Monday, January 29, 2007

We Welcome Our New Corporate Overlords (Action Comics #6: Cover Date, November 1938)


Main Heroes: Superman, Lois Lane

Main Villains: Nick Williams


A man claiming to be Superman's "agent" walks into the newspaper office. He shows Clark and his editor a radio ad for "Supeman's" breakfast cereal, a blimp pulling ad ad for Superman gasoline, and a billboard for Superman's automobile. Clark is dubious, and asks for proof. Proof is to provided that evening, when the real Superman will do feats of strength at the agents office.

Lois hears of the demonstration, and tricks Clark in order to get the story for herself. She invites him on a date (where a lounge singer sings a Superman song!) and then slips him a mickey. Clark pretends to pass out, and Lois sneaks away to do the exclusive interview.

The "real Superman", however, is only an actor, and the feats of strength involve "flying" in from the outside ledge, and lifting a desk made out of cardboard. Lois is not fooled for a second. So, Superman and his agent throw Lois out the window . . . where she is rescued by the REAL real Superman, who proceeds to arrest the con artists/ murderers.


Clark Kent is stunned to look out the newspaper office's window and see all the Superman parephernalia for sale (didn't he see the billboard on his way in to work that morning!) While the text is that the problem is corporate sponsorship without permission, the sub-text is clearly that this sort of corporate shilling is a bad thing. (Otherwise, why didn't the real Superman go out and do it himself?) The images are supposed to represent over-the-top marketing saturation.

But for those of us who grew up with "The Underwear That's Fun To Wear!" -- well, we're not that impressed. It struck me as I was thinking about commercialism how completely un-shocking it was that there was a time when everyone could purchase super-hero underwear. What would Clark Kent think about 5 years olds running around in 50% polyester red and yellow underpants?

I can't imagine that he would be pleased. And yet . . . I can't really get worked up about it. Maybe I have truly submitted to my corporate overlords.

Random Thought #1: Note for the comparison shopper, though. Superman was 50% cotton, but Supergirl was 100% polyester. Who knew?

Random Thought #2: Why are the pictures of the Underoos inside of thought bubbles?

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