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The time Superboy met Bonnie and Clyde (Yes, that Bonnie and Clyde) (I think) – Superboy #149

October 10, 2013

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Silver Age Superboy stories have an ingrained insufferability to them, made all the worse by the titular hero’s secret identity being ostensibly secure in Smallville, a tiny town where everyone knows everybody else. It’s not like Clark Kent can just meld into the bustling city streets of Metropolis in his adopted hometown. Throw in the silliness of the era, and you have some tough storytelling to digest. Like in this comic, in which Clark’s clandestine occupation is a hair’s breadth away from being uncovered throughout. It’s enough to overwhelm even the senses-shattering, overwrought perspective of the Neal Adams cover.

Oh, about that cover. Yes, Bonnie and Clyde are in this. Yes, the notorious outlaws, not two people calling themselves such. Bonnie Parker. Clyde Barrow. Superboy. Be there.  

If you’re a bit confused about a time-frame that allows the most infamous amorously-linked criminal couple in American history to occupy the same chronological plane as our young hero, you’re not alone. While the early life of Superman has always been an ever-shifting time-line, there are certain bedrock points in the past that he won’t (or shouldn’t) go beyond. Sure, if you took Superman and his debut year of 1938 and walked him back to the early ’30s heyday of the Barrow gang, you might be okay. But at the time of this comic’s publication — 1968 — it just doesn’t work. To have crossed paths with Bonnie and Clyde, 1960s Superman would probably be in his fifties, which doesn’t jive with the always thirty-something character that we know and love.

And no, this isn’t labeled as an “imaginary” story — it’s part of the real Superboy narrative continuity. You can’t pull that ripcord. Plus, we’ve looked at a Superboy comic wherein Clark’s parents were de-aged back to a point where they were teenagers themselves, seemingly not too far removed from the Bonnie and Clyde era.

Then again, it’s a comic book. Who cares. Bonnie and Clyde it is, brought to life by the scripting ministrations of Frank Robbins and the pencils of Al Plastino. And here they are making their grand entrance to rob a bank, livening up the complaining Lana Lang’s dreary day:

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The identity shenanigans come when Clark tries to do something to stop the dastardly duo. He can’t change into Superboy without exposing himself, so he changes into Superboy instead. Wait, what?:

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His attempt to shock the criminals into fleeing falls flat as a pancake. (And a masquerade. Yeah, sure. And Lana doesn’t notice that Clark, without his glasses, looks exactly like Superboy. I mean, really.)

Clark and Lana are taken hostage and stuffed into the backseat of the getaway car (the infamous Bonnie and Clyde Death Car?). Lana, disgusted with Clark’s general ineffectiveness, takes matters into her own hands and leaps from the moving automobile, and both her and Clark flee through a cornfield. Bonnie and Clyde pursue on a thresher (really), bullets fly, and a rock is kicked up that strikes Lana in the head. She wakes up thinking she’s full-fledged moll Bonnie, complete with a desire for the trademark cigar:

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I’m reminded of a classic bit by the late comedian Richard Jeni, on the reason why there’s nothing more unattractive than a woman smoking a cigar. I agree wholeheartedly:

The plot then rapidly unspools down the drain, with a robbery of an eccentric coot’s gold bars and quadruple-crosses. (Spoiler: Lana was faking!) I lack the energy to recount it all, so track this comic down if you want the shocking conclusion. I did, however, notice an odd effect on the last two pages. Two panels — the first on the upper left-hand corner of the left page, the second on the lower right-hand corner of the right page — mirror each other. Here’s the first:

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And here’s the second:

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I don’t know if Plastino just said screw it or what. Maybe he just liked the three-tiered template. On the Grand Comics Database entry for this book, there’s a note that Plastino quit halfway through work on the book, hence some confusion about who handled the inking chores. I don’t know if that plays into this symmetry at all. Probably not, but it seemed worth a mention.

Anyway, there you go: Bonnie and Clyde and their brief run-in with the Boy of Steel. One final note about them: They’re arrested at story’s end, so maybe in the DC Universe they weren’t turned into Swiss cheese by a law enforcement ambush. Which is good for them. Then again, that probably means they didn’t have a movie made about them starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Can’t win them all, right?

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One Comment leave one →
  1. October 10, 2013 7:18 pm

    Reblogged this on SoshiTech.

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