Wednesday, July 20, 2016



In the occasional combat exchanged between the World's Finest superhero team, there are rarely winners. Even more rare is a victory so decisive as in the Bob Haney-scripted story from World's Finest vol.1 No.240 (Sept. 1976), "How Do You Kill A Superman?", in which Batman just literally murders Superman outta nowhere, the end.

I did not correctly parse that
image at first glance.
The story's just a smidge more complicated than that: Superman, the Man of Steel, champion of the planet Earth and all its populated exurbs, starts exhibiting some downright sassy attitude during the commission of his superly duties. It starts with excessive force and ends with no-giving-of-the-fucks (he takes out a sniper by knocking a whole radio tower on top of him, ignites a Middle East conflict and idly watches a building full of people just burn to the ground, presaging either a Zack Snyder film or just the slightly more-watchable parts of Superman III).

Batman, naturally, is concerned about his pal's bizarre behavior. Following Superman's pint-size twin cousin Van-Zee across the entire world leads Batman to the Fortress of Solitude and a mystery within the Bottle City of Kandor. Not one of the mysteries I wonder about like "Where do Kandorian farts go if they're all in a bottle" and "Do the people living close to the glass ever press hams towards Superman?" but serious mysteries!

It turns out that Kandor is in revolt, overcome with riots, on the brink of starvation and civil war. The solution to all of this was to appoint Superman the King of Kandor, I can see problems with this, particularly that surely Superman would agree to a consulting position rather than establishing a monarchy. I mean, he's got other priorities.

"We even got a Burger King!"
The real problem is that some factor -- possibly the pressure of the role -- splits Superman into a good Superman who hangs out all day being a cheerful king to the Kandorian people, and a bad Superman who has sex with Billy Connely's wife, presumably. Since this tends to make life pretty passable in Kandor but a real goddamn bear on Earth, the world governments order Batman to do the only reasonable thing: Kill Superman!

Which he does! Taking advantage of Superman's powerlessness within the confines of the Bottle City, Batman does the old hand-buzzer gag on his old pal, same as the Joker spent a few decades doing to the Caped Crusader -- and with the same intent. "A poison-soaked thorn built into my gauntlet" says Batman, describing a method of instantaneous murder which is mounted on the hand he often uses to help Robin swing away from danger. Those two play some wicked games.

Superman dies. Dead! He's actually dead dead! They arrange a state funeral and everything -- except then Superman starts to get big! So big that he breaks out of the top of the bottle city before being scooped up by a passing robot prior to smashing the whole city (he must've smooshed at least a little of it, is my feeling), and then shows up again ALIVE!

"My dead body cells couldn't hold the microwave beamer's reducing effects and expanded back to normal size!" he explains, unconvincingly, adding "But bursting free of Kandor made them invulnerable again, and since anything invulnerable can't die, I returned to life! Nature doesn't allow contradictions!" I'm not sure, but I think Superman just mansplained mortality.

Whatever the case, he's alive again, the jekyll-and-hyde bit turned out to have been caused by a malevolent pink cat previously incarcerated in the Intergalactic Zoo, and Batman scores a psychological point over his friend that I'm sure won't be easily erased.

This just in: Batman does not understand how keys work.

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