|If you want to understand what life was like in Smallville, please realize that they had giant, anthropomorphic super-mice at their county fairs and yet it was the juggling they came to see.|
I always feel like it’s a little cheap to keep going back to the Superboy comics when coming up with topics for this blog, just because I honestly believe that – pound for pound, when you consider all the factors – you’ll never come up with weirder stories than are in any Silver Age Superboy adventure.
Sure, there were plenty of comics which were equally or even much more excessively bazonkers in isolation than the collected adventures of the Boy of Steel, but consider Superboy’s pedigree. How many other Silver Agers could draw on the kind of history, the pure resources of story-telling that Superboy could? You’ve got the entirety of the planet Krypton, the teenage versions of Superboy’s future adult foes, the famous costume and powers and vulnerabilities – plus, consider all the inventions of the Superboy series, and that anything which popped up in Superboy could conceivably show up in Superman, inasmuch as they shared what laughably passed for continuity back in those days (and did! The Kryptonite Kid, the Legion of Super-Heroes, even The Yellow Peri – I know who she is, you don’t have to – all eventually found places to exist in the SuperMAN world).
Superboy is the junior-mint version of DC’s flagship character and he floated around for forty-plus years, so when he turns into a super-wolfboy or his Home Economics teacher turns out to be a Kryptonian cross-dresser with a magic barbecue grill (or something, I lost my focus there), then it’s potentially weirder than Fletcher Hanks wearing Henry Darger’s skin as a nightgown (it’s an Ed Gein original!)
Let’s take, for instance, “The Amazing Adventures of Krypto Mouse” from Superboy vol.1 #65, 1958.
|Many cats died that day, and many more died |
in the days that followed
Tommy has a bazillion pets, and appears to be one of those Animal Hoarder types that you see on that TV show on Animal Planet,
Anyway, Robby (I mean “Tommy”) is told by his parents that he needs to get rid of his personal petting zoo, tout suite (They use those exact words, trust me). He’s given a day to find homes from all of his animals, but his solution to the problem seems to simply be to jam them into the crawlspace between apartments - because that’s pretty much what he promptly does, at least in the case of his pet mouse Fuzzy.
|He's going into the wall, you nitwit.|
If you feel that you simply must masturbate to that, please don’t let me stop you. This is the internet after all.
Krypto-Mouse’s keen senses detect what Tommy (I mean “Tommy”) imagines must be some heinous crime, but is actually kitschy signage over the “Black Cat Niteclub” in swinging downtown Smallville, notorious for its active nightlife. Dashing out at super-speed, Krypto-Mouse demolishes the offending replica of a hissing cat – and, one imagines, then flies around town actually murdering cats wholesale and then probably eating five or six grain silos whole – and then promptly returns home.
I suppose it’s worth pointing out that Krypto-Mouse is a nitwit. Although the improbable raybeam of next-door neighbor scientist Doctor Egglehead (I am not kidding) gave Fuzzy all the powers of Superboy, it left him with the mind of a mouse. I’m pretty sure I do not have to spell out the potential consequences of such a combination in stacks of kryptonite mouse-poop five yards high or anything, it rather speaks for itself.
|After a few more years of the internet, this |
will be representative of your average person's
typical first sexual experience.
In any case – being a guy who knows a solid opportunity to get a bunch of kids murdered when he sees it - Louie the Rat rents a mouse costume and jumps into the parade line, figuring he can use the town-crossing parade as his opportunity to slip out past the county line. Mind you, he’ll be dressed as a mouse, and it’s also dependent on the parade route ending up on a dirt road twelve miles from the highway, and hopefully these are some pretty tall and husky schoolchidlren in order for him to fit in but SOME PLAN LOUIE.
It’s also at this point that Krypto Mouse – bereft of his costume – sees a big parade of mice people and decides to join the line. It’s important to note that - prior to Krypto Mouse joining the parade – Louie was at the end. It’s also important to know that the hitmen found out that Louie had joined the parade dressed as a giant mouse (even though they missed the part where the freakish aryan ideal uberman-mouse joined the parade at the end). They respond to this news by SHOOTING AT THE LAST MOUSE IN THE PARADE and – when that fails to kill him – DROP A GIANT STONE ON HIM FROM THREE STORIES UP.
There was simply NO WAY for the hitmen to know for sure that the last mouse in the parade line was actually Louie the Rat and not, say, an innocent child, but more than that the last mouse in the parade line was in fact NOT Louie the Rat. So, the hitmen were indeed just shooting and hucking big rocks at a CHILDREN’S PARADE and, if you’re wondering, no … Superboy was nowhere to be found. WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO GET SUPERBOY’S ATTENTION?
|"Rao, am I stoned."|
As a matter of fact, Superboy is pretty much a stranger in this story, and his role is by-and-large limited to showing up after Krypto-Mouse has done some deed of what-the-fuckerring-do in some fashion which convinces the yokels that Superboy was on the job. The Boy of Steel literally spends most of this story utterly baffled, amazingly unaware that there’s a giant mouse flying around in his spare underpants and seemingly unconcerned about trying to get to the bottom of the mystery.
