Superman: For the Animals #1
May 12th, 2014
For truth! For justice! For the kitties!
Linkara: Hello, and welcome to Atop the Fourth Wall, where bad comics burn. You know, past reviews may have given people the impression that I'm anti-animal or that I don't care about animals at all.
(Cut to a shot of "Marville #3")
Linkara (v/o): In particular, my disregarding of "Marville"'s feel bad about the molecules that are destroyed that allow us to live. Look, I'll be perfectly honest: I value human life over animal life. The political and moral issues resolving around that can be complex and are for each individual person to decide for themselves.
Linkara: However, just because I do place value of humans over animals, that doesn't mean I think animals should be treated inhumanely. I'm not an asshole! Well, okay, I'm kind of an asshole, but I'm not about to torture animals for fun or something.
(Cut to a closeup of the cover of today's comic)
Linkara (v/o): Which is why today, we're looking at "Superman: For the Animals", a PSA comic done in conjunction with the Doris Day Animal Foundation. Is this a PSA that encourages helping the animals? Or is it as stupid and ill-thought-out as... well, any promotional campaign PETA does?
Linkara: Well, let's dig into (holds up today's comic) "Superman: For the Animals #1". And welcome, my friends, to "PSA Hell"!
("PSA Hell" title is shown, then the AT4W title theme plays; title card has "Angry White Boy Polka" by Weird Al Yankovic playing in the background. Cut to a closeup of the comic's cover)
Linkara (v/o): The cover is okay... and having read ahead a bit, actually depicts a scene from the book! Holy crap, you know how rare that is these days? It's not even reused artwork or anything, it's a cover that actually depicts something that happens in the comic, as opposed to just being some generic pose or weird symbolism. I can't even remember the last we had that on this show, if ever. However, there's plenty that you can read into just from the shot featuring Superman holding a cat while a group of teenagers stare up at him. For one thing, Superman's eyes are closed. Guess he's having trouble waking up.
Linkara: (yawns, as Superman) Truth, justice and NyQuil, let me tell you.
Linkara (v/o): And while I know the actual context for this scene, this could be interpreted as Superman being a dick and kidnapping this cat out of this kid's box completely out of nowhere. No wonder he looks pissed off.
(The comic opens to the first page)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, we open with a series of people writing letters... to Superman.
Linkara: Uh-oh, we're gonna have a little kid asking Superman to rid the world of nuclear weapons, aren't we?
Letter: "Dear Superman, I've never asked anyone for help in my entire life..."
Linkara: (speaking on the letter's behalf) "...but could you help me move a couch?"
Another letter: "Dear Superman, Our child has been missing for almost five years now..."
Linkara: (as a man calling out to the woman writing it) For the ninth time, Nancy, he's not missing! He moved out after college!
Third letter: "Dear Superman, They say you can do anything, but can you help a poor, old soldier...?"
Linkara: (speaking on the soldier's letter's behalf) "...make sweet, sweet love one last time?"
Fourth letter: "Dear Superman, My people need a miracle, sir, and you are the only hope we have left..."
Linkara: (speaking on the letter's behalf) "Can you get our baseball team get tickets to the Pink Floyd concert?"
Linkara (v/o): I do wonder where all these people are getting his address from. Is it public knowledge, or does he have some syndicated column in The Daily Planet?
Linkara: (old lady voice, pretending to write a letter) "Dear Superman's penthouse, I'm an elderly woman who doesn't enjoy sex..."
Linkara (v/o): And we cut to Supes sitting in a chair, reading through them, slightly slouched over. In all seriousness, I actually really enjoy this. Regardless of how these letters get to him, it's expected that Superman would get these kind of requests all the time from people all over the world. It's like writing to Santa Claus; what have you really got to lose? What's more, it's a reminder of Superman's character drive in problems: his desire to do as much good in the world as he can, but not being able to do all the good that he wants. Yeah, changing the course of mighty rivers is one thing. Fixing socioeconomic factors to stop people from becoming poor is another. He's not a god, he's just a guy who believes in using his abilities to help people, and let's face it, a lot of people need help. That being said, let's get back to the snark: namely, why the hell is he sitting around in his Superman outfit for this? Did he just get home from being Superman and is catching up with his paperwork? Speaking of, why the hell are all the letters strewn about everywhere? Won't it make visitors suspicious if all these letters to Superman are just sitting around their apartment? I mean, I suppose you can superspeed them all into a drawer or something, but it just seems strangely untidy for Superman. One final thing to note on this page is the writer, Mark Millar. We'll probably be seeing more from him in the future, mainly because he's one of those creators who works best while on a leash.
