Tuesday, July 16, 2013

So I guess Superman's Just A Murderer, Then. (12 People Superman Has Killed In The Comics)

This is sort of a feature I'm thinking of calling "pop investigates," or something. It's basically a continuation of what I used to call Minibests, a series of posts loosely grouped together but written over time.  The 365 Poems is one of these, as it The 8 Hottest Moms.  There will probably be others, and there have been others.  But this is this one.

A few weeks ago I finished up an essay so long that it literally looped time in around itself, which is probably why so few people have read it so far.  (Actually, the post has been viewed 63 times since I posted it June 30, which is as of today, July 16, not bad for something so long. Then again it's not good for something that mentions Superman.)

In that essay, which was what I thought about the movie "The Man Of Steel," I said "Superman does not kill people."  I even said it in bold, I was so sure I was right.  And nobody since then has challenged me with any specifics.  People have challenged me, people like The Boy, who said "How do you know that?", but not with specifics, and so I just had to respond that I had "looked it up," which I sorta had, by which I mean I had read some stuff about Superman on Wikipedia and I had also thought about it for a while and so I was pretty sure that I was pretty sure that Superman had never killed anybody.

BUT there is ONE PERSON out there smart enough to prove me wrong, and that person is ME.  I have confounded myself (and logic) by once again being the only person who is smarter than himself, and I have therefore taken it upon myself to correct myself by pointing out that my (earlier) self was wrong and my (currently existing) self is right, in that Superman does kill people.

Or person, at any rate.  Let me tell you first how I found out I was wrong: I looked it up on Wikipedia the other morning.

This picture doesn't relate to the post at all,
but it came up on an image search and
FOR SOME REASON I wanted to include it.

Wikipedia doesn't usually prove me wrong, let alone inadvertently, and in this case I wasn't even trying to prove myself wrong.  Nor was I trying to prove anything, really, I was just trying to read about superheroes because I had in mind to start doing a series of posts like this one only this series was going to be about crazy origins of superheroes, which I always find fun to read when they are condensed onto websites and I don't have to go buy 330 back issues of Alpha Flight to get the whole version of how Red Tornado is actually an elemental demon or whatever.

(Which I know I'm muddling up heroes there, but let me just say that I'm about 84% sure that currently Red Tornado is an elemental demon, and also I'm 85% sure that most superheroes in the DC pantheon are demons or angels or elementals or something else of an overpowering spiritual/demigoddish nature, because everytime I read an origin of a hero, that's the latest turn. That probably says something about society, which is something that I like to do: say things about society, which is why I was going to do that series of posts about origins, to see what they said about where our society has gone to, in that an ordinary (!?) robot masquerading as a human being (!?) with the powers to create tornadoes (!!) isn't enough for us anymore (?&) and that ordinary robot human being now has to also be an elemental demon of the wind, or something close, but ultimately I... am I still in a parentheses? Better get out of that)

ultimately I didn't go with that series of posts because I couldn't find a good quick list of superheroes, they were all subdivided into women heroes and heroes from Iceland and heroes with dyslexia or something, and then I thought "maybe something about villains, then," since it's been a while since I did something about villains, and that's how I stumbled on "The Ultra-Humanite,"

and I paused because (A) I have that comic! which made me want to read the article the same way if you once met a minor celebrity in person you'll probably watch that person on The Tonight Show, and you'll say to your wife "Hey, I once met that person!" which, trust me, makes a bigger (better) impact on her than "Hey, I have that comic!" because that latter line is always followed by an explanation of

1. What comic?
2. Why is he a monkey?
3. With a big skull?
4. What are you doing reading Wikipedia entries about giant monkeys with skulls, aren't you EVER going into the office?
5. How much Cap'n Crunch can you fit into a bowl?

And so I paused and read the entry because (B) I was thinking about doing something about supervillains, and I read about how the "Ultra-Humanite,"

is the first supervillain faced by Superman, and among the first supervillains of the Golden Age of Comics. He was designed to be the polar opposite of Superman; while Superman is a hero with superhuman strength, Ultra-Humanite is a criminal mastermind who has a crippled body but a highly advanced intellect.
And how he was first discovered by Superman when Superman was breaking up a cab strike,

Superman sets out to smash the so-called Cab Protective League, an underworld organization, headed by a racketeer named Jackie Reynolds, which is attempting to seize control of the city's lucrative taxi trade by launching a reign of terror against the independent cab companies, murdering their drivers and demolishing their taxicabs in an effort to coerce the independents into joining the League.[3] Reynolds organizes unscrupulous cab drivers into a union, the Cab Protective League (CPL). Reynolds' union, financed by the Ultra-Humanite, intimidates other cab drivers through violence and threats against passengers. In the summer of 1939, a cab carrying Clark Kent (alias Superman) is assaulted by a CPL driver.
Which sounds THRILLING, I know, but ultimately that leads Superman to discover that the Ultra-Humanite exists and is a supervillain and also leads Superman to be knocked unconscious by electricity, "enough to kill five hundred men," which actually I think would work.

I mean, nerve impulses are electrical, right? So couldn't you simply electrocute Superman, if not with regular doses of electricity, then with a lot, enough to burn out his nerves so he couldn't move and his autonomous nervous system would no longer cause his heart to beat? Maybe. I know they can block nerves with drugs and stuff, so they could probably burn out the synapses with electricity, and Superman may not need to be able to breathe (if he doesn't then how would Krypton's atmosphere affect him, but if he does how does he fly in space?) but he probably needs his blood to circulate or he'll die.

