Bizarro Back Issues: Clark Kent’s Hillbilly Bride! (1955)
Weird Silver Age comics are a finite resource. Granted, I could probably start now and do nothing but read weird back issues for the rest of my life --- which, believe it or not, is somehow not what I'm already doing --- but there were only so many stories produced in that era. With all the ones I've talked about over the years, I sometimes wonder if I'm on the verge of running out, and I wonder what my life is going to look like once I've taken you through every time Jimmy Olsen tried to date a viking robot, or Batman had to take on the scourge of gorilla crime.
And then I find out that there's a story I've never heard of before called "Clark Kent's Hillbilly Bride," and I realize that we've still got a long way to go before we're done here.
That story originally ran in the pages of 1955's Superman #94, from the team of Bill Woolfolk and Wayne Boring, and folks, it is amazing right from the start. Just look at that splash page, where Superman is not only audibly groaning about his impending nuptials to Lois, who is inexplicably also dressed as a bride, but is hiding a full tuxedo behind his back with a gigantic tag identifying him by his civilian name as a renter.
Two things about this: One, unless that sucker is stapled on there with Kryptonite, there is no reason to have left it attached when he left the store, even if he had to go roust Mister Plaid and stop his reign of tartan terror. Two, of all the things this comic would have me believe, the fact that friggin' Superman would have to rent a tux is the one I have the most trouble with.
Also, check out that opening caption calling him the World's Mightiest Mortal. That's gimmick infringement, brother.
Anyway, our story opens when Clark is sent out of Metropolis and to some unnamed "backwoods country" to cover a bunch of hicks who have discovered uranium somewhere in the hills. That by itself is actually a pretty interesting premise --- I've often wondered how different The Beverly Hillbillies would've been if the Clampetts had beome a hostile nuclear superpower instead of just buying a nice house --- but alas, that part of the story will never actually arrive. The readers of the Daily Planet will go woefully uninformed about our nation's precious fissionable resources, because, as is so often the case with this sort of thing, Clark's going to get distracted by some trouble.
In this case, it's a falling branch that endangers a young lady as she curiously watches the city folk. Considering that this is Superman at the height of his considerable powers, he's got plenty of options to deal with this. He could knock the branch away with a quick puff of super-breath, for instance, or even use super-ventriloquism to get her to move before it lands. Heck, he could just say, "Hey, look out!" as Clark Regular-Ass Kent. But no.
Instead, he decides to complicate both the rescue, and the next few days of his life.
Clark leaps into action, carrying the young lady over a nearby rock in the dark. It's a course of action that seems sound enough, until a few days later, when Clark's date with Lois Lane is interrupted by that same young lady, Marybelle, showing up in Metropolis and literally chasing him down the street while identifying herself as "the gal you is to take in lawful matrimony!"
Needless to say, Lois is not pleased.
Superman manages to get away from Marybelle, but then he runs into her rifle-toting yokel brothers, and all of them insist that he proposed to Marybelle and that now he's obligated to marry her. After a handful of shennanigans involving an armored car, Clark finally just puts his hands up and asks them what exactly is going on here, and we find out that he actually did propose to Marybelle back when he was down in the country.
Sort of. Kind of.
I mean, really, he just jumped over a rock.
Okay, first of all, that is a surprisingly cogent argument from Marybelle's brother in that last panel. Beyond that, though, I have to say that this is sadly typical of the divide between urban and rural America. There's a hostility there that manifests itself as a cartoonish depiction of the other side in media, one that dismisses their genuine struggles and contributions in a way that's divisive and serves only to keep us at each other's throats. I was raised in the South and live there to this day, and I can tell you that despite the kind of slack-jawed redneck caricatures that you see in stories like this one, we do not have --- and have never had --- something as ridiculous as the "Marryin' Rock."
We do have the Weddin' Stump, though. It's out back of the Dairy Queen.
Anyway, Clark agrees to head back to the country until he can sort this whole thing out, and just in case things weren't awkward enough, he finds out that there's someone else in the mix: Jed Summers, Marybelle's ex-fiancee.
Say what you will, but the man is polite. And yes, that is Lois in the background - she got Perry to assign her to cover Clark's hillbilly marriage as a "human interest story," which might be the coldest move of all time.
Eventually, things get so heated that Clark actually gets shot, although he naturally plays it off as the bullet hitting the Big Book Of Country Weddin' Rules that he's been carrying around in his breast pocket. Still, something has to be done, and this time, Superman decides that the time for screwing around is over. As the old proverb goes, if Marybelle will not come to the Marryin' Rock, then the Marryin' Rock shall come to Marybelle.
To that end, he whips up a sudden landslide while Jed and Marybelle are out walking, and pretty much just throws the Marryin' Rock at them until they jump over it:
Now, with the revolutionary new idea of actually deciding for herself who she's going to marry without letting it be determined by local topography, Marybelle decides that she'd rather have the guy who is willing to kill for her rather than the guy who has been literally running away from her after an accidental proposal.