Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Action Comics #252: Logic Mishaps

Action Comics (1938) #252 Page 9 Panel 5: Lois becomes convinced that Corben is Superman because bullets bounce off his metal frame.
Ugh, Lois. No. Just, no.
As should be abundantly apparent by now, I am finding these classic issues of some of DC's finest creations a bit arduous to get through. Thus, I'm gonna fast-forward a bit, so I can get to some Marvel and Indie mags more quickly.

To generalize (perhaps far too much given the random and slight sampling), one of the key features about these classic issues that is driving me absolutely bonkers is what I'll call the "stumbling plot plugs."

I'll illustrate this malady by focusing on Action Comics #252's story, "The Menace of Metallo!" However, this is not to suggest that Robert Bernstein (writer) & Al Plastino (artist) are particularly egregious purveyors of this problem. These stumbling plot plugs can be found dang near everywhere in these early comics.

Most Amusing Panel Prize:

To make it clear that Lois starts out a bit "icy" towards John Corben (aka Metallo) with his sexist come on ("I go for you, Baby"), her dialogue balloon drips blue. (I love it when Lois tells off the creeps.)

Action Comics (1938) #252 Page 6 Panel 1: Lois gives Corben, the sexist pig, the brush-off.

Plot Plug 1:

My theory is that "plot plugs" come into play when the creators have a cool idea (let's make a human robot powered by Superman's greatest weakness: Kryptonite (and we shall call him Metallo)), and then they concoct a story around that idea.

Unfortunately from there, it seems, the plot is haphazardly stitched together as the panels go along (instead of mapping out plot points in advance), leaving sometimes huge logic gaps in their wake.

Plot plugs are then necessary between panels in an attempt to fill in the logic gaps created (often with little success). The creators have a character summarize in their dialogue what has happened "off-stage" to address these logic problems.

Action Comics (1938) #252 Page 8 Panel 1: News reports that only a "robot made of pure metal" could be responsible for the raids on uranium depots.
For example, when Metallo raids nuclear sites in order to obtain the uranium he needs to stay alive, he is described as a Man of Steel who has the strength of Superman.

So, when the TV news reports on these raids, how do they know that Superman is not, in fact, responsible for these crimes (especially since Metallo is not depicted as being caught in the act/observed committing them)?

Well, "lab tests" prove that no "human" could have committed these crimes. (What tests those could be boggles the mind, and Superman is not "human," so he still could be a suspect.)

But wait, there's more. These tests actually prove that ONLY a "robot" made of "pure metal" could have committed these crimes. Oh. I see...

Plot Plug 2:

Action Comics (1938) #252 Page 11 Panel 6: Corben/Metallo asks Professor Vale, who has apparently recovered from his stroke, what second energy source will keep him (Corben/Metallo) alive.
Later, when Corben/Metallo is thwarted in obtaining the uranium he needs, he returns to Professor Vale's lab. The Professor Vale whom Corben had callously left on the floor to die after an avalanche caused Vale to have a stroke. The Professor Vale who had saved Corben by putting him in the metallic shell to begin with.

Corben: "Good! You've recovered from your stroke!... What was that second substance I can use? You collapsed before you could tell me!"

Did they just change their minds about killing Professor Vale off? Was he always intended to recover from his stroke so he could finally share this vital information with Corben? (And, why would Vale help the man who had left him for dead?)

Plot Plug 3:

Action Comics (1938) #252 Page 13 Panel 1: Lois discovers her Superman is really Metallo in disguise because he accidentally rips his costume on Lois' doorknob.
Towards the end of the story, the creators clearly need Lois to discover that Metallo is faking being Superman, but because they are running out of panel room (?), they have Metallo's Superman costume rip on Lois' doorknob (?) revealing his metallic body to her.

The sudden contrivance is amusing, but holy heck, a doorknob?

Final Notions:

Essentially, the "plot plug" is just a modern spin-off of deus ex machina (which can be found throughout classic literature). Nonetheless, it bugs me.

Which parts of the story should be depicted in the art panels and how much should be conveyed by words (in dialogue/thought balloons and narrative boxes)? I hadn't realized how sophisticated and important these story-telling choices can be.

I find I have little enjoyment of comics that do not incorporate the elements of good story-telling (pacing, characterization, logical structure) to convey their creators' very cool ideas, but I am beginning to appreciate just how hard a task it is to craft a good comic.



The Comics Read But Left Behind:

World's Finest (1941) #71 Cover
Series: World’s Finest Comics (1941)

Issue #: 071

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: July-August 1954

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count:  28 pages

Print Release: 26-May-1954

Digital Release: 18-February-2016

Writer:
DC Comics Logo
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
Batman – Double for Superman!”

Writer:
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Story Title:
Green Arrow: “The Invisible Death”

Writer:
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Story Title:
Tomahawk: “Feathered Fighters for Freedom!”



Showcase (1956) #4 Cover
Series: Showcase (1956)

Issue #: 004

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: October 1956

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count:  24 pages

Print Release: 22-August-1956

Digital Release: 13-August-2011


Writers:
DC Comics Logo
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
comiXology / Comic Vine / Wikipedia
Story Titles:
“Mystery of the Human Thunderbolt!”; "The Man Who Broke the Time Barrier!”



Adventure Comics (1938) #247 Cover
Series: Adventure Comics (1938)

Issue #: 247

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: April 1958

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count:  25 pages

Print Release: 19-February-1958

Digital Release: 24-March-2012


Writer:
DC Comics Logo
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
Superboy: “The Legion of Super-Heroes”

Writer:
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Story Title:
Green Arrow: “The 13 Superstition Arrows”

Writer:
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Story Title:
Aquaman: “Aquaman’s Super Sea-Squad”



The Comic Covered Here:

Action Comics (1938) #252 Cover
Series: Action Comics (1938)

Issue #: 252

Copyright: DC Comics

Cover Date: May 1959

Cover Price: 10¢

Page Count:  28 pages

Print Release: 18-March-1959

Digital Release: 30-July-2011

Writer:
DC Comics Logo
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Cover Art:
Source Links:
Story Title:
Superman: “The Menace of Metallo!”

Writer:
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Story Title:
Congo Bill Dies at Dawn!”

Writer:
Penciler:
Inker:
Colorist:
None Listed
Story Title:
“The Supergirl from Krypton!”




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