I was pleased to see a great deal of participation this time around, and I was impressed at the fact that it appeared that all of you answered without consulting any answers posted earlier. I don’t make that a rule because there’s no way to enforce it and, besides, reading what’s come before is only natural. I try to minimise the impact of the earliest posters by not stating which questions were answered correctly.
But it’s a mark of personal integrity that you all chose not to “peek” at what came before.
These were some especially tough questions. More of them were along the lines of obscure details, rather than the “Hey, I didn’t know that!” type of question I prefer. Yet, it’s always kind of satisfying when at least one of the questions proves to defy the whole crowd. At the same time, years of doing these quizzes has taught me that you fellows are a tough bunch to stump. I thought I might pull it off this year, though, after seeing a bunch of incorrect guesses and flat-out “I don’t knows” for one particular question. Alas, somebody persisted with a vengeance and found the right response.
Oh, well, at least it wasn’t a rout like last year’s Earth-Two quiz.
If anybody ran away with this year’s quiz, it was Prince Hal, who nailed seven out of the ten questions. But as with most years, everybody deserves a pat on the back for getting the first correct answer to at least one of the questions.
Prince Hal also had some very nice things to say about my little column here, and they’re most appreciated. I’ve written it for over eleven years now, because it’s fun and because I like sharing my knowledge. But, of course, it’s nice to know that there are people who read it and enjoy it.
O.K., enough hearts and flowers. On to the answers!
1. For most of the run of the Martian Manhunter’s series, members of the Middletown police department comprised the supporting cast. But who was the never-seen-but-occasionally-referred-to police commissioner of the Middletown police department? His last name will be sufficient.
I thought that this one would be one of the tougher ones, but it didn’t take long for Dave Palmer to come up with the correct answer. Prince Hal and our fearless leader, Captain Comics, put two and two together, as well.
As Mr. Palmer stated in his reply, Diane Meade was introduced in the story “John Jones’ Female Nemesis”, from Detective Comics # 246 (Aug., 1957), as a probationary policewoman, and she desires to work in law enforcement despite the fact that “[her] dad, the commissioner, isn’t fond of the idea.” Diane returns to become, more or less, a regular member of the series, in “John Jones’ Pesky Partner”, from Detective Comics # 275 (Jan., 1960). Once again, it’s mentioned that she’s “the commissioner’s daughter”. So the answer to the question is, obviously, Commissioner Meade.
Now, any hard-liners out there may argue that the simple reference to “commissioner” might mean that Papa Meade is the soil and water commissioner or the public works commissioner, rather than the police commissioner. But that long-shot of an idea is covered by the Manhunter from Mars tale in Detective Comics # 290 (Apr., 1961), which states expressly that Diane’s father is the police commissioner.
2. Name the biggest/tallest building in Central City.
This question was really starting to shape up as the one which would stump the entire panel. I knew all of you would scour your available issues of The Flash, and that there’d even be a few of you who’d have presence of mind to check other possibilities, such as The Brave and the Bold and the issues of Green Lantern in which the Scarlet Speedster guest-starred. But only one of you was enough of an out-of-the-box thinker to nail down the other logical place for such a bit of information to be included.
Right about the time I was smugly congratulating myself on stymieing the group, Randomnole slid right in with the right answer and the source: the Wilmoth Skyscraper, as established in “Challenge of the Untouchable Aliens”, from JLA # 15 (Nov., 1962). A big BZ to Randomnole for his perseverance and his canny Silver-Age instincts!
3. What was---or I guess, technically, what will be---the civilian identity of Superman’s great-great-great-great-grandson, Superman VII?
I figured anybody who took a shot at this one would go for Klar Ken T-5477, the secret identity of the Superman of 2965/6/7, introduced in Superman # 181 (Nov., 1965). But he was the twentieth Superman in line.
