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by: Max Burbank

1973 was a difficult year for me and The United States. Our armed forces were finally leaving Vietnam even as our covert forces participated in the military coupe that ousted Salvadore Allende and brought Augusto Pinochet to power in Chile. I was going into fifth grade and starting middle school. Ours was the first fifth grade to do that. Used to be you started middle school in sixth grade, but in 1973 they took all the fifth graders AND all the sixth graders and stuck 'em in middle school. Do you see the injustice? Do you sense the solidarity between returning Vietnam Vets, the people of Chile and me and my pals? My friends and I never got to be the big kids on the playground. One year away from recess dominance, we had to start all over again. My therapist says that's why I masturbate in bus station men's rooms, but I think she's codependent.

1973! Helen Reddy was singin' 'bout Delta Dawn, a 'faded rose from days gone by', Roberta Flack was 'Killing me Softly' but nowhere near quickly enough, and ragtime genius Scott Joplin rose from the dead to have a top ten hit with 'The Entertainer' courtesy of a little Newman Redford vehicle called 'The Sting.'

1973! Schoolhouse Rock, Steve Austin; A Man barely Alive! Elvis Presley's Aloha from Hawaii concert! Vice President Spiro Agnew forced to resign for Tax evasion! The enigmatic beast that had been the Sixties was coughing up blood, it's skull cracked open by the egg tooth of the nascent, imbecilic Seventies; Where could a young man go for solace?

To the Sons of Superman and Batman. Only Clark Kent Jr. and Bruce Wayne Jr., men of constant sorrow themselves, knew the trouble I'd seen.

Yeah you heard me. Superman Jr. and Batman Jr. I shit you not. Don't believe me? You are so lucky. "The Superman Website" has "World's Finest" #215 on-line, not just the cover, the whole friggin' issue!

Super Sons!

If you aren't itching to read it now, you will be by the time I'm through, and that' a promise! Today's comic readers are used to multiple continuities. Hell the X-men alone have, what, a dozen different continuities? There's the main marvel Universe one, the Ultimate marvel Universe, two different cartoon continuities, the movie continuity, plus a whole slew of characters who come into one continuity or another from possible future or alternate reality continuities. But back in'73, when comics had just made the outrageous leap to twenty cents a pop so you could only get five for a dollar with NO MONEY LEFT OVER FOR CANDY, my friend, there were Imaginary Tales (and it's subsets, dreams and hoaxes, which brought us among other things Superman Red and Superman Blue, and not that bullshit electric powered thing from a few years back either) or it was real! And then along comes Bob Haney, writing shit you KNOW is not real and insisting "Imagination? Put-on? ...No!"

Superman and Batman didn't have any kids! Wouldn't Robin know if his foster dad had a biological kid? Wouldn't Superman Jr. be an obvious pick for the Teen Titans? At first I figured this took place in the future, but Clark Jr. wore Wide ass collars and Bruce Jr. had some very serious sideburn action going on. There was other weird shit too, like every shot of their Moms obscured their faces. Their hands got in the way, they turned their backs, they wore humongous sun hats with the brims tilted down! Their names were never used, NEVER! It made my eleven year old brain spin! And yet, somehow, the saga of the Sons of Superman and Batman was as appealing to me as the young comic readers of today find Crack. WHAT THE FUCK WAS DC DOING TO ME!? I asked my Dad who helpfully pointed out that no comic book story was real and the writers could do whatever they wanted. And accidentally, this was the key. See, Dad so didn't get it, he couldn't even know he was TOTALLY WRONG! He was Herbert, he didn't reach, there was no way TO LEAP THE GENERATION GAP!

And That's what was wrong with Superman and Batman! They were horribly, hideously, unforgivably OLD!

