Saturday, January 06, 2007

HOT Action Comics

The mid-80s was a time of boundary-pushing in the comic industry. Stories were trying hard to be gritty and dark and "real." Even with that in mind, I still don't know how this one got past the censors. Not so much because of it's mature subject matter, but because it's Superman.

First of all, big thanks to Dave for lending me these issues (Action Comics #592 & 593 by John Byrne).

Ok, so Big Barda is hanging out in Metropolis's notorious Suicide Slum when she runs into this guy:
His name is Sleez, and he is so gross that, get this, he was kicked out of Apokoplips. Yeah, you have to suck a lot for that to happen. Since Sleez is his game, as well as his name, he uses the power of the mega rod that he steals from Barda to make her dance for him in a skimpy outfit:

I love Sleez's jambox. What song do you think is playing? It looks like something from Jesus Christ Superstar, maybe. Or Hair.

Seriously, though, Barda's capture is pretty disturbing. We don't actually see her being forced to perform sexual favours, but panels like this one kind of imply that it's happening:

Yay! Superman! Except, no, wait. Superman is a douchebag:

That's, uh, real sensitive, Superman. Is that what you say to all rape victims? "Sorry, miss. I don't recognize you because you look like a WHORE." I mean, what if it was Wonder Woman under all that "glop"? Also, is Wonder Woman the only dark-haired woman that Superman knows? Because I can think of at least one other he might be familiar with...

So anyway, Sleez ends up trapping both Barda and Superman, and putting them both under his mind-control spell. Oh yes, you can see where this is going.

As it turns out, Sleez has been making money by pimping Barda out to a porno movie producer. He's already made at least one movie with her, and now he's offering Superman to the producer as well. Yup. That's what I said. Check it out:

Ok, wait. Rewind.

WOAH! WOAH! First of all, I think there just might be a market for THAT solo act, Mr Porno. And also...SOLO ACT?! SUPERMAN?! Just take a moment to consider what exactly they are talking about here. And then the line "any co-star's gonna wind up looking like my desk"!! This is so dirty and wrong!

Meanwhile, Darkseid has shown Mr Miracle some recent video footage of his wife "performing." Here are the excellent reaction shots of both Mr Miracle and Oberon:

So he runs off to find and rescue Barda.

This is really the money shot of the comic, as it were:

Ha! Superman sucks at porn! This is really as far as things get because Mr Miracle arrives to break up the party:

I wouldn't necessarily say that things were about to go too far, Mr M. I mean, they just started kissing finally. It's barely first base. (Alternately: Mr Miracle does not consider his wife kissing another man to be "going too far").

Afterwards, there is this awkward conversation between Superman and Barda:

"I mean, we...sort of kissed a little. Fully clothed..."

No one seems concerned enough that Barda was trapped for what must have been days, being forced to make porno movies. That's pretty awful.

And what became of Sleez? He blew himself up by igniting sewer gases. The result is one of the greatest Superman-explosion-aftermath panels I've ever seen:

"...Great... ...Scott...!!" It's a pretty good explosion panel, too.

So there you have it. Superman was once forced to do porn in an actual DC-published comic. So don't think that your fanfiction is original.

55 comments:

Jeff said...

I can't remember whether or not I read this when it was new. If so, I have to wonder what I asked my parents after reading it.

My second thought is that this may be the moment where John Byrne started to go off the rails.

My third thought, and this is the most important one, is that the song on Sleez's beat box is "Cool It Now," by New Edition.

The Mutt said...

When Byrne put She Hulk in Playboy, that was funny. But when he did this to my beloved Barda, I never forgave him. Sleez is a Mary Sue. Though I have to wonder how Barda's co-stars help up.

And the song is Inna Gadda Da Vida.

rachelle said...

"Sleez is a Mary Sue" might be my favourite comment ever.

The song might also be "Hot Stuff" by Donna Summers.

Johnathan said...

Huh. Sleez had an entry in the DC Encyclopedia, but I'm pretty sure that they glossed over rape-and-porno aspect.

I think it was 'Obsession' by Animotion.

Anonymous said...

As with most things done by DC and Marvel with his characters over the last thirty or forty years, I can't help but wonder what Jack Kirby thought of this story.

Also, I like to think it was "Push It" by Salt-N-Pepa.

-dave

Jon Hex said...

How long has Sleez known this porno director? The guy doesn't seem fazed by how Sleez looks and appears to have worked with him in the past. How many other women has Sleez brought to him? And why is the only thing Sleez can think to do to Superman and Big Barda is make a low budget porno movie?


And Sleez is playing The Who's "Squeeze Box."

the library girl said...

you crack me up!
i've started my class blog for young adult reading. i have a minimum number of other YA books o have to read, but I'm trying to flood it with comic and graphic novels.

it's not near as cool as your blog, lady!
i would appreciate your insight and suggestions on reading materials.

