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"Batman and Robin stand up for Sportsmanship" PSA from National Comics Publications cover-dated February/March 1950
Chapter seven of child psychologist Fredric Wertham's infamous 1953 book Seduction of the Innocent is titled "I Want To Be a Sex Maniac: Comic Books and the Psycho Sexual Development of Children." Can you guess what it's about?
At the close of that chapter, after explaining how Batman and Robin "help fixate homoerotic tendencies" in young boys, he warns that young girls have similar examples.
The Lesbian counterpart of Batman may be found in the stories of Wonder Woman and Black Cat. The homosexual connotation of the Wonder Woman type of story is psychologically unmistakable. (pg 192)
To drive home his point, Wertham specifically calls out this panel from "Mr. Zero and the Juvenile Delinquent" in Black Cat #27, 1951:
If I squint hard enough, I guess I can see where he was coming from. What girl would want to sleep with child abusing premature ejaculators named "Crowface"?
Wertham goes on to complain about another page in the same issue headlined "Black Cat Shows You How To Do Judo Tricks," a step-by-step guide to self-defense tips in the unusually specific case when "a gunman should surprise you from the rear and you don't feel the gun muzzle against you." Look out, girls! If you act in self-defense against gunmen, you might be a lesbian!
Even if I was inclined to believe that reading stories about Batman hanging out in a cave with his young ward encouraged little boys to love Dick — that's a Robin joke! — I remain unconvinced that empowering young girls to fight back against gangsters is the first step on the slippery slope towards tribadism.
I'm not going to say that Wertham was wrong about everything. He makes a good case that American superhero comics books were (and still are) incredibly, perhaps irredeemably, violent. However, in hindsight, it's hard to take anyone's word that comics are destroying society when he's overlooking panels like this, also from "Mr. Zero and the Juvenile Delinquent":
Clearly, in Wertham's 1953 America, homosexuality was bad but racism was just fine. The more things change....
from Brave and the Bold #36 (1961)
I knew marriage was a trap!
Is it any wonder that when you let little boys read comic book stories like this they grow up to be lifelong bachelors? (That's not a rhetorical question. I'm asking for a friend.)
For the record, Mavis' determination that Hawkman should leave his wife and marry her instead would one day lead her to be incinerated by aliens. I guess there's a moral in that. Somewhere.
Superman celebrates Independence Day the same way I do: watching 1776. He just has a better seat.
That's the opening splash panel from "Die Now, Live Later" in Action Comics #463, published in the summer of 1976 with a nod to the nation's bicentennial. This might blow your mind, but this Superman comic book is not a 100% accurate depiction of the events of July 4, 1776.
See what I mean? Everyone knows that Franklin had retired from day-to-day publishing pursuits in the 1740s and had divested all ownership of the Pennsylvania Gazette by 1766!
In addition to the occupation of Old Man Franklin (who in July of 1776 was a Medicare-eligible 70 years old — two years younger than our current Chief Executive), there is one other bit of historical inaccuracy presented herein. See if you can spot it:
Both Franklin and the narration in this panel are correct. While Congress agreed on independence on July 2, the text of the declaration of that independence vote was indeed approved on the 4th. (We're really celebrating bureaucracy and paperwork today, not independence.) But that declaration wasn't signed on July 4th! The Declaration of Independence as we know it wasn't signed by John Hancock or anyone else until August 2, 1776.
Besides those tiny gaffes, I assume the rest of this comic book can be treated as a historical document suitable for elementary school classrooms. Superman himself explains how he became involved in this previously unknown bit of American history, and Superman would never lie to us.
An alien named Karb-Brak? Yeah, that sounds legit.
Happy Birthday, America!
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A bonus Superman post! This one's my update for the Superman-Nixon meeting we saw back on June 15.
I've titled it "Irony." Top that, Roy Lichtenstein!
