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Sunday, September 17, 2006

You Might Just Learn Something

Aside from Action Philosophers and books like The Cartoon Guide to Physics, today's comics have pretty much abandoned overt attempts at educating their readers. This was, of course, not always the case.

Seriously, every issue of Metamorpho or Metal Men is like some bizarre, highly dubious lesson on the various properties of calcium and bromine, both of which are apparently very effective at dealing with pint-sized death-ray-blasting galactic conquerors and shambling cheimcal monstrosities. Even in the pages of the standard Silver-Age super-hero adventure, stories were often built around obscure facts and tenuous scientific theorems.

Take, for example, the two-part "Showdown Between Luthor and Superman" from Superman #164, wherein Superman travels to a world where has no super-powers to have a fistfight with Lex Luthor on completely even terms--because really, what could possibly go wrong there?--where the readers of 1963 were left with three indisputable facts:

1. Robot Dogs Hate Superman.

And with good reason.

2. To survive the harsh environment of the desert, creatures will evolve what appear to be glass Kool-Aidâ„¢ pitchers on the sides of their heads.

Unfortunately, it does not explain how this actually helps them at all, since it's pretty hard to drink from a container permanently affixed to your skull. Although to be fair, they are always seen in pairs.

3: Lex Luthor is frigg'n ripped.

Seriously. Check out the two-pack on that guy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure this was in some "best of" at some point.

But... my question is, why are Lex's shoes glowing in that last scan?

9/18/2006 2:39 AM

Blogger Brandon Bragg said...

Best Superman panel ever!

Though I'm not willing to defend that statement with any bare-chested He-Man fightin' action.

Unless you got five bucks.

9/18/2006 7:13 AM

Blogger Unknown said...

today's comics have pretty much abandoned overt attempts at educating their readers

And, seeing the examples in this blog entry, I can see why!

But... my question is, why are Lex's shoes glowing in that last scan?

Fascinating 'Fact' #32412:
"Shoe polish actually contains trace amounts of radioactive plutonium, which helps to make shoes really shine".

9/18/2006 7:29 AM

Blogger Brett said...

Kate are you saying your shoes don't shine with an unatural glow? You may want to see someone about that before people start to talk.

9/18/2006 7:39 AM

Blogger Pope Impious XXIII said...

Actually I think I learned everything I know about the Doppler effect from reading an old Flash comic back in the 70's (yes, I am ancient).

Of course, that never explained how the Flash could hold a conversation while moving faster than the speed of sound..

9/18/2006 9:05 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris, there is a very sweet preview of Midnighter #1 at newsarama that you might want to check out. The reason?

The Midnighter single-handedly destroys TANKS.

9/18/2006 9:39 AM

Blogger Dwayne "the canoe guy" said...

I think the shoes had some kind of gravity compensator in them.

Luthor's two-pack sounds like his rap name:

Tu-Pak Lu-Ther

9/18/2006 10:19 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read an interview with Ramona Fradon once where she said that educating kids on the chemicals in the human body was one of the main intentions of Metamorpho.

I wish my Chemistry teacher had tried to sweeten the pill with a few pint-sized death-ray-blasting galactic conquerors once in a while.

9/18/2006 11:24 AM

Blogger Norman said...

Baldy's shoes were glowing because he's charging up his special move. Don't you people play video games?

9/18/2006 1:28 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm totally down for a future in which common herd animals evolve the biological equivalent of those beer-can helmets that people (like me, anyways) wear to ballgames.

Which solves the problem of how the animals must deal with actually drinking from them: slap some crazy straws on those suckers, and you're good to go...

9/18/2006 2:51 PM

Blogger Richard said...

The whole story is here, glowing shoes and all.

About those water-toting creatures: why does everyone assume they need to drink water from the open top end of their horns? They could store the water internally and the water in the horns is just overflow. Camels don't actually store water in their humps...

Actually, when I first read this story, I assumed the part about domestication meant that it was the people of the planet who'd bred these creatures as mobile water carriers. Imagine the natives saw these animals with big open horns and said, "Hey, we could train these creatures to dip their heads in the lake, fill up their horns, and then come back to bring us refreshing cool drinks!" Far fetched, you say? Ah, but that's precisely the kind of science I learned from comics. QED!

9/18/2006 3:25 PM

Blogger Senor Cheeseburger said...

first decent post in like a jillion weeks.

9/18/2006 4:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Shirtless fighting!

The greatest sport in the DCU

9/18/2006 6:01 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mark Waid did something about luck or the number 7 or something like that that was semi-educational in his first arch (fill in arch?) on JLA


9/18/2006 6:28 PM

Blogger Adam said...

Kyle, that Mark Waid comic (about serendipity, the sentience of the universe and entanglement) was really pretty crap.

My favourite - and in fact this was the moment I realised that Green Lantern comics just out-and-out sucked - was the time when GL couldn't zap this dragon thing with his ring because it emitted 'infra-yellow' light, and there was this "ED'S NOTE" thing underneath that said "Just as infrared light is invisible red light, so too infra-yellow is invisible YELLOW light".

I think I threw the comic at the wall. I was twelve.

9/18/2006 8:16 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pope Impious, you can count me in that "how does the Flash talk at superspeed?" group. As a kid, I often wondered how guys like the Silver Surfer could ramble off those long-ass soliloquies while flying through outer space...where, y'know, the whole "no oxygen" thing might prove a problem.

9/19/2006 1:17 PM

Blogger Jim Kakalios said...

Ah - but Silver Age comics are practically textbooks fo physicsy - goodness - once you grant the characters a one-time miracle exception from the laws of nature in order to account for their superpowers, that is.

Why someone could actually write a popular science book, covering everything from Isaac Newton to the transistor - using ONLY examples taken from superhero comic books. such a book would likely be called THE PHYSICS OF SUPERHEROES (who says this isn;t the Marvel Age fo shameless plugs?).

Chris - I love your site. You might enjoy some clips from a talk I gave based upon my book. Go to YuTube and search under physics of superheroes.

And my favorite Green Lantern-Silver age nonsense involves the villian The Shark - who was able to project a yellow-invisible force field!

As the man said:

'Nuff Said!

Dr. K (the K stands for Action!)

9/20/2006 12:41 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

On a related note, the most recent LOSH cartoon, "Legacy" has revived the one true Luthor origin, albeit for one of his descendants. Spoiler synopsis: The Legion is on the trail of "The Scavenger Gang" - no DCU antecedent that I know of for them. During all of this Supes has struck up a friendship with a super-rich party girl of the 3.0.C. - I will never stop calling it that now - named "Alexis." Pretty early on, it is evident that Alexis is a Luthor, and this is confirmed to my satisfaction when, after Alexis teams up with the Scavengers to take out her rivals for her new boy-toy, in the ensuing battle, Supes takes out her mech-suit, and the resulting expolosion causes Alexis's hair to fall out, so she hates Supes and the Legion. Q.E.D.

Icing on the cake: She is shown in prison with a jumpsuit reading "Luthor."

Cherry on top: It's written in Interlac.

10/08/2006 10:23 AM


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