Bizarro Back Issues: The Super-Pranks Of Super-Dog! (1959)
I've been writing about weird old comics on the Internet for over ten years now, and in most cases, those stories stick out because they're built around a weird premise, or because some kind of big, strange event happens in the middle of it that comes out of nowhere. But today, I read "The Super-Pranks of Krypto," and that story's a little different.
I mean, yes, as the title indicates, it's a comic about a dog from space pulling pranks on his owner, who is also from space, but really, by the standards of the Silver Age, that's not all that strange. No, this one's weird because every single choice in every single panel that was made by the creators is the weirdest, most inexplicable choice that they could've possibly made.
The team in this case is made up of Superman's co-creator Jerry Siegel and artist George Papp, and they're creators that I'm pretty familiar with. Here, though, I had to check and make sure that this story wasn't credited to one of those robots that uses predictive text algorithms to put together a Craigslist ad. The dialogue alone in this comic is mystifying.
Witness, for instance, a conversation between young Clark Kent and his pa about Krypto's recent bad behavior:
I was going to make a joke about how Clark's talking like an alien trying unsuccessfully to fit in as a human, but, well, in this case, that's technically true. Still, he was raised here, you'd think he would've mastered contractions by now.
The reason for all this discussion is that Krypto has gone on a bit of a tear lately. First, he interrupts an opera by flying out on stage and howling during the performance, refusing to budge even when they throw a rope around him and "every able-bodied stagehand" at the theater make an attempt to haul him off. Then, the next day, he rounds up every cat in Smallville --- listed in the story as hundreds --- and sets them loose in the center of town, chasing them around in what I can only describe as an allergenic nightmare.
At this point, you'd think that Superboy might step in to go see what's up with his dog, since he is, after all, the one who should be responsible in the pet-owner relationship, but he doesn't. Instead, we just get another conversation about him, and this one's even more awkward:
"Yes, human father. Please do not forget the articles with which you perform your work for the exhibit of work articles."
Sadly, we never get to see what kind of articles Pa Kent would bring to school to show kids what it's like to run a general store. What we do see, though, is Lana Lang's father, the kleptomaniac archaeologist who's always happy to bring priceless artifacts "recovered" from other cultures and just casually wave them around in front of a bunch of tenth-graders.
"This magic jewel that gives you super-powers sounds like a lot of nonsense," says invulnerable boy who owns a flying dog.
Before any magic jewel hijinx can erupt, though, Krypto shows up as Clark and Lana are leaving school, and if his misbehavior before was bad, it gets a whole lot worse when he decides to reveal Clark's secret identity right there in front of God and everybody:
If you have read at least one Silver Age story before, you can probably guess how this is going to be resolved by the end of it, but we'll cross that plot device when we come to it.
To find out why Krypto's acting so strangely, Superboy decides to follow him when he flies off into space, and before long, he's led to a spaceship hidden inside a "space-cloud" --- not a nebula, mind you, just a straight up cloud hanging out in the middle of outer space. It's not a ship that Superboy recognizes, but Krypto flies right in, which is when we're introduced to its owner:
It turns out that the "strange chap" (!) who rides through space on a rocket-powered robot horse (!!!) is actually neither cowboy nor knight. He is, in fact, a space hunter, who uses his "lightning lance" to knock out alien creatures and take them back to his ship, a process that's explained with even more extremely natural dialogue.
But there's something going on that's a little more important than that. When Superboy scans the ship with his X-Ray vision, he finds that there's a second Krypto on board, trapped in a Kryptonite cage. As it turns out, all of Krypto's bad behavior back on Earth was perpetrated by a shape-shifting pile of goo that was merely disguised as Krypto while the genuine article was kept on the ship.
It seems that Kosmon, the space hunter, picked Krypto up while the latter was roaming around the depths of space, and after he "scanned his brain's memory cells," he discovered everything he needed to know in order to add the galaxy's last Kryptonian to his menagerie.
Oh right, the menagerie. In true supervillain style, Kosmon gives Superboy a guided tour through the ship while holding Krypto hostage. Along the way, we see a few of the creatures he's captured over the years, including one that Kosmon describes as "part gas, part vegetable," which is amazing. How do you even think to describe something like that? I mean, unless you had cabbage for lunch that day, I suppose.
Thus, Superboy is lured into a Kryptonite cage of his own, sacrificing his own freedom for his dog's. But there's still one hope!
Even though he doesn't have his super-powers, he does have the pair of glasses that he wears as Clark Kent. It might not seem like much, but it turns out that the protoplasmic blob that pretended to be Krypto --- which, I remind you, was powerful enough and smart enough to identify Superboy through his disguise and lure him out to the depths of space --- is so enamored with this shiny object that it comes into the cell and forms itself into a weird little tent for Superboy:
With that, Superboy is freed, and after he threatens to throw Kosmon into a cage with one of his own captured creatures, the space hunter agrees to be a good sport and leave this part of the galaxy forever. No, seriously --- he literally says "I'll be a good sport about it" and rockets out of the solar system to presumably go capture other sentient beings and throw them into a space zoo without Superboy's interference. Kind of dropped the ball on that one.
But what about Superboy's secret identity? Well, if you guessed that he'd claim that the mystical stone gave him powers and that he just happened to be wearing a Superboy costume under his clothes because there was a costume party that night, then congratulations, you somehow got that one right. I think we can agree that it is the flimsiest possible excuse, to the point that even Lana doesn't buy it --- she touched the stone too, after all.
But that, of course, is when the real Krypto shows up to help out by making Lana think that she's temporarily gained super-powers. And when she tries to touch the stone again to make sure that it really is magical and that Clark's not lying, it turns out that's not really possible:
Let this be a lesson to you, fellow humans! Be careful when storing your articles on a rumble seat, or else they may be swept down a river along with various other items!
Five Best DC Animal Sidekicks