So unique is the comic book medium and the superhero genre, there are things people say in comics that you're not likely to read anywhere else.
In fact, during some periods, most of what comic book characters say isn't something you'd hear or read anywhere else. Unless the book is by Brian Michael Bendis, in which case the dialog could resemble any conversation you might overhear between two dim-witted and severely hard of hearing people trapped in a broken elevator.
"I said, 'push it'."
"The button. Which button?"
"What do you mean 'which button'? Any button."
"What good will that do?"
"I don't know. Just push it."
"Why don't you?"
"Why don't I what?"
But I'm here today not to damn the prosaic but to praise the dynamic, specifically, the prose of the Silver and Bronze Ages.
I'm accepting nominations from you, the loyal readership, so please dig out your favorite nugget and submit it. The rules are as follows:
- It must be from the Silver or Bronze Ages (meaning between the years 1955 and 1986, after the appearance of the Silver Age Flash and before the original Crisis).
- It must be from a word balloon or thought balloon; narration boxes are not eligible.
- It may be more than one sentence, but not more than one panel's worth of the balloons.
- If possible, tell us who said it and in what comic.
- Explication of the virtues of your nominee will be appreciated.
- Preference will be given to quotes that are intrinsically stupid or bizarre, and not merely odd-sounding because they are deprived of context.
This will be an on-going project and once I've gathered enough submissions, we'll have a poll to determine the top Silver/Bronze Age quotes. If I get lots of submissions, I may sort them into categories; we'll see.
To give you a flavor of what I'm looking for, let's start with some of my own nominations:
1. "A manganese paravane! Because there's no time for anything else!" Metamorpho.
There's just an entire world of assumptions and enigmas wrapped up in this little package. Who thinks in terms of paravanes, let alone refers to them the way you and I would a paper clip or a coathanger? Why choose magnanese to make one? Is it one of the principal exports of Bolivia or I am confusing it with bauxite? Why does it take less time to turn oneself into a manganese paravane than anything else?
Metamorpho stories are full of such bizarre chestnuts and this one pretty much represents them all.
2. "Jonathan is a quiet-spoken young farmer who loves the girl, but he's getting severe competition from Gregg Halliday, a handsome smooth banker, who recently arrived in Smallville. The pity of it is that the banker is really a swindler who has hidden stolen bonds in a secret hiding place inside that statue of himself." Jor-El.
In most fiction, exposition is the coffee that helps keeps the plot zipping along. But the Silver Age didn't drink coffee; it drank only dark roast Columbian triple espressos with 8 packs of raw cane sugar per demitasse. There's more action represented in this one word balloon than in issues 0, 1, & 2 of the new Justice League of America and more questions raised than at a Marvel stockholders meeting. Why does Gregg spell his name with an extra G; is he actually from the planet Carggg? Where does Jor-El find time in his busy schedule of doom-warning to spy on Kansasites? Do alien cultures lack telenovellas, and instead use some impossible translight observational technology to watch The Real World: Earth, and, if so, are they secretly responsible for Judd Winick's continued employment?
Oh, and, of course, twenty-something bankers recently arrived in small farming communities who've already erected FRAKKING STATUES OF THEMSELVES IN TOWN. It's remarkable how often statues are a plot device in Silver and Bronze age stories....
3. "To prove how much I love you, I'm feeding the ostrich my old Superman pictures." Lois Lane.
That's how I always prove my love: by feeding pictures of my old boyfriends to ostriches. No one phrase could adequately represent the absurdity of the entire French Farce/ Love Polygon approach to the Superman mythos that was the Silver Age. But this comes close.
4. "What's that, Commissioner? A caveman -- sheathed in ice -- flying over the city? We'll be there right away!" Batman.
As previously discussed.
Anyway, you get the idea. Nominations are now being accepted!
I'm going to lead this one off with one of the most silver-age panels I've ever seen...and then immediately disqualify myself because it's not from the allowed era.
Kryptococcus, the Omni-germ!
This is from Busieks absolutely fantastic Up, Up, and Away arc that so recently graced Superman and Action Comics. Please, at the very least, give the man an honorable mention!
If I can find my master list, I plan to flood the nomination box, but let's start with this one from the Treadmill's rotating quote feature:
"Look...since I'm slender, girls don't laugh at me anymore...they like me!"
-Bouncing Boy, imparting the lesson that what's really important isn't what's on the inside, to impressionable Silver Age youth everywhere in Adventure Comics 321 (1964).
"With this flying dreadnaught under me, I can wipe out all mankind! Now the Hulk will be the HUNTER instead of the HUNTED!"
The Hulk said this is INCREDIBLE HULK #2, way back in July 1962. Kidnapped by the Toad Men, Hulk defeated them pretty easily and, because this is from the era when the Hulk's personality was totally different every issue, he is mean not dumb, so he decides to take over the ship and wipe out mankind!
