Monday, August 15, 2016

That's the Kind of Trouble I Need Plenty Of - Superboy 80

Superboy #80 (April 1960)
"Superboy Meets Supergirl"
Jerry Siegel-Curt Swan/John Forte

Doug: As we've discussed before, Silver Age DCs can be a lot of fun if you prep your mind before reading. Looking at the production date on today's issue, I made sure to know my expectations before diving in. I am reading and scanning from my recently-purchased trade Superboy: The Greatest Team-Up Stories Ever Told.

Here's your plot synopsis, in a 100-Word Review:
In the present of 1960, Superman and Supergirl enjoy some recreation time together. But Superman suddenly turns melancholy as he reflects on a childhood with no peers with whom to share life. Supergirl, in a moment of inspiration, decides she’ll help her cousin out by flying into his past and cheering him up. Superboy is overwhelmed by her strength and speed and the cousins engage in all manner of games – darts, leapfrog, hide & seek, catch, and swimming. Of course they end up saving the world, and Supergirl even comes up with a way to maintain the integrity of the timestream.
This was a short story at only 10 pages, one of three tales in the issue. I love the art team of Curt Swan, he of all things Super, and John Forte -- one of the very earliest artists on the Legion of Super-Heroes. Their styles mesh really well. The end product is a sort of wholesome, even cute, depiction of these characters. Superboy and Supergirl really do look like young teenagers, and Jerry Siegel's script nicely adds to the feeling. Well, hey -- it seems like I'm already commenting on... 

The Good: Art, script, the general quaintness of the story. Just a moment ago I discussed having the right mindset for tales of this vintage. Our friend Paul O'Connor of Longbox Graveyard proposed this earlier this year. I think he's exactly right. Of course that doesn't mean that you're going to like everything or excuse plots or story elements that are just plain stupid. But it has helped me to get past some of the "written for a 10-year old" complaints I've made in the past. 

I felt that the interplay between Superboy and Supergirl exuded joy. I really felt that, as a reader, I was watching these two kids have a great time. And a great time just being kids -- no pressures, no real responsibilities. Of course, when the universe is your playground the possibilities for fun are endless. The duo started out on Earth, but soon took their games into space and even to other planets. They encountered a few menaces, and interrupted a plot by some alien menace to fire "death-rays" at our planet. Overall it was just a fun story.
As with any Silver Age story, a deus ex machina lurks around the next corner, and we saw it here. We all know when sitting down to read one of these time travel yarns that somehow, some way, the time stream has to be unaffected. If Superman was moping around in 1960 about how sucky his childhood was, you can't very well have Supergirl suddenly changing that. You know how much Kang the Conqueror loves to screw with divergent time streams! The "giant red flowers"... get outta here. But I rolled with it, smiling.

The Bad: As a parent, I don't care if they were Super or not. I don't want to see two kids throwing lawn darts at each other's chests! I darn near killed my aunt with one of those things when I was little.

Why is Superman always portrayed in the Silver Age as a SuperD!(k? Supergirl seemed genuinely agitated about what Superman would do to her when he found out she'd messed with the timestream. Sheesh... the days of Super-spankings were long over by the Silver Age. 

To some extent Jerry Siegel plagiarized himself with this plot. The basic premise of this story -- a Super-longing for a true peer -- would be repeated only 13 months later with Supergirl as the protagonist.

The Ugly: In the 21st century it's difficult to read "that's the way it was back then" sorts of things and not have a response. Whether it's racism in the pages of Tarzan or the Lone Ranger novels or whatever, there is a certain cringe-factor on the page. There was nothing egregious in Jerry Siegel's script, but I did pause at the blatant sexism when Superboy remarked (out loud), "How did you, a mere girl, ever get here ahead of me?" Too bad Supergirl didn't give him a Super-wedgie.

I had a fun time reading this. It was quite short, only about a six or seven minute read, but a ton of fun. If you're interested in the Superboy team-ups trade, by the way, there are also stories involving Luthor (natch), Superman, a young Green Arrow, Robin, Jor-el, Aquaman, a young Hal Jordan, Lori Lemaris, and a young Bruce Wayne. Shoot -- you'd think Bob Haney had a hand in some of these stories!


Anonymous said...

Only one more year till Marvel - hooray !!!

