Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Calling for Help From the Dead and the Fictional

Kid Eternity is a Golden Age character that originally belonged to Quality Comics. Eventually, Quality sold its comic book characters (including Plastic Man and Blackhawk) to DC Comics. Kid Eternity vanished for quite awhile, though he was brought back in the 1990s with the sort of “dark and edgy” reboot that made comic books so unpleasant to read during that decade.

But the original Quality version of Kid Eternity was a lot of fun—despite a potentially sad origin. He was an orphan who died 75 years too early because of a bookkeeping era in heaven. (It’s possible the creators were lifting part of their idea from the movie Here Comes Mr. Jordan.) So the Kid is returned to Earth with some odd powers to allow him to fight evil until his proper time to die arrived. He is accompanied by Keeper, the clerk who made the error.

Kid’s powers are definitely odd. He can teleport himself about and become immaterial. When he shouts “Eternity!” he can summon up an historical figure (or a mythological or fictional figure if need be) to help him out for a short time.

The first issue of Kid Eternity was written by Otto Binder. The third issue (Autumn 1946) doesn’t include credits, but I’d bet real money it was also Binder. It has just the sort of quirky plot construction and sense of humor that was often present in a Binder story.

It starts when Kid and Keeper are visited by the ghost of Rembrandt, who senses something is wrong with his painting The Night Watch. The Kid zaps himself over there and discovers a high-end art thief known as the Count is stealing the painting.

Kid summons up Inspector Jalvert from Les Miserables—he figures that if Jalvert pursued Jean Valjean for decades over a stolen loaf of bread, then he’d put a serious beat-down on real crooks.

Well, by golly, the Kid is right. In fact, he’s too right. Kid has to banish Jalvert before he actually beats the Count’s henchmen to death. The Count escapes in the confusion.

The next night, the Count is going after Franz Hals’ Laughing Cavalier. Kid summons up the real Cavalier to handle the thief, but once again he makes a poor choice of allies. The Cavalier is going to kill the Count unnecessarily, so Kid has to banish him. Fortunately, Kid sees the Greek Discus Thrower statue standing nearby, so he summons up the real thrower and carefully instructs him to simply disarm the Count with a carefully aimed discus toss.

I love this story. I love the Kid’s oddball powers. I love the sense of proportional justice and the Kid’s concern for stopping bad guys without unjustified deadly force. I love the way the plot ambles along in a strange but internally logical manner.

There is, of course, no shortage of Golden or Silver Age stories that are simply bad. But when the stories were good, they would shine with a palpable sense of fun.

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