Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Superboy Fan Letters Will Blow Your Mind

I accidentally left a copy of Superboy #185, a giant-size 100 page anthology comic from 1972, lying on the kitchen table earlier tonight. For some reason, Kara picked it up and started thumbing through it. I came across her several minutes later. She was sitting abjectly, in something resembling a catatonic state, the letters page from the issue open before her. The cause of her apparent stroke? A letter from Gary Skinner of Columbus, Ohio:

Dear Mr. Bridwell,

It may be a whole year before I can regain my honor, but I have new evidence which will at least allow us to share the blame, with neither of us the loser. The subject is my letter in the Giant Superboy #174. I knew darn well that more had been done to the Kents in the story of their deaths than the elimination of their glasses and the altering of their hair color. They were definitely changed to look more youthful and the change was an artistic one. I looked through the original story in Superman #161, and the difference was there, miniscule though it was. In the reprint, the Kents' necks had been redrawn to be slim, whereas the original had portrayed them as old people with husky, fat necks. I lose in my assumption that Al Plastino himself had redrawn the, but you lose also , because in rejuvenating them, you definitely redrew them, as I maintained. I am exonerated.

By the way, you blew something else on the same letter page. You are supposed to be the authority on the Superman family and all details thereof, but you forgot something concerning the the enlarging of Kandor. Although I cannot quote the magazine or issue from which I got my information, I recall that Brainiac built his shrinking ray in a special way, in combination with his own design of enlarging ray. Such are the conditions that only Brainiac's own ray can enlarge the city to normal without side-effects. Superman himself hasn't been able to duplicate that ray exactly, and even though Brainiac has been disassembled, so sophisticated a computer was he that the memories within his brain are locked there in defiance of any probing ray that might try to extract them. The secret is his alone, and until Superman can get around that little obstacle, the city of Kandor will be dinky as ever. Too bad.

I guess I've henpecked you enough for one day. And at the risk of sounding sarcastic, keep up the good work.

The lesson here is twofold: old Superboy comics have a Kryptonite-like effect on those unfamiliar with the minutiae of the Silver Age mythos and the fannish compulsion to know all. As well, we learn that the fan culture of 1972, as fostered by uber-fan E. Nelson Bridwell, was as vibrant and probing as any in existence today, whether obsessing over the age of Jonathan and Martha Kent --rejuvenated in 1968 (Superboy #145)-- or the nature of Brainiac's nefarious technology.

A final note: Al Plastino lives!