Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Dark Knight and a Boy of Steel

 The Brave and the Bold #192 (November 1982): featuring Batman and Superboy.

Superboy? That's right. When evil scientist Ira Quimby (better known simply as I.Q.) tries to throw Superman back to prehistoric times and erect a "time shield" to keep him there, he misplaces a decimal point and tosses him back just 15 years. Because a person can't co-exist with himself in the same time, Superboy is thrown into present day.

So a veteran Batman and an inexperienced Superboy must team-up to figure out what is going on. The actual plot of this story is fine--written by Mike W. Barr and drawn by Jim Aparo, it progresses and climaxes quite satisfactorily.

Some thugs are robbing a Superman charity fund, so Batman calls in the Man of Steel to help round them up. But the time switch is made. Since Batman is, well, Batman, he quickly figures out what’s going on and begins tracking down whoever is responsible. This is Quimby, who got Superman out of the way while he generates solar flares that will “make my solar-powered brain the most brilliant in all creation.”  Working together, the Dark Knight and the Boy of Steel manage to foil Quimby’s plans.  With the bad guy’s time shield down, Superboy and Superman are able to return to their proper eras.

But what makes this story really fun is the interplay between Batman and Superboy. On several occasions, the Dark Knight has to deliver a stern lecture to young Clark about using his powers more effectively. For instance, he has to explain that it was a mistake to use heat vision on a thug's gun, since that detonated the gunpowder and tossed shrapnel about that might have hurt an innocent bystander. Instead, he should have just melted the bullets in mid-air. A chagrined Superboy replies "O-okay." Batman also has to give young Clark a “Is this how your parents trained you?” lecture to keep the Boy of Steel on track after he stumbles across the fact that the Kents have died. 

These are all wonderful little moments, charming and completely believable.

We also get a brief glimpse of Superman back in his bedroom in Smallville, listening to Pa Kent call out that breakfast was ready. Unable to face seeing his parents while knowing they will soon die, he immediately flies away. It's a brief scene, but sincerely emotional.

There might be one plot hole. Batman casually tells Superboy he won’t remember any of this. But I don’t think it works that way. When Superboy travels to the far future to work with the Legion of Super Heroes, he depends on a deliberately planted post-hypnotic suggestion to forget anything he’s learned about his personal future. It doesn’t happen automatically. But I think we can forgive this.

Besides, it’s comic book science, where you have a lot of leeway to make stuff up as you go along. Maybe the forgetting is something that happens when you get switched with your own future self. Yeah, that’s it.

By the early 1980s, the mythology of the DC universe had become quite complex. Within a few years, the editors at DC would decide it was too complex and we would be given the first of many DC Universe reboots with the Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series. Many comic fans still sincerely argue about whether this was a good or bad idea, but the complexity of the original continuity did have its advantages. In the case of this issue of "The Brave and the Bold," it allowed writer Mike W. Barr to take a law of DC Comics physics (you can't co-exist with yourself during time travel) and combine it with an established part of the Superman mythos (his career as Superboy) to create an entertaining and rewarding short story.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...