Comics 101
Home

Columns
Comics 101
    by Scott Tipton
One Hand Clapping
    by Chris Ryall
Kentucky Fried Rasslin'
    by Scott Bowden
Squib Central
    by Joshua Jabcuga


Retales
    by Jud Meyers




Mailbag





Site Design and Maintenance by

iNetropolis / Ron Twoeagle
Ron Twoeagle




COMICS 101

By Scott Tipton
Scott Tiptons Comics 101

2006-09-13 - COMICS 101 IN FOCUS: SUPERBABIES REVISITED

As the dog days of summer give way to the first days of the fall, I can't help but think back on the months past, and reflect on the weeks gone by. And as I do, a single thought comes to mind.

Man, did people hate Superman having a kid in SUPERMAN RETURNS.

The folks who hated the movie absolutely despised the kid, and even the people who enjoyed the film seemed to have only a grudging acceptance of the notion of Superman being a father.

Well, we're nothing if not helpful here at COMICS 101, so allow me to show you how lucky we were with SUPERMAN RETURNS, by taking a good look at an earlier version of fatherhood for the Man of Steel, as seen in SUPERMAN #224 (February 1970), in "Beware the Super-Genius Baby!"

cover.jpg

This cover appeared in a montage in SUPERMAN: FROM THE 30s TO THE 70s, and it's been mystifying me for about 30 years now, so when I stumbled across it while searching for back issues on the final day of this year's Comic-Con, you better believe it was coming home with me. Looking at the cover when I was a kid, there were just so many questions. Did Superman and Lois really get married? What's up with Lois' outfit -- are they in the future? Does Superman really hang out around the house in his cape? And what in god's name is up with that kid's head?

(The attentive eye, by the way, will notice the surname of cover artist Curt Swan spelled out in the blocks...)

As it turns out, the tale is one of DC's patented Imaginary Stories (which, they're always careful to say, "may or may not ever happen"), this time postulating the future family life of Superman and the missus, and how it all goes wrong. The comic is uncredited, but if I had to take a guess, I'd say it's by Robert Kanigher -- both the overall concept and some of the wickedly funny dialogue seem to bear his style.

Our story begins on the first anniversary of Superman and Lois' marriage, which Lois plans to celebrate by baking Supes an apple pie. Aw, shucks. Ain't that America. Unfortunately, fate intervenes with an errant lightning bolt, which strikes a nearby fuel storage tank and engulfs Lois' car in flames. Not to worry, though -- before they were married, Superman injected Lois with a Molecular Shield serum from Star Gamma-X ("Purveyor of fine Molecular Shield serums since 1960"), rendering her invulnerable to any injury. Way to play god, there, Kal-El.

soulfood.jpg

Unharmed, Superman and Lois head out for a night on the town, off to enjoy some soul food. Seriously.

Meanwhile, evil scientist Professor Ulvo and his evil assistant Nether are engaging in a little, well, evil science, with eavesdropping devices trained on Superman's home 24-7. And as all good married couples did back in the day, by the way, Superman and Lois sleep in separate beds, like Ernie and Bert...

beds.jpg

Soon, Lois' odd food cravings and sudden proclivity for knitting reveal the news -- Lois is pregnant (despite the double beds). While Lois and Superman imagine what their child will be like, Professor Ulvo bathes the nursery with a mysterious ray beam. To what end, you ask? All becomes clear when the baby is born, just from the look on Superman's face.

reaction.jpg

The world press is clamoring to see Superman and Lois' baby, camping out in front of their house (and by the way, Superman seems to have entirely given up living as Clark Kent here, which is a little odd), but Supes and Lois refuse to let the world take a look at the kid (Hey, maybe this is why Tom Cruise is so reticent? Could Suri be an enormous-headed superintelligent brainchild? It all makes sense now...).

