Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The apple doesn't fall far...

This morning for some perverse reason I was watching The Roy Rogers Show during breakfast. Well, that and the news and QVC in little blips as I surfed. I noticed that Roy had a male sidekick named Pat, a man with a rubber face who made all kinds of OTT expressions and generally played Barney Fife to Roy's Andy Taylor. Pat was dumb as dirt.

But in this morning's half-hour episode, poor Pat got hit on the head. A lot. I counted at least three times that he was hit so hard he went unconscious. The bad guys on the episode miraculously missed being shot (of course none of the good guys were), even though everyone had unlimited ammunition. Well, except at one point Bad Guy #1 ran out of bullets, Roy jumped him, they had a fist-fight, and the next thing you know, Roy's grabbing BG#1's hand, in which BG is holding that empty gun, and the gun fires into the air.

As Bats-Man (from Mad Magazine) once so wisely noted, "TV writers have no logic!"

But the bad guys also got hit on the head, several times, to the point they were rendered unconscious. I figure that because poor Pat got hit so hard on the head so often was the reason why he was so slow of wit. Keep that in mind…

A couple months ago one of the Legion of Super-Heroes groups on Facebook was talking about Superboy #197, Sept. 1973, the one where the cover has Saturn Girl's gawd-awful bikini miscolored, and where cover artist Nick Cardy used an old reference, which is why cutey Element Lad is wearing a Legion flight belt from the Legion's earliest days.

This was still early, around the seventh or so issue, of the beautiful Dave Cockrum run of the Legion. Each story unveiled new costumes for the Legionnaires. Dave had previewed four of the costumes in The Legion Outpost, the Legion Fan Club's fanzine that I dutifully subscribed to, and I was excited to open up each new issue (if it had a Legion story) to see what other costumes would be showing up. I was mad about costumes! Still am.

(By the time this issue came out I had been notified that Dave was using my suggestion of a new look for Light Lass. He'd already designed one but had forgotten that she and Lightning Lad [for whom Dave had designed one of the all-time spiffiest comic book costumes EVER!!!] were twins. Mine matched the new LLad costume, which was no coincidence as I had dashed off a new design as soon as I'd received the Outpost with the new-look Lighting Lad on the cover, and sent it off to DC. Ayla's new threads premiered in Superboy #202.)

ANYWAYZ, that's not what we're here to talk about. Scripts for both stories in this ish were by Cary Bates. The first story was "Timber Wolf: Dead Hero, Live Executioner!" But we aren't concerned here with ol' Brin Londo, he of the Wolverine 'do.

We are merely concerned with page two. (You should be able to click on these for a larger view.)

Spring is in the air; in fact it is April as Lana Lang and her next-door neighbor, Clark Kent, lounge under an apple tree. Tra la! How could anyone have problems with this?

Well, first it's April. Those are ripe apples overhead. I believe the earliest apples in the continental US ripen in July.

Secondly, Lana (an intelligent and fashionable young woman) is wearing white. And she's sitting on grass. Grass leaves stains; everyone knows that, especially those of the female persuasion because they're usually the ones who have to launder the family clothing. Lana has not spread out a blanket to protect her lovely white outfit from the grass. This story would be taking place in the late Fifties, extremely early Sixties, since Superboy by this time was lagging 15-20 years behind his stories as Superman. Stain-fighting technology now is not the best, but back then…

Lana expresses normal teenaged curiosity, wanting to learn the first practical steps of romance. She'd like to try a kiss with her friend. For some reason Clark is not so inclined. In fact he's sweating bullets about the thought of kissing gorgeous Lana, the only long-lasting opposite-sex-type interest in his boyhood.

Have the Kents been so puritanical in bringing up Clark? Has Red Kryptonite affected his natural desires and/or curiosity? Has he been questioning his sexuality? Man, it's just a kiss. Perhaps he's afraid that one kiss will unleash years of hot teen lust and he'll have Lana on her back in seconds! Well, he does do that, but not in the way you might imagine.

(Though I doubt Clark would do anything counter to the Comics Code he lives by. He's not like the hero in my Three Worlds series, who at intimate moments is too powerful for his own good, and is completely frustrated by his limitations when it comes to human contact. You can get the first book in that series free if you sign up for my newsletter [on top of the right-hand column here].)

In the midst of all this, Clark's alerted by a signal that means that the Legion of Super-Heroes needs his presence immediately.

Immediately, as in: 1000 years from then.

