Topsy-Turvy

It's truly awful!

This is where all the junk resulting from bad retcons or was so bad it had to be retconned, and other stuff like that can be found.

The Accidental Angel!

This is the kind of thing that the Comics Buyer's Guide took a phrase from to describe stories that are so embarrassing, they just get tossed out and obliterated altogether by the editors, although I'll try and offer an assessment here as to why it may be possible to ease up on any such thing over here.

When Gardner Fox, the talented and famous writer who wrote and created many classic characters for DC in the Golden and Silver Ages, wrote up this story in The Flash #167 Vol. 1 from February 1967 called "The Real Origin of the Flash!", it was just one of those bewildering "you've gotta be kidding me!" moments. Barry Allen was approached by an angel-like figure called Mopee, who argued that he was the one who'd sent down the lightning bolt that struck the chemicals that made Barry the Fastest Man Alive, but by mistake, and that because of this, he now had to revoke Barry's power. Barry convinced Mopee to help recreate the miracle that made hiom the Flash in the first place, and Mopee agreed, doing it and leaving Barry more or less the same as he was when first struck by the chemicals back in the 1956!

Alas, as even you're probably concluding to yourself, it's as embarrassing as they come. Not only does it not work, it also ruins the effectiveness of the premise as told in in Showcase #4 in its time. So much that Julius Schwartz decided to can it altogether, by not mentioning it again! And there you have it, the coined phrase of "Mopees", as was used at times in CBG, and by various other sources around the comics world!

Personally, I've sometimes thought that, when looked upon today, it'd be possible to just say that it was a weird dream experienced by Barry after eating too many pizzas for dinner one night. And who knows? Maybe it would be possible to think of it that way, when looked upon by today's standards. But other than that, it probably is for the best to let sleeping dogs lie in peace, as this one has for many years now.

"My jerk-father is an alien!"

Barry Allen wasn't only one to undergo embarrassment in his time in a specific background. Even Wally West, his nephew who became Kid Flash and then took over the role of the Flash for him when Barry passed on while saving the universe, experienced a most ludicrous story turn in Flash #8 Vol. 2 in January 1988 ("Purple Haze"), during the Millenium crossover, when it was revealed that his father, Rudy West, was part of the alien race called the Manhunters!

It was a most staggering embarrassment indeed, since it damaged the human, earthbound elements essential to the Flash, and what really makes it work. Plus, it implied that Wally was half-alien himself, and my assumption is that the writers then were trying to use professor Ira West's possibly deceased wife as the one who'd allegedly been alien, and to say that Rudy was an alien too. Balony.

When aunt Iris was revealed in 1971 to have actually been born in the 30th century, that was quite alright, mainly due to the fact that time travel fit well within the parameters of the Flash's world. But to imply that Wally's dad on the other hand was of alien descent was not only out of the Scarlet Speedster's league, it also made him look ridiculous!

It was thankfully retconned soon after, by simplifying it to a story wherein Rudy, who'd been established at one point as having been a jerk, went off the deep end by collaborating with the enemy.

Quoth the Audience: "Writers, please stop the embarrassment!"

Here's a definite Mopee story, from
Hawkman #22 Vol. 1 (Oct.-Nov, 1967). And what's it called? "Quoth the Falcon, 'Hawkman Die!'" It was written by the usually reliable Bob Haney and drawn by Dick Dillin, and earns more than a few spaces in the hall-of-shame.

It's also probably one of the most forgotten Mopee stories, which could explain why it's remained largely beneath the radar for many years. This story opens with Carter Hall appearing as a guest on a local panel TV show. On camera, Hall's face seems to melt away, revealing an inhuman face underneath and he is chased from the studio as an alien. Shiera Hall is immediately assumed to be an alien as well, and panic infests the citizenry of Midway City. The Halls were forced into hiding as armed vigilantes comb the city for them. And it's Orson Welles' famous radio broadcast of War of the Worlds all over again.

