Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Corrosive Impact Of 1950s Comic Books

Okay, I should be grateful for comic books from the 1950s. Thanks to them, I could read long before I started the first grade, and my desire to create my own comic books no doubt was the seed from which my writing, editing, and publishing career sprang.

But for decades I've been carrying around a lot of answered questions from those 1950s comic books, and I finally must unburden myself.

Take this comic, for example. It's Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen:

Suppose you're Superman. Would you really want to hang around some little schlub like Jimmy Olsen, fer crissakes?? I mean, I could understand a comic like Superman's Pal Frank Sinatra or Superman's Pal Howard Hughes, but even at the tender age of five I knew, knew at the very core of my being, that "Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen" was a ridiculous concept. But improbable friendships with no apparent basis were rife in popular culture during the 1950s; what, exactly, were the commonalities that bonded Ricky Ricardo and Fred Mertz on the I Love Lucy television series?

Jimmy Olsen was not the only reason why I suspected that "super astuteness" was not one of Superman's powers. Further confirmation was supplied by Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane:

This concept seemed even less authentic than Superman's alleged friendship with Jimmy Olsen-----Superman was supposed to have the hots for frumpy, dumpy Lois Lane?? Something like Superman's Girl Friend Bettie Page would've made sense, but I just couldn't accept the notion of Superman being enamored of someone who looked like a spinster librarian. Maybe Superman didn't really like girls, but they had to keep that well-hidden in the 1950s, so they paired him up with the safely chaste Lois. Well, at least that's plausible. . . . .

Even kids know when you think they're stupid, and I knew I was being called stupid by the following Green Arrow comic. "Human balloons" armed with "pneumatic guns"??? If I had been Green Arrow (or Speedy), I don't think my first reaction upon seeing them would've been to fire off some rope arrows; instead, I think I would have peed in my pants from laughing at them:

Come to think of it, most of the villains in 1950s weren't very threatening. Perhaps the publishers felt kids couldn't handle truly scary characters and made the bad guys silly as a consequence. Whatever the reason, many villains were like Duplicate Man below. Instead of being menacing, he was just simultaneously goofy and annoying, much like MSNBC political commentator Chris Matthews:

The Baby Boomers have often been described as the most inherently distrustful, suspicious, and often paranoid generation in American history. But, in our defense, I must ask you to consider the above examples of the mendacity we were fed in our formative years. Is it any wonder we turned out like we did?