Forgotten Masterpiece: When Brooklyn Was Superman

When the strip was first introduced (in the pages of DETECTIVE COMICS of all places), Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s Boy Commandos was an immediate sensation. Graduating into its own title several months later, the earliest issues of the series were among the best-selling that DC put out during that period–on a par with SUPERMAN and BATMAN. The second world war was on, and so kids on the home front wanted to imagine themselves fighting in that conflict as their fathers or older brothers were, so the fantasy of the Boy Commandos was a potent one at the time.

But once the war ended, the series faced the same uncertain future that was being grappled with by a myriad of super heroes, in particular the overtly patriotic ones. The raison d’etre of the strip was no more, and so the Boy Commandos came home from the conflict and were re-imagined as a more classic kid gang series, battling criminals (occasionally super-criminals such as Crazy Quilt) and going on wild adventures. But never would the teen stars find themselves in actual combat again, and their antics overall were toned down a bit consequently. The amount of gunplay that the Boy Commandos engaged in postwar was a heck of a lot less.

Joe Simon and Jack Kirby and their studio had turned out enough Boy Commandos material to keep the feature running smoothly throughout the wartime years, but upon their return to the United States after the war ended, their creative interests were in other areas. While they continued to produce Boy Commandos material and often gave it a good effort, it wasn’t where the team’s bread was being buttered at that moment. Plus, I suspect the writing was on the wall in terms of the longevity of the strip.

This particular issue of BOY COMMANDOS, #28, is well-remembered due to its cover having been reproduced in the collection of essays on the Golden Age of Comics called ALL IN COLOR FOR A DIME.

It’s very much par for the course for this era, with Brooklyn attired in a Superman costume for a party and getting the group involved in a series of fast-paced shenanigans as a result. Superman’s popularity was still strong in 1947 when this story was put together, and Simon and Kirby weren’t above drafting off of it a little bit.

Jack Kirby did layouts for this story, but likely not full pencils. So his storytelling is in evidence, but the finish is a bit wobblier. Nobody is 100% certain who else labored on this story, but the best guess seems to be that finishes were provided by Louis Cazenueve.

The story plays the question of whether Superman is a genuine person in Brooklyn’s world or just a character from the comic books, funny papers and radio a bit broadly. Depending on your preference, you can pretty much read it either way.

This part of the story has a bit of skip-logic in the midst of it. If the crooks genuinely think that Brooklyn has Superman-style super-powers, then they’d have to think their guns and weapons would be useless against him, right? The very fact that Brooklyn is coerced by them should prove that he’s telling the truth and in reality has no such powers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s