It turned out that the Halls' "outing" as aliens was a key element to the plot of a winged criminal called "the Falcon", who believes the museum curator and his wife to actually be Hawkman and Hawkgirl. In order to remove their interference with his plan to loot the city with an army of trained birds, the Falcon acted upon his belief of their secret identities. By exposing the Halls as aliens, the villain planned on the lynch-mob response to keep the couple occupied with their own survival. Since Thanagarians are outwardly identical to Earth people, the Falcon posed as Carter Hall's make-up man for his television appearance and applied chemicals to his face to simulate an unearthly alien complexion. The Falcon continues his campaign to expose the Halls as aliens. Ultimately and luckily, the Thanagarian couple are able to convince the Falcon--and the public--that Hawkman and Hawkgirl are not Carter and Shiera Hall and put an end to the Falcon's scheme to rob the city. However, the Halls are forced to admit publicly that they are, in fact, alien beings. This confession is genuine and lasting (so to speak). No last-minute retraction by stating it was part of a clever ruse or anything of that nature. No, the status quo at the story's conclusion is that the world now knows that Carter and Shiera Hall are not natives of this Earth.

As with all stories of this nature, the final captions raise the question of how this new development will affect the lives of the heroes. The answer? Not very much, since the concept that the Halls were generally known to be aliens was completely ignored after that story. As it was by the editors, who decided it best to let this silly dud melt away into obscurity, and since the Crisis, it's been pretty much done away with altogether.

I suppose, like the aforementioned story about
"The Real Origin of the Flash!", this could very well be considered a prime candidate for being considered a bad dream sequence in actuality, by either or both of the Hawks. But really, why spend only so much energy in trying?

Teen Trouble!

Would you believe a teenaged Tony Stark as Iron Man? Hey, neither did I! But that's exactly what was done in 1995 when Marvel, presumably wanting to give Tony a new lease on his life, concocted a most ridiculous time travel story in which Tony's gone berserk, and the Avengers decide to travel back in time, and bring back his younger self, not only to defeat his older self in the present
(and believe it or not, his older self's still there), but to replace him in the present time as well!

Time travel stories are always full of holes, but in fairness, some do work better than others. Sadly, this whole fiasco of the mid-90's isn't one of them. Not only was the audience unwilling to accept a teenaged protagonist in the role, they were turned off by the lack of personality this younger version has as well. And me, I was turned off by how he thought he was doing the right thing by leaving a female student in the attic of his high school while he went to put out a fire inside. The upper floors soon went sky high, and he was left to bear the burden of shame for his stupidity. It's just a glaring example of bad writing, plain and simple.

This was done away with for starters in the reboot that took place following Heroes Reborn in 1996-97, when Kurt Busiek restored Tony to his regular mid-30's age range, and in the Avengers Annual from 2001, plus Avengers Forever by Busiek and Carlos Pachecho, there was a special viginette in which it was explained how the teen self of Tony vanished during the reign of Onslaught, and adult Tony came back Iron Man #1 vol. 3, thanks mainly to Franklin Richards, son of leaders of the Fantastic Four! Tony stated that he was aware of having something like "three lives, three childhoods", but that they were now "fading, like a dream." And by now, it's possible that those memories have faded altogether.

In fact, this was also explained by having Tony's faithful butler Edwin Jarvis, who does double service as caretaker of the Avengers Mansion, read his e-mail and respond to queries from the Avengers' National Security liason. Jarvis further explained that whatever Franklin Richards did to "set things right" by also restoring the Wasp to her human form (during 1995's botch job called "The Crossing," she was transformed into some insectozoid creature), and fully restored Hawkeye's hearing (which was severerly damaged in his first miniseries).While he was at it, Jarvis explained that Captain America's shield is NOT an adamantium/vibranium alloy; it is a unique metal that has properties in common with adamantium and vibranium. And he explained that, while Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Firestar and Justice may be mutants, the Falcon on the other hand is not.

So that wrapped that up at the time. And it's great that Franklin did everything in his power then to set the universe right again!

Mouldy oldy!

In the early days of writing the X-Men, Stan Lee did something really stupid at the time. He put in a scene with Charles Xavier pondering how much he loved Jean Grey, and at his age! In a sad thought balloon in the 3rd issue of The X-Men, he implied, most embarrassingly enough, that he wished he could tell Jean Grey how much he loved her. Talk about your "dirty old men" tricks! Although it may have been established he was nearly 30 when he debuted in the Silver Age (and he'd lost his hair as a side effect of his power), Jean was still 17 at the time, which made it awfully problematic. (Later storylines may have boosted him to late 40s-early 50s, which complicated everything more.)

