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Author Topic: Superman's "Mopee" Tales  (Read 21674 times)
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JulianPerez
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« on: August 08, 2006, 02:15:15 PM »

A "Mopee" tale is a story where some status-quo shaking revelation is disclosed, usually recontextualizing things important to a character in a way that profoundly misses the point. Furthermore, not only does it do this, but this change is NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN, usually because everyone in the universe decides to have collective amnesia about the whole thing, and as a result of reader rejection and editorial embarassment, the entire story is just quietly dropped and never mentioned again. The name comes from a FLASH story where it was revealed that a magical elf, Mopee, is in fact REALLY responsible for the Flash's superspeed.

It's important to remember that a Mopee story is one that is centered on a studding reveal, that we had it "wrong" all along, and this story is going to tell it like it is (ironic, since it is usually never mentioned again). Events like, for instance, Krypto and Superboy communicating with telepathy, Daredevil using sophisticated electronic equipment in his cowl and a "snooper scope" microphone in his billy club in DAREDEVIL #8 ("The Stiltman Cometh!"), or Don Blake building a fully fuctional robot, for instance, do not a Mopee story make.

The Simpsons have had many Mopee stories: the revalation that Principal Skinner was in reality Armin Tenzarian, standing in for the REAL Skinner, or the idea that Bart Simpson had a warped evil twin named Hugo.

Incidentally, Mopee did a hilarous cameo in an eighties issue of AMBUSH BUG, where he talks about how much continuity purists hate him (you got that right - I hate that little spit SO MUCH), and he goes into all the other origins that he's responsible for...

Superman, perhaps because his story is downright folkloric, has suffered the indiginity of the most Mopee tales of nearly any character. My GOD, has he ever. His title sometimes reads like a Mopee graveyard:

ACTION COMICS #368 (1968) "100 Years--Lost, Strayed, or Stolen" has Superman revealed to have lived an entire life in a slipstream dimension, before being youthened and sent back to Earth (what Beppo the Super-Monkey, who stowed away on the rocket, was doing I'll never know).

SUPERMAN #137 (1961) "reveals" that Superman's rocket was duplicated by an energy ray, creating an antisocial evil twin, Super-Menace that followed Superman all through his entire life, and finally had a showdown with an adult Superman. Apparently, something as important as Superman having AN EVIL TWIN THAT FOLLOWED HIM HIS WHOLE FRICKIN LIFE was not important enough to mention again. Alas, it may be possible that Super-Menace is canon: a poster in the SUPERMAN SOURCEBOOK shows the precise moment that Super-Menace was created.

Everybody knows that Marty Pasko story, "The Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis!" that has Superman use his glasses to magnify his hypnotic ability, which is why the Clark Kent disguise is so effective. It also has Superman hypnotize AN ENTIRE CITY, a feat he's thankfully never duplicated.

SUPERMAN #205 (1968) 'The Man Who Destroyed Krypton" is a Mopee story as it features the SHOCKING revalation that Jor-El was WRONG, and that Krypton wasn't going to explode...but a little while later, a space pirate named Black Zero launched a fusion bomb that made sure it did, in order to prevent Krypton's space program from being a threat to his fellow pirates. In other words, it turned Jor-El into a crackpot instead of a wise visionary, and made Krypton's destruction not a senseless waste, but a vicious, violent act with a definite point of origin.

Arguably the worst Mopee in history, SUPERBOY #158 (1969) has Superboy discover his parents, Jor-El and Lara, were alive in space in these glass sarcophagi. Definining exactly why this story is a terrible idea and thematically wrong is difficult, the same reason a question like "Why is Hitler bad?" is hard to answer: where to even begin. Okay, here's a shot: the reason this is an awful idea is the sacrifice of Superman's parents was a tragedy that really defines Superman's heroism and who he is. Superman's parents died, PERIOD. This is a reversal that makes a lot of what we know about Superman no longer true. Plus, shouldn't Superman be trying to cure Mom and Dad?

The Weisenger Age was full of Superman tales that have, as a central figure, a Superman-esque hero that lives in another dimension, such as Mighty Man and Mighty Maid, Hyperman from Oceania, etc. These count as Mopees for two reasons: their central conceit is that Superman finds an ally with all his powers somewhere else in the universe. And, barring endings where said hero dies at the end, the character's never mentioned again. I mean, wouldn't Superman have a guy with powers like that on speed-dial here? People don't often place Vartox in this tradition with Mighty Maid, but arguably, Vartox was in the same category as these types: heroes from other planets, except Vartox stuck around. If somebody really wanted to, in some demented Post-Crisis/Post-Whatever tale, they could easily establish all these tales featured Vartox instead of their original guest protagonists.

Even Supergirl has gotten an arguably "Mopee" story: ADVENTURE COMICS #267, where she was invited to join the Legion of Super-Heroes by the CHILDREN of the Legionnaires that Superboy knew. Since the details of that story (Kara being aged by Red Kryptonite) are mentioned again on other occasions, it may not qualify as a mopee, but the idea that the Legionnaires children recruit Supergirl arguably recontextualizes their entire relationship...and it was never mentioned again.
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Osgood Peabody
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« Reply #1 on: August 08, 2006, 02:36:37 PM »

We discussed that Superboy tale a bit on the Silver Age thread - it's a doozy.  But one mitigating factor - it's edited by Boltinoff, not Weisinger.  