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, man. A Super-wedgie. I would have so loved to see Supergirl give Superboy a Super-wedgie, drawn by someone like Curt Swan or Kurt Schaffenberger or Jim Mooney or Murphy Anderson. Oh, well...

Anonymous said...

"I had a fun time reading this"
Thats more than I could say about quite a few more recent comics I've read, Doug.


Redartz said...

Nice review, Doug! As you note, you can see the enthusiasm and youthful spirit in each panel. Some of those Silver Age DC's are a struggle to read now, but this story seems a pleasure. Just two super kids, having fun. You've got to love that...

Curt Swan and John Forte do a fine job on the Girl of Steel. Used to seeing Jim Mooney's take on her in all those old Action Comics. Must admit I'm becoming more of a Supergirl fan, after thoroughly enjoying the first season of her tv show (so glad that got renewed, and on CW- hope for another crossover with Flash, and maybe Arrow). Interestingly, I've read many Silver Age Supergirl stories, but almost no Bronze Age ones. Hmmmmmm.....

Redartz said...

Doug- I should have mentioned in my comment above: speaking of the Supergirl show, have you seen it? Specifically the Flash crossover, it occurs to me that the episode displayed the very same sense of fun between two heroes that your story today has. Well worth a look.

Pat Henry said...

I always found Superboy a much more appealing character than Superman. Same sorts of stories wound up in both, but what was juvenile and kooky seemed less annoying when it wasn't being done by adults in an adult world. Superman's allergy to girl cooties, for example, his pranks, and the childish antics of his "pals." What was annoying about Lois seemed less so on a teen named Lana, and Lana and Clark seemed to have a real friendship going. Superboy's adventures always seemed fresh and, because he was a youth, the potential for a screw up and a discovery was always possible.

Supergirl was a character DC never did much with, despite her iconic generational appeal to young women. Her popularity transcends DC's continued efforts to sideline her, marginalize her and write her out of continuity. Everything about her was a cut-&-paste amalgam of Superman, but she could have been quite different (see Power Girl). In her own way, because she came to age in an advanced Kryptonian city, she was much more naturally a science-fictiony creation than the man from Smallville Kansas. When they did break the mold with her stories, they were generally a little creepy and unsettling (her boyfriend, the horse?) DC had gold with Supergirl and did little with it--what would it have been like had they actually hired women to write her stories?

I found the idea of a teeny girl who could put a hammerlock on the Hulk and make him howl, but never in anger, then afterwards burst into tears because someone gave her flowers immensely appealing.

Doug said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. And Colin -- I get it. There was a time when I'd have said "Here, here!" But I've stretched myself. I would not say I've made myself like older DC comics, but I have certainly progressed to really enjoying them. What I mean is that it's not forced -- I really have found quite a bit of merit in comics that as a child I looked down my nose at. Big differences between Marvels and DCs? Sure there are. But now I can celebrate those things.

As to the Superboy/Superman arguments? Always going to land on the Superboy side, for the reasons some have stated above.


Doug said...

Oh, and Redartz -- yes, I've seen a few episodes of the Supergirl show, including the Flash crossover. I understand there will be quite a bit more of that to come on the CW network.

Still don't understand why DC can't get motion pictures right, though...


William Preston said...

Throwing darts at each other does not seem, um, SUPER-inventive.

Superboy lacked Superman's arrogance, and you could relate to him as a kid—even with regard to his super-secret. Adolescents keep a lot to themselves, they stress a lot on the inside, and they're curious about both the world and their own capabilities. Superboy was really one of us (as was Supergirl), and the world really was a goofy place where you hoped you'd end up in a cool "club" with your friends . . . like the Legion.

Unknown said...

This was an entertaining and classic Superboy tale. Superboy and Supergirl are genuinely likeable; their interaction is charming. They seem like innocent teenagers of the 1950s, in a squeaky-clean world. This is a nice selection from Superboy: The Greatest Team-Ups Ever Told. That volume also has Superboy #171, which features Superboy and Aquaboy, an issue that, incidentally, I happen to have.

DC's movies are hit-and-miss, i feel. I saw Suicide Squad recently—it's not as bad as the reviews would suggest. Margot Robbie's performance as Harley Quinn is a standout. I also liked how Batman was portrayed from the criminals' point of view. Whether or not one likes Jared Leto's Joker, his performance is solid. I didn't much care for the Enchantress character as the villain, though.

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