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Pa and Ma Kent get young, so Clark goes full Cartman and LOSES HIS MIND – Superboy #126

April 21, 2013

superboy126

If you had to make a list of the top moments in South Park history, Eric Cartman’s revenge on Scott Tenorman would have to rank near the apex of epic. Poor Scott never knew that selling Cartman pubes would lead to his parents being killed and fed to him Titus Andronicus style, but that’s indeed what happened. Payback’s a bitch and all that. “Tears of unfathomable sadness” became a bit of a meme after that episode first aired ten years ago, and it remains a transcendent benchmark in fictional overreaction.

This comic book is faithfully submitted as one that matches, if not exceeds, Cartman’s overreaction. Kind of.

Scripted by Otto Binder with art by George Papp, it all starts when the elder Kents accidentally knock one of young Clark’s Super-trophies off a shelf and unleash some odd, pink alien gas. It doesn’t seem that there are any ill effects, until Clark returns home one evening to find Jonathan and Martha de-aged and now loud, obnoxious semi-contemporaries:

superboy126a

What, exactly, was the generation that grew up obsessed with banjos and tap dancing?

The effects wear off fairly quickly — after an evening at a drive-in movie where the “kids” overeat and get stomach aches — but this doesn’t stop Superboy from going on a retributive reign of terror. It’s like his brief stint as house disciplinarian awakened some sadistic streak inside of him, because now he’s in full punishment mode. I mean, he melts his father’s horseshoes and freezes his mother’s cakes, for crissakes:

superboy126b

Was the occasional flippant “23 skidoo!” really so awful that it could justify this?

Then it starts to get ugly. Real ugly. Chaining aged people to their chairs — coming soon to a nursing home and a searing local news investigative report near you:

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What does Superboy do while his parents are safely manacled? What’s the point of this new torture? He takes this respite to head out to the wilderness and do some wild berry gathering — with a giant sickle. Seriously. And then he presses the harvested berries with his feet, like a European winery. Seriously. The Vineyards of Ernest and Julio Superboy. And then he distills the juice in a still worthy of a Kryptionian. Seriously.

As I said — SERIOUSLY:

superboy126d

Now, you might be thinking hey, maybe he had figured out some nice gift to give his parents. An apology for his wretched behavior. You know how pomegranate juice became all the rage a few years ago, a health drink to beat all health drinks? Maybe he wanted to give his parents a boost, a dash of vitality without morphing them into banjo-strumming flappers. Maybe. Or maybe he wanted to burn their faces off Raiders of the Lost Ark ending-style. Yes, those are extremes. And yes, Superboy does one of them. You see where this is going:

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Wow. Just wow.

(Just to break from the Superboy shenanigans for a moment — wasn’t that last panel the sort of thing that the comics code was supposed to deal with? Horror, gore, all that? The silence within its four corners only amplifies the YIKES of it. Where’s Fredric Wertham when you need him?)

I’m (un)happy to report that those weren’t really Clark’s parents — which he knew (I think…) — and that the prime essence face-melter revealed them to be aliens. What follows is the dumbest, longest stretch of exposition you’ll ever find in the Silver Age or beyond, as said aliens explain why they impersonated Jonathan and Martha. (Turns out the gas exposure didn’t do a damn thing. So they never got young, and were in stasis in the basement the whole time.) It’s a story about interstellar Montagues and Capulets that would make your head spin, and it ranks as one of the dumber stories you’ll ever see, a real (and dubious) achievement when it comes to the notoriously sill Superboy title. Track it down sometime if you ever want to develop an irresistible urge to smash your skull against a wall.

Thankfully, there’s a Krypto chaser — Krypto: Silver Age Palliative. As promised by the cover, there’s some of the origin of Krypto inside. More specifically, it’s the origin-origin, as we get a look at the Super-Pooch’s heroic forbears (as laid out by Binder, Curt Swan and George Klein). We won’t delve into the story — again, it’s silly — but Krypto’s family tree is worthy of perusal, in case there’s ever a Superman edition of Jeopardy and Alex Trebek’s Final Jeopardy question is something like “This lovable mutt was the grandfather of Krypto, Superman’s dog”:

superboy126f

Who is Nypto? Remember that.

Incidentally — do dogs on Krypton reproduce asexually? Kind of takes the fun out of it for them, no? And if so, do they still hump legs?

This truly is an Alpha and Omega style of book, with crazy, creepy torture in one half and a cheerful dog story in the back. (You get to see Krypto as a puppy– cue the melting of hearts around the world.) It’s comic book whiplash, snapping you from Cartmanesque vengeance to canine hijinks, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad, unique or dopey. Probably both. Worst of all, it gave us young Clark showing a side of himself that’s chilling, a Kid Miracleman interregnum that mines a subtext beneath all Superboy stories. Indeed, the difficulties of disciplining a super-teen were a recurrent, if benign, theme. What if there really was an adolescent with those powers? What if he went nuts in his hormone-addled state? It’s horrible enough to contemplate even without a dreadful story wrapped around it.

Thank heavens no one gave him fake pubes.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 21, 2013 6:01 pm

    excellent nonsense

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