Near 500 words: In Praise of the Working Class Superhero

In June 1938, Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel launched Superman into the world in Action Comics # 1. This month is the eightieth anniversary of his first appearance. It was the beginning of the Golden Age of Comics.

Crash Test Dummies: Superman’s Song

Before Superman, there were superheroes. Hercules, Sherlock Holmes, Peter Pan and Tarzan all fit the bill. With the exception of Peter Pan, they were the ultimate alpha males who beat up the bad guys, swung through the trees, and outthunk Doctor Moriarty. Or at least tried their best.

Superman was the new kid on the block. Like Douglas Fairbanks, he could fly or at least do a reasonable facsimile. Like Paul Bunyan, his muscles had muscles, and they were muscles of steel. Like John Henry, he was not a blue blood but a working class fellow.

He was Introduced in DC’s Action # 1 June 1938 comic book issue. From the beginning, he had a real job like all the working stiffs. Growing up on a farm, he learned good values. Hard work seemed to be in his DNA.

Clark Kent may have been a superhero on weekends. But still the rent had to be paid. He had to wake up early Monday morning, crawl out of bed and eat his Wheaties so he was ready for the rat race of the day ahead. Unlike those billionaires Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark, unlike the godlike Wonder Woman and Thor who came along later. And he never ever sold his superhero skills for payola.

In his free time, we never found Superman hanging out with the other superheroes like some. For many of them, humanity they loved, but people they couldn’t stand. Sure, he joined the Justice League of America but that was only a part-time gig.

In a lot of ways, Superman was just a regular joe, a man of the people. Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, he often faced down the bad guys with truth and justice. Like Jimmy Stewart in “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”, he stood up for the little guy.

And when he went out for an afterwork drink, he never schmoozed with the bosses. Not even with Perry White, Editor Extraordinary. It was Jimmy Olsen you’d find him with down at the local watering hole. They were real tight. So much so that later Clark was the godfather to Jimmy’s twins. Lois Lane was the godmother.

And Jimmy returned the favor for his friend. He was best man at Clark and Lois’ wedding. Lucy Lane was the maid of honor. It took Lois sixty years to land her guy. As we all know, persistence does pay off. It wasn’t that Clark Kent was slow. He was a workaholic and had very little time for a social life. No matter. Superman was always her knight in shining armor and Prince Charming combined. And she knew eventually she would catch him in a weak moment.

Now I know there are some of you out there, saying that Superman’s alter ego wasn’t the only alter ego who had to work for a living. But the thing is he was first. And Lois Lane was a career woman at a time when women didn’t have careers.

So let’s celebrate the workingman’s superhero and his buddies. No matter how bad things get, it’s always nice to remember Superman is on our side.

The Night Job

It’s rough being a super hero these days. The things you have to put up with. For instance:

S walks into the living room and yells to his wife in the kitchen, “Honey, I can’t get the stains off my outfit. Any idea what will take blood out?”

“If it’s yours, no,” she yells back. She’s fed up with this superhero gig.

“It’s just a little nose bleed.” S walks into the kitchen. Goes over to give her a smooch.

She’s not in the mood for smooching. She’s ready for combat. “I am not going to do any more cleaning up after one of your night forays.”

“But it’s my job.”

“No, your job is to drive a bus, Ralph.” She pushes him away. She is not having any of his excuses this time.

“That’s my disguise job, Alice. My real job is to fight crime. Since crime happens most at night, I have to go out every night and fight it. You know that.”

She goes over to the coffee pot and pours herself a cup. “All I know is that you were quite normal. A good husband and all. Then you saw that ‘Avengers’ movie and some bug must have bit you.”

“I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. I told you that I received a call from the Planet Varsa. They gave me strict orders. If I don’t do this, they will come and destroy the earth. They said they needed one man to prove that the earth was worth saving. I asked them how could I prove to them that I was that man. You know what they said?”

“Yeah, go suit up in some purple spandex and a t-shirt with a big-ass S on it. Oh, and don’t forget the cape. It’s gotta be periwinkle. It can’t just be blue. Periwinkle, geez. Even Superman wears a blue cape.”

“It’s not just any blue. It’s phthalo blue.”

“What?” She is really laughing now. “What the heck is phthalo blue?”

