Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dare I Say It? Superboy ... GOES APE!

Brace yourselves ...
So, picking up where we left off with super-powered anthropo-pest Krypto Mouse, here’s to the Teen of Steel’s more-than-frequent encounters with your average, everyday super-powered ape (Latin name: Gorilla Kryptonicus, commonly known as the “African Plains Fire-Shitting Ape” or “Super-Magilla”).

How often does the Last Son of Krypton find himself in a situation which leaves glowing-green super-poop bursting against his spandex dickey? Well, here’s a handy chart from Superman Family #165 which covers just the essentials, and which is actually used in lieu of the periodic table in some Kansas district schools.

"...and does anyone know the atomic number of Titano? Class?"

Missing from this chart is Yango, the Super-Ape from Krypton (and also Superboy #172 “World of the Super-Ape”).

Pa Kent ain't the brightest
tool in the basket.
The story begins with a retelling of what is possibly the most-frequently told story in comics – the story of how Superman came to Earth! Still, you can forgive them telling it again because, this time around, they also need to explain how a super-intelligent Kryptonian gorilla drag-raced him all the way across the universe in the process.

After a slightly Doolittlized re-rendition of the traditional “yokels found a durn sputnik” origin of the Babe of Tomorrow, the story takes us to Africa, where poachers are being vaporized or abducted or just plain disappearing without a trace in the commission of their crimes. Stumped – and giving a good goddamn for some reason which fucking escapes me – local authorities summon Superboy to help them crack the impenetrable mystery.

Feel free to make your own joke about
Madonna or Brangelina here...
It’s a good thing too, because if you ever doubted the sneakily analytical mind of Superboy, prepare to be astonished at the depths of his capacity to deceive. Deciding – for, again, some goddamn reason which fucking escapes me – that the gorillas are somehow involved, Superboy engineers a cunning plan to make the gorillas give up their secrets. Waterboarding. The Boy of Steel uses a hollowed-out gorilla skin borrowed from a taxidermist friend to disguise himself as a wounded gorilla, and I can’t tell you what a relief it is to finally have an opportunity to write that sentence about someone other than myself.

Aping (haha) a wounded gorilla, Superboy is collected by a passing clutch of noble primates - Luckily for him they weren’t just horny and opportunistic – and take his apparently injured form to a hidden cave carved out with super-creepy monster faces and a big glowing red orbs (which Superboy chokingly acknowledges remind him of the sun of his home planet, just in case it escaped us).

Inside, Superboy finds some of the abducted poachers – and YANGO, SUPER-APE from KRYPTON, who has AN AWESOME JUMPER and RAD TASTE IN HEADGEAR and also SPEAKS FLUENT KRYPTONIAN and still somehow the thing where Superboy dressed up in a gorilla suit was the weirdest part of this story. I’ve been reading comics for too damn long.

Whoa, Superboy hardly ever uses the "K-Word"...

Yango and Superboy engage in a mighty tussle, trading powerful blows and lashing out at each other with torrents of heat vision, and probably all the gorillas in that cave should have died because of the volcano-hot temperatures. The battle ends with Yango whipping Superboy around by his cape and flinging him into the night like so much poop. I leave it to your discretion to decide whether - by subsequently escaping into the timestream - Superboy was conducting a tactical strategic retreat for the purposes of gathering intelligence or if the chicken-shit beat super-cheeks at breakneck speeds BUT whatever the case, there he went.

He can't take it there!
Painfully assembling all the clues – Yango has super-powers just like his, speaks Kryptonese, worships a red sun – Superboy manages to thickly eke out the conclusion that Yango too comes from Krypton! Who says Batman is the world’s greatest detective anyway? Make way for Superlock Holmesboy!

Turns out Superboy is right, and he travels back to the halcyon days of everything he ever knew or loved being blowed up into radioactive cinders to witness Kryptonian super-scientist and noted anthropologist Professor An-Kal wrapping a tiny gorilla baby in swaddling clothes and swaddling rocket. “You must not die with this ungrateful planet’s* passing,” he tells the insensate, sleeping baby ape, “Not after the years of intensive conditioned-cybernetic brain-programming I’ve devoted to you since birth!” Of course not! Then he does what all scientists do with the hard scientific work of a lifetime dedicated to the advancement of human knowledge – he launches it randomly into space.

*Hey, what did the planet ever do to you? Besides blow up.