Stan Lee established in later interviews (and in his autobiography) that he realized soon after that it was a mistake -- that it made Prof. X look like he was some kind of creepy lech, lusting after one of his teenage students -- and quietly dropped the idea. (The sad thought balloons and star-crossed love aspect was switched more appropriately to Scott Summers in subsequent issues.) And yet I can't help but wonder if that was just the dawn of some of the troubles that X-Men as a franchise would end up going through in its later years.

While you could probably argue that this example was another Mopee, there was one thing from later years that may discount it as such: A later writer (possibly Chris Claremont) addressed -- and thankfully dismissed it again -- as well. While the exact details aren't clear to me, it appears that Xavier admitted to someone that at one time he had mistakenly believed he was falling in love with Jean, but that it was confusion arising from their close mental collaboration to control/develop her telepathic powers (later established as ongoing in the background of those early issues).

So that stultifying thought balloon may not have been completely shoved under the rug, or at least not all at once. But to the subsequent writer's credit, it does seem they were trying to repair the problem as best as they could.

Blackhawks downed!

This is the kind of thing that makes you ask, "what were they thinking?" Answer: how to spike slumping sales on Blackhawk, their long-running WW2 adventure series, and it wouldn't have been the first time that any comics company tried something like that, nor the last.

By the early 1960's, the Blackhawks had long lost their cachet as an elite unit of World War II flyers-turned-soldiers of fortune. Realistic settings and foes and its slightly more mature perspective had given away to adventures depicting the Black Knights as crime-fighters going up against a cheesy super-villain-of-the-month. Starting with Blackhawk #196 (May, 1964), a new writer, Arnold Drake, attempted to re-invest the old sense of realistic drama and solid plotting into the series.

Besides adjusting the trappings of the fictional conceit of the series--the Blackhawks were now assigned to work for the Security division of the United Nations, receiving their assignments from Mr. Cipher; and in #197, donning new crimson-and-olive uniforms, the writing itself took on a much needed gravity and multi-layered plotting. The Black Knights found themselves in real-world situations and had acquired the gleamings of individual personalities, thus distinguishing each individual Blackhawk by more than just his accent.

While it did provide some improvements dramatically (but only for that time, when the UN was not nearly as corrupt as it is today), it sadly lasted only for three or four issues. By issue #200, the Magnificent Seven were back to fighting two-bit costumed crooks and ludicrous alien menaces. Even so, this was far more tolerable an existence for Blackhawk than what was to come next. The Blackhawk series was still floundering and needed a recharge. Based on some more recent experience on how the companies can attempt to mimic what's done in the movies, including adaptations of the comics themselves, I can see the editorial thinking that took place here. In 1964, the nation was gripped in a "spy fad", based on the wild popularity of Sean Connery's James Bond movies and the Man from U.N.C.L.E. television series. Then, in 1966, the Batman television series inspired a surge of popularity in super-heroes: Saturday morning cartoons were full of them and new publishers of super-hero comics popped up (and then died) almost on a daily basis. Even the characters of Archie took their turns as costumed super-heroes. These were the two bandwagons upon which DC decided to jump in order to bail out Blackhawk. And so began the New Blackhawk Era, and sadly, not for long.

