Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett looks at inappropriate scenes in comics, including the recent gratuitous extermination of three long-time residents of the DC Universe:
Last week a lot of people were outraged over "the naughty bit" from Justice League: Cry for Justice #2: you know the scene where Hal Jordan confirms he had a three-way with Lady Blackhawk and The Huntress. Now I won't deny this is pretty skeevy for a mainstream superhero comic but then ever since his return to DC* James Robinson's writing has been a lot edgier (this is the man who gave us Breast Implants Cat Grant) than I remember it being on Starman. I've got to wonder whether this is him pushing boundaries so his work won't seem "old school" or DC deliberately shoving him in this direction.
Regardless of which it is it should come as no surprise I'm squarely with those who found this wildly inappropriate. But the worst thing about the whole business is if you're of a mind to write torrid superhero sex scenes we already have a medium where you can do that to your heart's content.
It's called fan-fiction.
If nothing else this little incident (I wish I could say it was isolated) serves as a perfect example of how superhero comic books have gotten far edgier than primetime network television. For example Leroy Jethro Gibbs of NCIS would never sheepishly confirm to having had a drunken tumble with agent Ziva David and Perky Goth lab rat Abby Sciuto. But then NCIS has the distinct disadvantage of having a mass audience containing people likely to object to having their hero behave in such a fashion.
You know, women, teens, kids, parents, grandparents…
But something else utterly gratuitous happens in that issue nobody else seems to have noticed; James Robinson killed Winky, Blinky and Noddy, collectively known as "The Three Dimwits," professional Three Stooges impersonators extraordinaire and sort of sidekicks to the Golden Age Flash. It was done offstage by person or persons unknown who had broken into the Flash Museum where they were acting as volunteer guards to steal The Cosmic Treadmill.
It's understandable this went under most people's radar; for starters The Nitwits weren't even named in their one panel cameo appearance and to recognize them on sight you'd have to be my kind of comic book guy. And if you're not, well, I know how counterintuitive it seems for a superhero to have these kind of guys for sidekicks but back in the day loads of DC characters got lumbered with doughy middle aged men for assistants.
Green Lantern got Doiby Dickles, The Spectre has Percival Popp the Super-Cop, Mr. America has Fatman (no relation to the C.C. Beck character), and Johnny Quick has Tubby. And rather than a large ethnic servant Sargon the Sorcerer differentiated himself from the rest of the Mandrake the Magician wannabe's by having Maximillian O'Leary, standard issue little fat guy, for a pal.
Regular readers know that I object to the senseless abuse of supporting characters and hate when someone is murdered and there's zero chance their killers will ever be brought to justice; especially when their deaths are just collateral damage, a cheap means to establish to just how big a "bad-ass" the villain is. Ordinarily this would be where you'd expect me to mourn The Nitwit's passing.
But frankly I found them as annoying as The Flash did. Oh sure Jay Garrick calls them "dear friends" but back in the Golden Age he was more likely to refer to them as "those idiots" and with good cause. I said they were "sort of" his sidekicks because unlike the bumbling, well-intentioned nebbishes I've listed, The Nitwits rarely helped The Flash fight crime. Rather he had to drop whatever he was doing to bail them out of their latest zany mix-up.
Some Golden Age comics just don't age particularly well and I've got to confess their brand of "comic relief" is so stale it sometimes makes getting through an issue of All Flash pretty tough going. But if nothing else The Nitwits accomplished one thing; they managed to slow The Flash down. Coming up with situations that were equal to The Flash's speed must have been a nightmare for writer Gardner Fox but thanks to their endless screw-ups what might ordinarily be ten page story became a "complete novel adventure."
But we all know death isn't the end in comics and even now Black Lantern rings might be hurtling towards their graves ("Winky Moylan, Blinky Boylan, Noddy Toylan of Earth. Rise."). If nothing else I hope James Robinson answers at least one question:
Who was the genius that put a trio of diminished capacity senior citizens in charge of guarding a time machine?
* Though on the plus side Robinson's love of obscure characters has led him to bring back Mark Merlin, who apparently is on a quest to find Prince Ra-Man.
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.
Column by Steve Bennett
Posted by ICv2 on August 17, 2009 @ 11:00 pm CT
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