I found the genius I've long been missing ... and he wasn't on Oolong Island!
He was hidden in the back of a book I almost didn't buy, in a back-up story I almost didn't read...
I refer, of course, to Genius Jones.
There have been a lot of "kid genius" characters, but nobody quite like Genius Jones; I mean, how many characters' origin center around bookburning?
Genius Jones (a.k.a. "The Answer Man") was a young boy who became shipwrecked on a deserted island. Fortunately, the boat he was on contained a vast reference library, and, salvaging 734 of the books, he committed them to memory before making them into a bonfire to signal for help.
Books, by the way, were a pre-internet medium for the storage and cataloging of information; can you imagine?
Rescued, he returned to NYC and he set up a lab in the back of an old car, where, instead of selling lemonade like other kids, he offered to answer any question for a dime. Dimes went farther in 1942, you know.
Genius's real first name was "John", and (as I've said here and elsewhere), I've always wanted it to be "revealed" that he had met and inspired a newly-arrived Martian Manhunter toward a career as an investigator. Don't hate me for it; I was raised during the Rozakis/Thomas era.
He dressed like a superhero, acted like a detective, and looked like a kid's funny cartoon. He crossed genres, but the world is not always kind to such characters, and today Genius Jones is nearly forgotten. In fact, I haven't heard tell of ANY in-story references to Genius Jones since his last appearance in DC comics in 1947.
Until this week, that is, when he turned up in, of all things, the Dr. Thirteen back-up story in Tales of the Unexpected. The main story, starring the Spectre was full of "Expected": evil people doing evil things to good people, victims being punished for punishing their victimizers, befitting deaths, severed limbs, gratuitously evil gangs threaten to rape little girls (an annoyingly common trope nowadays); you know, the usual.
But the Dr. Thirteen story? Julius H. Schwartz! Let's see...
A pretentious prologue that mocks pretentious prologues? Incest dreams? Traci the Teenage Witch? The Premier of France? Survivalist cannabilism? Andrew Freakin' Bennet? Genius Jones?
And presiding over the madness, Dr. Thirteen, that wondrous inversion of expectation. Just as in our world, there are those who persist in believing in the supernatural despite the evidence to the contrary, in the DCU, there is Dr. Thirteen, who persists in NOT believing in the supernatural despite the evidence to the contrary. When I was a kid, I used to think Dr. Thirteen was stupid; now I think he's ingenious.
This was definitely a Tale of the Unexpected, and one you shouldn't miss. Kudos to author Brian Azzarello (as complemented perfectly by the clean art of Cliff Chiang); if this is a sample of his writing, I may have to see whether he's written anything else interesting ... .