Friday, January 18, 2013

Fourth World Fridays: Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #144--"A Big Thing In A Deep Scottish Lake!"

Word to the wise: if you don’t like Scottish accents, bail out now. You’re about to be subjected to the worst Scottish accents this side of Kevin Costner in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. And for those of you saying, “But Adam, Costner was supposed to be doing an English accent,” I say--exactly.

This issue is credited to “Jock Kirrbie”, for crying out loud. And the opening splash features a dude in a speedboat, racing along the black waters of a certain well-known Scottish lake, yelling “Come out, y’beastie!! If y’rr truly doon therrr, Ian MacGregor would like a look at ye!!” Well, you have to admire Kirby’s restraint in not naming the character “Scotchy MacTartan”. By the way, I love how this guy thinks that, after remaining a mystery for decades if not centuries, he’s going to expose this Monster by blasting around in a speedboat and yelling at it.

Well, apparently, it’s a more effective tactic than you might think, because moments later, … something rears out of the water, smashing the boat to kindling. MacGregor escapes to tell the tale to the newspapers, which of course he does, since, as Kirby informs us, “No Scotsman will remain silent when his boat is wrecked!!” Um, I’m pretty sure that holds true for most nationalities, Jack. It’s not like those Kurds or Norwegians or Laotians are known for building an impenetrable wall of silence around their accidental boat-wreckings.

At any rate, I’m assuming Kirby’s coyness has been to no avail, and that everyone reading this has long since guessed what we’re dealing with here. I’m not sure why he even bothered to try and make it a surprise, I mean, hasn’t everyone heard of the world famous Loch Trevor Monster?...

…Wait, what? Must be a misprint. Moving on.

At any rate, Jimmy and the Newsboys are attempting their monthly confrontation with Morgan Edge over his attempts to, y’know, blow them up. I don’t understand why they’re not making more headway with this—I mean, their strategy is to march into his office and loudly accuse him of putting a bomb in their Whiz Wagon. Edge is too crafty for them, though—he (get this) denies everything. This puts an unexpected crimp in the master journalists’ plans. What’s a crimesolver to do when the suspect won’t just voluntarily confess the moment you confront him? It’s clearly stalemated the Newsboy Legion, but Morgan Edge outdoes them again by suggesting a new assignment. “I could assign you to follow up this new fish story--and--” “Fish story?” jumps in Flippa Dippa. “You mean fish—like in water??” Oh Lord, he’s off on that again. Amusingly, even Jimmy seems to be getting sick of him:

Well, at least Flippa has a forceful personality, because all the other Newsboys immediately fall into line on this dubious assignment granted them by a man who tries to kill them every time he sends them to cover a story. What makes it all the worse is how clearly sensationalistic and tabloid-esque the assignments he sends them on are. I could accredit this to a very subtle bit of satire on Kirby’s part, with Edge buying up the Daily Planet and turning it into a yellow rag, a la Rupert Murdoch. But then I’m forced to remember the kinds of non-stories the Planet generally covered before Edge bought them out—vital stories like “Jimmy Olsen receives medal” and “An interview with Superman, by Lois Lane, part 72856 of a series,” and I have to wonder if Edge hasn’t actually classed the joint up somewhat.

Besides, as is not hard to figure out, “tabloid journalism” in the DC Universe is a whole other ballgame, since alien love babies, werewolves, demonic entities, and other such folderol actually exist. In the DC Universe, the Weekly World News and the National Enquirer would be vital, respected publications, a point Grant Morrison made in his recent “Manhattan Guardian” miniseries, part of the Seven Soldiers project. Hey, and that story featured the Newsboy Legion as well. And Grant Morrison is Scottish!!! IT’S ALL FALLING INTO PLACE!!!

I don’t need to mention that Morgan Edge gets in touch with another Intergang operative the minute Jimmy and company have left the room and orders them killed again, do I? I assume not.

But where’s Superman? Why couldn’t he be bothered to provide backup for Jimmy’s confrontation with Edge? For a very good reason: he’s been invited to a discotheque.

Yes, in an odd attempt to drum up publicity, Terry Dean—the odd not-Lois Lane character who’s been popping up for a panel or two here and there—has invited Superman (and the Guardian, for good measure) to the opening of a new nightclub, where he’s immediately bombarded by autograph seekers and made to feel uncomfortable as “a charter member of the establishment”. Hmmm, I was going to ask why no one had ever thought to invite Superman to an event like this before, but I guess there’s your answer. By the way, I think it’s safe to say that Kirby was never in a discotheque in his life, judging by his odd portrayal of same: basically, it’s a mash-up of counterculture elements from many different eras, hippie, beatnik, and, um, seventies. In particular, the house band resembles a demented version of the Partridge Family—and “demented” may be the right word, as they immediately make it clear that they’re working for Darkseid and are concerned that Superman’s going to wreck everything.

As if this wasn’t enough, Dubbilex suddenly shows up. Remember Dubbilex? He’s the long-suffering, purple, horned mutant that The Project bred as a sideshow attraction, or something. He’s here to inform Superman about some suspicious goings-on that relate to The Project. Superman looks relieved at having an excuse not to have to do any disco dancing. You and me both, Kal.

