Actually, I agree 'Aren't they All' is indeed a loaded phrase.  Captain Comics recently defined it as subversive when a writer makes it clear that fiction is only made up stuff.  Challenging the suspension of belief I think he said.  He also said challenging the reder to hate the work itself, which Moore seems to have succeeded in doing!

 

To be honest I was a little offended by 'aren't they all?' when I first read it as a teenager.  Even though I knew vaguely that 'Imaginary story' was the DC equivalent of a 'What If?', I still didn't like this one being labeled as such, and I didn't like Moore disparaging by implication the comics I loved so much as 'made up stuff'.

 

But I was young and foolish then, which is appropriate as the story very powerfully looks at the change from innocence to experience.  Innocence and Naivite are much the same thing.  Of course baleful Mxy will use the more negatively connotated term.  He was a nasty piece of work.

 

From day one in superhero comics there has been a constant tension between making each story be about something and the need to make each story service the continuity.  Silver Age fans love pointing out the inconsistancies.  Writers seem to be more interested in making the story they are telling be about something than have it fit into the continuity.  I'm not dredging up these old arguments again to sort it out here and now, but merely to point out that something not fitting into continuity isn't a criteria that most writers and indeed most superhero stories rank very highly.

 

Readers are free to insist that each comic has to be another installment in the true history of Earth One if they like, but I'm not of their number.

 

Actually, thinking about it over the last few days, it's occurred to me that Moore might have written the admittedly huffy-sounding 'Aren't They All?' in a pique that his story was going to be labeled Imaginary.  I'm sure that he would rather his story had been the 'true' 'actual' capstone to the 'real'* Superman whose adventures he read as a young'un.  DC probably foresaw just the reactions from long-term fanboys as you have been expressing and wanted a get-out clause.

 

Yes, Moore may be saying that the SA Superman stories were silly, but guess what?  They were!  They are still brilliant, and classify as Art in my book.  Still, all Superman readers have to grow up some day and find the world isn't like it is in those comics.  Moore took that thought and worked it into the text of the 'last' Superman story.  His story depended on Mxy popping up at the end and being rude about the fanboys, but that's the story he sat down to tell.

 

I find myself nodding in agreement along with that Thor writer, but then there is the question of where to draw the line.  Doc, you seeemed to like WHTTMOT.  Should DC not have brought it out?

 

*for a given value of 'true', 'actual' and 'real'.

Comment by Philip Portelli on April 20, 2011 at 10:55pm

Moore was given the honor of shutting off the lights on the Silver/Bronze Age/Earth-One Superman because DC had brought in John Byrne to reinvent the character for their new Post-Crisis world. Moore emphasized the very elements that Byrne would eliminate, but the E-1 continuity still went on: Supergirl was dead, the Whites were having problems, Brainiac was more inhuman, etc. It was a downbeat conclusion but it was a fitting one, using Superman's own axiom as his capstone.

As for Mister Mxyzptlk, no we were not naive but we had some reservations. We knew that he was portrayed as silly but he also was capable of truly earth-changing events (see Superman #349). His true menace was sprung on us but it wasn't unbelieveable.

I'm sure that this was probably mentioned hundreds of times but nearly all of Superman's Silver Age baggage returned in one form or another but not nearly as clever as they were originally presented!

Comment by Figserello on April 20, 2011 at 11:15pm

Well, what they had going for them the first time was that they were great concepts created out of thin air that people were seeing for the first time.

 

This is one aspect that modern comics don't do so well....

 

Everyone seems to act like its not an important factor in what made SA comics so great, and what is missing from modern comics.

 

Most people say:  If only they'd bring back so-and-so.

 

I say:  If only they'd start using each issue to make up wild and crazy s%&$ that the reader hasn't seen before!

Comment by Mr. Silver Age on April 20, 2011 at 11:22pm

Ah, so it's crimes against continuity that Moore is being accused of.  I thought it was for writing 'aren't they all?' in an offensive manner.

It wasn't either, really. Moore may not have known there was any continuity, but some of us did, and our concept of Mxy was based on what we'd been told.

It's like saying, "Well OF COURSE Batman is an alien super-being! Were you really naive enough to think some human with a rope and some smoke bombs could do all that?" Yeah, I was, because I had reasons to believe what I'd been told about how his parents died and how he grew up, Crime Alley, etc.

I'd seen Mxy's world, he wasn't just an isolated guy in a derby who could be a malignant demon if he wanted to be after all this time. But that darn continuity obsession would get in the way of the greatest Superman story ever to be told in the history of Superman stories! Bummer. Let's just ignore it.

I didn't find the "Aren't they all?" to be offensive, really, just clueless. If he really didn't know that there was a difference between an imaginary story and an Imaginary Story, then he didn't really understand the character he was shutting down. So the very beginning of the story and the very end I thought were badly out of tune. The rest was pretty good.

His story depended on Mxy popping up at the end and being rude about the fanboys, but that's the story he sat down to tell.

Um, okay then, I guess we agree that he told that story. My point is that being rude to fanboys wasn't really necessary. He could have had Mxy say, "I could've done this all along, but noooooo, I tried to be nice!" or whatever. The story didn't need to brush off what we'd been told/believed as naive nonsense to get to where it needed to go.

Frankly, I thought the best Moore Superman stories, which really were an homage to the true Superman, were his run on Supreme. Those were exciting and hilarious in an affectionate way, not a snide one.

-- MSA

Comment by Eric L. Sofer on April 21, 2011 at 7:29am

"Aren't they all?"

 

I guess everybody else read something different than I did.  "This is an imaginary story (which might never happen, but then again might" is how the intro to WHTTMOT begins.  Just as it started quite a few other imaginary stories as I recall... or text that was very similar.

