Happy Thanksgiving! Talking about comics saves me from listening to my mom’s stories about the Library Board, so…
In the previous issue of Jimmy Olsen (#135, back here), Jimmy discovers the ethically dubious clone farms of the DNA Project, but when the Evil Factory unleashes an “uncontrollable organic murder machine” only the Guardian can save a powerless Superman.
Hulk-Jimmy effortlessly bats around the Guardian–a genetically augmented clone of a 1940’s crime-fighter associated with the original Newsboy Legion. Luckily the Project defeats the giant via chemical warfare:
…delivered by microscopic naked Jimmy Olsens. Oops, I meant microscopic uniformed clones of Scrapper, one of the boys in the Legion.
To defeat a giant, kryptonite-saturated clone, stolen from your own illicit clone of America’s favorite teen sidekick, you must use miniature illicit clones of the sidekick’s sidekick, kitted out for chemical-biological-radiological warfare! Of course! Straight out of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War.
The DNA Project : Newsboy Legion :: Cheyenne Indians : Buffalo. Let no part go to waste!
Helpfully we cut away to the villains, where Simyan and Mokkari clarify the differences between the Project and the Evil Factory:
MOKKARI: “The Earthmen experiment for progress, but we work for Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips!”
SIMYAN: “Our offspring shall bring Apokolips to Earth! Chaos in place of order!”
Obviously, since they’ve grown humans into “beasts of burden,” hauling heavy objects around, which is totally different than cloning Gabby a zillion times and making him answer switchboards.* Apparently that is the view of Superman, who is just delighted about this whole thing.
He goes on to enumerate the classes of clones:
- Normals, like Jimmy, Scrapper, and Gabby, who are apparently the labor force.
- Step-Ups, like Jude and the Hairies, technicians with “hair-trigger minds! And they can come up with mechanical wonders like the Mountain of Judgment!” (We meet some more Step-Ups this issue who invite Superman and Jimmy to a Friday-night “sing-in.” I bet Superman has some really weird weekends, come to think of it.)
- Aliens, like . . . Dubbilex!
Meanwhile the Evil Factory is about to unleash a new monster to harass the Project…
* =What if the Evil Factory did clone a bunch of Gabby’s to operate the Apokolips switchboard: this would explain the “Hello? Inter-Gang operator? Could you connect me to the Murder-by-Lay-Away program” stuff we’ve seen previously.
This issue has a weird falling action problem, which reads very similarly to some of Kirby’s work in The Fantastic Four in the mid-1960’s. Because the last issue ended on a huge cliffhanger, this issue opens with a whole lot of action, but then the back half of the issue is taken up with explication and everyone catching their breath. It works in an arc, but reads oddly as a single issue.
Also, I’m sorry, but the Guardian is a lame character, and I feel like Kirby is indulging himself here. (He’s definitely earned it! I’m just sayin’.) Charitably: Kirby knew that the reintroduction of Marvel’s Golden Age characters – Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the Human Torch – helped build excitement at the dawn of the Silver Age, and so creating a Space Age version of the Newsboy Legion and the Guardian now that Kirby is working for DC might be the same type of thing.
But Marvel’s reboots were men in crisis: Captain America is initially a crazy person with PTSD, the Sub-Mariner is a fishy conqueror maddened by lurvvvve, and the Human Torch (for the first few issues) was a Rebel Without A Cause But With A Flamethrower. The characters were compelling and were given a lot of room to strut their stuff. The Guardian is just one more dude in a very crowded comic, who seems like a personality-less clone of Captain America, even if the Guardian came first. Even among the Newsboy Legion, Superman is handling most of the exposition that might be given to nerdy Big Words, and poor everyboy Tommy hasn’t said anything in months now that everyboy Jimmy Olsen is getting top billing. (You see this crowding in other Kirby comics, particularly his late 1970’s run on The Black Panther, where the incredibly cool title character more or less gets lost amid Kirby’s madcap fecundity.) Obviously I like Kirby a lot, but a more restrained approach here might have given these characters a better chance to find an audience.
the anti-life equation in action
The most charitable interpretation of the DNA Project is that it’s an operation which by necessity must be large-scale but also very hush-hush. So they solve their manpower needs by growing their own. But I would feel a lot better if just one of the characters would give a smidgen of push-back against a secret government eugenics program, even if it is for “progress.”
One of the things here is that we’ve heard mention of the Anti-Life Equation in Forever People #1 and New Gods #1–“the outside control of all living thought!” Here we’re seeing the DNA Project and the Evil Factory actively programming living beings into weird bio-niches by manipulating their genes. It may not be the Anti-Life Equation exactly–we’ll see it in a couple of weeks–but it’s certainly related: if genetics are destiny, anyone who controls your genes is controlling you. And Superman is a huge booster of this technology, even though he’s just been beaten up by the technology literally run amok. Maybe he just needs a few more beatings.
isn’t this a gaming blog?
Random DNA Project Event Table, roll 1d10 once a day
- Bio-ethicist attempting suicide due to discovering true purpose of Project
- Step-Up’s trying to contain an industrial disaster (hydroponic mold hallucinogens in ducts?) by ministering to repair-chakras
- DNAlien awakens confused, goes on rampage; must be subdued without damage. Power = infectious rage-aura.
- Simyan or Mokkari, maybe with lobotomized Slave-Olsens dressed as soldiers, steal miniaturized naked enraged Superman clones
- A lost female Outsider gets past the Mountain of Judgment, threatens to reveal DNA Project to American public. Presence of woman at Project discombobulates all of the Normals.
- Mountain of Judgment docks for refueling. Project’s Step-Up’s inspired to defect; Olsen-Soldiers called to restrain them
- Normal-Tommy series slated for extinction due to redundancy.
- Mini-Scrappers stage military exercise against Mini-Flippers, damage heavy water coolant for nuclear reactor
- Normal-Big Words series develops inferiority complex with Step-Up’s, begin campaign of sabotage
- Emergency evacuation requires getting convoys past the haywire Zoomway
one last thing
Does anyone have experience with the mid-80’s DC Heroes RPG? I tried looking at it, and it seems like it’s based on two look-up tables, but everything is all “RAP this” and “AP that,” and it confuses my brain. How well does it capture the themes at work in a DC comic, specifically the Fourth World stuff, which is all about destiny, free will, warfare, and friendship? I can tell you right now that my beloved Marvel Super Heroes does none of those things, and I can’t imagine the DC game does either based on its vintage. But at least the DC game has already statted up a whole bunch of these characters so I don’t have to.