Friday, October 11, 2013
That Zany Bob Haney: World's Finest 215
World's Finest #215 (January 1973)
"Saga of the Super Sons!"
Bob Haney-Dick Dillin/Henry Scarpelli
Doug: Oh, it's about to get zany around here. You've had since May to rest up from our last Bob Haney-penned story. You're going to thank me. We are definitely on Earth-H today, or maybe better yet Earth-JRWI (Just Roll With It). Of all the offbeat tales from the mind of Bob Haney, today's might be the gold standard.
Doug: We open with a splash page of Batman and Superman, their wives, and some tough named Rocco at the funeral of... Superman and Batman? That's where you'd be wrong. Because today we're talking about Superman, Jr. and Batman, Jr.! That's right. I didn't even know this stuff existed until I stumbled across this trade paperback while doing one of my semi-regular Amazon.com searches. Since I write these "Zany Bob Haney" posts, I knew I had to have the book. I bought a nice copy from the used market, and am not disappointed... well, at least not in the condition of the book. We'll see about this story. We actually hit our stride on the second page, as Superman sits at his breakfast table, in full costume mind you, while his wife hands him the phone. We're not privy to Mrs. Superman's identity yet. On the other end of the line is -- you guessed it -- Clark Kent, Jr. It seems the lad hasn't made much contact with his parents lately, and they're miffed. Haney then assaults our senses with a full-throttle generation gap set-up: Superman is peeved at the kid for not calling his mom, the kid is ticked because he has superpowers he's never been able to use, Superman says he only has half of the superpowers anyway because he has an Earth mother and one Superman in the family is enough, and yada yada yada. Young Clark gets in one more shot, telling the old man that he's ruined his life by making him be a softie like Clark Kent! And then the biker gang busts through the window of the community center (natch) where young Clark is working.
Doug: "Satan's Sockers" proceed to tear up the place. Clark's having none of it, and with his dad still on the line takes it to the gang. Clark rips through them pretty easily; but on the phone we can hear Superman telling the Mrs. "I better get over there!" But when Superman arrives the gang is gone and he's left to chew out Clark for showing off his powers. Clark reminds him that they are only "half" powers. They exchange some more terse words, and then young Clark punches his way through a wall while Superman calls after him to come back. We then cut over to Gotham City, where Bruce Wayne, Jr. is being awakened by Alfred... for lunch. Donning a robe, young Bruce joins his parents (Mrs. Wayne is shrouded behind a large hat). The generation gap is all good at this home as well, as young Bruce voices his disdain for his father and the restrictions placed on him by his parents. Alfred clicks on the television news, to a story about the Batman arresting a mob leader. Or so he thought. The cops had to let the guy go for insufficient evidence, and now he plans to sue the city and the Batman! Master Wayne is shocked, as he wasn't anywhere near this guy. Then Alfred spills the beans and young Bruce goes ballistic, calling the faithful butler a traitor. You see, the spare Bat-suit went missing -- well, we know who was wearing it. Some more inter-generational bickering fires up, and young Bruce leaps over the penthouse garden's wall (his mother faints at the sight) and slides down a wire to the street (still wearing his PJ bottoms and the red robe, for sure).
Doug: Do you remember when Superman used to leap tall buildings in a single bound? It's kind of neat that Haney re-employs that limitation on young Clark. We see him bounding "100 miles at a leap" and heading toward Gotham City. In Gotham, young Bruce is at a nightclub with a lovely blonde but wants no part of her. He says he's waiting for someone... we know who. In walks Clark and the two kindred spirits greet one another. They head outside for a walk and to discuss their problems. They both agree that their dads are pretty cool, but as youngsters they're misunderstood. Unbeknownst to the boys, though, a little "superdickery" is afoot as their dads are listening to the whole conversation through a bug planted on Bruce by Alfred! The super dads lament the situation, but try to think of a way to humor their sons. Batman points to a drawer labeled "Crime Files" (a step down from "Bat Shark Repellant") and says he knows that in Sparta City the head goon, a Rocco Krugge, is losing his grip. What if the boys were sent in to finish off Rocco, which should be an easy task? Superman isn't so sure, and then comes up with a zany idea -- what if he creates a duplicate city, that will vanish when the super sons experiment is over? Like you, I'm sure, Batman says "Huh?!?" Superman flies off to what really looks like San Francisco and heads into the bay to the end of the San Andreas Fault. He then shakes the fault much like you or I would shake out a rug. Look at the picture... I ain't making this stuff up. And to prove it, I'm providing the next page so that you can read this time/space explanation in all its Haney-glory. Neal Adams has nothing on geo-evolution after reading this scientific mess!!
Doug: So the scene settles in Sparta City, where we look in on an ailing Rocco Krugge. His son, Rocco Krugge, Jr. (sheesh... but you know what? I have grown to love these Haney-tales because of their sheer idiocy!!), is getting pressure from one of the top goons to take over the family and put down some punks who want their own piece of the action. But this guy's interested in normalcy, not a life as a don. Outside, Superman checks his work and notes the tremors besetting the city as it time slips. At about that instant, the boys arrive on a motorbike and get chased by a buckling, snaking road! They make it safely into town, and are about to wet themselves because their own super-dads sent them here to deal with the Krugge situation. As they get to downtown, they come upon a gun battle between a car and a cable car. The boys strip out of their civvies, their dads' costumes on underneath, and go into action. Clark lifts the cable car while bullets ricochet off of him -- he informs us that the bullets do leave bruises. Bruce jumps into the car and metes out a little justice, albeit with some hip lingo. After the mop up, the boys hop back on their bike, leaving behind a calling card signed "Courtesy of Batman, Jr. and Superman, Jr." Again, I am in no way making this stuff up. I couldn't.
