Friday, November 16, 2012

Fourth World Fridays: Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #143--"The Genocide Spray!"

So to recap: the guy who everyone thought was Dracula is actually a microscopic resident of a horned planet that’s hovering in the basement of a mausoleum, surrounded by fog and camera-like objects. And he’s embiggened (OK, I believe the technical term is ‘re-biggulated’) himself in order to discover the date that his creator had planned for the tiny world’s destruction, which for some reason was coded onto the individual Photostat dots of a photograph in the mad scientist’s lab.

Now, this being Kirby, most aspects of this bizarre situation are not explained in any way, shape or form, but interestingly enough, one of them is. And the explanation is so bizarre that you’ll be sorry you asked.

See, the “cameras” are actually movie projectors…and they’ve been projecting horror movies into the skies of Transilvane for “generations”, causing the sentient inhabitants to mold their entire culture on them. I’m going to assume that time moves faster on Transilvane, since its creator Dabney Donovan (described as “A never-seen, brilliant, wild, wild scientist!”) hasn’t been at this for very long. As for how the Transilvanids actually came to look like vampires and wolfmen, well, we’re told at the very end that “Those people are natural “copiers!” They have a fluid atomic base! After generations of watching sky movies—they became what they saw!!!

MmmmmMMMM, that’s good technobabble.

The only explanation the narration gives us for this demented arrangement is that “Scientists are human beings!! And it’s when they play “God”--that human beings make their worst mistakes!!” So I guess Donovan gave into the weak, all-too-human urge to create a miniaturized planet filled with horror movie monsters. You know you’d do the same, in his shoes.

Anyway, Superman finds a hidden chamber by moving the arm of a nearby statue, and moving “forward into the strange, dark and goose-bumpy caverns”, he and Jimmy come across Count Dragorin and Lupek resting in their coffins. Except, as Superman theorizes, they aren’t coffins at all, but decompression chambers, necessary for restoring the Transilvanids after their molecular expansion from microscopic to human-sized.

My God, I must be reading too many of these comics, because that actually sort of made sense to me.

Of course, apparently decompression isn’t enough to stop Lupek from leaping from his coffin behind Superman and leaping on them. Then, while the two of them are distracted, a third Transilvanid, this one looking like Frankenstein’s monster, goes after Jimmy. “Superman!! It’s a triple feature!!” Superman’s elegantly logical solution is to throw the wolfman at the Frankenstein. It’s just basic math, people.

Unfortunately, not only are a horde of Transilvanids emerging, but Count Dragorin is now up and active, using “the sign of the Mystican” to…explode Superman and Jimmy. No really. It’s a glowing occult type-sigil that appears on the floor, tracks the heroes like a laser sight, and then goes “WAHAAMMMM” and goes up in a gout of pink smoke (and Kirby Crackle, natch). This puts out Jim and Superman (supposedly, at least).

Now it’s back to the Newsboy Legion, who, when last we left them, had found themselves, via a ludicrously unlikely series of coincidences, in the same room with the man who shot their dear friend, the original Manhattan Guardian, just as he was announcing that fact loudly into the telephone. “You heard me! I said that you couldn’t have seen the Guardian! Because, detective Jim Harper was the Guardian—and I shot Harper!! I’ll say it again, see! I shot and killed Jim Harper!” I swear, he’s about two panels away from just painting a big bull’s eye on his back. And again I ask, how did this low-level crook know the Guardian’s secret identity?

Naturally, the Newsboys try to subdue him, and also naturally, they somehow manage to screw it up. Fortunately, the Intergang types on the other line overhear that our nameless thug has been caught, and send a giant, floating bomb—with a TV monitor on it!—to explode him up real nice. (I love the idea of a bomb with a monitor on it. Intergang clearly has money to burn.) The Newsboys, a few pages later, stumble across his body and decide that justice has been served. Yeah, I’ll say. First this guy practically falls in your lap, then he gets blown up for you, keeping your hands blood-free. Luck favours the obnoxious 30s style street urchin, or so they say.

Meanwhile, the Transilvanids have Superman strapped to a torture device: a gigantic crushing press covered in spikes (which is curiously referred to as “the rack”). “Well, I’ve played along with the visiting firemen from Transilvane long enough,” thinks Superman. (Firemen?) He casually frees himself, and the monsters start to freak out that “the hour of the demon dog” is approaching. “The ‘picture-prophecy’ in our skies--cannot be altered!!” moans Dragorin, but Superman implores him to “stay calm and think logically!!” Yes, of course. You’re a microscopic lifeform evolved to look like Dracula, trying to prevent the horror movies that you’ve been watching in the sky for generations from coming true. If you’d only think logically, I’m sure you could find the solution to your problems.

A bell tolls for the Transilvanids—literally—and they pretty much dissolve into helpless wailing. Superman, being a more proactive sort, digs away at the wall and finds a secret passage to Donovan’s hidden lair—just in time to miss the Demon Dog as it zooms past. Predictably, the Demon Dog is a robot, programmed to fly out and sweep Transilvane clean of biological life with a blast of industrial-strength pesticide.

Perhaps this is a good time to note the odd fact that we never meet Dabney Donovan, and thus, we never get any answers as to what the hell was going through his mind when he created this whole bizarre situation. The fact that he’s forever off-screen, and that even his personal secretary never met him face to face, seems to suggest that he was an agent of Apokalips—maybe even Darkseid himself? But then, why go to all the trouble of creating an entire planet full of Universal Horror monsters—which does seem like the kind of thing Darkseid’s minions would do—if you’re just going to wipe them out at around the same time the whole New Genesis/Apokalips war is getting started?!? Alternatively, if there was some other reveal in mind further down the road for Donovan--he was actually Flippa Dippa all along!!!--it’s tragically aborted by the cancellation of the Jimmy Olsen comic in five issues’ time…

Anyway, there’s some extremely mild suspense as we wonder if Superman can possibly catch the Demon Dog before it destroys Transilvane (hint: he can. Because he is Superman. Also, the Demon Dog is a procrastinator.) Jimmy wakes up, having spent the climax of, again, his own comic lying passed out on the floor, just in time to look through a micro-telescope thingie and see a fleet of coffins flying/shrinking back down to Transilvane. Superman pontificates a bit on the Demon Dog—“The symbol of their destruction! – As our own is forecast in the prophecies we’ve inherited!!” I’m sorry, exactly what movie was that, again? If there’s a lost Hammer or International horror movie about a flying demon dog that destroys the world, I’d kind of like to track that down.

The hilarious ending shows Superman and Jimmy sitting down to watch the new movie Superman’s chosen to broadcast to the people of Transilvane, in hopes of changing their culture. A little movie called “Oklahoma!”

Oh man, as wonderfully demented as the whole Transilvane idea is to begin with, that ending just makes it that much more awesome. You just KNOW Kirby was going to do a follow-up storyline further down the line, where Superman shrinks himself down to visit a microscopic world of singin’, dancin’, vampire cowboys. Forget Kirby, someone needs to do a follow up to this story right now. I mean, who wouldn’t pay to see that? “Superman shrinks himself down to visit a microscopic world of singing, dancing, vampire cowboys.” Just throw that description in the next issue of Previews and watch the comic book industry recover instantly. Warner Brothers would adapt it into movie form and beat Titanic’s box office gross. You could build an entire “Final Crisis”-style event around it.

OK, I’ll stop now.

No comments:

Post a Comment