Sleestak said...

Oh, Sleez had them totally rehearse before they started filming. Heck, they may have started filming Part 12 in a series before Scott showed up.

Jeff said...

Oh, man. Sleez isn't the only Mary Sue in this story.

Look at that porno director.

The combover, the beard, the glasses, the Members Only jacket, the total lack of humanity and civility...

IT'S JOHN BYRNE!

JOHNNY ZITO said...

There was a similar story a few years ago in which Lana Lang was roped into doing porn too...

Something else to think about.

sky_country said...

I found this issue recently when an older fan friend wanted to show me examples of John Byrne's work.
I was completely shocked to see this story because it is compltely out of character for Barda. Barda was the leader of the Granny Goodness' Furies. She was the LEADER. We have seen over the years that the products of Granny's Orphanage are mentally and physically abused and trained to be the most hardened and ruthless warriors. The idea that Barda could be the leader of the Furies and then succumb to the crappy little character so John Byrne could have his naughty Superman wank comic published is just plain disgusting and is an insult to the fans of both Superman and Barda and also is insulting to the works of Jack Kirby.

Joel Bryan said...

I'm with sky_country. I know we're not supposed to enjoy what Sleez is doing to Big Barda and Superman and that he's the bad guy and all... but this crosses over into the realm where the story itself is sleazy.

All I can think of is "John Byrne subjected Big Barda and Superman to humiliation at the hands of this really crappy slug of a villain" and identify Byrne himself with Sleez. It's humiliating to the conception of those characters to the extreme.

Big Barda's one of those characters who should never submit, who would never surrender, especially not to this loser of a concept. All I can really feel about this story is what seems to be John Byrne's utter contempt and hatred for her.

Mature comics for grown-ups my ass.

Matt said...

The song is "Buffalo Stance" by Neneh Cherry.

Roy said...

(Alternately: Mr Miracle does not consider his wife kissing another man to be "going too far").


Alternately: Mr Miracle does not consider his wife being forced to make porn and give sexual favors to a slimey monster to be "going too far"

Gross!

Alabaster Jones said...

"Look at that porno director.

The combover, the beard, the glasses, the Members Only jacket, the total lack of humanity and civility...:"

Yeah, but did you catch his name? Its Grossman! Nice play on words and he's a Jewish porn director exploiting these paragons of virtue. It works on so many levels....if your a skinhead.

Ozarks YinYang said...

A most excellent analysis, Rachelle!

I missed that issue, it'd certainly make an interest Smallville episode though...

fightingdem said...

John Byrne channeling Jack Kirby. Jeeze, even the layouts look like Kirby. (But, hey, I wasn't a DC fan, more Marvel. So maybe they were supposed to look like Kirby did them.)

Ben said...

How did I miss this post the first time?

Ted said...

When Darkseid was redone as a character on the old "Superfriends" cartoons, they made him be obsessed with marrying Wonder Woman. I'll never be able to think about that without considering the Barda-filled smut collection Byrne hints at in these issues.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... The pornographer is a disgusting-looking, balding little guy with glasses named "Grossman"... Nice antisemitic stereotyping, D.C.!

Anonymous said...

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D said...

Weirdly, I own one single random issue of Action Comics, and this is it. I have a vague memory of reading it when I was a kid - 10 years old, I guess - and not having any idea what was going on. The reason I didn't read many superhero comics as a kid was that I always felt like I was missing something - hundreds of issues of continuity, in this case. Why bother selling a 22-page chunk of a story that makes no sense without the previous issue?

Dr. Bob said...

This whole thing looks almost like some kind of twisted parody. Apparently music, film, fashion, etc. weren't the only elements of our culture that hid a nadir in the '80s. Maybe now that things are getting even worse politically, Sleez's long lost son, Rawnch, should make on appearance and force Plastic Man to become a She-male prostitute.
The song was "Super Freak."

CBrown said...

Boy, do I remember this story! And it just seems skeevier than ever after all these years!

Two points: These issues are even funnier if you've ever gone over to the trainwreck which is the John Byrne Forum and read the man lamenting how awful it is that comics aren't written for children anymore and how current creators are bent on debasing superheroes. Which is true; but it's ironic to see the pot calling the kettle black.

Second, it's a bit telling that Superman has such Super-moral fibre that Sleez can't transform him into a pornstar, but apparently Barda is such a latent slut that he can pimp her out with hardly any trouble at all!

And I think the song is "SuperFreak"

Anonymous said...