Doug: We head back to the Krugge estate to find Rocco, Sr. mysteriously healed. He's ranting at some of his muscle and vowing to get the Super Sons. Then to a rented room we go to find the boys basking in the glory of the success of their first mission and admiring their press. They decided to head out again, so jump on the motorcycle, in full costume. They don't get too far before the bike starts acting funny. Superman, Jr. tosses Batman, Jr. away just before the bike explodes! Yup -- the mob found these guys out (how? They were wearing costumes) and rigged the cycle. So now it's war, say Batman, Jr. Because criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot, you know. The boys take out several low-level heavies over the next week, but realize they're not putting much of a dent in the larger operation. Their big break comes when Rocco Krugge decides to send his own son to meet with the Super Sons, to set a trap. Our young heroes arrive on a wharf for the meeting, and Superman, Jr. moves to a secluded spot to cover Batman, Jr. Rocco, Jr. shows up and presents damning evidence that would convict his father. Batman, Jr. (bro--therrrrr) is excited, but only until Lil' Rocco pulls a piece on him. Batman, Jr. tells Rocco, Jr. that he isn't sweating, because his "super chum" is nearby. Suddenly a bomb goes off and we see young Superman sprawled across the docks, out cold. Rocco, Jr. keeps the gun on Batman, Jr. and the next we see is the super boys in the back of a limo, accompanied by the Krugges. Our young warriors are taken to a half-completed dam, where Superman, Jr. is pushed over the edge -- and then buried in wet cement! Batman, Jr. laments this development, but old man Krugge tells Rocco, Jr. to off the young Batman. As the elder Krugge's limousine pulls away, we hear a single "Pow!"
Doug: We check back in with the parents. Clark Kent is again at the breakfast table, but this time in a business suit. In Gotham, the Waynes enter their Rolls. Both of the wives worry aloud about the boys; both of the dads reassure their women that their sons will be just fine. But, just to keep everyone happy, Superman flies out to Sparta City to check on things. Flying at the right frequency (uh... yeah, nevermind), he enters the duplicate city. But what does he find there but a vibrant, healthy Rocco Krugge addressing the media. Wait a second, thinks the Man of Steel. And then it hits him. When he altered space and time, whatever they were treating the dying Krugge with must have short-circuited or something and sped up the healing process! So now we come back to the splash page again, at the funeral of the Super Sons. Superman and Batman are there in costume, again with their wives, and Rocco Krugge. Batman wants to go after Krugge, but Superman talks him down. Batman is overtly emotional, and as he stalks off with his wife yells to Superman that this is his fault and he never wants to see him again! In the car, the elder Krugge says to young Rocco that this couldn't be better, and the evidence that young Rocco had given to Batman, Jr.? -- Don't worry about it.
Doug: However, in his dreams Rocco Krugge is visited by a vision of a quite healthy Superman, Jr. and Batman, Jr. He dresses and drives himself to the cemetery (were the boys buried in Sparta City??), where he finds the graves open, the coffins on the ground, and empty! The boys emerge from the shadows to confront their would-be murderer. Clark says that suspended animation really is no trouble for him, and young Bruce of course has a utility belt full of funny herbs and such. Rocco's believing this not, so Haney gives him (and us) the explanation: Superman, Jr. was really freed from the concrete before his air ran out, and Batman, Jr. really wasn't shot by Rocco, Jr. Of course lil' Rocco steps out of his own shadow and tells his old man that a life of crime just wasn't for him. The old man scoffs at this development, and says the evidence isn't there to convict him of anything. Just one second, says the Super Sons as they produce the files. You see, Superman, Jr. had used his X-ray vision to locate the papers while he was in the concrete -- which was in a dam way outside the city limits. And unless I don't know my geography, I believe on flat land the eye can only see about seven miles before the curvature of the Earth takes one's vision away. And it's not flat near San Fran, kids! Well, with these latest revelations, Rocco, Sr. takes off running. Dummy trips over a headstone, though, and his rod goes off. Bang, dead. And guess where he fell? Right over his own wife's tombstone. Young Rocco says that his mom always resented the life of crime. Now they were both at peace.
Doug: On the outskirts of Sparta City, Superman and Batman have gathered with their sons to debrief on the mission. The boys are a little irked that it was a set-up with the phony city, and that the real Krugge is still at large. Not so fast, says Batman -- the real Krugge died of a heart attack while visiting his wife's grave. So in the end, the Krugge empire was brought down. The boys seem to take that explanation for what it's worth. Then they tell their dads that they don't want the super-scene anymore, and off they ride, into the sunset.
Doug: Whew! What a dense story with a zillion zany turns. As I said above, I've come to admire Haney's imagination and I take these stories for what they're worth. Bob Haney obviously didn't give a rip about characterization or continuity -- he just wanted to tell zany stories. And you know what? They're kind of fun, in a "what the heck??" sort of way. Keep you on your toes, that's for sure. We haven't seen a whole lot of Dick Dillin on the BAB, but he's just as solid as ever in this issue of World's Finest. I have no prior knowledge of inker Henry Scarpelli, but I noticed in the trade that the next issue was inked by Murphy Anderson. As you might imagine, it's a little slicker production. As a programming note before I leave, by the time this sees print I should have received my copy of the new Jim Aparo hardcover, which continues his run with Haney on The Brave and the Bold. We're not done with the zany one yet, not by a long shot!