In the next Superman-of-the-future story---“Muto—Monarch of Menace”, from Action Comics # 338 (Jun., 1966)---the thirtieth-century Man of Steel just misses having his secret identity exposed, and he reflects on a couple of his ancestors who weren’t so lucky. One of them, Superman VII, was revealed as Kanton K-73 in the safety of his own home, of all places, when his toddler son innocently used his super-strength to tear open Dad’s shirt, revealing his Superman costume beneath to a roomful of party guests.
Luke Blanchard didn’t go for the obvious. He knew the right answer, and so did Prince Hal.
4. When Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson are lounging around Wayne Manor, what signal alerts them to an intruder in the Batcave?
I prefer to avoid one-time gimmicks as fodder for questions (unless the sole use is notable for some reason). That’s why it’s very unlikely that you’ll ever see a question like “Which button on the Arrowcar’s dashboard activates the Ace Archers’ catapult seats?” in any of my quizzes. That’s because those sort of things are usually the artist’s or the writer’s discretion and aren’t meant to have any permanence.
However, this question is different---because it was the same method employed by two different writers. Clearly, it was intended to be a standing device, one which Philip Portelli and Prince Hal knew right off. When a particular wall-sconce lamp in the living room of Wayne Manor suddenly flashes on, it tells Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson that an intruder has entered the Batcave. This secret signal first appears early in the story “The Game of Secret Identities”, from World’s Finest Comics # 149 (May, 1965), and written by Edmond Hamilton.
Two years later, writer Cary Bates includes the same wall-sconce lamp signal in his tale, “The Return of the Composite Superman”, from World’s Finest Comics # 168 (Aug., 1967). And Curt Swan, being the consummate professional he was, drew the sconce with the same décor in the background as in the earlier panel from issue # 149. The only difference is, in the second story, Aunt Harriet is around to notice the wall-lamp suddenly flashing on.
Prince Hal also mentioned a buzzing telephone, but this wasn’t an alarm device. Rather, the hot-line from Commissioner Gordon’s office triggered a special ring on the telephones in Wayne Manor. However, after Aunt Harriet moved in, Bruce Wayne installed a special device in the telephones which, when a hot-line call came in, distorted the voice of the caller, making it sound like a buzzing noise. Only someone using the proper decryption device, such as Bruce or Dick, would be able to hear the caller’s speech normally. This gimmick appeared in a couple of stories from Batman and Detective Comics, and I probably would have used it here, if I hadn’t liked the flashing wall-sconce lamp better.
4. The Blackhawks didn’t spend the entire Silver Age going after cheesy costumed crooks like the Hoopster and Mister Safari. For a brief time, they tackled serious missions handed to them by their contact at the United Nations. Who was he?
My hope for this one was that you fellows, some of you, anyway, would confuse Mr. Cipher for the similarly masked Mr. Delta, the Blackhawks’ government contact during their super-hero-cum-spy era. But that hope didn’t last long; doc photo nailed him right off. Luke Blanchard and Prince Hal knew who he was, too.
5. This alters a super-powered Kryptonian’s physical form into specifically whatever he’s thinking of at the time. What am I talking about?
Superboy’s super-dog, Krypto, takes centre stage in “The Handsome Hound of Steel”, from Superboy # 101 (Dec., 1962). After spending most of the tale bemoaning the fact that he isn’t a pedigreed hound in order to woo Bridgitte, a cultured French poodle, Krypto goes for a romp in space to take his mind off his troubles. But after flying through a crimson cloud of space-dust, the lovesick pooch returns to Earth to discover that he’s been turned into a tan-haired collie! That’s when he realises that the space-dust phenomenon he passed through was actually a cloud of red-kryptonite particles, and the effect of the red-k cloud was to transform him into the very thing that was on his mind at the time. Superboy confirms this by explaining that he, too, once flew through the red-k cloud while he was idly wishing that he had the wings of a space dragon---and, moments later, he did!
There have been lots of kryptonite clouds in the Superman universe. What makes this one worth turning into a quiz question is the fact that it is the only form of red kryptonite that I can recall that works on the same Kryptonian more than once!