Although having been successful in hundreds of previous adventures over the past twenty-five years, suddenly the Blackhawks were thought of as being "junkyard heroes", deemed incompetent and inadequate to handle the threats of the modern age. President L.B. Johnson himself was threatening to shut down the Black Knights' operation, unless the Magnificent Seven could prove that they had what it took to function in the modern era. "What it took" was super-hero costumes and powers, and sadly ill-conceived ones at that. The Swedish Blackhawk, Olaf, became "the Leaper", whose super-power was the ability to jump real high. Chop-Chop, the Blackhawk who had always seemed to suffer the most conceptual problems (at least he had long lost his pigtail, buck teeth, and pidgin English somewhere in the mid-1950's), became a swinging Oriental in white tie and tails whose karate skills were enhanced by a pair of titantium gloves. He went by the new super-hero name of "Dr. Hands". And Chuck, poor Chuck, was stuck with a navy-blue jumpsuit festooned with pink sigils shaped like tiny ears and the cognomen of "the Listener". The rest of the Blackhawks' new identities were only marginally better. Then, the new super-hero Blackhawks were assigned to one of innumerable "super-secret spy agencies" known by their initials which were in vogue at the time. In this case, it was "G.E.O.R.G.E." and they took orders from a cheesecloth-masked character named Mr. Delta. And they also lost their old moniker in the process.

Now shouldn't the absurdities of this change have been apparent? Even with flagging sales, the source of the Blackhawks favor with the readers was the vestiges of their original conception: tough, war-hardened battle veterans facing dangers with nothing but wits, courage, and experience. Making them "now and with-it" super-heroes took out whatever was left of those prior qualities.

Furthermore, the timing was woefully inept. By the time that the new super-hero-cum-spy Blackhawks were unveiled (in 1967, no less), the spy craze in America was beginning to decline, just like many other fads (think "Mod Squad" and you'll know what you get), and the super-hero craze had peaked and was now on the way out. The spy genre, with its emphasis on clandestine operation and secrecy, just didn't blend with the super-hero genre, with its stock-in-trade ostentatiousness. The editors may not have figured it out, but the readers did. The characters limped on for another thirteen issues in their super-hero identities, but by that time, Blackhawk sales were not just floundering, they were practically foundering as well, and in a desperate attempt to make amends, DC did a housecleaning of the talent and restored the team to its original concept, black leather outfits and all. But it was too late, Blackhawk was cancelled two issues later.

Since then, it's been around, time and again, in short-lived revivals and miniseries, but never was able to regain the same momentum it once had.

Zero Blackout!

In Superman #205's "The Man Who Destroyed Krypton!" from April 1968, we had the infamous "Black Zero" story, in which it was revealed that Superman's father, Jor-El, was actually wrong in his calculations that Krypton would self-destruct under its own internal stresses. And when the nefarious space pirate Black Zero discovered this, he used his own super-science to re-agitate the stress at the planet's core. In the vernacular, Krypton didn't commit suicide; it was murdered.

The foul-up in this story is that it undermined the very character of Jor-El. Central to Jor-El's image in the comics was that he was a brilliant scientist, combined with an intense dedication to duty and his home world and a high standard of nobility (in other words, he was a true Zionist). Thus, Jor-El had courageously subjected himself to loss of reputation and outright mockery by his peers and the public in his frequent attempts to awaken his people to the danger they faced.

By stating that Jor-El had been mistaken in his prediction of Krypton's doom all along, he became what his fellow members of the Science Council had called him--a crackpot.
My guess is that it could very well have been an early attempt by DC to mimic some of the approaches used at Marvel at the time, but if you're going to do something to give the character motivation, it should be in a way that doesn't mess up what's come beforehand, and also in a way that doesn't mimic the already tired approach to grim 'n gritty used in the late 80's-early-90's.

The idea that Jor-El could have made such an error and that Black Zero actually destroyed Krypton was quickly swept under the rug and never mentioned again.

Man-made metal, all messed up!

When the Metal Men first debuted in the Silver Age in 1962, they were simply the inventions of Dr. William Magnus, who built them to become the DCU's resident robotic superheroes.

But when in 1968, they tried to convert their hard disk program to the New Metal Men, with issues #33-41, well, you know you're in trouble when they put the word "new" in the title of a book. It's almost always a bad karma, and only in a few circumstances, such as the New Teen Titans, does it work.