I'd always suspected Superman was an establishment square. Never liked him. Super fucking everything. When I was a kid, in addition to all the Super shit he can do today, he had SUPER VENTRILOQUISM, and nobody even knows what that is! Superman? More like 'The Man' as in 'The Man is keeping me down with that super ventriloquism and shit.' He was everything you were supposed to grow up to be if you ate your vegetables and you never would because everybody, especially your teachers and parents, knew that if you attempted to fly, even metaphorically, you were going to drop like a stone.

And Batman? Look, he wasn't the way they write him today. The Batman you know is a bi-product of Frank Millers's "Dark Knight Returns". Denny O'neil and Neal Adams had given Bats a big shove in the right direction in the early seventies, but it didn't take. When I was a kid, Batman was not hanging creeps upside down off buildings threatening to spill their guts if they didn't spill they're guts. He was more of a Superfriend, he called Robin 'Chum' and Superman 'Old Friend', had playdates with 'The Batmen of Many Nations' or tried on one of the dozens and dozens of specialized variations of his costume. If today's Batman met the Batman I grew up with, he would be unable to stop vomiting.

And you know what? Clark Jr. and Bruce Jr. knew their dads didn't get it. Superman and Batman senior were henpecked, suburban phonies! Sure they loved them, Sure they admired them, hell, they called themselves Superman and Batman JUNIOR, everybody knows true love is best demonstrated through humiliation! Why else would they go on and on about how they longed to step out of their dad's shadows while wearing their costumes? But at the same time, they knew their dads would never be hip to the scene. That juxtaposition of love with youthful chaffing at authority didn't just speak to me, it SANG, baby! What could account for it but GENIUS?!

Well, really bad writing, as it turns out. See, a vigorous commitment to verisimilitude can account for any number of paradoxes when translating human behavior to text, but a tin ear and eighth grade writing skills can account for even more.

Don't get me wrong. I love Bob Haney. He wasn't bad; he was GENIUS bad, William Shatner bad, Savant Bad. The only place I've ever heard dialogue like Haney's was Dragnet, in fact I think Haney must have been moonlighting for Jack Webb.

Dig: In our very first issue, we find Clark Kent Jr, working at a 'storefront community center' whatever the hell that is. Kind of reminds me of the place Elvis worked in Change of Habit with Mary Tyler Moore as a NUN and that's the BEST MOVIE EVER.

But I digress. He's on the phone having an oedipal argument with Dad (Who's in the breakfast nook at home, inexplicably dressed as Superman) when a motorcycle gang bursts in, just to be bad! "Have Fear-- Satan's Sockers are here! And we're really gonna sock it to ya!"


the leader shouts! What could inspire more fear than a tag line from "Rowan and Martin's Laugh in"? Scarier still, it turns out the gang Leader's name is Big Alice! What's more terrifying than a hood with a chick's name? He must be so badass he doesn't even care!

It's hard to pick my favorite exchange, but I think it might be this one:


You can pick your own. Everything Haney ever wrote is chock full of Gold, if by Gold you mean words that no one would ever actually speak under any circumstances.

How did Haney get away with it? Simple. DC had to do something. Marvel was being read by COLLEGE KIDS; there were blacklight posters of Thor and Dr. Strange in DORM ROOMS! DC had to try to appeal to that market, and their total misunderstanding of what that market was made them ideal for kids like me who wanted to be teenagers, but had no idea what the hell they were on about. I could not yet parse whatever the hell code Bob Dylan was speaking, but Superman and Batman Jr. let me know for sure the times, they were a-changin'.

And it's their failure that makes them so charming today. Look back at an early Spiderman or Fantastic four and you think "Yes, it's dated, but it's still easy to see the groundbreaking nature of Stan Lee's writing." Look back at the Sons of Superman and Batman and your brain explodes with delight over the sheer tonnage of its awfulness.

Now maybe, MAYBE thirty years from now some smartass, bitter oldster will be writing about how sucktastic some of today's comics are. But I challenge that future bastard to find anything even remotely as beautiful as this:

[click to enlarge]

Hey, baby. Solid.


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