At this point in DC continuity, the Legion existed in the 30th Century. Clark could wait a couple weeks before heading off to the future. There was never any direct connection exhibited, any kind of time warping that showed that the Legion's future was EXACTLY 1000 years to the moment in the future. After all, Supergirl also visited the Legion, and she was from the present day Superman era as opposed to the Superboy era of the past.

So really, Clark has no reason to react quickly. But he does.
He uses his heat vision to prune off two large, ripe apples…

I'm sorry, but two apples falling on the top of your head are not going to make you black out. Clark had to use his super-breath or something to increase the apples' velocity so as to increase the force when they hit.

And they knocked out Lana. Superboy refers to this as a "nice nap."

I was going to explain this myself, but the website "Explain like I'm five" does it so much better than I could ever do. BiPolah (haw!) says to a questioner who has watched violence in movies, "There's a pretty fine line between knocking [movie characters] out and causing permanent damage, and it's not like they're out for hours so you can stuff them in a cupboard while you go off robbing the place. People that are knocked out from head trauma are usually out for a few seconds, perhaps minutes. Even there could be serious damage or a concussion. If they're out for much longer, you're probably looking at permanent brain damage or death."

mjcapples agrees: "Any time when you experience unconsciousness, it is a life-threatening injury that risks permanent brain damage. The exact ease of causing injury depends on several factors, including the location of the strike, the amount of linear and rotational force, and the duration of the impact. For example, impacts to the side of the head are well documented to cause injury much easier than impacts to the front or back. Also, a linear hit causes different damage than a hit with a rotational aspect, which is linked to breaking the blood vessels that feed your brain.

"As far as a general rule for head injury though, one of the basic formulas for head injury (the Head Injury Criterion), states that a score of 1000 is about a 50% risk of death and a score of 250 being a good indicator for a concussion."

I repeat: It's a "nice nap."
Let me get this straight. In order to respond to an emergency that is not an actual emergency either in terms of time travel or in what Clark finds when he arrives in the 30th Century (read the story), Clark injures his supposed close friend to the point where she likely has sustained a concussion (not a minor injury) and might indeed be lying near death while he departs.
While Lana never went stoopid after this story (she was never as dumb as Lois Lane was often depicted), one has to wonder how she managed to survive, and survive still with brains intact, unlike Roy Rogers' Pat.
We don't see Lana after the main plot has ended. Did she die? Did Superboy replace her with a robot, clone, or parallel-world double? Sure, she showed up in the second story in the book, but she looked decidedly different. (And don't tell me that's just because Bob Brown and Murphy Anderson did the art for that story!)
Threatening Mr. Clark Kent's ideas about his own sexuality does not seem to be a safe thing even for Clark's friends to do. Hm.
What do you think?


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Martin Gray said...

I'm pretty sure he feared that were he to kiss her as Clark she would recognise the old 'super-kiss'. The minx was 'putting me on the spot'.

Or perhaps she had bad breath.

I remember thinking this was a terribly sexy scene as a kid, though the apple assault bugged me too.

Gene said...

I have no special knowledge or insight into the editorial decisions behind this issue (although I recall it was one of the very first LSH tales I had ever read, back when I was 7 years old). But given the set-up for the scene, I can easily see writer Cary Bates intending to have Clark comply with Lana's request for a kiss, and to use his super breath to take enough air out of her lungs to make her swoon in a daze, allowing him to slip away to "get help". (I believe adult Clark has used that trick on Lois Lane.)

But then I suspect that editor Murray Boltinoff, who reportedly felt his comics ought to be aimed at pre-teen readers, may have ruled it out, figuring the ten year old boys he presumed were his primary audience wouldn't like any mushy stuff, and Bates had to scramble to come up with the falling apple bit.

And yes, you are absolutely right that it makes no sense that Clark had to respond to the call then and there. I've just re-read the "Great Darkness Saga" TPB from the early 80s, and there's one issue where Superboy has to head back to the 20th Century so that he wouldn't miss his parents' wedding anniversary party, and an issue or two later, he's called back to the future, and he makes a point of saying he had to skip out of the party early to make the time trip. Even as a kid, I never understood that logic. Anyone who could fly through time could leave and arrive whenever he wished, right?

Richard said...

Clark’s reticence about kissing Lana to the point of breaking out in a nervous sweat bothered me when I myself was an eleven year old boy in a remarkably Smallville-like small town. Mind you, I already had a major crush on Lana by that point.

