Thursday, August 2, 2007

The 10 Worst Moments in Superman History, a series

"Let's see, I've been given freedom to tell my kind of stories with Superman, ones that will really connect with the modern reader and put Superman back on top! What can I do?

Oh! I've got it! I'll put him in porn!"

Action Comics #593

This issue's been covered and mocked and stood in awe of a million times on the internet, so I'll keep this short. A villain from Apokolips kidnaps Barda, superhero and wife of fellow superhero Mr Miracle. He hypnotizes her and starts filming her doing porn. Yeah. Same villain grabs Superman and does the same because he thinks, "I'm making a fortune with one superhero, but what if I had two!"

Seriously, what the hell were you thinking Byrne? And who the hell approved this? On what the hell planet is this an acceptable story for children?

Want to see Byrne's lame ass defense of the story?

In the ACTION COMICS two-part storyline involving Big Barda, Miracle Man and a character called Sleez, it appears that Sleez was trying to film a pornographic film involving Superman and Big Barda. Is that right? Did Superman and Barda actually make the porno?

JB: If you want it to be a porno flick, it was a porno flick. If you don't, it wasn't! (8/31/2005)

Superman snapped out of the hypnosis before actually sleeping with Barda due to his strong moral fiber. Barda didn't though, because apparently deep down she wants to cheat on her husband on camera.

Jack Kirby hated this story, by the way. (And by all accounts generally thought Byrne was a douchebag all around.) He felt it was an inappropriate use of his characters and Superman. Fun fact: Kirby modeled aspects of Barda's personality on his wife. Barda. The character Byrne put in porn. And Byrne claims to not understand why Kirby didn't like the story.

Edit to add: You really should read the comments on this one, Russell knocks it out of the park.


James Figueiredo said...

Y'know, I loved it when I first read it, maaaaaaany years ago.

Today, I can't stand the thought that Barda, fierce warrior from Apokolips, leader of the Female Furies, all-round kick-ass rebel, could not resist Sleez hypnosis because, apparently, she doesn't have enough "moral fiber".

WTF?? It unloads a bucketful or judgemental crap over Barda, and women in general, and it's abominable.

I still ADORE the art though - The two page spread of Suicide Slum is absolutely brilliant!


Mr. Farrell said...

I heard Barda was based on- wait for it- Lainie Kazan.

Russell H said...

A Letter To John Byrne.

"If you want it to be a porno flick, it was a porno flick. If you don't, it wasn't!"

OK then John. I DON'T want it to be a porno. Explain to me what it was - starting with what Barda did. Explain the scene where Darkseid turns up with a copy of the tape, because he feels that it is something Scott Free should see, action that Darkseid takes out of concern rather than out of malice. Explain Scott's reaction when he is watching it. Then move on to the Superman/Barda set-up. Explain the scene with Superman and Barda on the bed with Barda on her underwear.

The movies are being made in a slum by kidnapped and hypnotised people, and sold through (if I recall the story correctly) somewhat unsavoury establishments. They contain something which makes Darkseid (That's DARKSEID) feel that he should show it to Scott Free. Something that provokes a reaction of angry revulsion in both him and his friend Oberon. Something that requires at least one scene of Superman and Barda on a bed with her in her underwear.

Given all of that to base my decision on, I've concluded that it wasn't some kind of low-budget indie movie... and John, you said that if I don't want it to be a porno flick, then it wasn't.

Unfortunately, with all of the evidence at hand in the story, if it isn't a porno then it must be something far worse. Something utterly repellant and far more damaging.

Although obviously not as bad as a fan of the character referring to him by a shortened version of the character's name. That would be REALLY damaging and disrespectful.

Mr. Farrell said...

I love you, Russell.

So, this tape Darkseid had...

They have VHS players on Apokolips? And... How did this come to Darkseid's attention? Was DeSaad all "Say, Master of all things dark and foul, lord of our wretched lives... I got this pirate videocassette in the mail and- HEY!- doesn't that look your daughter-in-law?"

Matt said...

Why do people keep telling me I should read Byrne's Superman?

Ami Angelwings said...

Why is it so often the guy who can resist this kind of sexual mind control but not the women? :\

Shouldn't almost all of the heroes have strong moral fibre?

Russell H said...

Thanks Jesse. You're cute too.

Right. I've re-read the issues, just so I can comment further(yes, I own them) - there are a couple of things I forgot about.

In part one, the moment when Sleez has Barda dancing for him in his lair, you have the following exchange:

Sleez: Nothing can stand against me! NOTHING!

A grinning Sleez squeezes Barda's face into a pout.

Barda: ...please...
Barda: ...not again...

This would indecate that not only has Sleez been forcing Barda into doing stuff for him on camera, but maybe (Just maybe) doing stuff to him too.

The start of part two, the Darkseid scene? Not only is he sat on Mr Miracle's armchair, but he has a large glass of what appears to be brandy. Darkseid is classy.

Darkseid: My agents acquired this televisual feast from a small shop in Metropolis. A ship which specializes in such fare.

Specializes? Once again, I put the question to Mr Byrne - If it's not porno, then what is it?

The mind control that Superman resisted? Mr Miracle resists it too.

Mr Miracle: Granny trained all us cadets to resist any mind control less powerful than Darkseid's own!

All the cadets? Really?

Wouldn't that list have included one of Granny's own elite squadron, the Female Furies? A group that once included BIG BARDA? Guess not.

James Figueiredo said...

Keep in mind, also, Russell, that Barda not only was a part of the Female Furies, but she LED them. Also, she had she had enough strenght of character to rebel against Darkseid to be with Scott, so you'd think she'd have enough "moral fiber" to resist a has-been like Sleez.

Mart said...

Great points from Russell (he said, three years later), but I don't get:

Although obviously not as bad as a fan of the character referring to him by a shortened version of the character's name. That would be REALLY damaging and disrespectful.

Rob S. said...

Mart, that's a reference to Byrne's extreme dislike of people calling Superman or Batman "Supes" or "Bats."

Mart said...

Thanks Rob. I'm old enough to be a Supes guy!

Dean said...

Here is the thing.

Let's say that your John Byrne and you have an idea about a bad guy that uses mind-control to recruit people to make porn. This is not a terrible idea by itself. It is certainly a more creative and memorable crime than setting up yet another bank robbery.

Let's say that you have this idea while you are working on SUPERMAN. Is it a potential story for him? If I were the editor, then I'd say "sure". It is certainly not wildly different than using robots to rob banks or atom bombs in a land scam. It is in keeping with the world that Supes lives in.

Once you add the wrinkle of having Superman himself fall under the pornographer's power, you are in dicey territory. At that stage of his career, he is still a single man.

So, you have three basic choices:
1. Provide Supes with an in-story reason to break the mind-control. Have him stop at the last moment and show how strong his mind is.
2. Pair Supes with a female character who has a reason to break the mind control. Have her break the mind control and show that even under an outside influence, Supes isn't a rapist.
3. Pair Supes with a female character that is perfectly happy to have sex with him. Let them start to make the porno before being rescued and try to make a joke out of their mutual embarrassment.

What Byrne did instead was pair Superman with a female character that had cause to resist the mind control, but prove too weak minded. Provide Superman with no reason to resist, but overcome it anyway.

Terrible story.

Damian said...

This is a fantastic story, Superman's John Byrne was probably the best period of the character.
After all the changes on DC, comic books were not just for children, c'mon...

Duy said...

Anyone who defends this story by saying "comic books are not just for children" and not realize we're talking about SUPERMAN is part of the reason why children no longer read comic books in the masses that they used to - because people like you drove them away and keep them away, just to see things like Superman making a porno.

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