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Today, we’re going to look back on a pair of my favorite classic cover redos (all props to original artists Curt Swan and Steve Ditko, natch), each with just enough commentary included to hopefully elicit a chuckle or two. Take a gander, and read on…

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Just take a look at that cover! Look at it! Are they kidding?

No, they weren’t — and that’s just what makes it so unintentionally hilarious! I’d only been buying super-hero comics for a few short months when I picked up this specimen, but even as a relatively uniformed eight year old reader, I had to pause and wonder — didn’t big, brave Justice Leaguers have more important ways to spend their time than locking lips with the Man of Steel’s erstwhile lady friend?

Not if they wanted to save the big fella’s life, as things turned out! The editor masterminding the Superman family of titles at the time — Mort Weisinger — built an entire mythos around his central star, and then packed a half-dozen different titles each month with stories seemingly more concerned with characters acting in a highly suspect manner rather than performing heroic super-feats, motivating curious readers to plunk down their dimes (this being one of the very last ten-cent comics) in hopes of learning a hopefully reasonable explanation for such outre behavior.

Like, say, the Daily Planet’s star female reporter planting her luscious lips on every Tom, Dick, and Green Arrow that wandered along!

Let me attempt to briefly boil down editor Weisinger’s overly convoluted plot for you: Lois, y’see, apparently carries a special lipstick with her at all times, one which contains a trace of a specific strain of Red Kryptonite (Red Kryptonite being a Weisinger creation whose radiation allows the big guy to be affected in various unpredictable — and story-generating — ways, albeit only a single time each for each variety). In this case, the Red K in Lois’s possession is a type that will counteract the deadly effects of the traditional Green Kryptonite poisoning all native Kryptonians are prone to.

Like, well, YOU know who…

So one fine day, spotting Krypto the Super-Dog using smoke to write a large “L” in the sky overhead, the sharp-witted girl reporter realizes that the time has come to put the top-secret Plan “L” into motion. Letting no one in on what’s transpiring — including the hapless reader, and especially not Superman’s Smallville era sweetie, Lana Lang, conveniently on scene throughout in her capacity as a television correspondent — mainly because Lois fears that the baddies have her under observation, she concocts elaborate situations that allow her to get up close and personal with several manly costumed crime fighters. As she smooches passionately with them, the glamorous Ms. Lane whispers what we’re led to believe are sweet nothings in their ears (or in Batman’s case, cowl), but is in reality, the plan.

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Each happy fella wipes Lois’ sloppy kiss off onto one particular hanky, and when they’ve accumulated enough of her special smears, Batman — last in line — delivers it to a prone Metropolis Marvel, lying stricken near the Arctic location of his vaunted Fortress of Solitude (did I mention that Plan “L” goes into operation when ol’ Supes finds himself devastated by Green K in the nearby environs of his home away from home? Talk about specific planning! Hey, how else do you think Batman knew where to deliver the goods? He ain’t THAT good a detective!…).

The heroic hanky quickly revives Superman. Back at full strength, the big red S chases off his alien captors by threatening to destroy them, a move which is glaringly out of character for this character even in an era in which characterization barely registered! But hey, we were almost at the end of this nine page story — yes, all this and a whole lot more took place in a mere nine pages — and things needed wrapping up, pronto. Hence — and I’m paraphrasing here — ” Geddoutta here, youse spacemen, or I’ll kill ya all!!”

And all the while, poor Lana Lang, witness to each lusty encounter, but privy to absolutely NONE of this Super-subterfuge, has to be thinking to herself time and time again:

“Omigosh, did she just slip him the TONGUE?!?…”

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When my eyes first glommed onto this cover, I’m not sure which stunned me more: Steve Ditko’s innovative design, or the blurb announcing Peter Parker’s graduation from high school!

I mean, back in those days (1965), characters each had a specific milieu they existed in, and that’s pretty much where they’d stay. Clark Kent was a reporter for the Daily Planet. Hal Jordan was a test pilot. Casper was dead and seemed to have a really, really good attitude about it. And Peter Parker was Midtown High’s nerdy science whiz.

Only, suddenly he wasn’t. Not anymore.

Suddenly, he was making the transition to college student, and the way things were presented at the end of this issue, with the inherent gravity of the situation clearly on display, you just knew it wasn’t going to merely be a cosmetic change.

College and high school: there are tremendous differences between the two institutions, a fact I was later to find out first hand. This story, and the ones that directly followed, provided me with a much needed oasis a half-dozen years on, as I myself entered the hallowed halls of higher learning. Now, please understand, I’d grown up comfortably associating with pretty much the same group of friends right on up through and including my 18th summer. But come that September of 1971, a new world beckoned as we all went our separate ways.

Left living at home as each of my buddies took off for various points all across the globe (okay, okay — mostly across New York state — but, c’mon, it’s BIG state!!), I found myself burdened with a 60-mile round-trip commute. All to attend the art program at the State University of New York at Farmingdale, and lemme tell ya, those first few months were a lonely go. Thrown into a totally foreign environment, I desperately needed something familiar to cling to during what little free time I could squeeze into my tremendously busy days. So, I chose to reread what are, in my opinion, the very best super-hero comics ever published, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s legendary near forty issue run that launched the Amazing Spider-Man series.

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Happily, they proved to be the perfect respite from the newfound pressures of college, and when I finally reached the sequence that kicked off with this issues conclusion, I found Peter Parker’s subsequent adventures at Empire University to have taken on an entirely new — and not unsurprisingly — relevant resonance to my own then-current situation. The good news was, although it proved, as a commuter, to be a tad bit more difficult to make friends, by late October, I had found a steadfast pair of pals every bit as reliable as my one-time cadre of Longwood High compadres, and, brother, after THAT, the sailing was far, far smoother!!

I put down my Spideys shortly thereafter — only got a little ways into the John Romita illoed issues — and fully threw myself into life after high school. But those precious books had more than served their purpose. Y’see, for a short period there, when I literally didn’t have a friend in the world (or at least one who wasn’t, oh, 500 or so miles away) I DID have my Spider-Man comics. Goofy as that may sound to some, believe me when I tell you that they sustained me during a dark and unsettling period.

And when I eventually got to the part where the hero goes off to college, well gee, his confusion somehow empathically echoed a lot of what I myself was feeling! Is it any wonder then that I have such a warm spot in my heart for the earliest escapades of Marvel’s amazing arachnid ? After all, my Green Lantern comics sure weren’t any help — sorry Hal, but I WASN’T majoring in test pilot, dig?…

Hembeck.com — aka The College of Comix Knowledge — tuition free since 2002! Stop by for a lecture or two!

-Copyright 2006 Fred Hembeck

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