 

I read it as Moore saying, "Sure, this never happened to Superman... or did it?"  A way of enticing readers to wonder if it really is a "What if" type of story, or if it's really how Earth-1's Superman finished.  I didn't see it as being insulting, offensive, condescending, or clueless.  I thought it to be something of an invitation to believe - or to not believe, as the reader wanted.

 

Let's remember that at the same time, DC Comics Presents #97 (I think) came out - the final issue, with Superman and the Phantom Zone villains.  It was written by Steve Gerber, involving the Phantom Zone villains (duh!), Mxyzptlk, and Bizarro.  I read it once, because that story was a piece of garbage.  It was also kind of the close of the story of Earth-1's Superman... but lord, if you want to see how badly that could be done, read that book.  (But you shouldn't; your beloved SAF has taken that bullet for you.)

 

I don't know that this book was quite so rude as much as it was a story involving the major silver age Superman elements, put together into a two-issue... I don't know if "valentine" is quite the way to put it, so perhaps homage?

 

I felt a thrill of anxiety/fear every time some element was shown to happen that was a step beyond a standard Superman story... but I can't say I found it insulting.  It was not a transition, because it's obvious there was no more story to tell once it was done.

 

Grim and gritty was a very unfortunate trend, and it was brought into DC Comics because of two non-DC universe stories.  "Watchmen" was brilliant, no questions - but it's not even a super hero story (except for Dr. Manhattan, and as we find, he's super... but he's no longer human.)  What's that in the back?  "Dark Knight Returns is SO a DCU story!"  Really?  Superman working for the government?  Causing Oliver Queen to have his arm amputated?  Bruce Wayne GIVING UP ON HIS VOW TO HIS PARENTS?  Alfred turning into a bitter, cynical, sarcastic old man?  And you see this relating to the existing DCU... how?  Yes, yes, elements of DKR were brought into the DCU after it sold like hotcakes at the Donner Family Reunion.  But  none of that grim and gritty were involved in the DCU prior to that (maybe in Moore's Swamp Thing), and not really that much at Marvel save for the X-books.

 

And don't mention "Dark Knight Strikes Back."  That was a travesty, a parody, and an insult.  I want my ten bucks and my hours of reading it back.

 

Want to know my biggest complaint about WHTTMOT?  The second half shows the heroes trying to break through the impenetrable barrier, and it shows both Captain Marvel and Superwoman.  They're not in common continuities, and there's not much way I can accept that Captain Marvel came from Earth-S without the rest of the Marvel Family, and certainly not without the JLA summoning help from the JSA first.  Yes, yes, I know it could have been that Cap just happened to choose that time to visit... but I still found that to be the most disconcerting part of the book.

 

As always, YMMV.

 

xoxoxo

x<]:o){

Comment by Philip Portelli on April 21, 2011 at 8:33am

I think Captain Marvel was used to show if he can't break in, then Superman can't break out! As for Superwoman, she was a historian from the future (I think) so her being there may underline the importance of that day!

I didn't like DC Comics Presents #97, either. Confusing story, ugly artwork, tried to do too much, ignored Mon-El who should have been still there (see Gerber's Phantom Zone mini) but that was supposed to be in continuity! I'll take Moore's tale, thank you!

As for Mxy's world or Zrrff, I think it looked that way because that how 3rd dimensional people perceived this 5th dimensional reality. And possibly Mxy was responsible for that, too. He always seemed to have some sort of pull in his native realm.

Also, in Adventure Comics #310, the Legion fought and were decimated by Mask Man, who turned out to be a descendent of Mxy's but truly evil! And his brother joined the Legion in the infamous Adult Legion two-parter! 

Comment by Mr. Silver Age on April 21, 2011 at 10:22am

I read it as Moore saying, "Sure, this never happened to Superman... or did it?"

If that was the intent, he should have put it that way. "Is this an Imaginary Story--or not?" is a different reading than "Is this an imaginary story? They're ALL imaginary, so why make a distinction?" It struck me as mocking the notion that there were different kinds of fictional stories and some weren't "imaginary." YMMV.

I have a hard time buying that Zrff looked as it did strictly Superman viewed it that way. If nothing else, we saw Zrff other times when Superman wasn't around. We also need to explain away Miss Gsptlsnz's many visits. As I say, it's not just an obsession with a continuity glitch, it's the character's history that was sloughed off for a snide comment. The plot point could've been reached other ways.

It wasn't even an original idea. Gardner Fox and Julius Schwartz did much the same thing in The Flash, when they had a demon show up and say, "Of course it was my magic that gave you super-powers! Were you really so naive as to think it was a bolt of lightning and some chemicals?"

As we know, that guy went on to a long, well-remembered career. Well, it was well remembered by Cap and me.

-- MSA

 

Comment by ClarkKent_DC on April 21, 2011 at 10:43am

I'd like to bring up something about "The Game of Secret Identities," the story the Commander started this discussion with. There have been several occasions when Superman comes to Batman for help because of Batman's prowess as a detective, and they always rang false to me, because, well -- he's Superman!

 

It always struck me as something akin to Jack Kirby asking Will Eisner for drawing lessons. Yes, one master might learn something from the other, but Kirby was such an innovator, with such a prodiguous array of talents, that I couldn't believe that the desire for help in that regard, much less the need, would ever enter his mind. Likewise, Superman asking Batman for detective help. With all the powers, talents, and skills he possesses, I always found it hard to believe he couldn't accomplish the goal, albeit maybe with less finesse.

 

It might have help had I read "The Game of Secret Identities," because it seems to address that concern of mine.

 

 

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