That very year, the long-running Metal Men art team of Ross Andru and Mike Esposito, who had been with the series since its inception, were replaced; first for two issues by Gil Kane, then in issue # 32, by Mike Sekowsky. The heavy rolls that such a fan would have been expecting came with the next issue, when mechanical life as the Metal Men knew it was upended. For the bulk of its run, the Metal Men -- one of the "separate from humanity" type of groups -- had enjoyed an existence that its bretheren outcast-heroes in the Doom Patrol and the X-Men could only dream about: They had been fully accepted by human society. As robots, they had been outfitted by their inventor, Doc Magnus, with "responsometers", which not only enabled them to alter their shapes according to the properties of the elements from which they were constructed, but imbued them with independent artificial intelligence and human emotions. For their feats in defence of humanity, they were regarded as heroes by society and their aid was welcomed by the U.S. government. It was a refreshing change from what those series dealt with, and this helped make it one of the most fondly remembered series of the 1960's.

Unfornutely, all this got tossed out the window with Metal Men #33, when new editor Jack Miller called for a departure from the regular direction they usually went in. As established in this issue, Doc Magnus had submitted his Metal Men to a process which was designed to increase their ductile abilities; however, a power surge in the equipment over-energised the robots and the feedback struck Doc, knocking him into a coma.

Following this, Doc's previously unseen brother, Army colonel David Magnus, assumed custody of the robots. Trouble was, the Metal Men, unable to handle their super-increased abilities properly, proved to be more of a danger to people than the menaces they were set out against. The public railed against the robots like a southern/midwestern lynch mob with torches and pitchforks against supposed sorcerors, and the robots fled for their existences.

Predictably, Colonel Magnus swore to recapture them and led the army in a hunt for the Metal Men, and the next couple of issues depicted the Metal Men "on the run" from humanity, while at the same time fighting off the alien invasion of a super-being exiled from the planet Astra Maxima, a creature who for no reason other than that the writer/editor demanded it, had fallen in love with the "female" Metal Man, Tina.

It gets worse. Even though the Metal Men ultimately proved themselves by defeating the world-threatening being from Astra Maxima, Colonel Magnus and the Army -- the ingrates -- were still out to terminate the robots with extreme prejudice. If they really were trying to come up with a good conspiracy thriller there, they blew it, baby.

Following an adventure against some "Killer Clowns from Outer Space" (I'm not joking here), the Metal Men were given shelter by a millionaire named Mr. Conan, who evidently attended the same school of philanthropy as the Teen Titans' Mr. Jupiter. Then, in issue #37, Mr. Conan recruits a scientist, Dr. Peter Pygmalion, to fashion human secret identities for the robots. Dr. Pygmalion remoulds the robots into forms resembling human beings, and Mr. Conan's wealth and influence establish human identities for them. The field leader of the team, Gold, became financier "Guy Gilden" (sounds almost like reserve Green Lantern Guy Gardner, who debuted around that time as well, doesn't it?); Iron, construction man "Jon 'Iron' Mann"; Mercury (all too reminicient of Tony Stark's alter ego over at Marvel), the temperamental artist "Mercurio". Lead and Tin became folk singers "Leadby Hand" and "Tinker". And the platinum Metal Woman, Tina? She became fashion model "Tina Platt", what else? And the public was told that the old Metal Men had been destroyed.

Falling by the wayside was the sub-plot of the Metal Men struggling to control their then over-energised powers. That was probably for the best. Not for the best however, was the fact that the trademark personalities which the Metal Men had always displayed (Mercury's hot-headedness and arrogance, Lead's slow-wittedness, Tin's stammering shyness), were also done away with. Personality-wise, the new Metal Men were now as indistinguishable as the Blackhawks became when DC tried to turn them into costumed superheroes during that time as well. The basic theme now was that the disguised robots had to operate in secret lest it become known that the Metal Men still existed. This development and the notion of giving the Metal Men human appearances destroyed the most creative aspects of the series. One of the strengths of the series had always been that, in action, the Metal Men provided remarkable visuals for the reader: Gold stretching into lengths of micrometre-thin wire; Mercury turning into globs of fluid; Iron and Lead changing into massive walls or constructions, and Platt into platinum materials. Even at repose, they were highly visual in terms of colour --gold, red, blue, grey, silver, white.

