Eternal Yellow Sunshine of the Kryptonian Mind

Bloggified by Jake on Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My son is a terrible sport. He cheats at every game you play with him and when he can't cheat, he will announce abrupt changes to the rules. While in the midst of a pinfall while wrestling, you will be informed that you get zero points and he gets 5000 because you weren't allowed to use your arms. Footraces hinge not on the first person to arrive at a predetermined destination but on the youngest participant.

It's terribly annoying and everyone in the family has at one point or another told him, "I don't want to play with you. You are not any fun."

Of course, we can say this because my son is a six-year-old boy with the average size and strength of a six-year-old boy. Were he an alien with the strength to push the Earth out of orbit and the ability to shoot heat rays and radiation from his eyes, we'd probably change our attitudes.

A recurring theme in World's Finest stories is Superman deciding it would be fun to challenge Batman to some kind of contest or to pit himself against some other renowned figure and prove himself an equal. Unfortunately, any time Superman gets even a hint that he might lose--just like my son--he either changes the rules or pouts until he gets his way. And worse, he doesn't recognize the hollowness of the resultant victory.

Take for example World's Finest Comics #149's "The Game of Secret Identities."

Clark Kent gets a scare that his secret identity might be in jeopardy, not because the investigative journalist he chooses to spend every day sitting ten feet away from has finally nailed down another irrefutable piece of evidence proving he has god-like powers, but because someone left a flier under his door. Never one to take advertising lightly, Superman puts a chicken in his Ronco Rotisserie, sets it and forgets it, and flies to Gotham City where he breaks into the Batcave.

While the flier proved to be a false alarm, Superman explains to Batman and Robin that he's worried maybe someone could see through his true identity if they tried hard enough. He wants Batman, as the world's greatest detective, to see if he can figure out his alter ego.

The only problem is that Batman and Robin already know Superman is Clark Kent... but they don't have to! Superman--passively making it clear he's already decided Bruce Wayne is going to take him up on the offer--has brought along his Selective Amnesia-Inducer.
Forget for a moment that Superman has just suggested zapping the world's greatest crime-fighting mind with a alien brain-erasing laser to satisfy a curiosity raised by a snake oil advertisement found on the floor. For a moment I want to focus on the example used to illustrate a typical Selective Amnesia-Inducer's success story.

What do you expect our sad Kryptonian friend up there to do as soon as he leaves the Selective Amnesia-Induction Center? I'm guessing it won't be too long before he calls his buddy Khal-Kar to suggest they grab a few Kryptonian ales or go see the new Lyla Lerrol flick, gets into an argument with the Widow Kar, and learns that his best friend suffered a tragic death that he knew nothing about. Yes. That's a much better outcome.

Batman and Robin agree to the Kryptonian mindwipe and set about trying to learn Superman's secret identity the very next day. At a media event, they hide an encephalograph in a news van and scan Superman's brain, figuring his brainwaves will be different from those of a human. But they get no reading whatsoever.
Bear in mind that Superman's excuse for the potential riskof lobotomizing one of his best friends and one of history's greatest crimefighters was that he wanted to know if he might be tipping his hand and risking his secret identity. To learn what he claimed he wanted to know, he needed to continue on with his normal life and allow Batman and Robin free reign to discover his identity.

Instead, he's decided to make it a game of Show Up Batman! All he's proving is that if Lex Luthor loudly declares, "I am going to figure out Superman's secret identity through intense scrutiny and advanced technology," Superman has a few tricks up his sleeve. But unless he intends to allow his Superman Robots to take over all his superheroic duties moving forward, the entire exercise is pointless.

Batman, however, is nothing if not resourceful. He trails the Superman Robot back to the Fortress of Solitude and manages to break in only to find that Superman, who'd been hiding out there until the robot warned him Batman was coming, had removed all evidence that revealed his secret identity.
What should be a lesson of "Don't keep wax figures of yourself in your civilian identity on a display that reads 'Clark Kent is Superman' in your publicly known hideout" instead becomes a "Fuck you, Batman" and a pat on the back for being sooooo clever.

That's when Batman pulls a little "Fuck you" of his own. He deactivates all the Superman Robots before leaving the Fortress of Solitude, forcing Superman to make an actual appearance at another media event the next day. There, Batman finally gets the unique brainwave scan he wanted and is able to track Superman back to an apartment building in Metropolis.
Superman--again, knowing someone is trying to expose his secret identity through encephalographic means--alters his brainwaves, preventing Batman and Robin from getting absolute proof of his secret identity. So, Batman presses forward with the pointless exercise and invites the four men to a place where he can hook the up to the encephalograph and monitor their brainwaves while they watch a slide show of Batman and Superman's varied adventures.
Is the encephalograph really necessary at this point? Superman must be one of these four men, but which one? The jug-eared horseface, the one with the mustache, the bald one, or the one who looks exactly like Superman wearing glasses and a business suit?

Despite the answer being pretty obvious, Batman goes ahead with the experiment and while Superman masks his brainwave patterns for a while, his interest in hearing Batman say nice things about him during the slideshow overwhelms his cautiousness and exposes him.

Having been found out within 48 hours despite not really playing fairly, Superman listens to his wounded ego and declares he can learn Batman and Robin's true identities without using his superpowers. His plan? To use superpowers, of course... but that'll have to wait for Part Two...

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