Superman for the Animals #1 (2000)
Writer – Mark Millar
Penciller – Tom Grummett
Inker – Dick Giordano
Letterer – John Costanza
Colorist – Glenn Whitmore
Separator – Digital Chameleon
Editor – Paul Kupperberg
Creative Consultant – Richard DeAngelis
Alrighty, gather ’round… we’re about to learn us a thing or two about how we ought to treat animals. That’s right… it’s time for another PSA!
The issue opens with a few unfortunate folks penning letters to Superman… these missives are all quite serious, missing children, disabled veteran, war zones… but on this night, Superman is moved more by a letter by a 12 year old boy named Tommy Delaney. Lois tries to drag her hubby to bed, but he informs her that it’s a “work night”… and continues to read.
Tommy Delaney’s father had his job transfer him to the generic suburb of Springdale, meaning that Tommy would have to change schools. Well, nobody likes that… and young Tommy is no exception. On his first day of class he’s paired up with a “tough” kid who looks like he shops at the Army surplus called Ballser.
He almost immediately falls in with Ballser’s boys, including such luminaries as Charlie, “Donuts”, and “Eightball”. I know I’m impressed! Anyhoo, as they leave the school, Ballser complains about their teacher’s pet squirrel (he’s nursing it back to health), and to punctuate his point… he chases some birds! The first lesson of this PSA: don’t be a bird around Ballser.
We jump ahead to the geeks hanging out at the Delaney house playing video games. Ballser grows bored, and decides to shake things up by introducing a contest to see who can hold their breath the longest… and the contestants will be, Tommy… and Tommy’s goldfish. This kid is twisted!
We advance a bit further to the geeks hanging out by the nearby junkyard. Ballser has “borrowed” his father’s rifle… so, yeah… this is about to escalate pretty quickly. Anyhoo, Ballser hands the piece over to Donuts so he can get revenge on the yard’s guard dog. The geeks hide in the nearby brush to get in position for their shot… and, get this… they actually shoot the damn dog! Jeez. They then run… because they’re stupid, cowardly kids.
Later that afternoon, Jeb the junk man returns home. He lives right next door to the Delaneys… and we now learn that the bullet destroyed his poor dog’s leg, and it had to be amputated! We also learn that there has been a rash of animal attacks in the neighborhood of late. I wonder who might be behind them!
Tommy considers turning Ballser (and himself) in, but chickens out. We shift a bit later on, where Ballser coaxes a cat into a cardboard box. The other geeks wonder what he’s going to do with it… even suggesting they drown it. What is wrong with these kids? Ballser says he’s got a better idea, and leads the losers to an expressway overpass. He bellies up to the guardrail, and… tosses the cat into rush hour traffic!
Only, the cat never lands. Ya see, Superman just happened to be in town. He catches the cat, and without saying a word, leaves with it. Ballser calls him a “Boy Scout”. Yeah, real original, pal.
It turns out that Superman was in town due to there being a fire at a nearby chemical plant. Superman saves the day, and in particular, saves Tommy’s father at the plant.
Some time later, at the school… Tommy heads into class, only to find the geeks stopping up the sink to flood the classroom. Upon closer inspection, we see the teacher’s rescued squirrel is being drowned in the deluge!
The teacher arrives, causing the kids to flee… which, next to abusing animals, is what they do best. He pulls the squirrel cage out of the wash, however, it’s too late.
We rejoin the kids at Ballser’s house, where he is having a grand old time. He really showed that squirrel, didn’t he? By this point, Tommy has decided that he’s had quite enough of Baller’s crap. A slap-fight ensues, during which Ballser throws a suitcase at Tommy… which opens, revealing dozens of pet collars! Looks like we just found out who was behind the local animal cruelty… as if there was ever any doubt.
Tommy, Donuts, Charlie, and… the other one… (duh, Eightball) all decide it’s time to turn their young lives around. The first step is coming clean about all of their bad behavior… followed by some self-imposed penance volunteering at the animal shelter. Everything’s looking up for the geeks, they’ve even made new friends (including g-g-g-girls!).
The issue wraps up with Tommy putting the finishing touches on his letter to Superman. To show how much he’s changed, he’s shown with a cat on his lap. Some time later, Superman meets with Tommy to say that’s he’s proud of him. He’s not buyin’ it… and I ain’t either.
Okay, let’s start at the beginning. I think many comic fans know that Mark Millar can “go into business for himself” when writing a story. In the opening page we see letters written by victims of some pretty hardcore circumstances. I mean, missing children… frickin’ warzones… crazy stuff. And yet… Superman decides to give his full attention to a letter about a neighborhood nogoodnik with a penchant for mistreating pets. I gotta wonder if that was some “biting” commentary by Millar illustrating that, in the grand scheme of things, there are things in this world far worse than a pre-teen sociopath collecting collars.
I figure it’s a big world, and there’s enough room to worry about all sorts of things, but maybe Millar would rather not be hamstrung writing an animal cruelty PSA. I’m almost certainly projecting here… but, dude’s got a track record of not playing the ball where it lay. Or doing so, with an eyebrow raised.
Now for the actual story… I feel it’s a bit misguided. Sure, Ballser did some terrible things to animals… however, if we were to look at this clinically, it’s somewhat unlikely that harming animals was his “goal”. Harming animals, or exerting dominance over powerless critters is usually a sign of potentially severe underlying issues, including antisocial personality disorder, psychopathy, sociopathy… what I’m saying here is this is more a mental health pamphlet (or perhaps a peer pressure pamphlet) than a “Hey, be cool to animals” one.
I suppose, like other Public Service Announcement type books we’ve discussed here… it could have been far worse. I gotta say, I was quite pleasantly surprised to see Tom Grummett’s name in the credits. I wouldn’t have guessed they’d use an A-Lister for a giveaway like this… but, I’m glad they did. I just adore that page of Superman surrounded by letters… it feels “real”, making this PSA also feel “real”, rather than just occurring in a vacuum… somewhere, at sometime.
Overall… I’d say this is worth checking out. It’s a bit over the top in places, and Superman is hardly the “star”, but there’s novelty value to be had here, as well as great art.