Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Oddball Super Heroes: Simon Says...Show Me the Power, Brother!

Hi there! Welcome to I'm So Glad My Suffering Amuses You, the moss encrusted mockery of a blog against the brightly colored spandex of the internet. I'm Dave-El and I have the super power of perplexity.

We are a month away from the debut of Captain America: Civil War. Yeah, another movie with super heroes fighting each other. But unlike Batman Vs. Superman, I'm actually looking forward to this one.

So with Captain America on my mind and a regular blog feature I call Oddball Super Heroes that I feel compelled to write, I thought I would take the next few weeks leading up to Cap's new movie to look at some of the more oddball creations that sprang from the mind of one of Captain America's co-creators.

While Captain America was one of the first characters Stan Lee wrote back in the very, very early days of his comic book career, Stan the Man did not have a hand in the good Captain's creation. No, that honor belongs to the team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby.

Jack Kirby's name is well known as Stan Lee's collaborator and co-creator on features like the Fantastic Four, the Incredible Hulk, the Mighty Thor, the Uncanny X-Men and more. But before Jack paired up with Stan in the early 1960s, Jack Kirby was partnered up with Joe Simon.

In the 1940s and 50s, Simon and Kirby were a powerhouse team producing all sorts of comics: super heroes, westerns, crime stories, supernatural mysteries. Hell, they even created the first romance comics.

While Jack Kirby kept plugging away in the comics industry, Joe Simon focused on work outside of comics but occasionally would be drawn back into the field. One of those times was a period from the late 1960s to the early 1970s at DC Comics where Simon came up with some concepts that were really wild and way, WAY outside the norm. 

The first one we're going to look at this week is Brother Power, the Geek, a supernatural being that sprang from then prevalent culture of hippies.

Yes, I said "hippies".  

Brother Power's story began in an empty tailor's shop where a couple of hippies had sought sheltered after being attacked. One of the hippies dressed an abandoned mannequin in his wet and bloodied clothes. Several months later, said mannequin was struck by lightning and thus Brother Power came to life, endowed with super powers.

Immediately afterwards, Brother Power was kidnapped by the "Psychedelic Circus".  After he escaped, a hippie named Cindy fixed him up, giving Brother Power a face. 

Next up, Brother Power ran for United States Congress. And you thought the people in politics today were a bunch of dummies. 

Later, Brother Power went to work for the  J.P. Acme Corporation which was taken over by the wicked Lord Sliderule. Thanks to Brother Power's ingenuity, the efficiency of the assembly line improved. Ol' BP may have been filled with stuffing but he knew his stuff. (Ouch! Sorry.)  

After that, Brother Power was shot into space on orders from Governor Ronald Reagan because, well, of course he was.

All that was over the course of just TWO issues. And brother, that was all Brother Power got.  While sales of the title were modest, Brother Power was not popular among the staff. Former DC Comics Editorial Director Carmine Infantino claimed that Superman editor Mort Weisinger particularly lobbied for the cancellation of the title. Weisenger had an admitted strong dislike for the hippie subculture of the 1960s. 

Joe Simon is credited as the writer and artist for the series; however, the art was actually drawn by Al Bare. Simon had hired Bare to "ghost" the art, and was subsequently credited with the art. Bare had completed the art on issue #3 but the book was cancelled before it was sent off to the printers. Simon never discussed the plot for that issue or released any of the art.  

The name of the character was originally going to be Brother Power the Freak but there was concern about the use of the word "freak" as part of the title so it  was exchanged with the word "Geek". 

Brother Power has made a few random appearances here and there in the DC Universe including a story written by the famous Neil Gaiman back in the 1990s. However there have been no attempts to stage any kind of ongoing Brother Power project. Some concepts, it seems, are too weird for regular exposure. 


Next week, Oddball Super Heroes continues it's Simon Says series with another Joe Simon creation that has a particular resonance here in this election year. 

Speaking of elections, tomorrow is another installment of our regular diatribe against Ted Cruz. And Friday, it's more government fun with a post about taxes.

On Saturday, mad science runs amuck and Sunday, we're back with a new Doctor Who post.  

Until next time, remember to be good to one another. 

A rare 1980s appearance of Brother Power the Geek, his entry in Who's Who In the DC Universe

Counting Down To Infinity