"Because I hadn't thought of it until now?
Thanks kid!" ZOOM

ANYWAY, so Superboy goes back to the present (well, the past, still, I guess, if he’s SuperBOY) and he and Yango end up becoming best buddies and Superboy promises to spread the word about Yango’s good works and then he flies away and never so much as thinks of the guy again. In his defense, he probably got distracted because he turned into Super-werewolfboy or met the teenaged Hawkman or something as soon as he got back to Smallville.

SOON THEREAFTER – about a year later, in fact, in Superboy #183 a slight variation on the theme is visited in the pages of a story titled “Karkan The Mighty - - Lord of the Jungle!”

I’ve been pretty good about not referring to gorillas as monkeys, but I’m going to willfully abandon this so I can describe this story as RED SON ... but with monkeys. WHY DON’T YOU PUT ALL THE BANANAS IN A BOTTLE?

Gosh, I dunno Pa, it wasn't there yesterday on
your way home from the store ...
Baby Kal-El’s rocket, in this imaginary story, decides to muddle Superboy’s inspiring history with a birth certificate controversy, landing the mighty tyke in the wilds of Kenya rather than the sun-bleached and boring-as-sin farmyards of Smallville. It makes you wonder, you know? I mean, if he’s really an American citizen and not a native of Kenya, why won’t he come forward with a legitimate Kansas state certificate of live birth? I mean, come on people, let’s keep fighting for the truth, you whackjobs

Anyway, because there aren’t apparently any people in Kenya, Superbaby is found, adopted and raised by gorillas, taking the name Karkan and wisely hiding his junk – first under a leopard print tunic and later under the swaddling blankets from his Kryptonian rocket, meaning that even though he lived his entire life in the deepest, darkest forests of Africa, he still knew how to dress like Rick James.  Civilization will out, you know.

This is almost exactly like Tarzan meets Avatar or Dances With Wolves meets Gorillas in the Mist, only with a head injury and fetal alcohol syndrome.

Yeah, that is messed up.
Eventually, wild trappers show up in the jungle – I should clarify that by ‘wild trapper” I mean they trap wild animals, not they are trappers and they are just fucking out-of-control or anything. They’re not trappers gone wild. They ARE, however, divided into the mostly good trappers (who attempt to save a bunch of their trapped animals from a flood, and certainly there’s no way they could have simply been protecting an investment, no-o-o-o-o, they cared about those baby cheetahs and ibixes and all the other infant animals destined to become comfortable slippers) and the one bad trapper, Karl Something-or-the-other (who is so evil he doesn’t even get a last name).

Karl comes complete with a pretty, good-hearted niece named Toni, and I applaud the creative team for not naming her Laura Langley or Loretta Lincoln or Lisa Lampenelli or some other double-L combination which takes the already-stretched series of coincidences and throws them off a bridge.

Karl manages to capture Super-Karkan (there’s kryptonite, of course), has his amusingly named native servant Tarugi tie up and cage the wild super-teen, and then gets on a boat back to America in order to … sell … tickets … to see a … half-dressed, illiterate white boy feeling ill and turning a little green. I honestly don’t quite understand Karl’s plans here, but suffice it to say that Superboy is on a boat and that’s what passes for a story here so far.

All right, now this Superboy-monkey story is getting sexy...

Toni helps rescue Karkan, Karkan flips over the boat, he tries to go back to his gorilla chums but they encourage him to follow his dreams of moving to America’s east coast and becoming a stand-up in the highly competitive Boston club scene, and then he flies off with Toni and we sort of hope he understands that she’s not got super-powers too so he doesn’t fly into space with her or something, because he doesn’t speak English and she probably doesn’t speak phoney-baloney ape yammer.

For instance, "the reacharound".
You know what this story is, besides a surprising way for a bunch of grown men to exercise their skills as writers and artists? IT IS A MISSED OPPORTUNITY, because a story – in canon – presented only a year earlier already established that Yango The Super-Ape’s rocket crashed in Africa at the same time Kal-El’s rocket was crashing in Kansas, and so either they could have teamed up super-intelligent Yango and dumb-as-bricks monkey-talking Super-Karkan for an amusing buddy cop action-comedy set in the deepest wilds of Kenya OR EVEN BETTER Yango could have landed in Smallville and been raised as Jonathan and Martha Kent’s exceptionally large and hairy son. All dodging Lana Lang’s attempts to prove that meek mild Yango Kent is actually the mighty and powerful SUPER-APE, playing with his super-kitty, using super-sign language to tell Mister Rogers how much he loves him. It writes itself!

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