With Further Ado #264: Look. Up in the Sky. It’s Off-Model!

We went to the Great New York State Fair this weekend and enjoyed every minute of it. It was kind of like San Diego Comic Con without all the superheroes. Check that – there were plenty of superheroes there.

So many T-shirts, inflatables and toys all adorned with Batman, The Avengers, Captain America and Spider-Man characters and/or logos. Many licensed products were on sale and many unlicensed products were too.

The New York State Fair, like many state fairs, I suppose, had buildings with 4-H club raised animals, homemade jams, jellies and baked goods and more -all competing for Blue Ribbons. But make no mistake, the Midway is where the action is. And on this midway, the most impressive, scariest ride was the Superman ride.

It was more like an overwhelming torture robot that Lex Luthor would have invented.* This ride would propel attendees into the stratosphere, and then whip them around a few times and spin them upside down.

I skewered my courage up and went on of a few these rides with my daughter Tess, but for this one …I just shook my head. I sheepishly muttered, “No way” and added “You are on your own for this one, Tess.” I felt like the Last Son of Krypton would have been disappointed by my lack of courage.

This ride was adorned with classic Superman colors: bright blues, reds and yellows and a bunch of Superman S-shields. Cleverly, the operator’s booth was decked out as a phone booth – complete with a Clark-turning-into Superman illustration. (This graphic looked kind of like it was created by Jose Louis Garcia-Lopez, or maybe even Chris Samnee channeling JLGL).

But curiously, there was an inconsistency to the Superman figures displayed on the ride. This ride showed a classic Superman, a new 52 Superman (ugh…not my favorite) and even a Joe Schuster-esque vintage Superman. I think of all the 90,000 attendees at the Fair that day, I was the only one who cared about this. I half-heartedly tried to explain it to my wife and daughter, with whom I attended this Fair. There was so much “looking up in the sky” going on with this ride that inconsistent graphic details didn’t seem to matter.

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I also stumbled across another off-brand Superman as I was rescuing back issues from Fat Cat Comics’ bargain box in Binghamton. This was in issue #10 of The Rook, published by Warren in 1981.

One of the four stories included in this black-and-white magazine was an ongoing series called Joe Guy. And in this particular story, Joe Guy meets his father in a story called “Dad”. I should have known right away that something was up – as the font style for this story’s title looked just like that classic 3-D esque Superman logo.

This installment was written by Jim Stenstrum and illustrated by Abel Laxamana; two creators unfamiliar to me but – based on this story- I’m an instant fan of each.

And then it just gets better and better…or weirder and weirder. The story reveals that Superman has been holed up in his Fortress of Solitude for years and years, delegating his Superman Robots to deal with all the catastrophes and crimes going on in the world.

At one point, this Superman even explains that he asked The Justice League (there’s no coyness in the story by now, that’s what he calls them) to cover for him, but they declined.

The whole affair was nutty and wonderful – and read like a lost issue of Liefeld and Moore’s Supreme. Or even an Alan Moore story deconstructing the Superman legend in his “last” Silver Age appearance.

In fact, the story ended, like Alan Moore’s classic “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” with Superman taking on a more ordinary identity. And Superman was all but winking to the reader from the final panel.

How did they get away with it back then? So fun – but so off-model.


* Are you reading Mark Waid’s new Superman series? It’s fantastic!