Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Brothers Of Steel!

I have World's Finest #172 somewhere in the mountain of material I have collected over the decades. It's a charming story and as I read it again in DC's Greatest Imaginary Stories I was struck by the sheer light-hearted novelty of such a yarn which so blithely makes family of two iconic heroes. The Kents are deemed great parents and so are asked by the authorities to take charge of a young man recently made orphan, Bruce Wayne. This Bruce didn't lose both parents at the same time but rather first his mother than his father, so the catalyst for Batman is less dramatic. The distinction drawn here is that while Clark Kent must demur throughout high school at athletics and academics his new brother Bruce doesn't. Eventually (inevitably) Bruce does adopt a Batman guise and discover his brother's other career, but it all has a pleasant undertone until Lex Luthor kills the Kents and Batman takes him in. Afterwards he wants to leave and thanks to his brother finds another career in the far future fighting crime as a member of the Legion of Super-Heroes. It' imaginary whimsy at its finest.

The saga of Superman's sons is classic Silver Age goodness. Superman and his wife (identity never revealed) have two boys, but only one gets superpowers. So begins a long period of siblilng rivalry which by and large remains friendly but there's no denying the pain of the human son as he tries to measure up and find a role in the family business. This is one of those super stories which could've been told without any reference to the classic tropes of Superman's universe. Two brothers seeking recognition, one gifted one not so much but neither without ambition or worth. Loving parents who want the best for their sons but are confronted by a reality which forces them to make tough choices. One choice is that the boys become Nightwing and Famebird in the city of Kandor, a place where they are equals. Another puts the human son under the tutelage of Superman's father Jor-El on Krypton before its demise so that he can uncover the identity of a Phantom Zone villain who afflicts the family. A fascinating winding story with of course a pretty happy ending as all the characters never lose their humanity despite their powers.

Both stories get at a common detail in superhero yarns, that the heroes are only children and the addition of siblings can really alter the psychology which leads to a life as a crime fighter. It's most evident in Batman, an only child and an orphan but clearly it's true of Superman as well. Now of course heroes get siblings added over time, but rarely are they a key part of the story in the beginning. Charming sweet stuff and really showcasing what great "Imaginary Tales" can accomplish.

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  1. Are you familiar with "the Origin of the Superman-Batman Team" in Adventure #275? It's shown that Superboy already knows Bruce will become Batman and they end up teaming up on a case in Smallville where Bruce adopts a masked identity and Superboy suggests ideas to him he will later use as Batman, like the utility belt. Not an imaginary story, by the way.

  2. H'mm, I'm beginning to crumble - I may just have to get this book.

  3. The Sons of Superman is a favourite of mine; it's very sweet. I also loved the idea of Legionnaire Batman. I think, to be honest, that rather mercenary gimmick would secure the Legion's publishing future in the modern era.


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