The Non-Stop Parade of Horrors That is Superboy #105, Part Two
Back in 1999, DC pulped almost an entire run of the Elseworlds 80 Page Giant after Paul Levitz took a closer look at Kyle Baker's absolutely phenomenal story, "Letitia Lerner: Superman's Babysitter." Later reprinted as part of the Bizarro Comics anthology, it's essentially nine pages of an indestructable toddler being electrocuted and crushed by rocks in the grand tradition of Wile E. Coyote.
And it is, of course, purest genius.
I'm not the only one who thinks so, either: Letitia Lerner earned Baker his first pair of Eisner Awards. And why? Because people love child endangerment.
At least, that's the theory I've concocted after reading the second story from Superboy #105--which is, in fact, the subject of tonight's installment of the ISB's daring three-part single-issue spectacular!
Was Almost Killed Like Eighty Times
Is there any better way to open a story than with gratuitous nudity? Well, yeah, probably, but that doesn't stop Jerry Siegel from dropping an in-the-alltogether Superbaby on us right there on page one.
To be fair, he is taking a bath at the time, with both of his parents watching as he spends a half hour blissfully under the surface playing with his toy submarine, and much to nobody's surprise, both of those are actually plot points later.
There's also a caption that reminds us that "unlike ordinary humans, the super-babe from Krypton does not have to breathe underwater." Well, that's great and all, Jerry, but ordinary humans don't have to breathe underwater either--in fact, we can't!
Anyway, enough semantics. I get a lot of mileage out of my assertions that Smallville's population is made entirely of morons, but trust me: It's absolutely true.
Case in point: While hanging out at the Lang household one day, Baby Clark punches a hole in the wall while trying to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and then wisely decides that he should go home before anybody notices:
Lana, meanwhile, has no idea how the hole got there, despite the fact that she's been sitting four feet away the entire time.
Further evidence arrives shortly therafter, when Professor Lang wanders into the room and catches sight of Lana taking a turn at the Pin the Tail game, and with Clark nowhere in sight, assumes that she's gotten super-powers.
And what's more, he knows how it happened:
Well that seems logical.
Seriously, Professor Lang might just be the most gullible archaeologist ever. I imagine the natives just love this guy, and for good reason: He shows up, they give him a Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot with a little hat, he goes away happy, and everyone in the village gets a new color TV. Everyone's a winner!
Anyway, Professor Lang decides to keep Lana's amazing powers a secret, and the next day, the Langs and the Kents attend a local circus, where Lana decides it'd be a good idea to stick her head in a lion's mouth.
Professor Lang, of course, makes no move to help Lana, not even under the pretense of keeping her "secret," leaving her to be saved by a combination of a friendly Smallville cop and an oblivious Clark, whose attempt to warm up his popcorn via heat vision causes the lion to roar before the assembled crowd gets a chance to witness the rare phenomenon of circus-related decapitation.
Once the danger has passed, Lana and Clark's parents decide to do what anyone would do after seeing a girl almost devoured by a trained animal: They hit up the Fort Smallville Artillery Range for a live ammunition demonstration. What could possibly go wrong there?
To be fair, this time it's not Lana who gets into trouble. All she does is hide in a moving dumptruck full of coal, but Clark, inspired by the human cannonball, decides it'd be fun to take a shot at it himself, with the aid of one of Fort Smallville's anti-aircraft guns:
So for those of you keeping score at home, that's:
Superbaby in a microwave: Inappropriate.
Superbaby shot out of an anti-aircraft cannon: Comics Code Approved!
Even with an invulnerable child, almost being eaten by a lion and getting shot out of a cannon is enough excitement to deal with for one day, so it's not until the following afternoon that Jon Kent and Professor Lang take their children swimming.
In shark-infested waters.
Even accepting that this story was written back when it was closer to the East Coast, I have a little difficulty wrapping my head around the fact that, a) THERE ARE SHARK-INFESTED WATERS IN SMALLVILLE, and b) THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE THERE TAKE THEIR CHILDREN TO PLAY IN SAID SHARK-INFESTED WATERS.
There's also a submarine involved, but let's just agree that you're better off not knowing and skip to the part where Little Clark saves Lana by hooking her with a fishing rod and creating the illusion of flight, dropping her onto a conveniently soft dune.
By this point, though, we've only got one page left to return everything to the status quo, so of course, as Professor Lang explains all about Lana's super-powers, Clark snaps an electrical cord, leaving the Prof to place the blame squarely onto Lana's shoulders.
However unintentional, the frame-up works, and in what may be the most oustanding example of someone being a massive tool in the entire Silver Age of DC Comics, Professor Lang tosses the statue of Umglikk into the fire, fully believing that he is robbing his only child of invulnerability in a town where she's under constant threat from lion attacks, artillery shells, and sharks... so that he can give her a spanking for something that she didn't do.
And that's what passed for a happy ending back in '63.
Krypto! Swifty! The Super-Dog Arms Race Continues!