Gaa!

04Aug08

One of the dumbest — and therefore, most unintentionally entertaining — elements of Silver Age comics is the overreliance on expository dialogue. You wouldn’t think people working in such a visual medium could violate the “show, don’t tell” rule of storytelling so often, but no comic character could do anything at all without narrating his actions with a few sentences saying what he was doing and why, usually making ample use of boldface type.* Maybe the writers were trying to make their scripts easily adaptable for broadcast as a radio play. Or maybe they were just terrible writers.

For example, Superman might use his heat vision to melt a crook’s gun barrel and think, “I’ll use my heat vision to melt this crook’s gun barrel!” Or he’d make his girlfriend Lois Lane happy by giving her flowers, and his thought balloon would read, “My girlfriend Lois Lane sure is happy because of the flowers I’m giving her!” (And her thought balloon, in turn, would read, “These flowers Superman is giving me make me happy!”) It’s absurdly literal, kind of like that old Saturday Night Live sketch where Joe Montana thinks to himself, and then says to his roommate and his date, that he’s going upstairs to his room to masturbate.

Anyway, I found my favorite new example of expository dialogue in this panel from the entry on Bouncing Boy of the Legion of Super-Heroes in Radar’s article on superheroes who won’t be making it into movie adaptations:

A sensible man might take a single swig and then truncate that thought balloon to simply “Gaa!” before immediately trying to rectify his error by doing a spit-take, hurling the bottle away in shock, and possibly inducing intentional vomiting and making a phone call to the poison control hotline — in other words, stopping drinking it. But note the sad-eyed look of resignation on Bouncing Boy’s face as he ruminates pensively over the awful taste, then realizes the enormity of his mix-up in a full paragraph of internal monologue while gamely chug-a-lugging the rest of the bottle of super-plastic fluid. It tastes so terrible he just can’t stop himself.

But it’s not his fault, even leaving aside his scientist employer’s questionable decision to store an experimental chemical compound in a soda bottle. Of the many homeworlds supplying heroes to the Legion in the 30th century, Bouncing Boy comes from a civilization where the natives traditionally stay the course even when all evidence shows that the smartest course of action is to cut and run. In other words, he’s an American. As if you couldn’t tell by his unhealthy level of obesity.

Fortunately for him, it just gives him the power to inflate his body into a sphere and bounce instead of plastinating his insides and turning him into an unusually portly Body Worlds exhibit. Also fortunately, as a surprised witness points out at length in the next panel, he’s wearing some sort of spandex, so he doesn’t burst out of his clothing. Even more fortunately, not only does he gain superpowers through his idiotic inability to simply stop drinking a dangerous, untested serum, but his comrades later elect him to the presidency of the Legion of Super-Heroes and he gets married to a heroine who can split her body into multiple physical forms, giving him no-fuss ménage à trois privileges for life. Talk about stumbling upward.

* I’m guessing that as soon as he reads this, my friend Scott will be jabbing at the comment button to type “What a liar I am! I’m going to take back those trophies and medals I didn’t earn!” This phrase is a running joke of ours, but I don’t think I’ve explained it. It comes from a Richie Rich comic (the same issue with this appalling comic) where his rich asshole cousin Reggie Van Dough is trying to impress a girl. He thinks the first sentence to himself while showing her a case full of storebought awards, and he thinks the second part after committing a legitimate act of heroism by saving her baby brother from the path of a speeding car and being rewarded with a kiss. We had a lot of fun doing dramatic readings of this comic, making sure to shout the boldfaced words.



3 Responses to “Gaa!”

  1. 1 Scott

    I’m pretty much just commenting because I’m expected to but also to keep up the trend. If it does keep up you might eventually have to bring back all of my comments that you didn’t earn.

  2. You don’t have any missing comments, do you? I ask because that obviously fake e-mail address you use often results in the e-mail notifications about your comments going straight into my spam folder. “.pot” is not a top-level domain!

  3. 3 Scott

    Obviously fake? What a LIAR I am!

    (No, I haven’t noticed any missing comments)


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