Saturday, May 9, 2009

Superman does a bunch of shit that should probably be beneath him

And here we begin the first ever Superman comic storyline, from June of 1938.

Clark Kent arrives at the Daily Star (would its eventual change to Planet be an upgrade or a downgrade?) and is immediately told that he's wasting his time by a secretary who knows a total rube when she sees one. Still, he is let through to meet with the editor, where Clark puts it all on the line: "I know I haven't had any experience sir, but still, I think I'd make a good reporter." Nice try, Kent, but if Peter and Joey can't do it neither can you.

Outside, Clark employs the typical comicbook external monologue and tells himself that he needs this job in order to quickly learn of people in distress. Ignoring their method of exposition, that's actually pretty clever on behalf of the writers! Of course, everyone is more familiar with Superman just toolin' around town until he hears someone step on an ant on the other side of the planet, but this is a pretty effective plot device before that shortcut gets introduced.

So Clark takes off his clothes in an alley (no phonebooth yet) and reveals that he is in fact Superman! He then leaps to the ledge outside the unnamed, I hesitate to call him Perry White because who knows if that's who he is, editor's office and listens in as the man is informed of a mob gathering at the county jail. "Cover that story!" Possible Perry proclaims to the person on the other end of the phone. Superman is not above using his powers to put others at an unfair disadvantage, and leaps across town to cover the story himself. You know, before any actual reporters might be able to do their jobs.

Arriving on the scene Superman stops the lynching of a prisoner and puts him safely back into jail. In return, the prisoner informs Superman that he is in jail for the murder of Jack Kennedy (Now THAT'S being ahead of your time!) and that a nightclub singer by the name of Bea Carrol set him and another woman up for the crime.

Superman calls Potential Perry and is immediately hired for his trouble. Well that was easy. Following this he confronts the vile Bea Carrol in her dressing room, who for her part attempts the most awkward seduction of a superhero I have yet seen. "You attract me!" Unfortunately Superman's steadfast resistance to her charms forces Bea to draw a pistol on him, which he immediately snatches away robbing us of the thrill of seeing a bullet bounce off his manly chest. Something's gotta bounce off that thing soon though!

Forcing a signed confession out of her (!!) Superman hears an announcement on the radio stating that the woman Bea framed for Kennedy's murder is 30 minutes away from meeting the electric chair. The radio announcer also helpfully adds that she will die unless the governor reprieves her. Ham, meet Hands.

Superman, Bea tucked under his arm like a precious parcel, leaps across the county arriving at the Governor's mansion. Turned away at the door by a butler, Superman knows there is no time to explain (why that might take precious seconds!) and simply shoulders the door off its hinges, before lifting the butler above his head with one arm. Having carried the butler to the top of the stairs the man of steel discovers a door of steel, behind which the governor sleeps. Why on Earth does this guy have a steel door on his bedroom? And how many doors do we need to see Superman destroy before we get that he can beat up doors? I hope upon seeing that a man who wears his underwear over his pants has broken into his home the governor hides in his closet, the door to which is constructed of pure diamond! Diamond Superman, let's see you break that! Whatever the case, the butler mocks Superman unaware that this door is like tissue paper to the last son of Krypton.

Having broken into the man's bedroom Superman removes his red underwear, as some sort of strange Kryptonian sign of respect(the colourist forgot to colour them in). Superman attempts to inform the governor of the signed confession he coerced from Bea not 15 minutes earlier, but is interrupted once again by the butler who has drawn a gun on him. Here, we see some truly impressive storytelling, as Superman is shot in the neck on the last panel of the page. The panel is silent, not so much as a sound effect. The reader, at this point, is stunned to see the hero they have so quickly fallen in love with killed before he has saved even a single day. It is not until they turn the page that the reader is able to feel relief, when they read the caption "The bullet ricochets off Superman's tough skin!" and a legend is born. Superman's first bullet ricochet, right here.

Of course not every decision made in this comic is quite that savvy, as in the next two panels a clock is inserted informing us that there are 12 minutes before the execution, followed by 9 minutes. Apparently it took 3 minutes for Superman to subdue one butler. That discrepancy aside, if you're going to include that timer why not do it for the entire story? Don't just introduce some impending time limit at the end there, have us feel anxious throughout the story by having those clocks present from the get-go. Are you listening to me people of 1938!?

Having defeated his to-this-point greatest foe, a butler, Superman and the governor are free to work together and stop the wrongful execution. Thank goodness.

That's it for this post, but the story isn't done yet! Tune in next time for the debut of Lois (I mean it this time) and the most iconic panel in comics.

No comments:

Post a Comment