In “The Invasion of the Super-Ants”, published one month later, in Action Comics # 296 (Jan., 1963), a horde of giant red ants invades Metropolis. They are indestructible to all harm and even give Superman a run for his money. Unable to communicate with them on normal levels, the Man of Steel flies into space and deliberately exposes himself to the cloud of red-k dust while concentrating on having the head of an ant. Even though he was previously affected by the red kryptonite particles, the stuff works its magic again, and Superman emerges with the head of an ant, right down to the antennae which permit him to communicate with the colossal crimson Formicidae. He learns that they’re a colony of intelligent space-ants simply trying to collect the materials needed to repair their rocketship, which crash-landed on Earth. Our ant-headed hero plays Mr. Goodwrench, and soon, the alien bugs are back in space where they belong.
The credit for spotting that the cosmic red-k cloud would affect an individual Kryptonian more than once goes to Eric Sofer, a.k.a. the Silver-Age Fogey. I sure missed it, but after researching it, it appears that I may have been the only one. The argument that the cosmic red-k cloud should not have affected Superman after having transformed him once before, when he was a boy was raised by a couple of readers in subsequent letter columns, and Mort Weisinger, in his response, named a half-dozen more of the “many readers who wrote about this seeming inconsistency.” Weisinger promised that the explanation was simple, and he provided it in the Metropolis Mailbag of Action Comics # 300 (May, 1963):
The truth is that this variety of Red K cloud has the property of making a super-person’s wish to change his physical form come true whenever he passes through it, but it NEVER brings about the same physical change TWICE! Thus, now that the Red K has already given Superman a dragon’s wings in one case and an ant’s head the second time, he can never duplicate these effects. However, should he wish to become elastic, invisible, or look like an ape, he can achieve any of these forms by passing through the cloud once again and wishing for the change desired. We told you that the solution would be simple!
Philip Portelli was the only one to get this one right. Randomnole guessed that it was the red-kryptonite “pearl” from Superboy # 142 (Oct., 1967) that changed Superboy into an ape and Super-Monkey into a human. However, the effect of that particular piece of red k was to change a Kryptonian into the form of the first living thing he saw after his exposure---a somewhat more limited effect than the one I described in the question.
7. Who was the first DC character of the Silver Age to be introduced in his own title, rather than be given a try-out in Showcase, The Brave and the Bold, or another magazine first?
Sometimes, the straightforward ones are the toughest ones to get. But not for doc photo or Mr. Sherman or Prince Hal, who all knew that DC launched its one-legged PT-boat skipper, Captain Storm, in his own title, rather than one of the usual try-out series, such as Showcase or The Brave and the Bold. Captain Storm hadn’t even previously appeared as a character in any of DC’s war magazines.
The suspected reason for Captain Storm’s favoured status is that he was intended to capitalise on the war-time exploits of DC’s favourite President of the United States, John F. Kennedy. Yet, the timing of the first issue---Captain Storm # 1 (May-Jun., 1964), released on 12 March 1964---makes that notion less clear. Given the advance time needed to put a given comic issue together, the work on Captain Storm # 1 would have started right about the time, or just after, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
Either DC decided to go ahead with the title anyway, or there was never any connexion to JFK in the first place.
8. What was the name of the boyhood club to which Ray (the Atom) Palmer belonged?
In “Duel Between the Dual Atoms”, from The Atom # 36 (Apr.-May, 1968), distorted radio-waves created by coïncidentally identical transmission antennas on Earth-One and Earth-Two reduce Ray Palmer in age, first, to a teen-ager, and after a second exposure, to a twelve-year-old boy. With his mind and memories that of his twelve-year-old self, Ray rushes off the attend a meeting of his club, the Scienceers.
I thought that this one would be one of the more difficult ones to nail, but Fraser Sherman provided the correct answer pretty quickly. Prince Hal came up with it, too.
9. An examination of the stories about Superman’s boyhood on Earth show that Martha Kent knitted baby Clark more than one playsuit from the blankets swaddling him in his rocket from Krypton. One of the playsuits was eventually repurposed into his Superboy costume. What happened to the other playsuit?
