Sep 18, 2016

The 40 Years of Comics Project - Day 571: My Greatest Adventure #84, December 1963

Is five issues enough for a superhero team to have a "deadliest enemy?" It seems to me that every threat the Doom Patrol have faced thus far has been pretty deadly, and I can't quite see how General Immortus is any worse than the rest. But this is a lovely example of the hyperbolic language used in early second wave superhero comics to entice readers. Everything, always, is the most serious, deadliest, world-shaking, universe-shattering event to take place in the brief history of our heroes. And not just with the Doom Patrol, but with the vast majority of superheroes. Even the regular occurrence of Lois Lane almost figuring out Superman's secret identity has consequences that would, undoubtedly, be disastrous for all humankind.

The hyperbole involved in this cover matter likely stems from the fact that these comics were sold primarily on news stands, and thus had to entice readers with promises of more excitement than their minds and hearts could handle. Rather than having the dedicated stores and the customer base that comes with them, comics had to have a headline, much like the newspapers of the time, to draw readers in. We often talk about the origins of the form in newspapers and magazines, and I think that the headline is a part of that origin that, over the years, has become an ironic tool for comic covers, rather than a serious part of their marketing strategy.

But there's something kind of lovely to the high-energy, constant danger that the characters face, or are portrayed as facing, every week. As I always say, superheroes verge on the boundaries of the mythic, and the mythic is a realm of fiction that is constantly in that high-octane state, be it during battle or during conversation - everything is hyper-real and hyper-important.


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