Friday, April 15, 2016

A Hitler cold-open? This Superboy comic's not playing.


I would not have expected to see Hitler in a Superboy comic, so perhaps it's a good thing that I found a coverless copy! Today, we stretch the sliding timeline well past the breaking point, as Hitler plots against Superboy, pre-World War II! From 1970, Superboy #168, "Leave Us...or We Perish!" Story by Frank Robbins, pencils by Bob Brown, inks by Murphy Anderson. I'm missing the Neal Adams cover, but still readable; although all the scans are out of whack.

Let's see: the cover caption says it's the 1930's, and a newspaper headline proclaims "Chamberlain Back from Munich!" and misquotes "Peace in Our Time" there to boot. That places this story just after September 30, 1938. And Superboy is described as "the mighty teen guardian," so he had to be 13 in 1938? Which would make Superman 45 in 1970, which wasn't the case even if he acted like that a lot. Often, DC would use Earth-1/Earth-2 or imaginary stories for this kind of story, but not this time around.

The Nazis begin their plan "Mission: Liquidate" by blowing up Smallville's power station, then spray-painting a message for Superboy: "Superboy-Get out of this world or Smallville will be totally destroyed in 24 hours" Unsurprisingly, the citizens of Smallville, who have been saved by the Teen of Steel literally hundreds of times...turn on Superboy in the space of a page turn. A shaken Superboy is unsure what to do, even as he runs across more warnings: he feels like flying away would be like a coward, but inevitably someone would get hurt if the townspeople riot. Fortunately, Chief Parker--the pretty rock-solid face of law and order in Superboy comics--shuts down the potential rioters with some stern words. And a shotgun.

Still, Parker has to give Superboy the bad news, that the town council has declared an emergency meeting; and as typical for this kind of comic, have voted for Superboy to leave Smallville, and earth, forever. Which seems like a lot of power for a town council to have, plus they make Superboy cry. Meanwhile, Ma and Pa Kent lament not even having the chance to say goodbye to their boy. Pa excuses himself from Ma to go check out their store, make sure it hadn't been looted; but instead follows some workmen heading into the sewers. Pa finds Nazi land mines throughout the sewers, their follow-up to their threat; but is shot dead before he can warn Superboy!

Meanwhile, in space, Superboy is looking for any alien threat that could destroy Smallville; but using his x-ray vision back on the town he finds Pa dead in the sewers, and the mines set to destroy Smallville if Nazi radar picks him up re-entering earth's atmosphere. Instead, using his heat vision, Superboy blows a water main, flooding the sewers, saturating the explosives, and forcing the Nazis to the surface. The townspeople of course accept their hero again once they realize they aren't going to blow up, and he collects the body of Pa...

...or rather, the Pa Kent robot Superboy built to scout around for him! He had called the real Pa, and had him send the robot instead of coming himself. Which is a load: Superboy doesn't act like just a robot died the whole time; but he probably would've heat-visioned all of Germany to the ground if Pa had died. Superboy also feels like Hitler is underestimating the real obstacle to overcoming America; namely regular people. I don't know if he's including the people of Smallville that turn on a dime in that. Moreover, I'm not sure how many Nazi collaborators and Fifth Columnists there really were in America before WWII, but there couldn't possibly be as many as in comics.

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