(On a side note, if only a bump on the head was the worst thing Cary Bates ever had Clark do to a girl in Smallville…)

I don’t remember if this was established in a story or merely a fan theory, but I recall something about Superboy and Supergirl maintaining a strict “fixed time interval” for their trips to the 30th Century such that they always travelled ahead by exactly the same amount each visit, and returned to their native era at a point exactly matching the duration of time they’d spent in the future. That way no potential time paradoxes, and no one in Smallville or Midvale noticing that Clark or Linda inexplicably seemed to have aged a year during the past week.

Carol A. Strickland said...

That sounds familiar, Richard. Not within the comics, but within fandom. Makes sense, especially if one has seen the Ponds interacting with Dr. Who. Not only was Amy "the girl who waited," because the Doctor was accidentally a decade or so off of keeping his "give me five minutes" date with her, but the grown-up Ponds' neighbors made comments about their getting older so much faster than anyone else.

Was it Bates who wrote the Super-Robot/rape/"Now I'm a man!" story? Ugh. I just don't get why writers and editors don't catch these things EARLY in the process and stop them!

Gene, there's no telling WHAT Boltinoff thought! Who could figure him out? Wonder what he'd think of today's DC comics.

Martin, I was always too much of a Lana fan to think she had bad breath. Imho Superboy/man wasn't good enough for her, and I always rooted for her and that classy, mature Mon-El to get together. Certainly I didn't like it when DC set her up with that Zardoz wannabe, whatshisface, and as for Pete Ross? Give me a break.

Gene said...

Ah, yes, Carol...the fabled tale where a Kryptonian robot kidnaps and brainwashes an Earth girl, sends her to Smallville, where with his prompting she woos Clark Kent, the two go off-panel for some shenanigans (presumably listening to Nat King Cole records in the was the 50s, after all), and then her mind is erased and she's sent back to her real life, with no memory of basically having been manipulated into prostituting herself at the behest of a robot pimp.

Yes, Bates did write that one, but at least it has some gorgeous Swanderson artwork to take some of the creepy sting off of it. All the same, I'm not at all certain how or why that story ever came to be.

Anonymous said...

I never had a problem with the time being 1000 years exactly apart kind of thing; as a child, and even today, I just took it as a rule, no more ridiculous than anything else I read in comic books.

DC would establish that no one could change the past - as a child I hated the Superman story where Pete Ross demands his childhood friend to go back in time to save his son when he had kept his secret all these years, only for Supes to tell him that he couldn't - if he tried it cause untold devastation, with Pete Ross hating him as a result.

This was also used why Brainiac 5 couldn't go back in time to save Supergirl. That particular issue had characters, and even readers, asking why he would grieve over a woman who had died 1000 years before. "Would he mourn over Eve?" However, having an intimate relationship with the woman explains that connection. It does hurt my head though. Kara was technically dead in the Legion's time, but right up to her passing, she could still be come and live life normally.

Despite my Kara/ Brainy love, it does make his relationship to her creepy. He watched her back through time and loved her enough to invent the time bubble, this young woman who is a long dead hero. He knows about her death, and in fact, can watch that too, but possibly doesn't because it "hasn't happened yet." He creates a pleasure droid of Kara because he misses her. Every moment they're together he knows how horribly she died, but puts it out of his head until 1000 years to the day she's murdered brutally - which he watches over and over.

At this point, I think Sensor Girl was going to be Kara, so her thoughts are wishing she could console him.

Anyway, Moore showed that the time was not necessarily 1000 years (aside from Superboy) by having the young LSH - with Kara - appear to Superman in his last hours of being "super.." In any case, Kara is, because of time travel, alive. Which makes my head hurt by thinking of how again she's alive but she's also dead.

Today DC, at least pre-Flashpoint, doesn't subscribe to not being in the same place at the same time, as seen with the Teen Titans issues where the dark Titans of the Future come back to fight themselves. In addition, the 1000 years or whenever is gone as the Legion showed up as adults in present time with Supergirl and Brainy has a hard time become when they were teenagers at the same time they were in love.

In any case I always liked how time travel worked back in the day with DC; it seemed simple enough. It's interesting, sort of, that Marvel had that with each time travel occurrence created another universe. But, I suppose that's done with since Marvel is now COIE'ing its universe.

With DC's Convergence, it seems as if time is even more distorted. I hope that my favourite versions of Kara, Kal, and Diana are treated with some semblance of respect.