Monday, November 05, 2012

Nothing you could say can tear me away from my Guy

Hullo folks hullo! And especial greetings to all the people in the UK who are tonight carousing in the streets and burning things in huge piles! To you, I say...Seriously, folks, stop rioting! You missed your window of opportunity in 2011. Oh, and also there are people out celebrating Guy Fawkes Night, an English annual tradition of which I mainly know about thanks to More About Paddington (and why is that book out of print, HarperCollins? Shame, shame, shame!) Of course, I'm 100% behind any holiday which involves me going around to all the homes near my London abode of Bullingham Mansions...


...and getting pennies from people for the Guy. Hoorah!

Now, when you are a comic book fan and you think about Guy Fawkes, you probably think of this fella:


Panel from V for Vendetta #1 (September 1988), script by Alan Moore, pencils and inks by David Lloyd, colors by David Lloyd and Siobhan Dodds, letters by Jenny O'Connor

But actually I was thinking of a tale where national monuments of England don't get blown up, thanks to the helping hands of Superman!


Splash panel from "The Revenge That Took Three Hundred Years" in Superman #79 (November-December 1952), script by Alvin Schwartz, pencils and inks by Al Plastino

Of course, if you've ever been in London at this time of year you'll know how fictional this picture is because whether it's AM or PM, it's always dark at five o'clock. Also, I ask yet again: where do you find a green suit? The answer is clear: at a Savile Row tailor, perhaps the one distracted by those four rowdy mop-tops playing that loud "rock and roll" music on the rooftop across the way.

As we join our Superman adventure already in progress, things are going explodingly across England, as it does her at "Oxford College," not to be confused with any specific college at Oxford University. Boom! Plus: a clew!


Boom! goes the Earl of Wingate's manor (here's hoping the staff and the Earl's famous, prizewinning pig the Dutchess of Wingate were not in residence at the time) and the National Museum Project Birthplace is also attacked! On the grounds of each site of destruction is a cleverly worded warning, handily in the same handwriting not only as each other but as the story's captions! No wonder the letterer didn't get a credit on this story...he's a mad bomber!


A call goes out for the greatest investigator of Scotland Yard! Call Inspector Roderick Alleyn Commander George Gideon Assistant Commissioner Sir Ronald Vallance Detective Claud Eustace Teal Inspector Lestrade Lady Molly Robertson-Kirk DCI Jane Tennison Chief Inspector Neddie Seagoon Dim of the Yard Inspector Erskine Hawkins, Scotland Yard's only detective!


Derby-behatted, mustached Inspector Hawkins, like all British detectives, has many eccentric habits, altho' there's very little panel space devoted to them. I like to pretend he raises rare breeds of hamsters, has a flat in an abandoned London Underground Station, and enjoys cosplaying Thompson and Thomson.


Hawkins must solve the case in order to have a perfect record and win the prestigious and fictional Standish Award, given for not deducing Superman's identity! (Previous winners include Lex Luthor and Lois Lane, but this is an award that Muhammad Ali did not win!) That's why Hawkins is keeping a close eye on American correspondent Clark Kent! Luckily, as Clark knows, Hawkins is easily distracted by shiny, sparkling objects, not unlike your household kitten.


Londoners who lived through the Blitz are therefore not at all surprised to see a cyclone and a rainstorm drench Big Ben, putting out what must have been a Mission: Impossible-style burning fuse. Hooray for Superman? Say, where is the British version of Superman, Mildly Astonishing Man, doing during all of this? (Answer: Having his tea.)


In the days before the internet, Inspector Hawkins must personally call at the Weather Bureau to find out the facts behind the cyclone! And Superman must inconspicuously hang on the ledge outside the window where everyone can see him instead of just listening in with his super-hearing! Yes, it's an age without the world wide web, where fanboys can't write in and complain about Superman's action!


In a rare instance of accuracy, London Bridge is portrayed correctly and not as it usually is, as its down-the-river neighbo(u)r Tower Bridge. However, Superman's telescope-vision should have spotted what my little button eyes can see from the same panel: that the cars are driving on the right hand side of the road, rather than the left, which is right. I mean correct.


Pretty sharp-eyed of me, huh, readers? Now let's test your detecto-vision: can you see what's wrong in the first panel below? Ignore that cherry-red police automobile in the second panel, though. While you're looking at that first panel, I'll sum up the others: BOAT GONNA SINK!


Give up? Of course you don't, because you spotted it immediately: that newspaper's price should not read 5¢...England doesn't use the cent sign! (Five pence would have been expressed as 5d.)


You may also notice that the phone box Clark sneaks away into is A) not painted red B) with windows C) as large as a house and D) is not completely covered in naughty postcards ads.


Superman saves the day by cutting off an enormous iceberg with a convenient found piece of whalebone—too bad Superman doesnn't have super-hard fingernails or is able to shatter ice with his hands, huh?—and by plopping it into the sea right in the ship's path. Ummm, hate to tell you Superman, but as far as history tells us, that's not the way to save a ship, that's the proven way to sink a ship. Wow, no wonder Jack Dawson drowned and Kylie Minogue had to become an angel.


By detecting the anachronism in that newspaper earlier, you've proven yourself so smart that you could solve the case of the latter-day Guy Fawkes. So how about it? Just as Inspector Hawkins can solve the case from the clues, so to can you. I've shown you everything you need to solve the case. So, a they say on the telly: Match wits with Inspector Hawkins...and see if you can find out...whodunit!


Answer: it was the only suspect in the whole case. Why? Because he didn't have Wikipedia to look up the year that Guy Fawkes's original plot occurred (1605, not 1609, you illiterate crook!).


The question of why Hawkins didn't nab Roddy Greene the exact instant he made that "1609" mistake is left for conjecture and possibly Hawkins's disciplinary hearing. The only thing that matters is the same thing that matters at the end of every Superman story from the Silver Age: nobody knows Clark is Superman! Or, as the old poem goes:

Remember remember, the fifth of November
And that Brits use the penny, not cent
And please don't speak obscenity, about Superman's identity
Because he's just plain old Clark Kent.





3 comments:

JonJ said...

Actually, Bully, back in those pre-decimalisation days, it would have been 6d, not 6p. That's 'd' for 'denarii', as measured in chains per square guinea.

SallyP said...

Bully, you are such a fabulous poet.

Bully said...

Sally: And I didn't know it!

JonJ: Argh! You're right, sir! Corrected, and may I award you a Official Well-Spotted Bull-Prize engraved on a 'alf-crown!