BOOKLOG 60: LEAGUE OF REGRETTABLE SUPERHEROES
Half-Baked Heroes from Comic Book History
by Jon Morris
Everyone knows about Superman, the granddaddy of them all, and Wonder Woman, the grandmommy. But what about the super-heroes who didn’t make the headlines, the ones who slipped away from the game, the ones who were (in many cases) not well-conceived or well-executed or just plain terrible? Well, you’re going to get a taste of some of them here. In cartoonist/graphic designer Jon Morris’s book—the title might have suggested a rollicking novel. It is not; it is rollickingly funny, however—the reader is introduced and even charmed by these comic evolution leftovers, most of which were (logically) forgotten. A quick look at the heroes and heroines in question when I first picked up this book made me laugh and then protest (some of them were familiar from when I was a kid, and I remember liking them!), and then ask where certain others, some of whom always showed up in lists like these, were. (Matter-Eater Lad, I mean. But he’s a great character! Even evolutionarily. Because if your planet suddenly changed, the residents would h…well, never mind. Not the point today.)
The book is divided into comic ages—Golden Age, Silver Age, Modern Age (because Bronze Age sounded not precious metally enough? Or the concept of lessening metals alarmed someone?)—and familiar and nonfamiliar names abound. What’s amusing is that in the constant search for new twists on an old trick, some of the least likely names have been resurrected for the comics, here and now. But the ones not likely to be resurrected are the ones I found most memorable, with names like “Bozo the Iron Man.” That name alone made me laugh out loud. Or that might have been the baseball game in the background. All I know is that I had tears falling down my cheeks after I read a few of these entries.
The creators of all these Regrettables (hey, it should be the name of a bad boy band, too!) were themselves of note, including Fletcher Hanks, creator of Fantomah (a heroine who debuted the year before Wonder Woman), who disappeared from comics after three years of creating odd characters. Then there was Bob Fujitani, a Japanese/Irish-American creator who was a prolific comics artist during the 1940s, who can’t have had an easy time of things during that period (who nonetheless had an interesting and lengthy career). The names that caught my eye, both good and bad, however, had to have been those of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, the creators of Superman himself. While they gave birth to an entire industry (and didn’t get much else but fame out of that), they continued to create, both together and separately, for a very long time after their teenaged enthusiasm gave us the Man from Krypton.
Interested in comic history? Read this. If nothing else, read it and think about the drive to create a piece of history. And the Legion of Super-Pets.
Coming up: Catching Fire by Richard Wrangham