Friday, November 6, 2015


"I'll call this ... Earth-Bullshit."

I've never quite so much wanted to be privy to a pitch meeting as I am for whatever inspired the introduction of Goliath-Hercules into the world of Superman. Trying to imagine Leo Dorfman sitting in Mort Weisinger's office throwing out "So Superman goes into another dimension and meets Goliath, who's actually Hercules, and he's a giant, an also maybe Kryptonian, or a reverse-Kryptonian, but anyway he's apparently a true son of the South because he's wearing a confederate flag loincloth." Then Weisinger goes "And what, Superman does his twelve labors? This is a twelve-page story, Leo" and Dorfman replies "Six, we can do six, and one of them is an alien spider and another on is a muppet."

Then again, it's conceivable that this was all the product of Weisinger having had a pastrami sandwich-fueled nightmare that caused him to confront his relationship with his academic and religious upbringing. Like Alan Moore suggested, the Silver Age may very well have been Weisinger's therapy ...

On top of everything else, now you're hungry!
Whatever the case, in Action Comics vol.1 no.308 (January 10964, "Superman Meets the Goliath-Hercules"), Superman does indeed travel to an alternate universe where many of our preconceptions about myth and religion have collided - literally - into a mishmosh which would leave Joseph Campbell scratching his head.

Clark Kent joins childhood pal Lana Lang and her archaeologist father on an expedition to the Middle East to discover the birthplace of the Philistine giant Goliath. I mention "Philistine giant" specifically so you don't think it's the birthplace of the monster truck of the same name. Another interesting attraction of Goliath's home is an an amolous water feature, a whirlpool spinning in the middle of the desert sands. The whirlpool seems to have some powers which require a pretty specific set of circumstances to activate, as it requires Lana Lang to almost be incinerated by lightning in order to kick in its special feature - soothing jets!

No, wait, I mean teleportation into another reality. Superman saves Lana from electrocution only to find himself transported to an identical desert scene, seemingly in the past. There he witnesses what he believes to be David felling Goliath with a stone - only it turns out to be young Jason smiting Hercules! And then Ben Hur drives by! And Superman notices that everyone's speaking English, but he doesn't really follow up on that. How could he - he's too busy saving Goliath-Hercules from a red kryptonite meteor, which it turns out affects Ol' Gol-Herc the same way green kryptonite does Superman.

Goliath-Hercules is sweaty and has bad skin.
This is clearly a fever dream set to a script, but Superman at least makes the best of a bad situation. While pondering the mechanics of how exactly he's gonna get home, the Man of Steel ends up helping the mixed-up mythological hero complete a shorn-for-the-sake-of-expediency Six Labors - now that Herc's sidelined by red kryptonite fever, he's settled down and has stopped trying to smash Superman with a club. Why, they're practically pals now!

Superman discovers that the King of Thebes, arbiter of the Six Labors, has been playin elaborate and deadly jokes on Goliath-Herc. The Nemean lion is a regular lion wearing chain mail and a fur dickey to hide it, the stymphalian bird doesn't exist (so Superman makes one out of wicker and makes some bird calls to give it the simulation of life, which is a skill I wish Superman employed more often, thrilling Metropolis with the song of the blue-crested warbler while he bats meteorites out of the sky), and then there's a "cavern caterpillar" which couldn't sound less menacing but which spits metal strands that imprison and kill the heroes who've sought to kill it.

The Man of Tomorrow seems happy to provide all the super-feats for Herc, but none of this helps him get any closer to getting home. What that requires is to wait for someone else to almost be killed by lightning near the whirlpool. Luckily, that's Jason, now a boy shepherd practicing his slingshotting with a metallic rock. Superman absorbs the electricity and pops back to his own time, which is lucky because otherwise he probably would have had to shove foil-wrapped idiots in front of oncoming storms in hopes of getting back home. What if he'd landed in a place where Thor was also Moses and everyone spoke Mandarin? What if Robin Hood was also Joe Magarac and then Tangaroa came riding through? Frankly, Superman got lucky.

"It's better that he thinks I'm only strong enough to hurl a boulder ten yards away with one arm"

No comments:

Popular Posts