Frankly, it actually makes something of a nice change for the Superboy stories, so many of which seemed to be written by people who were actively out to take Superboy down a peg – observe, for example, the other two stories in this volume, in which Superboy is turned into a juvenile delinquent by moonlight and ends up locked in a kryptonite cage by his adoptive parents, and where Clark Kent is forced to bunk with a guy who leaves green-K lying all over the place, in the fridge and under the TV in the living room and stuff.
Next comes the wrap-up where Superboy finally comes face-to-face with Krypto-Mouse in as neatly tied up an anti-climax as you get. Rescuing a ship’s cargo of cheese from raging sea-waters by hucking barrels of the good stuff miles to shore, Superboy finds the cargo is nowhere near its target destination. Investigating, he comes face-to-face with Krypto-Mouse who, in short order, accidentally saves Superboy’s secret identity by distracting Lana Lang while our hero is changing into his civilian identity, shrinks back to normal mouse-size, loses his super-powers and runs away home.
|NOT. A. FUCK.|
He doesn’t care! He doesn’t investigate, he doesn’t ask any of the obvious questions, he just sort of shrugs and just – I don’t know – goes home or something. This is Superboy’s life, this dumb shit happens all the time and he just doesn’t give a fuck any more. I wish I could explain how delightful an ending I find this (It supersedes an actual ending, where Fuzzy returns home and Tommy - I really do mean “Tommy” - and his parents find some diamonds which Krypto-Mouse had made out of coal under the bed , and now they’re rich and Tommy can keep another bazillion animals because they’re rich now and rich people get to do anything they want, no matter how wasteful or dumb) – if just because it seems like such an insane reaction to the whole affair, unless you really think about Superboy and the kind of life he leads and how often this kind of dumb madness happens, and you come to realize that it’s actually the only sane reaction you could have. Giant mouse? Who gives a fuck! Next week it’ll be space-horses and malevolent robot driving instructors, probably!
Needs More Scientists and Ray Beams and Mobster Sub-Plots and a Ship Full of Cheese
|Is it me, or does this scene look like |
they're both sitting on corner-facing toilets?
Mind you, I realize that comic book stories have expanded and expanded over the history of the medium – what takes eight pages in the 1950s took almost a whole issue in the Sixties, and then started spreading out over two- and three-issue arcs in the Seventies and Eighties until you come to the point today where everything seems to require a twelve-issue weekly maxi-series with branded sub-chapters crossing over into a dozen books.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the phenomenon too, and ideally you also realize that it is largely for the best – stretching the pace of these stories has allowed for the introduction of legitimate tension, it’s allowed us to empathize with characters and come to understand motivation and allowed the plots to develop slowly over time and without maintaining a terrible death grip on Professor Egglehead happening to run a super-power making machine next door to the boy whose mouse just got loose on the day before the Pied Piper parade that a mob informant will happen to stumble across.
It’s good – I promise you, it really is – that it took (for an example) eight pages to tell the tale of The Batman of Zurr-En-Arrh in 1958 and several hundred pages and months upon months to re-tell (as part of a larger arc) it in 2008. It really is, you don’t want to go back to the way it used to be, believe me.
Primarily, it’s better because this kind of jam-packing no longer needs to happen. The job of an editor is, arguably, to improve the story, and keep things like godawful coincidences from over-happening and to workshop obvious glaring bumps and desperate calls for deus ex machina. Disbelief can only be suspended so often, as they say, before the premise collapses out from under the reader.
|"What do you dream about, Krypto-Mouse?"|
Those suggestions are the product of a first read-through, and what you get from it is a much cleaner story with much less reliance on the suspension of disbelief. But that didn’t happen, and – in fact – these stories seem to be ninety percent overloaded as if by design. I think the only real answer simply must be that the editor grabbed the first draft or the plot outline, read through it once, and said “Needs more mobsters, a sympathetic kid, a forgetful scientist, some parades, work in a joke about cheese and put Superboy’s identity in danger”. So much more happens in these eight pages, but it’s just a fucking disaster of a story, and also I’m pretty sure it’s how J.T.Krul works except he adds more beheading and disembowelings and baby murder.
Next Time on Superboy’s Super-Powered Petting Zoo of Retarded Animals
I’d originally gone into this article actually meaning to write about Krypto-Mouse and ANOTHER story where Superboy must confront a super-powered anthropomorphic animal, but I got too fired up and kind of quintupled my expected word count. With that in mind, stay tuned for the next Superboy article so I can explain what the hell is going on with this guy.