(Cut to a montage of Millar-created comics, including "Nemesis" and "Kick-Ass")
Linkara (v/o): You take him off of that leash, and suddenly he's writing stories about rich assholes deciding to be horrific supervillains simply because they're bored, or dumbasses deciding to become superheroes... because they're bored. Yeah, I'm not a huge fan of "Kick-Ass", but whatever floats your boat.
(Now the montage switches to Superman comics by Millar, most notably "Superman Adventures")
Linkara (v/o): The point being that Mark Millar is actually a pretty damn good writer under the right circumstances, especially when it comes to Superman. He won an Eisner Award for his writing on "Superman Adventures", the comic tie-in to the Superman animated series.
Linkara: But because he's written some bad and his last name is technically "Miller", even if it's spelled differently, not only is today a "PSA Hell", but, uh... (takes out a pocket watch and looks at it) it's Millar Time.
("Miller Time" title is shown, but with the "E" in "Miller" crossed out, with an "A" underneath, so that it reads "Millar". Then the comic resumes)
Linkara (v/o): Anyway, back to the story: Lois walks in, asking if he's coming to bed soon.
Superman: Sorry, Lois, but it looks like I've got another busy night ahead of me. You get some sleep, though. I'll try to catch the last fifteen minutes before we get up for work.
Linkara: Well, I guess now we know why he's so sleepy on the cover.
Lois: Judging by all this mail, I'd be surprised if we saw one another this side of our golden wedding anniversary, Mr. Kent.
Linkara: (laughs) These two aren't married anymore, thanks to "The New 52". Still, what the hell am I complaining about? At least it wasn't because of a deal with Satan.
Linkara (v/o): Superman says he can't ignore people in trouble, and of course, the first letter Lois picks up says...
Letter: "Dear Superman, I lost my kid's college fund in Vegas. Could you please loan me the money before my wife finds out?"
Linkara: (as Superman) See, Lois? That man needs my help. What if his wife finds out?
Linkara (v/o): But yeah, Supes acknowledges that there are some cranks in there, but most are from genuinely needy people, and Lois admits that she's just teasing. And then Supes starts reading another letter.
Linkara: (as Superman, reading) "Dear Superman, My lover no longer satisfies my needs in bed."
Linkara (v/o): Actually, the letter is from a twelve-year-old named Tommy.
Linkara: Which makes the fact that his lover can't satisfy his needs in bed even creepier. (the audience is heard booing; he smiles and holds up his hand in defense) Kidding, kidding! (shrugs)
Linkara (v/o): Tommy talks about how his family had just moved to Springdale halfway through the year, so he got to be the awkward new kid in class. However, he quickly found a friend in Slouchy Relaxo* here.
- NOTE: Actually, his name is Ballser, as we will see later.
Ballser: Welcome to sit next to me, man. Be nice to have a human to talk to after talking to a squirrel for six weeks.
Linkara: Yeah, but somehow I think the squirrel would be better company.
Linkara (v/o): He makes some new friends, and naturally, they had oddball nicknames. The most normal was Charlie, but then there was Donuts, Eightball and Ballser.
Linkara: I could make a reference to Red vs. Blue with the guy named Donuts, but I'm just curious how one gets the nickname (makes a "finger quote") "Ballser".
Linkara (v/o): Ballser happens to be the asshole of the group, bigger than the rest and loves to attack pigeons as we see here. We learn that there is indeed a squirrel in the class as a pet, rescued by the teacher when he was found in a ditch, and he plans to release it once it's better.
Linkara: Man, I knew teachers didn't get paid very well, but this one had to take a side job as a veterinarian?
Linkara (v/o): Ballser continues to show that he has a bright future as a serial killer, as he does more torture of small animals. In this case, while the kids are playing with the Seg-tendo Gene-system, Ballser takes a goldfish out of a bowl and wants to see who can hold their breath longer, him or the fish. Tommy naturally objects, and after forty seconds, the fish is finally put back in the bowl, and we soon see things begin to escalate. They start spray-painting graffiti, stealing teachers' notes and test answers, and Ballser even gets his hands on his dad's rifle.
Linkara: And I think Ballser is going to end up with his balls shot off by the time this is over.
Linkara (v/o): Tommy suggests they go to the woods and shoot some cans, but Balls-For-Brains objects.
Ballser: Cans're kid stuff, dude! Donuts, remember that evil werewolf of a guard dog bit your butt last year?