Anyway: the electricity works but the buzz saw with which the Ultra-Humanite tries to kill Superman while he's unconscious breaks, and Superman interrupts the Ultra-Humanite's fleeing in a plane by smashing into the plane itself, breaking it to pieces and crashing it.

Which alone is enough, I think, to set up this series, as Superman has since 1939ish not been above smashing into planes to destroy villains whose only fault was trying to take over the cab monopoly/electrocuting him (which the latter was only brought about by Superman trying to stop his evil scheme, and "stopping an evil scheme" is what Florida calls "Stand Your Ground", at least when white guys do it, so can you blame the Ultra-Humanite? Not if you serve on a Florida jury and want a book deal, you can't. My recommendation to anyone charged with a crime? Make it high profile. The higher profile the better, because publishers don't want book deals with jurors who convict.)

But Superman couldn't find the body after the plane crash, so the Ultra-Humanite was still alive, and that led to round two when

After scores of subway riders have been injured in the collapse of a subway tunnel and an inspector is nearly killed by a train when he is knocked out on train tracks, Superman discovers that Star, Inc., the firm that built the tunnel, defrauded the city by charging the city for expensive materials and then using substandard materials on the actual project. Superman pursues some of the criminals who lead him to the Ultra-Humanite. 
Ultra-Humanite is more than just a bad contractor, though. He appears to know a thing or two about Superman:

As Superman barges headlong into the shed, the villain freezes him inside a block of crystal. "BEHOLD!" gloats the Ultra-Humanite. "My mortal foe imprisoned in crystal.... so that I can look upon him and laugh until eternity!"
Or maybe not. Superman escaped by punching his way out.  Ultra-Humanite uses his intellect to try to extort a cruiseline, to cause a plague of purple blotches, and to try to hypnotize Superman with a helmet, but Superman fakes being controlled, and after a ray gun fails to stop Superman,

Superman then returns to Ultra's strongholds where the villain tries to blast him, but Superman places the Ultra-Humanite in front of the gun, killing him.

(All these quotes are from Wikipedia.)

Just like that.  Not even "Oh my God I had to do it to save some people who'd have been partially burned by Zod," just "Hey, Ultra-Humanite, eat hot lead from your own henchman," bang zoom it's over, and Superman killed him.

Just flat-out killed him -- succeeding on his second try, apparently, remember the plane-smashing?

(That wasn't the end of the Ultra-Humanite; he was revived by adrenaline, so if you're keeping track so far then:

-- M. Night Shymalan and Stan Lee stole from the Ultra-Humanite, who is a crippled bald man in a wheelchair whose only power is his supreme intellect and

"Mr Lee? A call from our copyright lawyers."

"Tell them I said we're going with it, nobody
read those comics in the 30s anyway!"

-- Pulp Fiction stole from The Ultra-Humanite, not to mention The Man Of Steel, because the Ultra-Humanite's plague is designed to kill people so that the Ultra-Humanite can get around to making his own race.

Anyway: the Ultra-Humanite's body wasn't going to last long, so he had it transplanted into a series of bodies, first a young woman and ultimately an albino gorilla and Johnny Thunder.)

It was when I read all that that I realized that (A) I was wrong about whether or not Superman kills but (B) I was apparently the only person who knew/cared about that.  But on the offchance that I'm wrong about the latter, and because whether or not you care about it, I care about it, so this is just the first in this series of posts.

I don't know if there'll actually be 12 people Superman has killed in the comics; I picked that number randomly and went with it.  But it doesn't really matter, does it, how many people he's killed? The fact is that he has killed and, more importantly, he's GOTTEN AWAY WITH IT, so successfully that we (I) now think that Superman is this whole boy scout dogooder that stands above it all and represents the next wave of humanity, when in reality, he's just going around throwing villains in front of bullets.

Also, I suppose it does matter how many people he's killed.

Nobody's seen that woman since.


I did do a whole series of posts on what makes a villain the best, and chose The Best Villain, in this series beginning here.

Here are some other things that I've investigated over time:

"30 Things "The Scream" is screaming."

The Seven Best Underrated Instruments


Pat Dilloway said...

Yeah a lot of the stuff we associate now with heroes like Superman and Batman has evolved in the 75 years they've existed. If you made a movie based on Action Comics #1 or Detective Comics #28 (or whatever it was when Batman first appeared) people would complain that it's not the real Superman and Batman because everything from the costume on up was different then.

Andrew Leon said...

Man, I missed that other post of yours somewhere. Well, actually, I know how. My feed thing sometimes doesn't show every post from people, and you are one of the ones it decides to sporadically skip. At any rate, if I read that, I could have told you that Superman has killed. That not killing thing was introduced during the 70s, I think, although I could be wrong about the timeline. Maybe, it was during the 60s after the whole McCarthy thing.
Anyway, although you've already debunked it, I have to go spend the rest of the day reading your other post.

Briane P said...

I was listening to 99% Invisible and they talked about other things Superman used to do, like use his supermuscles to contort his face for disguises.

Briane P said...

They should have done that in Man Of Steel.

Andrew Leon said...

And, in the old black & white Superman series with George Reeve, he once vibrated his molecules so fast he could go through solid objects.

Briane P said...

The Flash can do that too, which bugs me, because people can't vibrate like that in real life, even at slow speeds.

Andrew Leon said...

Yeah, I know about The Flash.
My issue with it is that not even light can do that, which is the reasoning behind why Flash can do it. He can vibrate at the speed of light, so he can pass through solid objects. Yeah? So why can't light?

Briane P said...

Weird. You left this comment, probably about the exact time I was thinking about light and why we can't see air.

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