Meanwhile, SHENANIGANS! As the Newsboy Legion is whisked to Scotland in, apparently, Edge’s own private Lear Jet. Scrapper dresses up in a full tartan outfit, complete with kilt, and they all pile into the Whiz Wagon, which is dumped out at Loch Trevor.

Son of a…yes, Loch Trevor. Not Loch Ness. They’re here to uncover the mystery of the Loch Trevor Monster.

It’s often hard to tell what Kirby was thinking when he made decisions like this. I doubt that Kirby was so skeptical about Nessie that he invented an entirely new creature—I mean, even if he was a skeptic in real life, the guy just finished a storyline about vampires and wolfmen who came from a microscopic planet. I do know that the citizens of Loch Ness are very, very protective of their “pet monster” and don’t like seeing it portrayed as smashing boats and eating people; it could be that Kirby got wind of this and decided to respect their wishes by moving the monster to a different Scottish Loch. Everyone knows that the Loch Trevorites are a bunch of jerks anyway, so they deserve to have a nasty monster.

Anyway, on landing, they almost manage to run over their contact, a cartoonish Scotsman by the name of Felix MacFinney. Naturally the dialogue that follows is full of “rrrrr”s and “ooo”s and “bless me tartan!” and oh just kill me now.

Oh, good, let’s go back to the disco with Supes and Dubbilex. Dub reveals that he found a tunnel leading from the Project all the way to this club—what, this specific club, or just Metropolis in general?—built by someone other than the Hairies. This is the cue for the House Band, known as “The San Diego Five String Mob”, to try and rub out the heroes with the power of music. Seriously. Their instruments, when played in conjunction with a heretofore unseen sixth member named Barriboy—who pops up right behind Superman’s table—can summon, like, bad vibrations, man. Vibrations which bring the club’s ceiling crashing down.

Meanwhile, back to Scotland, where, according to the caption, “Chaos is far from the order!” I don’t know wha that means, but I don’t begrudge it this time, because our first panel is of MacFinney introducing his ultra-hot miniskirted daughter, Ginny.

I should use this opportunity to mention that I’ve been to Scotland, and even have ancestors from there, and I actually *love* Scottish accents. Real ones. Especially coming from cute girls. It’s this ridiculous comic-book approximation I find dopey. But I guess if I imagine everyone talking in the voice of Kelly MacDonald I’ll be OK. Mmm…Kelly MacDonald…

An exposition-filled dinner reveals that MacFinney has built a sonar whistle that will, apparently, call the Loch Trevor Monster to them. Gee, that’s convenient. You’ve lived in Loch Trevor for years, and you’ve just now invented a device that will help you prove the existence of the monster. Also, he calls Big Words “Big Wurrds”. Oh, and by the way, Scrapper brought that little “Scrapper Trooper” he’s been carrying around since he left the Project, apparently under the belief that it will provide a magical solution to any problems that come up.

The next day, the whole gang is out on the Loch, and Flippa Dippa is, of course, in hog heaven as he gets to make himself useful for a change. Unfortunately, just as he’s turning on his searchlight, hands reach in and grab at his air hose. The above-water Legion members lose contact, and just as they’re preparing to go in after Flippa, MacFinney seizes the opportunity to reveal himself as a turncoat. Yep, he’s working for the Scottish branch of Intergang, or as he puts it, “Interrr-gaang”, as a “Prrofishn’l killer.” So…after nearly letting himself get run over by the Whiz Wagon as it landed, he took them home, made them dinner and gave them a pleasant night’s rest, let Jimmy sleep with his daughter (I’m assuming—Olsen is a playa, after all) and loaded up his special equipment on the boat, and THEN finally decided to kill them? That’s the most ridiculously delayed hit job I’ve ever seen. This guy works for Intergang, alright.

Jimmy tries to distract MacFinney by getting him monologuing, but surprisingly, it doesn’t work. However, it does give Scrapper a chance to employ his mini-me and activate the sonar device that will summon the monster. (By the way, there’s actually a decent reason for why MacFinney would have access to a device to summon a monster that supposedly no one’s ever seen clearly; it’s revealed in the next issue. But you’d think our ace reporters might be a little suspicious.) The Lake Trevor monster does indeed come when called, trashing their boat and sending them into the water; MacFinney is apparently dragged down by the monster off-panel. The Newsboys swim to shore, bemoaning the loss of Flippa Dippa, but it turns out he’s alive and well and waiting for them. Well, I’ll be. It turns out that Flippa Dippa really is actually competent in his native element, because he was able to overcome his assailant—it’s Ginny, unsurprisingly (though, to my chagrin, she’s not actually Scottish, nor is she really MacFinney’s daughter).

The story ends rather abruptly with Jimmy swearing to stick around Scotland until he gets to the bottom of what’s going on. That’s fine by me, Jimmy. Stay in Scotland for as long as you like. It’d be nice if I didn’t have to read about it, though.

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