Friday, March 12, 2010

BAB Two-In-One: Super Mischief and Strange Days

Doug: I had a nice collection of Silver and Bronze Age, pre-Legion Superboys at one time. As with much of my collection, it was exchanged for cash in order to complete my run of The Avengers. But I do have a few left, and today I'd like you to take a peek at a cute story from very early in our chosen timeframe. Superboy #167 was cover dated July 1970, was produced by writer Frank Robbins and artists Bob Brown and Mike Esposito, and was entitled "The Day Superbaby Blew Up the World!". As with most DCs from this era, the book has two stories -- we'll just look at the opener.

Our tale begins with Superboy and Ma and Pa Kent (the younger versions, after having taken a "youth potion") seated around the kitchen table. It's Clark's birthday, but he's all glum. Apparently there's the little matter of an exploratory satellite from an alien race, rocketing toward Earth. So what? A little super-deflection, and everything will be OK, right? Wrong -- the satellite has a nuclear power source and is programmed for a hard landing. Superboy makes the comment that in 24 hours, the craft will blow up the world.

That triggers a memory in Jonathan Kent's mind, and he proceeds to tell Clark a story from his days as Superbaby. I know -- you were thinking that maybe Ma should put the ice cream back in the freezer and send Clark downstairs to his lab to figure out a way to solve the problem using his robot dopplegangers. Nah -- storytime! When Clark must have been about 3, Ma and Pa took him shopping for his birthday. Little Clark spied a huge advertising prop of the Earth and just had to have it. Of course he couldn't, and he was most displeased. Ma improvised and bought him an inflatable globe. A comment here on the art: Bob Brown and Mike Esposito do a great job of drawing Superbaby -- he looks like he could have been on a Charmin package! Their work is almost Cardy-esque and really lends a charm to the story. Very cute!

Clark doesn't like how small the globe is, so he imitates his dad and blows it up -- to the point where it explodes. Back to bei
ng down in the dumps, he spies the moon while in his bedroom. Grabbing a water color set, he takes off toward it to color it as pretty as his globe. During this entire sequence Clark's carrying Jonathan's binoculars, and keeps looking at them through the wrong end. He perceives that the Earth (viewing it from the moon) is small, so he decides he will blow it up! Using his super-breath, Clark begins to exhale deeply into a volcanic chain of islands, setting off seismic activity around the world. As news alerts come from around the globe, and military intervention is planned, Clark becomes dismayed at the now-exploding volcanoes. So, he does what any youngster would do -- he fixes the problem by hurling boulders down the shafts and sealing off the lava. Problem solved!

Jonathan's moon story inspires Superboy to solve the runaway satellite problem. He crafts a magnetic-charged iron ball, flies it in to orbit and the satellite zeroes in on it, explodes, and thus ends the threat to Earth. It's a neat little story, with pretty pictures, and evocative of the better material DC put out in this period. And I should say, that as much as I detested Frank Robbins' art for Marvel on such titles as The Invaders, this work from his pen is well-crafted.

Karen: I've pulled yet another book from my swap meet collection (books I picked up on the cheap at a swap meet a few years ago and haven't read). This time the selection was Marvel Premiere # 14 (March 1973), featuring the master of the mystic arts, Dr. Strange. The winning combination of Steve Englehart and Frank Brunner (with Dick Giordano on inks) put this mind-blowing issue together. I've always wanted to read the Englehart-Brunner Dr. Strange, even though I've never been much of a Dr. Strange fan. But I had heard good things about their run on the character, so this issue was a chance to see for myself.

Karen: I've apparently come in at the conclusion of what appears to be a pretty cosmic storyl
ine. Doc and his nemesis, Baron Mordo, are both following the wizard Sise-Neg (read it backwards), who is absorbing magical energy from different time periods and transcending into godhood. As Sise-Neg's power grows, the two rival wizards' power diminishes. Doc and the Baron are like the little angel and devil on Sise-Neg's shoulders - each trying to persuade him to their particulart point of view (good or evil).

Karen: Sise-Neg goes back to the time of King Arthur and steals Merlin's energy. There's a nice scene here where Doc meets Lancelot, who mistakes him for Merlin! Then they travel back further, encountering a city full of sinful people. When the locals attack the trio, Sise-Neg rains destruction upon them, destroying their twin cities of - Sodom and Gomorrah! On his last step to wards complete omnipotence, Sise-Neg goes back to prehistoric times. There, the trio sees a group of pre-humans under the assault of a gigantic, tentacled entity - Shuma Gorath, an extradimensional creature Strange has fought before. Strange, now nearly powerless, pleads with the god-like Sise-Neg to save the prehumans. "Those are your ancestors down there! Whatever their weakness - however you have transcended them - they are responsible for your existence! When all is said and done, you and they are one! Can you abandon them to something inhuman?"

Karen: Strange finally gets through to Sise-Neg, and being all-powerful, he transports Shuma Gorath away, and creates a paradise for the two remaining prehumans. I suppose you can see where this is going now.

Karen: Sise-Neg reaches the very beginnings of the solar system, and goes beyond, the the birth of the universe itself. Brunner's art here is really strong - although you could say that about the whole issue! Now, Strange and Mordo witness the re-birth of the universe, as Sise-Neg - or Genesis, as he now calls himself - tells the tw
o of them that his quest for godhood has been in vain, as he cannot improve upon the universe -all is as it should be! Therefore he recreates the universe exactly as it was.

Karen: As Strange and Mordo are returned to the present, Strange ponders whether they saw the second creation of the universe, or the first? It's all been too much for pudgy Baron Mordo - he is left in a daze.

Karen: This is about as trippy a 70s comic as you could ask for. It reinforces the belief that I have that Marvel in the early 70s, under Roy Thomas, was at its peak creatively. Sure, you got some lemons here and there. But for the most part, creators were trying new and unusual stories and succeeding for the most part. This
was a very entertaining book, and now I want to pick up the issues preceding it.


Anonymous said...

The inker on this book is actually Murphy Anderson.

Doug said...

Actually, Anonymous, the splash page of the issue clearly lists Mike Esposito as the inker (not always the case at DC, to give credit to the creators).

The Comic Book DB does not list an inker; the Grand Comic Book Database does list Murphy Anderson. Where I think there may be some confusion is that Anderson is listed as the cover inker (over Neal Adams).


MaGnUs said...

Sise-neg? Oh my...

Dandy Forsdyke said...

The interior inks are clearly Anderson and not Esposito. No Anderson evidence on the cover. If the credits say Esposito they are wrong.

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