With Further Ado # 292: The Prescience of Otto Binder

I dropped by a comic shop in Elmira, NY with a clever name: Heroes Your Mom Threw Out. It’s run by a passionate retailer named Jared Aiosa. You might remember I talked about a signing event he hosted last year with Ed Brisson. This shop is packed full of treasures, and it’s just the type of place that Burgess Meredith would love to get locked into if the world ended (provided he doesn’t break his glasses).

Jared had just acquired some beat-up Silver Age comics, and they caught my eye as they hadn’t been filed yet. Jared sold them to me at bargain prices, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. They were more for reading rather than collecting.

But Superman #188 (July 1966) was a shocker. Wrapped in a glorious Curt Swan/George Klein cover is a story by Otto Binder that’s illustrated by Al Plastino (not my favorite Superman artist) that could have been written last week. It’s all about AI, fake news and the anxiety of elections!

“The School for Super-Assassins” focuses on the faraway world of Zarria, which is the headquarters of Galaxy Crimeteers. They run a school dedicated to teaching their students how to kill Superman. And they’ve created a Superman android to practice on.

They’ve programmed all the known facts about Superman into this robot, so it’s essentially an AI with which they can run simulations. Surprisingly, they succeed in killing him! He gets better of course, as the AI is so Superman-like that it sacrifices itself so that Superman is resurrected.

What a great comic to read during the Easter season, right?

Binder stirs some great ideas into the mix as the bad guy, Zunial, works to destroy all the books of Zarria (and thereby “control the narrative”) and even runs for office in an election for Ruler of the World!

There’s a lot for young 1960s minds to grapple with here. Thankfully two beautiful ads for (1) Cheerios (starring Rocky and Bullwinkle) and (2) the 2nd Batman 80 Page Giant (including the Rainbow Batman story) offered readers the assurance of brighter days ahead.

Surprisingly, Stan Lee gets a bashing in this issue. In the Metropolis Mailbag letters page, a young Hazel Stover of Los Angeles, California writes in with a letter that’s a bit of a kiss-up to DC, at the expense of the Marvelous competition.

Ouch! Seems like young Hazel was prescient with her Stan-bashing too!