World’s Finest Comics #215 (1973)



World’s Finest Comics #215 (December-January, 1972/73)
“Saga of the Super Sons!”
Story – Bob Haney
Art – Dick Dillin & Henry Scarpelli
Cover Price: $0.20


Trying to wash the taste of post-Twin Peaks disappointment out of my mouth.  Paging Doctor Haney…






We open with one of those Silver-Age splashes showing us what’s to come.  In it, Superman and Batman stand before the open caskets of… Superman, Jr. and Batman, Jr.!  We enter the actual story with Mr. and Mrs. Superman wondering what their son is up to… they haven’t heard from him in quite some time.  They make a call and find that he’s working at what looks like a community center.  A place where folks can get jobs, and get off drugs.  Clark, Sr. gets on his case about not knowing what he’s going to do with his life… and, I dunno… it looks to me like he’s working and trying to make a difference.  Anyhoo, their conversation devolves into an argument about Ma and Pa Superman not wanting their boy to follow in his father’s footsteps.



The call is interrupted by… a motorcycle gang driving through the plate-glass window of the community center.  Meet Satan’s Shockers!  Not sure why they’re here… they just look like they wanna hassle our boy.  After being grabbed by the collar, Clark, Jr. has enough and starts beating the hell out of the baddies.  Clark, Sr. is still on the line… and can hear the whole thing go down.



Moments later, Superman arrives on the scene… not to lend a hand though, he’s just there to lecture Clark, Jr. about fighting… and possibly showing these geeks that he’s “a Superman”.  Clark, Jr. doesn’t wanna hear it… and so, he runs away… er, right through a brick wall!



We shift scenes to the Wayne’s penthouse in Gotham City where Alfred wakes Bruce, Jr. for lunch.  He robes up, and heads to the terrace… and his parents start reading him the riot act.  See where this is going?  They’re annoyed that he’s out gallivanting all night acting like a playboy… just like his father (pretended to).  Alfred turns on the midday news… and we see that Batman had himself a busy night.



Bruce, Sr. is shocked… because, he didn’t do any Batmanning last night!  Turns out Bruce, Jr. is donning the cape and cowl.  Alfred confirms… by snitching, when he reveals that he found a Batman costume in Bruce, Jr.’s things.  It’s doubly-bad because it turns out Young Bruce didn’t dot his I’s or cross his T’s… his bust the night before might result in a whopper of a lawsuit for Gotham.  The Waynes’ argue a bit… until Bruce, Jr. jumps off the roof.



A bit later we join the Juniors as they meet up… I wanna say they’re in a nightclub.  They excuse themselves to “the cobbles” so they can “rap”.  They both love and respect their fathers… but want to blaze their own trails.  It’s that damn generation gap maaaaan… keeps clobberin’ ’em.



Turns out, this conversation is overheard by their Super Dads via a bug Papa Bat placed on his son.  Wow, Bruce-the-Second really isn’t a very good detective!  The Powerful Pops try to figure out a way they can test their sons… to see if they’re up to the task of superheroing.  Batman suggests they set them loose in Sparta City (which seems like a DC analogue to San Francisco, that only appears in this one story)… Rocco Krugge is running the rackets in Sparta City, and he’s losing his grip on the organization.  He should be easy enough for the Super-Teens to topple.



Superman thinks that’s a wonderful idea… but he’ll do Batman one better by… ooooh boy, creating a second Sparta City for the boys to do their thing in, just in case things go sideways.  Now, at this point I figured he was going to build a new city wholesale… and fill it with androids or something.  I’d have an easier time believing that, honestly.  What he actually plans to do is go to Sparta City… dive under water… grip a piece of Earth… and snap it like a damp towel, causing a ripple-effect that vibrates enough to slightly accelerate Sparta City, temporarily creating a duplicate city.  Ya got all that?  I think Bob Haney might be a secret genius… this is all way over my head. 



While all of this is going on, we pop in to visit with mob-boss Rocco Krugge… who is laying in bed, dying.  His son, Rocco, Jr. (hey, another Junior!) stands by… he’s got a fella named Marek in his ear who tells him he needs to take charge of the organization.  We get the impression that Rocco, Jr. would rather the Krugges just have normal lives.



A few days later the younger Bruce and Clark ride their motorbike into Sparta City, and they’re pleased as punch that their Super Dads are finally allowing them to ply their trade.  On the way in, they’re hit in another Superman-enabled road-ribbon… which, we might assume sends them to the second Sparta City.  Still with me?



Okay, so the teen-agers enter Sparta City… and boy oh boy, no sooner do they arrive, than they witness a high-speed gunfight.  The boys suit up… while still on the motorcycle and spring into action.



They catch the creeps, tying them up and leaving them with a signed note… kinda like Spider-Man would do.  We rejoin Rocco… who, hmm… it would appear has made a miraculous recovery!  He orders Marek and Rocco, Jr. to take care of the Super Sons.  Meanwhile, young Bruce and Clark have a pillow-fight.



Later on, we rejoin the boys as they ride their motorcycle.  Suddenly, it starts making some strange noises… and so, Superman, Jr. throws Batman, Jr. into a nearby trash can… after which, the motorbike blows up!  Looks like somebody booby-trapped their ride.  All I can think is… wow, Batman, Jr. is a really bad detective!



