Malarkey is Andy Clarke, a creative designer with a passion for accessibility and web standards. This is his personal website.

A four colour world

In a change from the advertised programme…

In this 1963 episode of Superman Comic, entitled The Amazing Story of Superman-Red and Superman-Blue!, The Man of Steel (and his Kryptonite created twin) develop what they describe as an ‘Anti-crime’ ray, delivered from a ring of orbiting satellites. True to form, Supermans’ plan succeeds, and soon bank-robbers are returning their loot, shoplifters give themselves up and escaped prisoners return to jail voluntarily. Phew! Thank goodness for Superman!

But it is the next panel (below) which is the most interesting. Here, two of the world’s other famous ’criminals’ of the period also repent. Former Soviet reformer Krushchev hilariously offers to "Dump all missiles into the sea…" (cue Russian gangster accent) and that other ’enemy of the free peoples’ Castro throws open the prison doors. Phew! Even the oppressed people of the Axis of Evil can be thankful to Superman!

Dump all missiles into the sea

Of course Superman never managed to replace the Iron Curtain with a ’cloak of steel’ and instead spent many adventures battling his arch rival Lex Luthor and thwarting his dastardly plans.

Four colours, two dimensions

Lex Luthor, a criminal mastermind hell-bent on world domination, was Superman’s greatest foe. He hated Superman, the incarnation of goodness, and gleefully boasted in one episode,

“Only Superman stands between my great goal to rule this planet! Soon I’ll be King of the Earth!”

(cue maniacal laughter). Luthor’s four-colour capers brought the constant threat of terror, death and destruction to the free people of Metropolis and only Superman could stop him.

Before you could say “Carpet bomb Kabul,” Superman would swoop from the sky like a laser-guided missile to save the day. His X-ray vision seeking out the enemies of the western world hiding in their remote caves and bringing them to justice. His super breath could even whip up a desert storm which would bring enduring freedom.

But comics are for kids!

But this is the real world, right? We don’t believe in two-dimensional, cardboard cut-out criminals. We don’t believe in a world where there is a constant threat from super-villains. We don’t accept their comic-book, them vs us view of the world… do we?

In 1963, kids absorbed anti-communism through the pages of Superman. Today, we should be better informed and not accept their story as narrated. It is ironic to think that Superman’s alter-ego Clark Kent is a journalist. I wonder what breed of journalist he would really be, a finder and deliverer of the truth, or just a super-sized mouth-piece?

And in a month where Americans see the terror alert raised one notch in the run up to Presidential elections and Brits read about the arrest of yet another of Bin Laden’s alleged ‘right-hand’ men in London (even our sober Today programme on BBC Radio 4 talks of living under the constant threat of a terror attack on London), it might also be interesting to know what comics kids read in Bagdad, Kabul or the West Bank and who their super-villains are.

Stuff to read


  1. #1 On August 10, 2004 12:04 AM Rob Cameron said:

    Just a comic dude, it’s okay. :)

  2. #2 On August 10, 2004 01:19 AM Anura said:

    While I like coming to your site for all the reading on web design, standards, etc. I think it’s also good to remember that we all have wider interests than just the web (well, most of us!)

    I liked this posting. Clearly got your views across, but used an interest in design (even 40 year old designs) to support your point.

    Given that large chunks of our communities fall for this stuff, does that mean they all have the intellect and attention span of 1960’s children?

  3. #3 On August 10, 2004 01:43 AM Brothercake said:

    Yeah man - it’s the implied cultural conditioning that gives comics their power and appeal - just like soap operas .

    Sure, no-one thinks the stories are real, or even realistic, but the culture that surrounds the characters, the casual narrative and scene-setting, is loaded with the implication that the characters live in the same world as us - the real world - they share our culture and values.

    But they don’t - their world is utterly mediated - but because it’s portrayed as though it ’s real, we accept it as though it is, and thus our culture is shaped by it - life begins to imitate art instead of art imitating life.

    What about the season finale of Star Trek Enterpise Season 2? If that’s not a 9/11 parable then I’m Osam Bin Laden.

  4. #4 On August 10, 2004 12:17 PM Phunky said:

    Get him!!!

  5. #5 On August 10, 2004 06:55 PM Carlos Porto said:

    Did any of you notice a resemblence between the Former Soviet reformer Krushchev and Dick Cheney?

    I think we’re on to something here…

  6. #6 On August 11, 2004 01:44 AM Seth Thomas Rasmussen said:

    Aw wow… comics, social issue, hatred for Dubya… this entry has it all!

    :thumbsup: + :cheeseywinkandsmile:

    P.S. The above line looks sarcastic upon further review, but I assure you, it is not.

  7. #7 On August 12, 2004 01:12 AM Patrick H. Lauke said:

    GWB *is* lex luthor…

  8. #8 On August 12, 2004 03:30 PM Andy Budd said:

    Prisons in Cuba, illegally holding people against their will, without charge or legal counsel at the behest of an evil despot?

    Maybe Superman should point his ’Anti-crime’ ray and the Whitehouse and see if it’d have the same effect now that it did all those years ago.

  9. #9 On August 12, 2004 07:55 PM Malarkey said:

    Today I heard on Radio 4 that the UK government (Christ I’m ashamed to have EVER voted for Blair and his junta!) is planning to introduce an extention to UK law that allows the police to arrest anyone, even for trivial crimes.

    This in the same week that it was revealed that the UK police has been holding 16 foreign nationals ’without’ any charges brought since 2001 under so-called anti-terrorism legislation.

    Under the pretence of ’protecting’ our freedoms, Bush and Blair have taken us to the brink of authoritarianism. Mark my words, the threat to the free world (sic) comes not from without, but from within.

  10. #10 On August 13, 2004 10:02 AM Andy Budd said:

    Yes. What’s more, they or their legal representatives are not allowed to see the evidence against them. Handy huh.

    Oh, and it’s just been made legal to use evidence extracted by torture in the UK, just as long as we are not the ones doing the torturing.

    Home Secretary: Get Jack Bower on the phone, and tell him to bring his thumb screws.


  11. #11 On August 13, 2004 10:17 AM Malarkey said:

    AND us Brits are all ’eagerly anticipating’ (sic) a government sponsored booklet to drop through our doors. This blatant piece of publically funded propaganda laughingly offers advice on what to do in the ’event’ of a terror attack and what our masters are doing to help us.

    The sad fact, is that the lie that we are living under the constant ’threat of terror’ from outside is slowly being massaged into our collective psychi . It is almost too Orwellian to be believable and yet our media continues to swallow this received truth hook, line and sinker.

    Maybe it is time for the masses to take to the streets and claim back our country from this gang of reactionary thugs.