Now THAT is a great comic book concept. This word balloon is the turning point for the Marvel Universe!
But before Hulk can master the ship's controls, General Ross orders a missile attack and the ship is brought down.
I love this panel. I made some stationery wih this panel in the corner. (Only about ten sheets. I didn't know enough people who would appreciate it, back in those pre-blog days.)
"not to damn the prosaic but to praise the dynamic"
you accepting Marvel as well as DC submissions?
Okay Scipio - sorry if this is a repeat, but my first attempt to post this didn't seem to take. Here are 22 entries in my shameless attempt to flood the nomination box. My top 3 among these are 8, 12 and 14.
1) "I am Starro! I have selected you three starfish - - who must be distant relatives of mine - - to help me conquer this planet!"
Giant alien starfish Starro, who could have picked Luthor, Joker or Mirror Master, or even a crab with sharp pincers, showing why patronage is ill-advised. From his defeat in The Brave and the Bold 28 (1960).
2) "We adopted English as our tongue because it's the most efficient language."
A Zolium Politican explaining to Jimmy "Super Lad" Olsen why his race all speaks English. English the most efficient language in the universe?!? Could it be? Well we did tell you the guy who made the claim was a politician didn't we?
From Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen 39 (1959).
3) Lara: I'm sure he meant no harm! He looks like a good lad.
Jor-El: Bah! You women are so impressed with appearances. He's a lunatic!
Superman's old man demonstrating why it took 50 years before Superman could develop something approaching a healthy relationship with a woman, all while showing a time travelling Jimmy Olsen the door in the most convuluted tale DC ever told. Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen 101 (1967)
4) Gosh! There’s the duplicate planet Superman told me about! Four years ago, he, Supergirl
and Krypto, his superdog, converted an uninhabited world in a distant solar system into an
exact duplicate of Krypton!
Some expository dialog by everyone's favorite cub reporter revealing one of the many creepy sides of the Silver Age Superman, a man who'd marry his own cousin if the laws of a dead civilization didn't prevent it. From Jimmy Olsen 101(1967).
5) "There they go...Super-Horse, Krypto, Streaky and Super Monkey on another great mission! If only I had super powers and could join them!"
Another great moment in Silver Age pathos from Proty II, who spent years confused as to whether he was master or pet.
Adventure 322 (1964)
6) "Electronic vibrator work heap good"
Charlie, who despite being a cliched Bob Haney Indian, was a pretty happy guy - we think we know why. From Teen Titans 24 (1969)
7) "He almost fought the Tumbler to a standstill before...so he's gotta be someone to reckon with!"
Hawkeye, who I'm certain that Stan must have misquoted, talking about the Super-Adaptoid in Tales of Suspense 84 (1966). Maybe he had the Tumbler confused with Ultron or something.
8) "I've named you six underlings after the six inert elements--because you can't make a move without me!"
Mr. Element, who apparently also had the super power of insensitivity to henchmen, from Showcase 13 (1958)
9) "I'll bet that's the first fourth-dimensional hot-foot in history."
Flash, showing how super-heroes handled the rough stuff before everyone had claws and big guns in Showcase 14 (1958)
10) "This is getting ridiculous--the Flash running away from a mosquito!"
Hey, Barry said it, not me, in Flash 105 (1959)
11) Woman to Barry Allen: "Help! I just saw a gorilla!"
Barry Allen: "Great scott! It must be the gorilla"
Flash demonstrating that super speed includes quick thinking too in Flash 106 (1959)
12) “Must lay low till they’re under some big, heavy prop”.
Generic thug being chased by the Dynamic Duo
Batman 92 (1955)
13) “Not only will the souls of Batgirl and Robin not belong to me, but they will be the models of heroism everywhere!”
Satan, chastising his team-up partner Benedict Arnold
Batman Family 1 (1975)
14) Robin: “Let’s hope we spot the Spinner today Bruce.”
Batman: “Right, Dick. As Batman and Robin, we’ve got to check every place that deals with spinning objects.”
Batman 129 (1960)
15) “An enormous nest! There can be no doubt about it.”
The Cavalier, strutting his second-string status, by falling for a hoax aimed at making him belive Robin was an alien bird life form.
Batman Family 15 (1978)
16) “Smoke..clinging to me …like Lori at a drive-in movie.”
Robin, showing a lack of focus while being outwitted by the hit sensation of 1976, the Joker’s Daughter
Batman Family 6 (1976)
17) "Ha-Ha! A female is the same in any world! When facing a problem, she always resorts to powdering her nose or putting on lipstick."
Wannabe World Conquering Alien Shortly Before Bat-Girl Gives Him His Comeuppance
Batman: 153 (1963)
18) "A-A swordfish!...Crossing swords with me! Is there no end to the ingenuity of Aquaman's sea creatures?"
