Superman/Batman: Saga of the Super Sons

July 13, 2008

When it comes to entertainment of the kind that keeps you wondering to no end “what were those guys thinking?”, this title takes the cake — all of it. Written in the 1970s, the Saga of the Super Sons stories are downright intelligently stupid, meaning that they pursue the most ridiculous scenarios with so much conjecture overload that you must be a really earnest child not to laugh yourself pink. Then again, people were different back at the time.

Remember that these are both pre-Elseworlds and pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths tales, so one should be kind towards their painfully funny premises. The scenario is set straight on the 1st page in these words: “Do you ever wonder if one day Superman and Batman had sons… what would they be like? The old blocks — or Super Duds?” My 1st response: hahahahahaa. Sorry, me bad; I’ll be serious now, promise. 

Dear Bob Haney, if you had asked me, the kids wouldn’t also be called Clarke and Bruce, let alone run around with the names Superman Jr and Batman Jr. What would happen to, you know, secret identities? No wait, of course that matters: it’s why Mrs Supes and Mrs Bats wear veils, and it’s not because Ms Havisham and her twin sister got married. And it’s why the World’s Finest chase their sons out of their home cities — so that they don’t look bad for tardy jobs done by their spitting images. And that’s before parental guilt kicks in, and they jump to help them from the shadows nonetheless.

But get this for paternal help: you trick your kids into thinking that they are independent by creating a parallel city for them to save. And how do you do that? You dive deep into the tectonic fault-lines and give the strata a “super shake”. A ripple at the speed of light will accelerate a locale’s rotational and orbital speeds, push it before itself, and presto! you get a city that exists in a fold of time and so not really real.

A fat A-Plus-Plus for hokey logic and chop-shop civics, Bob! Never mind if Super-Dads endanger the lives of practically everyone they are supposed to protect by the act! Never mind if having 4 crime-fighters in one world would have been more effective than having 2 worlds of crime to fight! Is anyone at home in all the heads involved, or is it pure masculine thinking that I should be worried about?

And here’s another bit I don’t understand: Clarke and Bruce call their sons Clarke and Bruce and never once wonder why their kids have identity problems? Come on, this isn’t about teenage angst anymore: just you try to imagine a Super-Dad scolding his son without sounding psychotic. “Bruce, you stop swinging around in that bat-suit right now!” “Clarke, you are not Superman — I am!” It wasn’t ever this confusing when Jimmy Olsen and Robin were around: hang on, how come those guys don’t treat other people’s kids the same way, for better or worse? Why does Robin get to monkey all over Gotham while Bruce Jr has to stay home and study?

And here’s another mind-boggler: if secrecy is a key problem, why are there these moments with our costumed heroes bonding with their respective uncostumed sons? Why are both pairs of old man and kid enrolled as ordinary folks in a therapy course (whose shrink is a Son of God lookalike — see the growing allusion?) where you get one shouting “You won’t let me be Batman!” and another blow a tree off? Won’t people around like, you know, notice?

Saga of the Super Sons just keeps piling up the unbelievable, so you don’t need to get up from the floor you have been rolling with laughter on. One adventure concerns a milk truck (err..) and a town so consumed by its collective guilt for murder that it cryo-freezes its members for a later life. That makes complete sense — when they awake, they’ll still all feel guilty, doh! Then there’s the adventure of Juniors running off hand in hand (literally) with surrogate dads Flash and Green Arrow to make biological dads jealous. And there’s the father-and-son teams fighting a gang of alien-controlled women (They all are! Trust me I’m a guy too!) and the “Get ‘Em Big and Fat” world domination plan of Lex Luthor. Sense the underlying misogyny yet?

I’m skimming a lot here, but you get the idea of the wild fun I’m talking about. I worry about Haney and the sort of family he has, and then I wonder whether I dare to bother. By the end, you get Superman and Batman killing off their own sons (after all that work!) by revealing that they are really computer-assisted simulations from some Disintegration Pit. And here’s how Batman proves it: he asks “Who are your mothers?” The answer isn’t “Those veiled mystery women who keep screaming at you for being lousy dads for a couple of chapters now”; Juniors reply “Why, my mom is… is… I can’t remember!”

Next frame, Superman Jr says “Ah, I don’t even really want to exist anyway”. The frame after, both kids leap heroically into oblivion to save both the world and their dads-in-denial’s fantasy of middle-aged bachelorhood, waving goodbye as they drown. Ouch, ouch, my head… Not to worry though: in a epilogue of sorts, they both come alive again, now thankfully in a Elseworlds universe, which makes killing OK.

Gweek takes 7 happy pills after reading this book.

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