Wednesday, May 25, 2016


For superheroes, long partnerships must carry with them the same frustrations which long-time employees in a shared office have to face. All of the breakroom birthday parties and team-building trust falls in the world can't spare you the slowly-building frustration of enforced day-to-day togetherness in the paperwork mines, and sometimes you need an outlet.

Maybe it's passive-aggressive notes on the fridge, maybe it's sneaking an extra smokebreak between meetings, maybe it's cutting the brake-lines on your boss' car - for Batman and Superman, long-time partners in the World's Finest Team, it's trading turns whupping one another with the electro lash.

In "Prison for Heroes," originally published in World's Finest Comics vol.1 No.145 (November 1964), Batman is recruited by a giant alien soap bubble to pick up a second career as a whip-wielding warden for an intergalactic gulag ... for superheroes.

See, that would just alarm me more.
But whaaaaaa, you might ask? Well whaaaaaa is that anonymous alien forces make themselves known to Batman in the bowels of his Batcave headquarters with a request that the Caped Crusader join them on the other side of the galaxy "to face a great emergency." While Batman is arguably the poster child for Stranger Danger Awareness, he nonetheless dumbly steps inside the glowing sphere and is whisked across known reality (personally, I would not enter willingly into anything made "of pure energy," since that stuff's legendarily deadly, but then I also never dressed like a rubber ferret).

The end of Batman's long journey is at the gates of the "greatest maximum security prison in the universe," the "prison for heroes" mentioned in the title -- and Batman will be the warden! Naturally, the Dark Knight Detective demurs, but some aggressive alien hypnotism quickly turns him into a spandex-clad Strother Martin, eager to stick it to super-heroes!

Using his Little Oprhan Annie decoder ring and a deep-space transmitter, Batman lures Superman to the gulag - promptly rendering him powerless with a big floating red lens which drapes the region in red-sun radiation. I never liked that Superman's powers could be negated by a pair of novelty Haight-Ashbury Lennon shades, but I guess we all have our weaknesses. I like cake, for instance.

Everybody talk about ... pop music!
Trapped in prison -- and repeatedly swatted by Batman's electro-whip (now watch him nae nae) -- Superman joins a quartet of other imprisoned do-gooders: Electric Man, a lightning charged hero whose exposed brain is either the source of his powers or the reason that moviegoers sitting behind him often vomit; Balloon Man, who can "super-inflate" his lungs which is a bogus power across the board; The Freezer, who holds cuts of beef during the Summer and, lastly, The Flame, a hot dude.

As hypno-Batman continues to top Superman's bottom with chains, whips and forced labor, the Man of Steel's resentment grows -- and a plan forms. Actually, the reader is repeatedly informed that the red-solar-ray-thingamabob depriving Superman of his powers has some sort of flaw which allows him to keep his super-breath and a little x-ray vision, so when he uses those two powers to formulate an escape, it's not really much of a surprise.

At this point, the story turns into some sort of 50 Shades of Grey affair, with a musing Batman delighting in the observation "Tomorrow Superman will be even weaker from lack of food and water, and I'll show him what real discipline means." When Superman busts through the door and incapacitates Batman, the Caped Crusader observes "I feel helpless, numb, cold in your grasp..." Erotic, don't you think?

It's about time.
From this point on, Superman reverses the roles and starts whupping Batman's ass with the electro-lash. Arguably, this kind of nonsense could have continued for the rest of time -- imagine if World's Finest had just become a comic where, every month, the heroes alternated which one got to wale the tar out of the other, like an intentionally homoerotic Zack Snyder film.

Naturally, of course, it's all part of a complicated plan to force the schemers of the scheme (an alien race called The Vorian, famous for their weird fetish stuff on DeviantArt) to reveal themselves. While Superman explains how the other alien superheroes helped fabricate the appearance of his superpowers, an unhypnotized Batman -- nursing a buttful of electrolash swats -- launches a rocket into the big red lens messing up Superman's day. Within moments, the aliens are imprisoned in their own jail and Superman is bringing all the heroes back to their respective homes, neverminding how the ending to this story got all Myra Breckenridgey all of a sudden...

"Peanuts! Popcorn! Red hots!"

1 comment:

Mike Frank said...

Yup. Really silly. The thing is I was 8 years old when this came out and I really loved this story. Most of that was probably due to Curt Swan's art and some really nifty color affects.

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