Tragically, by making them human in appearance and minimizing the use of their transformation skills to an occasional finger turned into a key or hand converted into a hammer and wrench, the visual impact of the series was removed. And yep, you guessed it, it still gets worse: As the series was winding down toward cancellation, Miller tried one last trick to save it: in issue #40, the Metal Men learnt that Doc Magnus had been kidnapped from his hospital bed by operatives of a foreign dictator, Karnak, and subjected to a brain operation. The operation released Doc from his coma, but turned him evil. This issue and the next, the last issue published then, showed the Metal Men attempting to rescue Doc, who in turn, did his darndest to demolish them. Thus was destroyed the last remnant of what had made the old Metal Men so enjoyable--the obvious loyalty and affection the robots and their creator had had for each other...and the whole show was reduced to a pile of scrap metal. The series was sent to the cancellation junkyard before any more resolutions could be made.

Simply put, if the vision they began with was meant to be an optimistic one, then it just doesn't cut it to turn it 360 degrees on the rotary dial. And by pulling that shtick, they ended up embarrassing one of the best series in comics starring machines.

Luckily, there was a story in The Brave and the Bold #103 in 1972 that took some steps to fix all this, and when the series was revived in 1976, all of these developments were overturned, and ol' Doc Magnus and the Metal Men were back in the spotlight, none the worse for wear, electronic or otherwise, with the whole fiasco of 1969 was reprogrammed and deleted from their databases.

That is, until the another revision of the robots, circa the early 1990's, undid everything all over again. It was claimed, in a miniseries by Dan Jurgens and Mike Carlin in this case (Metal Men #1-4, 1993-94) that the responsometers of our friendly, neighborhood robots were actually the minds of humans who'd been transferred to computer databases. But what really annoys me about this whole reprogramming was how it was done as an apparent excuse to turn Doc Magnus himself into a robot! GAH! And then, to make matters worse, they also sought the excuse to kill off Gold, because two smart robots just wouldn't do. Yeah, right, tell me something else I don't know, and I'm not even a robot, I'm a human being!

At least one benefit was that now, Platt, who'd been in love with Doc, could see more of a chance of pairing up with him for real! Ah, robotic love, isn't it wonderful?

Lock-jaw this one up inside a kennel and throw away the key!

When John Byrne took on the writing of the Fantastic Four and even some of the Thing's own solo adventures, which he'd first begun scripting in about 1979 with Marvel Two-In-One #50, there were certainly plenty of great moments that he has to offer. Unfortunately, issues #3-4 of The Thing, which took over as Ben Grimm's starring vehicle when MTIO was cancelled, weren't among them.

The story presented there was that, while on an adventure in Attilan with the Inhumans, Ben Grimm - and even we, the audience - are told to believe that Lockjaw, Crystal's faithful pet dog, who possessed the ability to teleport himself and even other people over long distances around the globe, was really an Inhuman himself, turned into something like a canine form by the transformative Terrigen Mists that occur around Attilan. Or something like that. And that he could talk, though with difficulty.

Now granted, Byrne is known for the fact that he "got" the FF and Ben Grimm's own personality as well back during the Bronze Age. But this story that he coughed up in those two issues there just went to show that he otherwise didn't get the Inhumans: by making it seem as if poor Lockjaw was really some other Inhuman himself, it only made the Inhumans seem, well...inhuman. Do I need to point out how lugubrious it makes all the times when Crystal and the others would offer Lockjaw an affectionate fur stroke seem when thinking about it within that particular context? Or to have to wonder what Lockjaw himself was thinking about it, even when "fetching sticks"? Nope, didn't think so. It's disgusting, and only makes it seem as if the Inhumans were treating a fellow Inhuman like, well...a dog.

Which, in fact, perfectly describes this turkey of a story that Byrne coughed up.

Practically every writer after that rejected the whole premise that Byrne thought up, thank goodness, though when Peter David tried to undo it in X-Factor when he was writing it, the story wasn't as satisfying as it could've been: it was told that Karnak for one had been ventriloquisting(!), making even Quciksilver feel bewildered. At least we don't get too "cliched" with that talking-dog nonsense!

By now, I'd figure it'd just as well be a Mopee-type story. Which would be just as well, of course.

Spider-Sham!

Back in 1994, Marvel really screwed up big time when they dredged up the Spider-Clone first seen in ASM #149 in 1975, that being none other than the late Ben Reilly, who led a brief career as the Scarlet Spider. Mainly because they tried to allege that the Peter Parker we'd been reading about since then was really the clone himself!