Donuts: Man, don't remind me!
Linkara: (as Donut) I've mauled at least three people since then. Being a werewolf sucks!
Linkara (v/o): So yeah, you can imagine where this is going. What's better is that they decide to do this while are still people around. So when they shoot the dog in the ass, the people spot them and start yelling at them. Donuts isn't particularly happy about what he did, but they still run off so as not to get caught. Oh, yeah, and it turns out Tommy's neighbor owns the junkyard, so later, he and his father see him bringing the dog home from the vet, AKA the high school science teacher, I presume, and the damage was so severe to the dog's hind leg that it had to be amputated. The neighbor, Jeb, also points out that there's been a string of attacks on animals lately, including hanging cats and BURNING A FRIGGIN' LABRADOR TO DEATH!!
Linkara: (smiling) This is a comic for children! (gives a thumbs-up)
Tommy's father: You know who I blame for this garbage? The parents of these sick little freaks.
Linkara: (as Tommy's father) Children are blameless in their illegal and immoral actions! Let's blame the parents! (as Jeb) But Bob, what if it was your kid? (as Bob) Oh, please, that'd be some kind of ironic twist to my words. (waves dismissively) That's not gonna happen. (looks over shoulder) Right, Tommy?
Linkara (v/o): Tommy narrates that he knew Ballsy was behind the animal attacks, but didn't want to risk his only friends by confronting him on it. Plus, after Daddy said what he said, he wasn't exactly encouraged to confess to him what happened. He tried to go to the school guidance counselor, but Tommy says that was overworked due to a brother whose kid had just died, as well as another kid with an alcoholic father. I can understand him being overworked and overstressed and not knowing how to deal with this situation, but his actual words don't make me feel like the guidance counselor would have been any help anyway.
Counselor: Don't you think you're overreacting, Tommy? You know what they say... "Boys will be boys!"
Linkara: Hmm... You're absolutely right. (looks offscreen) Tommy, get the rifle and start taking potshots at the counselor! (looks back into camera) What? Boys will be boys!
Linkara (v/o): Seriously, that expression can go straight to hell. Anyway, Tommy considers going to Beardy McScience Vet, but figures he might get into trouble since he was an accessory to the whole thing. And thus, he decided that if his friends were gonna hurt animals, maybe he could talk some sense into them himself. Considering the next scene is them catching a stray cat so they can throw it off an overpass into a busy freeway, you can tell how well that plan goes.
Donuts: You are a genius, man!
Linkara: The greatest minds of human civilization: Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking... Ballser.
(Cut to the Nostalgia Critic wearing Linkara's hat and coat)
NC: (nasally voice) Yeah, this is Linkara. (gyrates his fingers) We'll be back soon. Don't take this the wrong way because so many people like to get upset when I talk like this, and when other people imitate me and don't have a sense of humor, they're like, "Oh, poor Linkara! You can't make fun of him, he is Jesus, he is everything, he is–"
(Suddenly, he stops abruptly as he sees Linkara glaring at him)
NC: Right there.
(He runs off the AT4W logo appears in the corner and we go to commercial. Upon return, we see Linkara wearing NC's cap, jacket and tie, while NC stands there crossing his arms in frustration)
Linkara: (poorly imitating NC) Hello, I'm a Nostalgia Critic! I just swear a lot! That's the joke! (looks at NC) Bat Credit Card! (NC scowls) Bat Credit Card! Bat Credit Card! (cackles) I'm gonna repeat the same memes over and over again! It gets funnier every single time! I'm just Daffy Duck! That's me, ha ha! I'm gonna make funny faces to the camera as if my audience is babies!
(As the AT4W logo appears in the corner, Linkara makes a funny face to the camera; NC can't take it anymore)
NC: KNOCK IT OFF!!
(Linkara stops abruptly and scowls toward NC. Then we cut back to the comic as the review resumes)
Tommy: This's seriously not right. Why do you wanna do this stuff anyway, Ballser?!
Ballser: You mean, besides that it's easy and you don't caught? Well, farmers kill animals for food, right?
Linkara: (as Ballser) The cat meat tastes the best after it's been hit by a dozen cars.
Tommy: Yeah, so what? You gonna eat that cat?
Ballser: Naw, I do it for something more important than food... FUN!
Linkara: (holds up index finger) One, you're psychotic. (holds up two fingers) Two, you're an idiot. (holds up three fingers) Three, why did you even bring up the farmer thing? What the hell did that have to do with anything?
Tommy: C'mon, Ballser! Please...!