"As with most things done by DC and Marvel with his characters over the last thirty or forty years, I can't help but wonder what Jack Kirby thought of this story. "

Mark Evanier (who was Jack Kirby's assistant for a long time) had this to say when asked if Kirby was disgusted by Byrne's story:

"I know for sure. 'Disgusted' is putting it mildly."

David Lawson said...

So let me get this straight, Sleez can't get Superman to make out with Barda because his mind control can't force someone to do what they wouldn't ordinarily do.

And yet he got Barda to make at least one porno tape.

What does that imply about her?

Richard Pace said...

Considering that Byrne's gone on record as saying hispanics with their hair dyed blonde look like hookers, I guess he was leaving barda some dignity by at least letting her keep her dark hair.

~Richard

Bill D. said...

You know, I was going to say something about how that the silver lining here is that this is probably out-of-continuity now thanks to New Earth and all, but then I remembered that in this post Identity Crisis/Infinite Crisis DCU, this is exactly the sort of detail they'd dream up on their own if someone hadn't already beat 'em to it, isn't it?

Jude said...

There was a similar story a few years ago in which Lana Lang was roped into doing porn too...

Something else to think about.


That Superman causes porn?

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Donald O'Bloggin said...

The music could be "Body Language" by Queen.

John said...

Did the Lana Lang incident really happen?

Anyhow, I remember John Byrne disgusted me years ago when he took over the Hulk and there's a scene in the first issue where Betty Ross has been transformed into some kind of wreckless bimbo who wakes up with people she doesn't remember. Byrne's crap.

Grant said...

Maybe I'm just a softy but I think comics need to lighten up, with all the merchandise like toys, clothes and theme park rides marketed towards kids featuring classic comic characters it puzzles me why the comicbooks they're based on are fuill of so much sleaze and gore etc. Unless there's some kind of moral behind it I don't see the need for such unwholesomeness, but maybe that's just me.

Yatz said...

Whenever I hear people tearing into Byrne - and here, as in most cases, it's fully justified - I think back to LoTR and frodo's defence of Saruman: "He was once great" (or words to that affect - I'm only a Geek-In-Training). John Byrne is one of comics' greatest creators, with his work on X-Men and FF helping propel comics on to it's next stage of evolution.
Having said that, most of his later work - for me, starting with this issue - is cringe-inducing.

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Anonymous said...

What...wait! How did Darkseid get a copy of Bards movie? If Sleeaze got kicked out of Apokolips, he didn't have contact with him...Darkseid gets all the latest earth porn?

Anonymous said...

"Darkseid gets all the latest earth porn."

Wouldn't you if you were Darkseid? I mean, the porn produced by Granny Goodness just isn't the same. Besides, he's got a lot of free time when he's not making progress on the Anti-Life Equation.

Dean said...

Ugh. That was about when I jumped off the Byrne Superman band-wagon.

It is not even the premise that is so offense. Stated in one sentence, "Darkseid's minions making super-hero porn" is not a horrible Vertigo-ish premise. However, the execution is offensive.

As others have stated, the idea appears to be that Barda is such tramp that she has no problem being used in porn films, but Superman's "moral fiber" is too strong to overcome. Puh-Lease, Supes is not married, nor know that Barda is. Meanwhile, she has a husband that she loves enough to enrage Darkseid.

Worse, her husband is not overly concerned about finding her until he sees the porn tape, then rushes out immediately. Also, the repeated rapes are apparently 'ok', because she barely remembers them.

If you have to tell this story, then why not give Barda some credit? How about she resists everyone Sleez tries to pair her with, until he gets his hands on a 'true hero' (or whatever)? That requires Sleez binding Superman. Then, you get your off-camera titillation and keep Barda in character at least.

It also makes the post-spell scene way funnier. Better not to tell the story at all, but this version is the most degrading of Barda possible.

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Bob said...

Dean: Superman's "moral fiber" is too strong to overcome. Puh-Lease, Supes is not married, nor know that Barda is.

But he does know that she, like he, is being mind-controlled. That's not immoral enough for you?

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cjnoble71 said...

John Byrne did some great stuff in comics. He, as the post mentions, dialed back Superman to make him more realistic and sympathetic. He helped Chris Claremont give the X-Men adventures that were at once cosmic and grounded. He did similar work on his own with the Fantastic Four and prior to all that helped to make the Avengers more sympathetic.
That said, the Barda thing was really trashy, not so much because it revealed Byrne's own fetishes (remember, he did something similar in FF giving Susan Richards a bondage queen look after conditioning by the Hate Monger) but b/c of his rivalry with Kirby and the fact that Jack "The King" based Barda on his own wife. He could have done this story line (which frankly with my own tastes I might enjoy in a setting not marketed to young teens) with any one of the dozens of female heroes in DC, instead he decided to make a nasty dig on an innocent woman and make a cheap shot at one of the pioneers of the super hero genre.

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