Friday, February 17, 2012

The REAL debut of the nascent Superman of the New 52

© 2011 DC Comics
When DC Comics rebooted its universe last year, there was some discussion in the media about the Last Son of Krypton’s attire in the new ACTION COMICS #1 (not quite as much as surrounding his armored duds in the new SUPERMAN #1, but still…). Written by Grant Morrison and drawn by Rags Morales, the series placed Superman at the outset of his career, still learning how to use his powers to help the citizens of Metropolis and the world. To emphasize the character’s farm boy, working class background, the book depicted Supes clad in a short-sleeved T-shirt with the Superman S-shield, a red cape, jeans and work boots, causing many to equate him with a Super Springsteen.

Some people pointed out that it was merely a variation on the costume that the last version of Superboy had been wearing in the comics for some time (as well as on the TV cartoon, YOUNG JUSTICE). But I recently stumbled across an even earlier precedent, although one of which the folks at DC (at least the current regime) may not have been aware.

© 1975 Playboy Enterprises
The May 1975 issue of PLAYBOY Magazine features a piece of humorous fiction by Robert S. Wieder entitled, “Clark Ghent’s School Days.” It’s a rather uninspired bit of satire written from the perspective of an orphaned nephew of John and Martha Kent… er, Ghent, who was sent to live with them and witnessed the discovery and growth of the babe from Krypton. The piece portrays Clark as a dimwitted simpleton whose powers cause more problems (for himself and those around him) than they solve. Peppered with some discomfiting racist and homophobic bits, the piece isn’t Twain-timeless, and is really best left in the back issue dustbin. Except for the accompanying illustration.

Drawn by Neal Adams (misspelled as “Neil” in the credit), who by then was one of DC Comics’ main cover artists, the illustration shows Clark—looking like a cross between Superman and Li’l Abner—spying on a bevy of naked girls in the Littleville (get it?) Girls Gym. Instead of using the much less-destructive x-ray vision, however, Clark uses his heat vision to burn a hole in the wall, allowing other passersby to get a glimpse of the sundry pulchritude on display.

© 2011 DC Comics
But check out the duds on Mr. Ghent. Look familiar? The S-shield is the only thing missing (especially since in ACTION COMICS #4, Superman changes into a white super-tee instead of the previous blue version).

For those paying attention, I’ve been less than enthusiastic about the latest comic book incarnation of my favorite fictional character, although Morrison has written some great Superman stories. I may well pick up the first trade collection of ACTION (I only bought the first two issues out of curiosity) when it comes out. Too bad DC would never include this illo as a bonus feature in the book, and not just because of the boobs. Everybody’s so grim and gritty over there these days. Even Jimmy Olsen rarely smiles anymore.

1 comment:

Pops Gustav said...

A sad/fun little epilogue, I made the mistake of posting this link on a DC Comics ACTION COMICS message board. Normally, I avoid message boards because they make me depressed for the future of humanity, but I thought people might get a kick out of this coincidental piece of history.

One of the comments stated, "Sorry, not even close."

REALLY?!?!?!? No, you're right, troll, it's not even close. IT'S THE SAME FUCKING THING. One commenter subsequently said that I walked into the lion's den with pork chops all over me (or something like that), and he was right. Lesson learned. Message Boards, no.