In some ways, I can't help but wonder if what they did was meant to be their answer to DC's Zero Hour crossover from the same year, during which time they replaced Hal Jordan with Kyle Rayner. In Marvel's case, while they certainly never tried to kill off our beloved Peter Parker (thank goodness!), they did attempt to replace him as New York City's friendly, neighborhood wall-crawler, by having him and Mary Jane Watson move to Oregon and Ben take over as the lead! Some cynicism, eh?

Obviously, they realized that fans would not approve of this in the long term, which is why shortly afterwards, what with all the negative backlash against their act, they brought the Spider-couple back to NYC, and Ben was shown to have been the real clone when he disintegrated into thin air during a story arc published in late 1996.

Since then, Ben Reilly's been all but forgotten, and Peter's back in his rightful place as Spider-Man again, with Mary Jane at his side. Too bad they don't get better writers than they've had since the 21st century began.

The dark script-closet skeleton!

If you thought that the above story in Superman #205 from 1968 was bad, here's something that, while it may not be on the same level of embarrassment as that abominable story with Black Zero was, it's still pretty bad. Superboy #158 from July 1969, featuring "Superboy's Darkest Secret!" that being that his parents had not actually died, but rather, put themselves in self-induced suspended animation, had the Teen of Steel as depicted in those pre-Crisis days discovering the two of them stored inside a special space capsule, where they had apparently stored themselves ever since Jor-El accidentally irradiated himself while doing some research at Krypton's core, and in turn accidentally irradiated Lara. So they both put themselves in said suspension until a cure could be found. And then, guess what happened? They got knocked off the planet like a football or a baseball getting kicked/batted out of the NY Yankees stadium when Krypton blew up! So here, Superboy found them both floating in space, and all he had to do then was to find a way around the problem of the Kryptonite they'd been infected with, and revive them!

Sounds only so easy, eh? Alas, no such luck. Not only does it ruin the motivation on which the Man of Steel, if not Supergirl, was built upon, it's also more porous than a black hole in space. First, how exactly could they have been literally irradiated if on Krypton itself, the Kryptonite doesn't have the same lethal effects that it usually does when outside of a red sun universe? And then, if his parents were really to have returned to life, this would do little more than to reduce his uniqueness, while at the same time rendering him an undeserved failure, and a lousy son!

And while Superboy managed to tow their capsule back to earth, where foster father Jonathan Kent, as a non-Kryptonian, could inspect everything at ease without fear of getting himself irradiated, the tape recording by Jor-El, which explained everything, made it clear that they were destined to die even before the destruction of their home planet, and thus they originally turned down a scientist's offer to store them both in suspended animation until a cure could be found, because upon revival, they could only end up dying a slow, excruciating death.

So what happened? Said scientist put them in suspension anyway. Excuse me? Why would that lunkhead-in-the-laboratory ever have wanted to do something like that, and how could he possibly do so without legal procedures to guard the couple against being exploited so cynically? Seriously, what he actually did was to shoot them both with a ray gun knocking the couple into comaland before putting their bodies in the coffin. But gee, how didn't Jor-El and Lara figure out he was capable of pulling those stunts to start with?

And the most idiotic part of all is - how exactly did the couple's coffin get bounced off the planet without a scratch if they didn't even have superpowers within that vicinity? For heaven's sake, Krypton was located in a red sun universe! They had no superhuman status to speak of within the area in which they lived! All that would've happened is that they'd get blown to smithereens, just like the rest of the people they tried - and failed - to warn about the impending doom! Man, what a disaster!

Realizing that it was hopeless to try and revive Kryptonian couple, Superboy and Jon Kent had no choice but to follow the pre-recorded message's instructions and return them both in their lifeless state to space. It's a story so embarrassingly bad, so incredibly ill-conceived and ill-suited, thanks to its self-defeating premise, that it was never spoken about again.

Put another way, it's a premise that fails in every way possible. Hence, it's as much a Mopee as Black Zero was.

Copyright Avi Green. All rights reserved.

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