We see precisely why Superman hasn't shown off the baby right around feeding time.

sirloin.jpg

And with this panel, it's become clear to me, that FAMILY GUY's Seth McFarlane must have had this comic book as a kid, because there's no doubt about it -- Stewie Griffin is Superman's baby. The giant head, the overly mannered speaking style, the constant annoyance with his parents and criminal tendencies -- there's no two ways about it. DC needs to get the lawyers on the phone to Fox, and pronto. A big chunk of that FAMILY GUY DVD money oughtta cover the losses from that awful Keanu Reeves CONSTANTINE movie.

Seriously, though, the resemblance between Superman's baby and Stewie is hilariously uncanny, as Superbaby is not pleased with the hygiene around his crib:

sterile.jpg

The Superbaby immediately starts making further demands, and is also not too happy with the service.

rare.jpg

Shortly, Superbaby begins work disproving Einstein's theory of relativity, an idea that's a little lost on his Super-Pop.

theory.jpg

Even tucking in the Super-Brat is a bit of a chore, as the little monster literally sleeps with one eye open.

sleep.jpg

The Man of Steel tried to get his mind off of his now-wretched family life by throwing himself into his work, dispersing a hurricane by creating a clean atomic blast in midair by clapping his chemical-bathed hands together. But the little Super-Killjoy even manages to throw a damp towel on that feat, thanks to his Super-Brain:

damage.jpg

Now depressed and crushed from a lack of confidence, Superman is about to give up his career, then decides to try and make himself feel better by winning back the baby's respect, by entertaining him with a giant jigsaw puzzle given the baby as a gift (given by Professor Ulvo, as it happens). Unfortunately, when Superman fails to solve the puzzle, Super-baby has a Super-tantrum, solving the puzzle himself and then storming out of the house in pursuit of the folks who gave it to him, which he deduced from the picture on the completed puzzle. Boy, he is smart.

dunce.jpg

Superbaby arrives at Professor Ulvo's lair, learns how the professor bathed his nursery in special radiation so he'd be born a super-genius, and swiftly takes over the Professor's whole operation himself, plotting a scheme for world conquest, starting with -- where else?-- Metropolis.

airport.jpg

The first thing the commerce-minded child does is stall all the jet engines at the Metropolis Airport with his Static-Inertia ray, demanding $1,000 tax for every takeoff and landing. When the airport cops try to bust him, the larcenous little tyke cuts loose with the heat vision, melting their guns into red-hot taffy. Superman arrives to administer a little Super-discipline, but when the kid fires back with the Super-Breath and the Super-Thermal Vision (which differs exactly how from heat vision, I'm not sure...), Super-Dad has no choice but to go for the tough love: Kryptonite.

kryptonite.jpg

Unfortunately for Supes, the little punk laughs it off, informing his father that in his spare time, he'd already invented an anti-Kryptonite serum. Damn, he's good. Superbaby makes with a counter-offer: join him in his quest to rule the universe, and he'd share the Anti-K serum with dear old dad. Superman refuses, and the kid is off on another villainous rant, disowning Superman and declaring them enemies, before suddenly slumping to the ground in a heap.

knockout.jpg

So was it just naptime? Maybe a case of Super-colic? No, it was a bit of parental intervention, it turns out. It seems Superman had literally decided the baby was too smart for his own good, and gimmicked the giant jigsaw puzzle to surreptitiously spray the kid with a Cerebral Neutralizer chemical of Superman's own devising (laced with liquid Kryptonite, naturally), to reverse the child's super-intelligence, which feels to me a whole lot like Superman just lobotomized his own son. Seems a little extreme to me, but maybe child-rearing is different for Kryptonians.

formula.jpg

At the last minute, Superman and Lois realize that maybe they could have used that Anti-Kryptonite Serum, and rush down the hall to the nursery to ask the baby for the formula. Unfortunately, by this time, Superbaby's intelligence has been completely reversed, and Superman is S.O.L. Serves him right, if you ask me.

baby.jpg

So there you have it -- the inside scoop on the original Superbaby. Makes that kid in the movie throwing the piano around not seem so bad now, eh?

Scott Tipton thinks what this story was really missing was a Krypto appearance. If you have questions about Superman or comics in general, send them to stipton99x@comics101.com.

EMAIL THE AUTHOR | ARCHIVES