WTF? Wednesday: Three’s Company

If a picture says a thousand words, the World’s Finest covers of yore are entire novels. Faulkner novels. As in, engrossing and deeply troubling.  While this storied title was innocent, action-packed fun for generations of comic book-loving kids, things look very different when viewed from an adult perspective. It’s like when you look at H.R. Pufnstuf clips on YouTube and realize that it’s one big LSD endorsement.

I’m glad Superman, Batman, Robin got along so fabulously in their early days. But certain covers suggest that there were exploits that were not recorded in the JLA archives. (And please do not leave us an angry note about how warped my mind is or how I’m reading too much into these pristine, utterly sincere comics. I know my mind is warped, and trampling on childhood memories is what WTF? Wednesday does.)

“Remember that languid, sun-dappled afternoon at the swimming hole? Yeah, we’re not gonna mention that to Flash and Green Lantern. They might get the wrong idea. Robin, this is our little secret.” There’s an epic story going on here. Batman’s teasing expression says, “Should we?” Meanwhile, Superman seems vaguely embarrassed, like he’s thinking, “Bruce, this is kinda fucked up. On the other hand, it’s been a long day, and Robin and these half-naked young men seem to be OK with it …”

There are a lot of jokes I could make here about bringing out the big guns or being locked and loaded … oh, wait. I just did. Grayson’s a smug, confident little bastard, isn’t he?

When it comes to “crime-fighting,” sometimes, three’s a crowd. Batman’s clenched-fist jealousy here is palpable, as if he knows that things will never be the same between him and Robin after this night.

Just a little something for our private photo album.

I’m sorry, but something is seriously off here. Note the overly proud expression on Batman’s face, which seems to say, “See? I told you. Prime sidekick.” And Superman’s all delighted like, “Damn. That’s a nice, strong ward you got there. How about we all go swimming sometime?”

11 thoughts on “WTF? Wednesday: Three’s Company

  1. Yea Gads!!!!
    Why is it that when looking at the second cover I can not get the Village People’s “in the Navy” out of my head? ;)

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  2. Given the “No Swimming” sign on the first cover, my first thought was that Robin was out on patrol, and found this group of kids swimming in flagrant and unconscionable violation of the law. He then contacted Batman and Superman, and is eagerly trying to convince them to lay the smack down on these pimple-faced teenagers as they would any other law-breaking hoodlum. Superman, the more moral and law-abiding of the two, seems reluctant, but Batman has an elated on his face, as he relishes the thought of beating up snot-nosed kids.

    Further consideration makes me think that perhaps this is all a “clever” plan by Robin. Perhaps those kids swimming are all people he knows from school, people who bully him (and he’s not allowed to fight back because he has to keep up a “mild-mannered” secret identity). So to get his revenge he lured them all to this here swimming hole, then set up a sign that says “No Swimming”. He then called Batman and Superman and is desperately trying to convince them of the legal authority of handmade wooden signposts. Superman is dubious, but Batman’s propensity for violence overshadows any concerns he might have for whether these kids are violating any real law or not.

    As for the second cover… the sheer magnitude of the overcompensating going on there, combined with the fact that they all wear skin-tight spandex without any anatomic embarrassment, leads me to believe that none of them have any penis whatsoever. Maybe they’re all “innies” instead of “outies”.

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  3. A few weeks ago I found the pilot episode of HR Puffenstuff on Youtube. That’s some f**ked up s**t right there.

    And I think the whole conversation we had last week about the artists doing this becoming more and more obvious. The three heroes straddling the battleship cannons is downright disturbing and hilarious. Talk about sneaking one by the censors.

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  4. Aaaaaaand once again, you guys have provided some Grade-A, LOL feedback. Hilarious! I am so glad that the gun-straddling picture freaked everyone out as much as it did me. I mean, seriously?! @Skemono, I think you have a future in comic book writing, because those scenarios were pure genius.

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  5. This is not just a novel perspective for these three superheroes in particular, but of men in general. Male characters are always shown as all business, never smiling, and even being incapable of expressing emotions. If you saw something like this on today comics – they would instantly be accused of being gay. Heck, they already are accused of being gay.

    It always seems like that only female characters have the privilege of being playful or spontaneous. It’s actually kind of refreshing to see that this male stereotype wasn’t always there, and that once upon a time emotional pallet for male characters was a bit wider.

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    • It’s actually kind of refreshing to see that this male stereotype wasn’t always there, and that once upon a time emotional pallet for male characters was a bit wider.

      CHEERS to that!

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  6. I think it goes back to the fact that these comics were for children, to whom none of this would ever occur. Now that everything is for grownups, there’s pressure to make everything dour and “about something,” rather than pure fun. As for the gay aspect, I don’t care about that at all. I’m all for that. I think what gives these panels an air of weirdness is the inclusion of a kid, and from a 21st-Century perspective, it’s impossible not to scratch one’s head. And there were certainly many stereotypes in the other direction (women, minorities, etc.) Some things have evolved for the better, but other things, not so much.

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    • I’m with E on that. There’s a difference between showing your “emotional pallet” and being downright creepy. These panels tend toward the latter for me.

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  7. Code Name D makes some excellent points. Still, when I think about the fact that these stories were written and illustrated by young, New York guys in smoke-filled offices, I’m inclined to believe that they were in on the joke.

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