Spotted on Twitter:
This panel is about as accurate as anything else you might expect to find on the Internet, by which I mean it's not true. Nothing like this happened in a Superman comic. Not exactly like this, anyway. To see who Superman was really talking to, see "The Superman Super-Spectacular!" in Action Comics #309, 1964.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, DC Comics is planning to restore their lapsed Vertigo imprint. Vertigo was prominent in the late 1990s as home to creator-owned, outside-the-mainstream, usually non-superhero storytelling. My personal favorite previous Vertigo title was Garth Ennis' Preacher, in which Jesse Custer hunts down God to make the creator atone for the suffering he has brought to humanity.
I'm particularly pleased by this announcement mainly for one reason: Mark Russell. Russell is the writer whose sharply satirical take on the most hypocritical and destructive tendencies of modern American life have made placed recent DC series Prez, The Flintstones, and The Snagglepuss Chronicles on my must-read list.
Next year, Russell looks to be starting a new Vertigo comic, Second Coming. Per the advanced solicitation description:
God sends Jesus to Earth in hopes that he will learn the family trade from Sun-Man, an all-powerful superhero, who is like the varsity quarterback son God never had. But, upon his return to Earth, Christ is appalled to discover what has become of his Gospel and vows to set the record right.
Great Caesar's Ghost! What morally perfect, solar-powered, faster-than-a-speeding-bullet, stronger-than-a-locomotive superhero could be the inspiration for Sun-Man? (Hint: it's not Batman.)
Yes. I will definitely be reading this.
All-Star Superman #10
Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, an estimated 865 less-famous Americans.... This week could have used a little more Superman.
(See also: "Superman and the Jumper" from Superman #701.)
For the 12th consecutive year, June is Superman Month at Wriphe.com!
For the first time in 4 years, June does not coincide with a line-wide relaunch of the DC Comics universe. (Hooray!) This year, the reboot is limited to Just Superman.
Back in April, DC celebrated the milestone 1,000th issue of Action Comics. Then they promptly fired every Superman writer and replaced them all with Brian Michael Bendis.
This seems a bit much.
If you're not familiar with that name, you probably should be. Bendis spent most of the past 2 decades reworking the Marvel Comics comic book universe into what eventually became the fertile basis for Hollywood dominance. No doubt DC is hoping Bendis can do the same for their own moribund film franchises.
Good luck, sir. Given how often DC likes to hit the reset button, you're going to need to work fast.
Movies from May! (Why do I break them up by month? I don't know. Because it's easy?)
86. (1315.) Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Not a great cinema experience. It's really a villain's story, the first half of an obvious two-part episode, and far too much of it is spent in pointless battle scenes with an outcome never in doubt. Frankly, it's everything you'd find in a major comic crossover event (thank you Secret Wars) for good or ill.
87. (1316.) Razorback (1984)
A weird Australian exploitation horror film about a monstrous killer hog. For some reason, it kept reminding me of Tremors. I didn't hate it, but I liked Tremors better.
88. (1317.) The Florida Project (2017)
Is this really what the underbelly of America's consumer society looks like? At least it's colorful! I suspect there is more truth here than is entirely comfortable. (I loved the ending, and I can certainly appreciate why Defoe was nominated for so many awards as the one character in the film trying to save the children from... well, everything.)
89. (1318.) The Bank Dick (1940)
W.C. Field's most famous movie for a reason. It's simultaneously very clever and very silly. Well worth a watch.
90. (1319.) Mame (1974)
Lucille Ball's last movie was this terrible musical. Oh, she kept working for years afterwards in television, she just never worked in a movie again. For obvious reasons. (What a waste of Robert Preston!) The highlight here is Bea Arthur, who looks like a drag queen impersonating Bea Arthur.
91. (1320.) Logan (2017)
In many ways, this retreads the same ground as 2006's Children of Men with comic book trappings. I didn't care for it much then, either. (I'm not a huge fan of post apocalyptic movies films.)
More to come.