One of the greatest unsolved mysteries in the history of our planet is the question of what killed the dinosaurs. There is, of course, the leading theory that the Cretaceous-Paleogene Extinction Event was the result of a massive asteroid impact, something that's supported by a layer of sediment in the fossil record that includes high traces of iridium, and by the discovery of the massive Chicxulub crater, all of which amounts to a pretty compelling batch of scientific evidence. Personally, though, I don't buy it, and not just because of noted scientist Dr. Victor Fries and his assertion that the mass extinction was the result of the onset of an ice age.
No, my doubts come from the fact that, like everyone else who read Tales of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles back in 1989, I already know what killed the dinosaurs: It was the Ninja Turtles. Specifically, Leonardo. I know, I was surprised, too.
The Academy Awards are almost upon us, which means that it's time for the entire movie industry to rent out a very large room and say, "Good job, Movie Industry" to itself for about four hours. I'm told a lot of people find this very exciting, but as they have never, to my knowledge, even mentioned Bulbasaur's groundbreaking role in Pokemon: The First Movie, it's not really something I'm interested in. Besides, the movies that I tend to enjoy often value spectacle over substance. It might not win any awards, but I've often thought that there's a lot of value in giving audiences something that they just couldn't see otherwise.
Which, I imagine, is probably there were film producers in the DC Universe who were once so desperate for cool stunts that they decided to hire an actual superhero to handle them --- all without ever explaining to him how movies worked.
Promo comics are amazing. Since they're created for a wide audience that goes far beyond the normal readership, they always feature characters who have been boiled down to their most basic, accessible forms, but they're always at least two steps removed from what they should probably be doing. I mean, even if you boil them down to their most essential elements, the Justice League probably shouldn't be relying on a guy with a really nice drill to help them defeat a supervillain, and Batman doesn't usually fight crime by helping a small child overcome his allergies.
But that's part of what makes them great, and it only gets better when you're not exactly sure what's being promoted until you're about halfway through the comic. So today, I invite you to join me for 1992's Batman: A Word to the Wise, in which the Caped Crusader is called upon to extoll the virtues of literacy, a department store, and --- if I'm reading this correctly --- the entire nation of Canada.
Every February, I like to throw a bit of a spotlight on some of the more romantic pieces of superhero comics, but with Superman, that's pretty hard to do. I mean, sure, he'd eventually settle down with Lois Lane in one of the better romance stories in comics history, but for a long stretch of his history, he did everything he could to avoid letting anybody put a ring on it. Whether it was Lois, Lana, Lori, Lyla, or even Marybelle, the hillbilly whose lack of double-L initials should've disqualified her from contention well before she was carried over the Marryin' Rock, that dude was simply --- and famously --- not interested.
What you might not know, however, is why. It turns out that Superman wasn't just trying to protect his girlfriends from those who might use them to strike at him; it was that all this time, he was still carrying a torch for his first crush: Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt --- and the fact that she died in 30 BCE didn't stop them from dating for a week when he was fifteen.
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.
Superman is notoriously difficult to kill. It's kind of his thing, and even though people have been trying to pull it off for 77 years now, they've never really managed to. Even the most famous example of someone coming close had to involve an unstoppable giant bone monster in bike shorts and a spurious understanding of evolution, and even that didn't really work --- the main result was less shuffling off this mortal coil and more hanging around for a couple of years in dire need of a haircut.
But there is one person who might have a pretty good shot. Someone who knows all of Superman's weaknesses, and who has the resources to provide a squad of hitmen with everything they'd need to put a Kryptonite nail into the Man of Steel's coffin. That man is Clark Kent, and in Len Wein, Dick Dillin and Joe Giella's "A Matter of Light and Death," which opens with Clark hiring a trio of crooks to off his own alter-ego, and just keeps getting weirder from there.
Even though he has international influences that include a third-century Bishop from Turkey and European gift-giving traditions, I think it's fair to say that the modern version of Santa Claus is about as American as Coca-Cola. With as big a Santa Claus fan as I am, though, I'm always interested in seeing how other countries interpret the jollly old elf. That's what led me to Sakura Tsukuba's Santa-themed romance comic, Sweet Rein, and I think it's safe to say that it might just be the single weirdest Christmas comic I've ever read.
If nothing else, I don't think I've ever read another story that was built around the idea of Santa and a Reindeer falling in love through BDSM (Bondage, Deer and Santa Magic), and that's before you get to the part where they're both actually wide-eyed teenagers. Yes, even the reindeer. Especially the reindeer.
I have read a lot of Christmas comics in my time, and while I usually love them all with the unconditional affection of someone who goes around humming "Good King Wenceslas" in the middle of August, I have to admit that they tend to get pretty repetitive after a while. Even I can get tired of the endless string of halfhearted Christmas Carol parodies, which is why my favorite stories are always the ones that get a little weird. You know, the "evil robot santa" stories, or the "Batman goes back in time and recreates the universe and becomes the subconscious source of all Christmas Elf imagery" kind of thing. Those are the ones I really like.
So when I tell you that there's a story where Tharg, the mighty alien comic book editor who supplies 2000 AD with its weekly dose of Thrillpower, has to save Christmas after a bunch of readers wake up to bad presents on Christmas morning, rest assured that it is somehow even more amazingly bonkers than it sounds.
Even though Catwoman is generally considered Batman's primary love interest, Batman and Catwoman have had a pretty rough road. They haven't exactly been faithful to each other over the years, and while everyone talks about Batman's dalliances with characters like Silver St. Cloud, Talia al-Ghul and Julie Madison, no one ever really brings up his rivals for Catwoman's affection. Like, say, that time that a retired Selina Kyle was almost lured back into a life of crime by the swooning, heart-eyed King of Cats.
It happened back in 1952 in a story that just keeps getting weirder, to the point where the army of trained cats that rob a jewelry store is the least bizarre thing that's about to happen.
The time is once again here for Thanksgiving in America, and while most of us just use the holiday as an excuse to binge on turkey, there is a deeper meaning behind it. It's the day that we set aside to honor the time that the Native Americans helped out the Pilgrims, who would not have otherwise survived the harsh winter in their new home. Things eventually turned pretty sour between the two groups, but that first Thanksgiving stands as a testament to the power of people helping each other through the rough times.
However, Batman apparently never got the memo about brotherhood and equality, which is why a 1954 story in Detective Comics #205 found the Dark Knight traveling back in time to drop the hammer on Gotham City's indigenous population in the name of Bat-Imperialism and discovering "The Origin of the Bat-Cave!" It's one of our favorite crazy stories, and we're rerunning this classic Bizarro Back Issues feature this week in honor of the occasion.
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