Monday, June 19, 2006

Masquerade Smarties

Next Jimmy's headed to the Byrne boards to really start some shit!

Everyone's favorite boneheaded, er, redheaded cub reporter has donned "The Helmet of Hate!" -- which is also the title of this reprint story from "Jimmy Olsen" #113 (Aug.-Sept. 1968). Like a lot of Superman Family stories from its era, it's filled with so many SHOCKING TWISTS and STARTLING REVELATIONS that it chokes on them, and dies an exceedingly moronic death. The primary plot element here is deception. Sure, the reader thinks one thing is going on, but it's actually something entirely different! And they'll explain with excruciating detail how everything was done! I wonder sometimes if the Superman comics were edited by Julius Schwartz or the Amazing Randi. (The closest modern example I can think of is the first couple years of the JSA comic, in which every seemingly unbeatable villain had a fatal Achilles heel -- which the JSA knew about all along! Or any Warren Ellis/Garth Ennis/Mark Millar story where the "hero" is a deceitful wiseass.)

Suffice it to say that everything that seems to be happening to Jimmy and Superman is all a ruse in order to foil an alien invasion. Got it? Swell. Now I'm free to talk fashion!

About that helmet -- I'm not sure why so many sci-fi helmets from the 50's and 60's were transparent. You'd have to make sure your hair was flawless before you put it on -- and then the weight of the helmet would smoosh it down. So you'd be screwed! The Hate Helmet doesn't seem as bad, since the glass or what-have-you is kept away from the top of your coif -- as long as you keep your hair reasonably close to your scalp. A pompadour might be a bad idea. And just imagine the grease marks all over the glass!

But Jimmy didn't just accessorize with a Hate Helmet. He's also brandishing a red Kryptonite gun! Or is he? ...Okay, he's not. Hope that doesn't spoil the story for you.

Uh-oh! The red-K has turned Superman into a devil! Not! That costume looks kind of familiar, doesn't it? I'm guessing he popped into the Phantom Zone and borrowed Mon-El's tunic.
Mon-El: Superman! At last, you've come to free me from this dreadful prison!

Superman: Um... yes! That's precisely why I'm here! But you'll have to remove your top first.

Mon-El: Sure, I-- what?

Superman: I'll need a sample of your clothing in order to match your exact molecular frequency. So hurry up and get nude.

Mon-El: I've got a button here that popped loose. Can't you just take that instead of the entire tunic?

Superman: Oh, I'm sorry, Mon-El, I thought you were serious about wanting to get out of here. But obviously you'd rather stay in the Phantom Zone getting phantom dry-humped by General Zod than enjoy untold freedom in the outside world. Tell you what -- when you grow the fuck up and decide to act like a man, you give me a call. 'Kay? Bye.

Mon-El: Wait! I'm a grown-up! I'm serious! [he hurriedly removes his tunic]

Superman [snatches the tunic from Mon-El's hands]: Yoink! See you in 990 years, sucker! [he vanishes]

Hey, pixie boots! I didn't even know they made shoes like that in Superman's size. He really went all-out on this devil costume! For him, I mean. I don't hold Superman to an especially high standard when it comes to costume design. I would have spruced it up with some nice gauntlets, maybe with talons on them, and a much longer and nicer cape. Or a cloak! I just watched Michael Powell's "The Tales Of Hoffman" this weekend, and I think Leonide Massine's "Schlemil" costume in a shade of crimson would have been nice as well. It was a military number with these big silver hawks or owls or something on the shoulders. Very striking. Superman could have used bats instead, or some kind of lame-ass Kryptonian fauna that only some nerdy loser would be familiar with. Like a rondor! (Oops.) And now for the shocking conclusion!

Oh, for--! Now he'll never be able to return those things to Hot Topic.


Anonymous said...

I was about to say that the only response to that last panel was >awp!<, but then I saw that one of those bald green guys beat me to it! What real-world exclamation does that word represent anyway? Or is it even an onomatopoeia? Are they literally saying ">awp!<"?!

Those tiny Supermen are Kandorians in disguise, am I right? And they'll be expected to go back to their bottle city like nice little terrarium-dwellers, yes?

Phew. I'm done. These stories...I can't even get to the fashion.

Anonymous said...

All things considered, I don't regret having grown up during the modern age of comics.

Marc Burkhardt said...

Stories like this explain why I grew up to be such a weirdo.

Anonymous said...

"What...?!" indeed, green Lex Luthor clone. "What...?!" indeed.

Anonymous said...

Say what you will, this old timer remembers fondly being able to read three (yes, three!) stories like this in a typical Silver Age Superman Family comic. I do recall reading this story in the 80 Page Giant referenced here and not the original issue in which it was printed, but the fact that it was one of 7-8 similar stories featuring Jimmy Olsen (for a quarter) made for some good reading back then.

Jeremy Rizza said...

Chawunky, you're absolutely correct -- those are teensy Kandorians! And apparently, Kandorians are up for anything. Never play "truth or dare" with a Kandorian; you'll always lose.

And Michael, I enjoy those old Jimmy Olsen stories, too. It's just that having read a lot of them, I'm struck by their thematic obsession with trickery and dreams/hallucinations. I guess it was a way to have odd things happen while still grounding them in pseudo-reality. But to my mind, they'd be even better if the weird events were genuine. What if Jimmy Olsen really did become king of the giant ants? What if Jimmy really was possessed by the spirit of a pirate ancestor whenever he fell asleep? What if he really did gain water-breathing abilities from a mermaid? Bizarre events happened all the time in the Superman Family comics, so I don't see the point of having maybe a third of them be elaborate hoaxes. It's a minor quibble, but there it is.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I don't disagree with anything you are saying at all. Even back in 1968 when my friends and I read these stories (I was 12 back then), we were quite aware about how absurd it all was. And it was even more absurd when you read an 80 page Giant which had a collection of stories all on a theme like Jimmy's transformations or the Bizarros or Super Baby. I recall that as we got older we all were a bit embarassed by the craziness of these comics and were pleased as the impact of Marvel's success was felt and DC's comics became a tad more "serious". But these days I find myself spending more time reading Silver Age collections than current releases (and enjoying your blog; good snark is always entertaining). Silly? Yes. But how can you go wrong with a story that has Jimmy Olsen in weird headwear, tiny Kandorians, Curt Swan artwork, and a bizarre convoluted plot all in a handful of pages?

Anonymous said...

PS: You get extra points for the Superman/Mon-El dialogue.

Jeremy Rizza said...

Thanks, Michael! I was afraid I'd somehow offended you but I totally understand where you're coming from now. I love a lot of goofy, silly things too! And I'd much rather read a Silver Age DC comic than the typical Marvel comic from the same era. With certain exceptions (Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange) I find that shit just painful. I've read collections of the first twenty or so issues of Avengers and Thor and both times it was a real slog. Give me Jimmy "Miss Gsptlsnz turned me into a porcupine boy" Olsen any day!