Linkara (v/o): And he says this while the cat has already been thrown off. What the hell does he expect Ball-Bearings to do, leap after the cat?
(Cut to a shot of a comic for "Dex-Starr")
Linkara (v/o): Also, I should point out that this is basically the backstory for Dex-Starr, the Red Lantern Cat. Red lanterns are powered by rage, so it's basically a rage-fueled kitty cat with a tragic backstory.
Linkara: Just a reminder to you that comic books can be awesome, tragic, and very silly.
(The Superman comic resumes)
Linkara (v/o): However, before the poor kitty can get its induction into the Red Lantern Corps, it's saved by Superman, who zooms away with the cat instead of confronting the boys because he was probably too busy trying to teach some rich kid how he should appreciate being rich on Christmas or something.
Ballser: Come back here with my cat! What d'you think you're doing, you pathetic, overgrown Boyscout? I SAID COME BACK HERE!
Linkara: Dude, that is Superman! Even if he wasn't the routine savior of the world a dozen times over, he has super strength and heat vision! You should've gotten your "ballsers" kicked for being that stupid!
Linkara (v/o): Actually, the real reason he didn't stop to lecture the kid was because he was in town, helping firefighters at a chemical plant that was on fire.
Linkara: (sarcastically) But Superman, that chemical fire was (points offscreen) "over there"! "Over there" needs to deal with its own problems!
Linkara (v/o): Tommy writes about how awestruck he was at the idea of Superman in his hometown, but was also worried about his father, since he worked at that very plant. There's some hinting that Supes wasn't going to fail to save Tommy's dad, but fortunately, he does manage to rescue the father, and the family is happily reunited before he flies off with the kitty.
Tommy: (narrating) It was just...you. How you were. Mom called it HUMILITY.
Linkara: (as Tommy) I call it hino tonnage, but I like to make up words.
Tommy: (narrating) I mean, you're a guy who can eat an atomic bomb... but you'd never use your powers to pick on ANYONE weaker than you. Only to HELP. Just SEEING you, Superman, I LEARNED something...
Linkara: (as Tommy) I learned that I needed to inhale as many of those gas fumes as I could so I could get superpowers, too, and protect the alley cats from Ballser.
Linkara (v/o): And indeed, just to continue Scrotumser's animal-killing streak, he drowns the poor squirrel the teacher was helping. After they spot the teacher approaching, the kids retreat to Ballsack's house, where he's laughing it up. Tommy finally confronts him over this, telling him to confess to the teacher or he will.
Ballser: You threatening me, "Boy Scout"?
Tommy: (narrating) "Boy Scout"...it was the SAME thing he called you, Superman, when you saved that cat.
Linkara: (as Tommy) In retrospect, it's kind of a dumb name to describe do-gooders, since Boy Scouts are still perfectly capable of being assholes, and there's no merit badge for being a superhero. Although, there really should be.
Linkara (v/o): At this, Tommy responds that he is indeed and decks Ball Bottle. Unfortunately, this is a slightly more realistic story, so Ballrog proceeds to beat the snot out of Tommy in response. Tommy gets knocked into a suitcase containing pet collars, revealing to the other boys that he's been killing a lot of animals.
Ballser: C'mon, th-they're just dumb animals. It's not like I really did anything wrong or broke any laws.
Linkara: (scarcely believing what he read) Didn't break any laws...?! You know, I bet if I tapped on your head, it'd be like tapping on a watermelon because of how thick you are, wouldn't it?!
Ballser: It's not like they feel pain... or have souls like us. Doing stuff to them...it isn't any worse than chopping down a tree or burning trash, right?
Linkara: Hmm, you're right, it's no worse than burning trash. So let's set you on fire, shall we?
Linkara (v/o): He whips out a baseball bat and threatens Tommy not to tell anyone or he'll make him sorry. The other kids, though, quickly grab the bat away from him and point out the very simple logic of his little death threat.
Eightball: What now, Ballser? People not have souls either, dude?
Linkara: I can think of one who clearly doesn't have one.
Linkara (v/o): And so the kids go to the teacher and admit everything, and the guidance counselor even gets some sense and calls the police, making sure that Ball-Santario would get therapy with a psychologist. And he's apparently doing better, so that's a plus. The kids still had to face some punishment for not coming clean sooner, but the punishment was to work in an animal shelter for a few days. And hell, they even made some new friends outside of their little clique. So then, why did Tommy write the letter?
Tommy: (narrating) ...I figured a guy who gets mail from all over the world from people in TROUBLE deserves to hear some good news every once in a while.
