Last night I capped off this “super” week by finishing the Saga of the Super Sons trade paperback, a guilty pleasure of mine which came in the form of an X-mas gift. (Thanks, Sari’s mom & dad!) I actually own most of the original World’s Finest comics in which the Super Sons appeared (starting in 1973 and running sporadically until ’76), but it’s great to have them all collected in one volume.
As a kid, I loved Superman Jr. and Batman Jr. (“sons” of Superman and Batman, duh!), the titular heroes of the stories. Written by Bob Haney (with the best stories drawn by Dick Dillin), the Super Sons were obviously a misguided attempt to bring “relevance” (a big 70s term) to the Superman/Batman universe — without getting as hard-core or political as the now-classic Denny O’Neil/Neal Adams Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics. The Super Sons were a perfect fit for my tastes at the time, as they combined super-powered adventures with a “hip,” boho-lite milieu similar to my own pre-adolescent life.
Even though the Super Sons exist completely outside normal continuity, DC refused to declare that their adventures were “imaginary stories”; a distinction I’ve always found hilarious — as opposed to the “real” adventures of the superhero in question?! In fact, Haney/Dillin always make a point of obscuring the sons’ mothers’ identities, which led to a number of stories where the kids get in arguments with their parents, with the moms’ faces always turned from the viewer or engulfed in shadow!
The stories usually involve the junior heroes riding around out West, Easy Rider-style, on a souped-up chopper or dune buggy, defying their parents’ wishes that they just settle down to “normal” lives. The tales tend to follow a predictable pattern: the boys get in a “generation-gap” argument with their dad and storm off together. They fall into some misadventure, jump to a number of conclusions, make some dumb mistakes, and are eventually bailed out of trouble by their stronger, wiser fathers. (In fact, they make a big point that Superman Jr.’s powers are only half those of his dad’s, seeing as how he has a mortal mother.) It’s abundantly clear what the editorial tone of these stories are: give kids room to rebel — a little — but make sure they know who’s boss in the end.
In my favorite story of the collection, “The Shocking Switch of the Super-Sons,” Bruce Jr. and Clark Jr. swap dads for a time, and then all four visit an encounter camp to “discover” themselves! The dialogue throughout all the stories is a hilarious pastiche of hipster/black dialect: Clark Jr. and Bruce Jr. never go more than a panel without proclaiming something “crazy” or “far out,” or calling each other “baby,” not to mention any nearby females “chicks” or “dolls.” It’s classic stuff.
The collection sort of comes out of left-field; I wonder what compelled DC to release it now? I can’t imagine that there’s a huge audience for the book, outside of folks like myself with an ironic sense of nostalgia. The book is nicely produced, with a beautiful Nick Cardy cover (was he one of the all-time great cover artists, or what?!), and the addition of a couple of oddball Super Sons stories from the 80s & 90s (including one written by Bob Haney shortly before his death), as well as a cover gallery. But the one thing the book really needs is a foreword or introduction. The stories are just too weird to escape comment!