This one was tricky in that one had to be well versed in the Superman mythos to figure it out. Luke Blanchard and Prince Hal were just that knowledgeable.
The cover story of Superboy # 76 (Oct., 1959), “The Super-Monkey from Krypton” introduces that very character. It tells of how one of Jor-El’s test animals, a young monkey, had stowed away on the rocket bringing Kal-El to Earth. The super-simian’s instincts had led it to an Indian jungle; however, sometime later he accidentally discovers the toddler Kal-El, now the adopted Clark Kent, with his telescopic vision. Super-Monkey decides to “go play with flying baby” and zooms to Smallville.
Upon arriving in the Kents’ backyard, Super-Monkey sees little Clark is swimming in the wading pool, with his indestructible playsuit left on a near-by bench. The mischievous monk decides to dress in the red-and-blue garments before indulging the rest of his playful whims. Hi-jinx ensue.
Young Clark spends the rest of the tale wearing only his bathing suit, and the story ends with Super-Monkey, panicked by his instinctive fear of fire, being chased into space by a Roman candle. Therefore, though it’s never seen or established, with the original outfit lost for good, obviously Ma Kent weaved her son another playsuit from the invulnerable blankets from Krypton.
This question also gives me an opening to make a comment on one of the more little-known details of the Superman mythos. Both Luke and Prince Hal made reference to the super-monkey as “Beppo”. But the truth is that was not the little fellow’s name.
In “The Super-Monkey from Krypton”, the captions referred to him strictly as “Super-Monkey”. During the course of his misadventures in Smallville, though, Super-Monkey runs across an organ-grinder whose own monkey was named Beppo. After two panels, neither the organ-grinder, nor his monk, was seen, again. But apparently it was enough to make an impression.
Following Super-Monkey's début in Superboy # 76, his next five appearances were stories that appeared in:
And in Adventure Comics # 316 (Jan., 1964), he has an entry, as one of the Super-Pets, in a text piece, "The Origins and Powers of the Legion of Super-Heroes".
In all of these, the little ape is referred to as "Super-Monkey" and nothing else, both by the captions and by the characters within the fictional conceit of the stories.
The first story to append Super-Monkey with the name of Beppo was "Tales of Green Kryptonite № 1", from Superman # 173 (Nov., 1964). Herein, the tale---written by Otto Binder, who also wrote that first Super-Monkey story five years before---indicates that the little ape was named Beppo going back to his days as a lab animal on Krypton. The narrative refers to him as Beppo both on Krypton and on Earth.
It took a while for the name to stick, though. Super-Monkey made four more appearances in which the text and dialogue referred to him strictly as "Super-Monkey". Then, in "The Forgotten Legion", from Adventure Comics # 351 (Dec., 1966)---and written by E. Nelson Bridwell, who should have known better---he was once again "Beppo, the Super-Monkey", and this time, stayed that way.
Because the name “Beppo” for the super-monkey has become such a convention, I did not dun Luke, nor Prince Hal, for calling him that.
10. What feature is provided in the council room of the Secret Sanctuary to keep Aquaman alive when Justice League meetings run longer than an hour?
That somewhere was “The World of No Return”, from Justice League of America # 1 (Nov., 1960). Early in this tale, the space-villain Despero mesmerises six of the Justice League members in their seats at the council table. He then challenges the Flash to a board game for his fellow members' lives. During this scene, we see how an installed shower stall descends over Aquaman’s chair once every hour, to provide him with his hourly need for water.
Interestingly, Gardner Fox never made reference to this again in the nine years he wrote JLA. However, E. Nelson Bridwell, drawing upon his encyclopædic knowledge of the DC universe, included Aquaman’s shower stall when a Justice League meeting was interrupted by two super-villains in “The Race to the End of the Universe”, from The Flash # 175 (Dec., 1967).
* * * * *
Thus concludes this year’s Silver-Age quiz. As usual, you guys done good! Between your knowledge and the Internet, I don’t know how I’m going to do it again next year. But, somehow, I always do. At least, for as long as you fellows want to see them.