Tuesday, May 27, 2008

More Oddities From 1950s Comic Books

I received several e-mails from my recent post on comic books from the late 1950s. There are still more things about the comics from that era that still haunt me four decades later.

Take Batman, for example. I am deeply troubled by this cover:

In 1958, there were apparently no armed robbers or car thieves to bother Batman and Robin. No, instead they had to contend with all manner of ludicrously costumed jackasses who seemed to be more irritating-----like a hyperactive child on a sugar binge-----than threatening. Maybe it was a rite of passage in those innocent days for troubled adolescent males. . . . . . . yeah, I'll dress up like a firefly and jerk Batman's chain. . . . . . . but a villain who looked like Elton John on his 1976 North American tour didn't exactly make an adequate foil for Batman. And why was Batwoman dressed like a dominatrix from the Castro district of San Francisco??

I've previously commented on the somewhat outre nature of the relationship between Superman and his alleged paramour Lois Lane. The relationship between Batman/Bruce Wayne and Kathy Kane/Batwoman was no less problematic:

I don't where to begin parsing the illogic of the above. For example, did Bruce Wayne ever stop to think that maybe one reason Kathy Kane wasn't interested in him was maybe. . . . . just maybe. . . . . she didn't see too much romantic potential in an adult male who lived with a muscular, attractive teenage boy?? And, of course, Ted Carson was really The Firefly. This followed one of the conventions for women in 1950s comics: they were all really stupid. Take Lois Lane. Superman puts on a pair of glasses, and Lois would bleat, "Gee! Where'd Superman go?? I just see Clark Kent standing where Superman was!" Oh well, in this issue Batman managed to beat The Firefly and eventually got a date with Kathy Kane, who remained clueless to the bitter end:

An off-brand, discount superhero from the late 1950s was The Fly. Why anyone would want to have the powers of a giant fly-----in other words, to be attracted to large piles of excrement------was something I could never figure out:

Befitting his position on the food chain, The Fly was always battling monsters or giant robots from outer space instead of human adversaries. At least he was aided in his struggles by Fly Girl and "Turan," which sounds like an archaeological site in the Middle East but who was actually the ambassador of the "Fly People." Or whatever. At any rate, Turan had a habit of popping up whenever The Fly and Fly Girl were stumped as to what they should do next. I wish I had a Turan in my life:

Or maybe not, because most of what Turan had to say didn't make a hell of a lot of sense, as the sample below illustrates:

The late 1950s were maybe the height of Cold War paranoia, and the Godless Communists were uniformly depicted in comic books as calculating and really ugly, almost Neanderthal in appearance.
And, even worse, they wore sunglasses indoors:

And the ads! The rocket ship below sure looked cool, although I doubt it was as good in real life as it looked in the ad. . . . . . . . it was probably just a flat section of folded cardboard with the spaceship design printed on one side:

Kids today are bombarded with agitprop telling them to "go green" and to save the environment. Happily for me, I was bombarded with messages describing the glories of atomic energy:

Take that, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young!