Friday, June 17, 2022

Today in Comics History, June 17: Happy birthday, Charles Gounod! (or, "Lois Lane Should Never Babysit")

Born on this date in 1818: French composer Charles Gounod, who wrote the operas Faust, Roméo et Juliette and others, and many short pieces including the popular Funeral March of a Marionette ("The Alfred Hitchcock Theme")! And because we don't want to go to the opera tonight (geez, it's a Friday, let us rest!) here's another patented BullysNotes Guide to the Famous Operas! Memorize it and forget it!

"Famous Operas: Faust" in Classics Illustrated #74 (Gilberton, August 1950), creators unkcredited and unknown

I'd imagine that you think that's about all that comic books have to tell us about Charles Gounod's Faust. That's what you think, huh? Well, you'd be wrong, buster! The opera pops up in an unexpected place: within the four-color pages of Superman comics, in a story that teams up two pint-size nemeses to the Man of Steel, Mr. Mxyztplk (yet to move that "t" after the "p" in his name) and Lois Lane's bratty niece Susie Tompkins. And it all begins with this amazing splash page!

from "The Mxyztplk-Susie Alliance!" in Superman4 #40 (DC, May 1946), script by Don C. Cameron, pencils by Ira Yarbrough, inks by Stan Kaye, letters by Ira Schnapp

Ah yes, the heady post-war days of 1946, where Superman could stop punching Nazis and worry about the pranks of Lois Lane's troublesome tot niece. Come to think of it, just who were Susie's parents? Lois's only sibling, the redoubtable Lucy Lane, wouldn't be introduced until a 1959 issue of Jimmy Olsen, so I guess we just have to consider that Susie is the daughter of some possibly-still unrevealed ur-sister who was wiped out in the Crisis on Infinite Earths, which actually was probably caused by Susie.

As usual, post-1930s, pre-1970s Lois Lane is kinda a jerk, and though Susie is often mischievous, Lois comes down on her in disproportionate retaliation. This time Lois is trying to beat into instruct Susie not to tell fibs about fantastic things she's seen, which in Metropolis is as easy as opening your window and squinting. Come on, Lois, you live in a city with Superman, Jimmy becoming a giant turtle, time travel and aliens. And Metropolis is visited every three months by the fifth-dimensional imp Mr. Mxyztplk, so where's your suspension of disbelief, Lois? (Or is is suspension of belief? I always get those two mixed up.) Anyway, Susie saw Mxyztplk sitting on a flagpole. Superman certainly takes the announcement seriously, but for Lois, that's sounds like she's telling porkies. Come on, Lois, believe your little brat niece for once! Have we learned nothing from Big Bird and the questioned existence of Mr. Snuffleupagus?

Lois orders Susie to stop dreaming about castles in the air. Take it from me, a seven-year-old: when an adult tells you not to do something, that's pretty much an instruction to do it non-stop thereafter. (Example, at bedtime: "I don't want to hear another peep out of you!" ... "peep")

Susie of course begins to dream of castles in the sky, which remind her of the impressive sets she saw when Lois took her to see (and here's where this post all starts to come together) Gounod's Faust at the Metropolis Opera House the other night, which sure is (sarcasm) a great entertainment (sarcasm) for a young child (sarcasm). What's the matter, Lois, didn't wanna take her toe the Metropolis Lex-Bijou and catch a screen of Make Mine Music, The Yearling, Sherlock Holmes in Dressed to Kill, or Song of the South...oh, wait a minute, that last one explains it. Good call, Lois.

Golden Age lightbulb-head Mxy pops in and hears Susie fantasizing about sky castles, for which Lois spanks her. Geez Louise, Lois!

Anyway, they missed an excellent opportunity to have little Susie croon out this show-stopping number:

"Castle on a Cloud" from Les Miserables, perfoirmed by Hannah Chick (1995), by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boublil, Jean-Marc Natel, and Herbert Kretzmer

So what does everyone's favorite except Superman imp do? He kidnaps the entire production of Faust from the Opera House and puts it up in the clouds. Holy wish fulfillment, Batman!

Lois, of course, blames Susie for this.

With Susie's help, Supes tracks down Mxy to con him back to home dimension using the oldest trick in the book (trick first used 10 issues of Superman ago).

Happy birthday, Chuck Gounod! betcha never thought I'd work a Superman/Mxyzptlk into your birthday post!

And that's why this was The Greatest Lois Lane Story Ever.

On June 17, 1946, Lois Lane was arrested by Superman and arraigned in Metropolis Central Family Court on four counts of grievous child-gaslighting and six counts of aggravated a-paddlin'. In a moment, the results of that trial.

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