It’s here that we learn that Superman, Jr. can’t be killed by an explosion… buuuut, he doesn’t exactly shrug it off like his pop does either.  It still stuns him for a bit… which takes us to our next scene.  The Super Sons receive a call from Krugge, Jr. asking to meet under (not the) Golden Gate bridge… we’ll call it the, uh… Silver Fence Bridge.  Turns out, wouldn’cha know it… it was a trap!



Rocco, Jr. holds young Bats up at gunpoint… and before Superman II can swoop in for the rescue, he gets caught in an explosion.  Whoops!  They’re really not good at this.  Anyhoo, Rocco, Sr. arrives… they take Superman, Jr. to a construction site for a dam… and throw his bombarded bod into it… then bury him in cement.  Wow, that’s some old school thuggery!



Afterward, Rocco leaves blowing the Batboy’s brains out to his son.  It’s kind of a test to see if he’s “hard” enough to help control the family.  Back in Metropolis and Gotham, the Super Dads wonder what their boys might be up to.



Finally, Superman decides to head to the duplicate Sparta City to check… and what he finds is, two dead Super Sons.  Whoops!  The boys are dead… and it’s all his fault!  I wonder how his unnamed wife might take the news.  At least they don’t have to worry about funeral costs… the kindly old (and healthy in this duplicate Burg) mob boss Krugge insists on paying for that.



That night, Mr. Krugge is visited by… g-g-g-ghosts of the Super Sons?!  He’s so freaked out that he drives to the graveyard to make sure they’re actually dead.  Turns out… the whole thing was a ruse, they just took pills to put them into suspended animation.  It’s funny the things we just “accept”, right?  This story is so far-out, that “suspended animation pills” come across as both quaint and believable.



Then the rest of the beans are spilled… Batman, Jr. called the dam engineers to free his Super Pal… on account of Rocco, Jr. deciding not to shoot him!  Heyyy, Rocco, Jr.’s been a good guy all along!  Then, Superman, Jr. kicks a box full of evidence over like a Rockette.



Knowing he’s toast, Rocco, Sr. attempts to flee… but trips over his dead wife’s headstone… which sets off his gun, killing him.  Whoops.  Rocco, Jr.’s all “ehh, no biggie”.



The story ends with the Super Sons meeting up with their Super Dads… only, the fathers are in costume… and the boys are in their civvies.  Let’s hope nobody’s around to watch this conversation, right?  Anyhoo… they learn about the duplicate Sparta City dealie.  We also learn that the night before Rocco, Sr. (the real one… in the real Sparta City) was found dead in the graveyard by his dead wife’s headstone.  Batman’s all “How ’bout that?” and the teen-agers gleefully speed off on their… rebuilt (?) motorbike.






Woof.


Okay, I’m of two minds here… first, the story is… hmm.  It’s become almost a cliche online to “have fun with” Bob Haney.  His stories are almost always completely wacky… and his dialogue is often insane.  This issue is no different, and I think I can safely say, this version of the Super Sons isn’t for everyone.  You need to be able to let the “wack” wash over you completely.  If you can’t dig silly stories that don’t take themselves seriously… you’re probably not going to like this.


On the other hand… regardless of the craziness, I still had a ton of fun both reading and writing about this story.  At the end of the day, that’s really all that should matter, right?


Now, that’s not to say I didn’t have a few problems with it.  I mean, let’s jump right into the “duplicate” Sparta City.  I mean, what the heck was that all about?  Like I said during the synopsis, I’d have had an easier time believing Superman could build an identical city brick by brick, and fill it with androids than what we get here.  Haney goes all out trying to use “the science” to explain it… and, in a universe full of superheroes, I suppose it’s not too far-fetched.


The Super Dads act like jerks here throughout.  We open with Clark, Jr. working with addicts and the unemployed… and somehow that’s not good enough for Clark, Sr.?  I mean, isn’t that like a best-case scenario for the son of Superman?  Helping those in need… probably working for peanuts?  So strange that Clark, Sr. would start lecturing him for that.


Jumping to the midpoint… Superman just saw what he believed to be his son’s corpse… and all he’s worried about is how he’s going to tell the boy’s unnamed/unfaced mother?  I mean, dude… that’s your son… in a frickin’ casket!  Ay yai yai.


I said it a few times during the synopsis… the Super Sons are pretty bad at superheroing.  Batman, Jr. is a horrible detective… not knowing that he’d been bugged… or realizing that their motorbike had been tampered with.  While on one hand that all stands out as proof positive that the Super Dads were right in not wanting them to don the duds… it’s also kinda refreshing.  If this were put out today, the Sons would prove to be far better than their dads… and probably spend half of each page being validated or self-validating.  If you’ve read any Marvel comic (or Rebirth era Teen Titans) over the past couple of years, (a) I’m sorry, and (b) you know exactly what I’m talking about.


Let’s stick with the motorbike being tampered with for a moment.  If Krugge’s gang was able to mess with their ride… then they most assuredly knew where they were hiding out.  That said, they probably also know their secret identities… right?  That’s likely definitely me thinking far too hard…  but, whattayagonnado?


Overall… despite my reservations, I still had a blast with this silly story, and think that any fans of the Silver Age… or silliness will also have a good time.  Surprisingly, this is not yet available digitally… at least not as a single-issue.  The Saga of the Super Sons trade collection, however, is!  If you’re like me and digital ain’t your thing, print copies are also available.





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