Linkara: (as Tommy) Dozens of innocent animals have been horribly murdered, and a psychotic child has to undergo therapy for his sociopathic tendencies. Enjoy this good news!
Linkara (v/o): Oh, but I kid. He says it's all thanks to Superman's example of doing the right thing and that being a hero isn't about being tough or throwing one's weight around, just being willing to help people who can't fight for themselves. And so, our comic ends with Tommy walking to school, not really paying attention, and Superman casually telling Tommy he did well and he's proud of him. Tommy almost misses him, and we see Superman flying off, Tommy guessing the whole thing was just his mind playing tricks on him.
Linkara: Because even when Superman is offering a pat on the back, he still has to be a dick about it. (closes comic and holds it up) Anyway, this comic is... actually pretty good.
Linkara (v/o): For as much as I tend to dislike Mark Millar's writing for its over-reliance on shock tactics and pseudo-maturity with excessive violence and adult subject matters, the guy gets Superman and what Superman stands for; in this case, Superman not needing to be directly involved in the events, simply acting as an inspiration for a kid going through some problems and not knowing what to do. It's a well-written, done-in one about Superman inspiring a kid to greater morality. Hell, just think about the fact that it wasn't Tommy punching Ballser that solved the problem, but the revelation of just how awful a person Ballser was that really opened the other kids' eyes. And that only happened because Tommy stood up and did the right thing. Plus, it just showed the pointless cruelty involved in torturing and murdering animals like Ballser did without being heavy-handed about it. The kid was just messed up.
Linkara: All in all, a pretty good PSA and a better standard to adhere to in writing this kind of material, since it's a perfectly fine story in its own right. Kudos. (puts down comic, gets up and leaves)
(End credits roll)
My guess as to why he's named Ballser? Because he's so easily kickable.
Yeah, you'll see considerably less "Millar Time" videos pretty much because unlike Frank Miller, Mark Millar hasn't gone completely insane.
(Stinger: Linkara walks into the engine room of Comicron 1 and walks up to Dr. Linksano, who is tinkering with a Cybermat)
Linkara: All righty, Doc, you said you had some new stuff for me.
Dr. Linksano: Well, first and foremost, I've completed your new communicator.
(He hands the communicator to Linkara, who examines it quizzically)
Linkara: It doesn't look all that much more advanced than the last one.
Dr. Linksano: It may not appear so, but I can assure you that it is. It has a constant link with both the apartment and Comicron 1, and it has enhanced signal strength. I've also taken the liberty of shoring up some of the design flaws of the last communicator so the circuitry won't be as brittle. In addition, it has limited scanning function for detecting hazardous environments, plus enough power in the capsules lining it to create a temporary force field for about ten seconds or so.
Linkara: So I get a one-time save in an emergency. I'm assuming it burns out the communicator after use?
Dr. Linksano: Mmm, mostly yes. In the event of such a catastrophe, there is an emergency transponder that immediately kicks in and summons Comicron 1 to beam you up and into safety.
Linkara: Always nice. And I see that we have some new model Cybermats.
Dr. Linksano: Indeed. I haven't finished installing the new protocols on them, but I'll have that done by the weekend. I've put in a few new weapons, varying degrees of mobility and armoring, and new tools for repair or hacking. They will be ideal for infiltration or repair.
Linkara: Excellent, excellent. Oh, and, uh, (picks up a Sonic Screwdriver) what about this, hmm? Finally got the magic wand working?
Dr. Linksano: You mean the Sonic Screwdriver?
Linkara: No, I mean the magic wand. I call it what it is: a magical device that can perform a multitude of tasks, including unlocking doors with a simple spell or using it as a crude laser. It's a magic wand.
Dr. Linksano: Well, right now, what it is, is a lump of junk. (Linkara looks at him sourly) Don't give me that look! I've tried to study magic as best as I can under the circumstances, but it's still way beyond me, not to mention trying to integrate magic and technology together. Techno-magic is a relatively new science, and while your contacts were able to help a little, there just hasn't been much study in this field.
Linkara: Yeah. Aplos said that most magic-using folks just tend to stick to casting spells or enchanting objects. (sighs) Okay, I'll take over from here. How are we doing on the conventional phasers?
Dr. Linksano: Much better in that area. (walks off) Here, let's go to the firing range and I'll show you what I've been working on...
(Linkara follows him out. We cut to a closeup of the Cybermat Linksano was working on. To the sound of the mysterious whispering, its eye lights up briefly)