There's one other tale I'd nominate for an "anti-Mopee".  This is, for lack of a better term, a tale that includes an intriguing new twist on the mythos that was just never picked up on by succeeding writers/editors, not due to embarassment but just oversight.

I have to give Aldous credit, as I'm pretty sure he's the one who pointed it out to me, and led me to seek it out.

It's the story from World's Finest #158 (Jun. 1966) called "The Invulnerable Super Enemy" by Edmond Hamilton, Curt Swan, & George Klein (the Silver Age super-team supreme IMO).  It is revealed in this story that there was another Brainiac, a "good" version called "Brainiac A".  He was actually the first version of Brainiac, who travels the universe using his shrinking ray to capture criminals.  There's a tantalizing tease at the end of this story, wondering what would happen should the 2 Brainiacs ever meet, but it never happened.

Unfortunately, this was one of Hamilton's last DC stories - I think he did only one more after this one - and later writers never picked up on this.  After Otto Binder's initial efforts, it was Hamilton IMO who expanded the SA Superman mythos more than any other, and this innovation was his parting gift to us.
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nightwing
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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2006, 03:17:42 PM »

To this Hall of Shame I would add Pasko's "Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis" (http://nightwing.supermanfan.net/oddities/mesmerizer1.htm) with its "revelation" that Clark Kent's glasses make him look like John Chancellor (never mentioned again, thank Rao).

And, though it's nearly off-topic, there's that World's Finest 223 tale where we "learn" Bruce Wayne had an older brother, Thomas Wayne, Jr.

I think "Mopee" was probably Bob Haney's middle name.
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JulianPerez
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« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2006, 03:28:05 PM »

Quote from: "nightwing"
To this Hall of Shame I would add Pasko's "Master Mesmerizer of Metropolis" (http://nightwing.supermanfan.net/oddities/mesmerizer1.htm) with its "revelation" that Clark Kent's glasses make him look like John Chancellor (never mentioned again, thank Rao).

And, though it's nearly off-topic, there's that World's Finest 223 tale where we "learn" Bruce Wayne had an older brother, Thomas Wayne, Jr.


The brother with the brain damage in a car accident that was shoved into some crazy house? I always hate how much that made the Waynes look callous.

My God, this felt like an exercise in a college comics writing course:

    Create a story that is as much of a deliberate reversal of a hero's origin as possible. Bonus points if it involves Deadman.[/list]

    Quote from: "nightwing"
    I think "Mopee" was probably Bob Haney's middle name.


    Speaking of Bob Haney, while my memory is faulty, didn't he write a story about Superman having a hunchbacked brother or something equally absurd?
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    MatterEaterLad
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    « Reply #4 on: August 08, 2006, 03:50:19 PM »

    Well, a lot of the big ones are covered, and maybe some of my annoyances don't qualify as "mopees", but I truly chaffed at what happened to the Kents, who were put through enough weird science fiction scenarios to make it seem more likely that Pa Kent on his death said to Clark "its Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World"...dying of tropical diseases, getting stuffed into the Phantom Zone, being re-vitalized by a youth serum...it really eroded the mythos of Clark being raised in a quite midwestern world of relative timelessness for me...
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    Uncle Mxy
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    « Reply #5 on: August 08, 2006, 04:24:28 PM »

    The notion of an enemy named Black Zero persisted in post-Crisis continuity, FWIW, but the specific Mopee aspect described didn't (unless you count all of post-Crisis continuity as a Mopee Smiley ).

    The Simpsons episode where Principal Skinner is revealed to really be Armin whatshisface was an homage on the Mopee concept.  There's a speech at the end of the episode about how everything will be just like it was before and no one will ever mention it again.  And Hugo Simpson was a Halloween episode, where "normal Simpsons continuity" (whatever that is) wouldn't apply.  I'm not sure those are the greatest examples.  

    The Mopee that gets to me is the Superman vs. Flash race that led off the DC Comics Presents series:

    http://www.hyperborea.org/flash/races.html#dcp

    with the revelation that Krypton and Earth were colonized by the waste products of the Zelkot and Volkir alien races.
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    dto
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    « Reply #6 on: August 08, 2006, 05:05:28 PM »

    I didn't mind Marvel Maid and Marvel Man of Terra, but some of you might recall my absolute LOATHING of "Supergirl's Secret Marriage!"

    http://superman.nu/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=1564

    I'd love to see Superman #415 classified as a "Mopee" or a retcon.
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    nightwing
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    « Reply #7 on: August 08, 2006, 07:54:32 PM »

    Personally, I'd lump Superman #415 in with the Post-Crisis/Pre-Reboot period.  And just about anything in that zone, it could be argued, is non-canonical, for the simple reason that it doesn't fit in either continuity.

    Basically those issues were fill-ins while Byrne got his ducks in a row.

    Hmm...Byrne...ducks in row.  My kingdom for a rifle!
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