“That’s the color of Superman’s cape. That’s what it is. Everybody knows that.”

She’s starts to choke on her laughter. Finally she catches her breath and calms down. “C’mon, Ralph, you expect me to believe that cock-and-bull story of yours. Some idiot from God knows how many billions of light years away wants you to be a crime fighter. He just up and calls you. Give me a break.” She laughs again. She can’t help herself. It happens every time she imagines her husband in that get-up.

“I’m telling you. It’s true, Alice.”

“Look, I’m going to my mother’s. You call me when you’re ready to settle down and be the nice, lovable Ralph I married.” She goes to the sink and rinses out her coffee cup.

“Before you go, can you just show me how to get this blood out?”

She shakes her head, walks over to him and takes the suit. “You’re phthalo to the point of being pathetic. You know that.”

He takes her in his arms and kisses her. After a long embrace, she looks him in the eyes.

“You really have to do this?”

“I really do.”

Alice pushes her husband away. “Well, if you gotta, you gotta.” Her voice has resignation in it. “You be careful out there, you hear?” A look of love for her husband fills her eyes. She kisses him lightly on the lips. “Sit down at the table and I’ll make my big superhero some breakfast. But first, I have to take this out to the laundry room. Okay?”

“Okay,” he says thoughtfully. And goes to the table and sits down. She leaves the room, humming.

“It took three wives and I finally found one who will let me be the S I am supposed to be.” Then he calls out to his wife, “By the way, I’m going to need a new mask.”

In the laundry room, Alice rinses Ralph’s costume. There’s a smile on her face. Then she says, almost whispering so her husband won’t hear her, “That guy from Varsa is right. He’s going to need a sidekick. Otherwise.”

Fudgenado

You’ve heard of sharknado. It’s Mother Nature’s way of getting even, and she always gets even. It’s a tornado spewing sharks. Scary stuff. Hope it doesn’t come to your part of the planet. If it does, learn how to duck. Those teeth are vicious. Never forget how much damage that thing did on the east coast, the west coast and the in-between coast.

I, for one, am glad it’s over. We can take a little breather. While we wait for the next disaster. But here’s a comforting thought. There is a new superhero on the block.

Yes, you heard me right. A new superhero. And he’s one for the 21st century. His name is Fudgenado. All those other superheroes are old school. They are so 20th century. Of course, I’m talking Superman, Batman and all those D C Comics guys, and the Marvel gang—The Fantastic Four, Thor. You know the ones.

This Fudgenado is a rootin’, tootin’, genuine superhero up to the villainy of the new millennium. He’s taking on all the baddies. Evil villains like The Nugget and his sidekick, Candy Bar. The twins Creamy and Delicious. And, of course, Caramel. You know, how sticky he makes things when he flies through. Last time he came to my city we were up to our fingers in sweet stuff for a month.

Then there’s the most dastardly, evilicious, black-hearted Brownie Maker. She has been making brownies without the nuts and taking out planets one-by-one all the way from the star, Titus Andronicus, to Sirius. She is on her way to Planet Earth. Rumor has it that she left last Monday from her home planet. She’ll be here by Saturday. And she’s got plans for us humans. She’s about to make global warming look like a game of tiddly-winks.

So read this fast, then get ready for the show. Pop a tub of popcorn and pour yourself a beer, or a soda, and sit out on your back lawn and watch. You’re in for a treat. There will be a really big show. She has brownies to bake and one of those brownies is our planet. But there is no need to worry. Fudgenado is ready and waiting for the knock-down, drag-out. She won’t know what hit her. He’ll k.o. her in the first round. That’s for sure.

When they meet, it will be the superbowl of super dooper folks. It’s going to be out of this world, that show. Just be comforted by the thought that Fudgenado is our guy. Without him, it would be like a tsunami on steroids. We’d be baked. I hate the thought of that prospect.

For now, Fudge (that’s what we call him for short) is out barn-storming the planet with his absolutely unbelievable, delicious fudge. You really have to try his maple. It’s so good the gods think it’s ambrosia. Oh man, just writing about the stuff makes my mouth water.

And make sure you put out your fudge buckets. He will making fudge out of Miss Brownie Mix. There will be plenty of fudge to go around for everybody.