Monday, May 12, 2014

Insane Comics Moments, Part Nine

You know...after you spend long enough reading Silver and Bronze Age comics, eventually you get kind of jaded. I mean, there are only so many ways that Red Kryptonite can make Superman act goofy, and eventually you just get used to cruising through the story with your brain on auto-pilot and waiting for the wacky twist at the end. Not that it's boring, but I'm just saying that after a while you do get to feeling like there's nothing they can do to surprise you anymore.

And then something like "World's Finest #189-190" happens.

This two-parter by Cary Bates, respectively known as "The Man With Superman's Heart" and "The Final Revenge of Luthor", opens with a dying Superman plummeting to Earth like a meteor and taking out a child's playground. (For those of you who are proponents of the Superdickery theory of Superman's behavior, this is an entirely fitting final act.) You may think that this is an imaginary story, one of the many "What if Superman died?" tales that DC published over the years, but nope. This is entirely in continuity. Superman's corpse is lying there on the ground, his killer (a space alien named "Motan") boasts of offing the Man of Steel, and Superman's last will and testament is to have the United Nations use a Kryptonite laser to carve him up and donate his organs to worthy people around the world so that they can have his superpowers.

And of course, that's not crazy enough. No siree. Not while there are supervillains out there. Batman has refused to accept Superman's heart, stating that he's unworthy to have a Kryptonian heart beating in his human chest...and also, what exactly would it do for him? I mean, that's one of the few things that hasn't been mentioned in connection with his bizarre profusion of Silver Age abilities, at least not unless there's something we don't know about his super-ventriloquism. But anyway, Batman is trying to find worthy donors, while also dealing with the Gang of Four. (Um, not the disciples of Chairman Mao who instigated the Cultural Revolution. This is a gang of criminals who were so well-organized and cunning that they gave Superman fits even while he was alive, and are going on an unprecedented crime spree now that he's dead.)

But Luthor decides that now's the time to up the ante on creepy supervillainy, so he breaks into the UN building, steals Superman's organs, and auctions them off to the highest bidder. So, um...for those of you complaining about how comics have gotten too "dark" lately, it's 1969 and we've got a story about Lex Luthor's black-market organ harvesting of the Man of Steel.

The Gang of Four use their ill-gotten gains to buy Superman's organs (all except for the heart, which Luthor keeps for himself in the hopes that someday he will figure out a way to perform a heart transplant on himself and become immortal) and immediately embark on a SUPER-crime spree, with each of them having one set of Kryptonian body parts to aid in their wilding. One gets super-strength from Superman's fists, another gets super-breath from his lungs, a third gets heat vision and x-ray vision from his eyes, and the last gets super-hearing from Superman's ears. (He hangs around with the eyes guy a lot, on the not unreasonable basis that having super-hearing by itself doesn't really do much against being punched in the face by Batman.)

Batman is totally outclassed by the new supervillains, but he nonetheless announces that he's got a secret weapon against them and challenges them to a showdown at noon. (I know what you're thinking, but the weapon isn't Kryptonite, despite it being a really obvious choice that existed in quantity in the DC Universe at the time.) The villains show up, immediately realize that Batman didn't pack Kryptonite like a sensible person would, and start kicking his butt...

Until suddenly their super-organs fail. Blinded, deafened, paralyzed, and suffering from catastrophic lung collapse, they pose much less threat to Batman. In fact, he's getting ready to save the guy whose lungs stopped working when Luthor shows up and stops him. Turns out Luthor has figured out what Batman knew all along...Superman's not really dead, and the organs are synthetic. Supes shows up, whipping off his "Motan" disguise to deliver the required exposition--remember how much trouble the Gang of Four was giving him? Well, his solution to the problem turns out to have been to trick them into buying defective black-market body parts and permanently disfiguring/crippling themselves. HEROISM!

Batman and Superman haul the survivors off to jail, and lament the tragic demise of the one criminal who learned that the wages of sin are death...and also that Superman will straight up trick you into ripping your own lungs out if you cross him...and the two-parter comes to a close. And frankly, there's just not much they can do to top that one.

1 comment:

Brian said...

...and Luthor then puts the fake Superman heart into his Luthor Museum with a placard reading "the Heart that proved that Superman has no heart"?