Adventure 261 (19??)
19) "For I am the Grasshopper! And like the insect I emulate, I have mighty leg muscles that enable me to match its leaping prowess."
The Grasshopper (who else?)
Detective 334 (1964)
20)"Correct gorgeous--and if we only had the time, I'd show you some invisible love...Ha! Ha! Ha!"
The Invisible Un-Thing after capturing Mera in Aquaman 24 (1965). As this was Un-Thing's only appearance, we never learned just what invisible love is. Damn!
21) Mona Lisa. . .She'd look better with a mustache don't you think?"
Batman, proving that everyone is indeed a critic, in The Brave and the Bold 77 (1968).
22) "You've ruined everything with your kooky romanticism"
The only line ever spoken by Batman that has also been spoken to me by an ex-girlfriend. From The Brave and the Bold 78 (1968)
"Cool Up, Dirk!" in one of the Grell era Legion Issues. Because, you know, it's the FUTURE, and we of course won't still be saying "cool down" in the FUTURE...
Since I've only just begun to dip my toes into the waters of the Silver and Bronze ages, I'm afraid I cannot offer up a list as vast and entertaining as others, but I was very amused when I read this in issue #103 of "Superman's Girlfriend, Lois Lane":
Lois: I can't comb my hair to cover my horns! It would hurt Satdev's feelings! But--I'll never get used to them!
Say what you will about our Miss Lane, she's nothing if not concerned about the feelings of the demon-looking alien who's abducted her to his planet so he can make her his bride.
Oh and then there's this two balloon exchange in a panel in "SG, LL" #100 (can you guess what comic I've started collecting?):
Judge: Batman! Are you out of your mind? Bringing the dead body of Lana Lang here?
Batman: I know it's highly irregular your honor! But I had to do it!
Well, that makes it okay then! Plus I love the fact that the comic makes no effort to explain exactly why Superman is prosecuting Lois for the murder of Lana and how come Batman is serving as her defense. But then again I don't have issue #99, so perhaps it contains the answers I seek.
Here's a couple of gems from Blackhawk:
"Now-just like that-my Octopus Coat becomes a Transistorized Power Jacket!" -Mr. Quick-Change, from Blackhawk #223, August 1966.
I wish my coat could do that.
"Now hear this...one more foolish move and I'll feed you to my herd of carnivorous violets!" -Evil Space Alien, to Hendrickson, backup story in Blackhawk #221.
How about a few from the very end of the timeframe, from DC Challenge:
"I teleported your true head far, far away, Superman! Your one chance to regain it is to kill the alien!" (#11)
"Bork must be found, project X must be halted. The fastest, simplest way to accomplish this is through the conquest of Earth." (#8)
"You didn't think we'd ignore out leader's summons, did you, cutie? Besides, I haven't been to Egypt for years and the sight-seeing's great!" (#4)
S.G.>>It's remarkable how often statues are a plot device in Silver and Bronze age stories....<<
It is. It's also remarkable how often the statues are in full color. What was UP with that?
L.L.>>"To prove how much I love you, I'm feeding the ostrich my old Superman pictures." Lois Lane.<<
This is why I'm not even attempting to find a quote for consideration. There's no way this can be topped. And that was before I even SAW "h"s contribution. Jeepers.
h.>>As this was Un-Thing's only appearance, we never learned just what invisible love is. <<
Wait, we don't KNOW that this was his only appearance, now do we? He might've been in LOTS of stories, only, you know, being real quiet, and with people not mentioning him. Well he COULD!!
B.M.>>A caveman -- sheathed in ice -- flying over the city?<<
Wait ... I think I remember that caveman ... from 1964? Was his name Brug, or was he looking for another caveman named Brug? Oh dear, memory's a funny thing...
J.G.>>But I'm here today not to damn the prosaic but to praise the dynamic<<
Nothing. I'm just agog at the symmetry of that well-turned phrase. That phrase was turned on a high-speed lathe, with laser scalpels, looks like. Damn.
My favorite word balloon is spoken by a character named Lightning, but I've never seen it (or Lightning, for that matter) in a comic; it was in The Encyclopedia of Comic Book Heroes. But the words stay with me to this day:
"Have a souvenir hunk of the door you thought I lay dead behind!"
Now THAT's some smack talk!
From the Master of Madness himself, Bob Haney, in Teen Titans #2
Wonder Girl: "Hey you three--does a girl have to frug with her own magic lasso?"
Yeah, I know the frug was a way groovy dance and all, but it sounds dirty.
The scary part? In the accompanying panel...she IS frugging with her own magic lasso.
I nominate the greatest 'blooper' in comics history:
"Only one of us is gonna walk out of here under his own steam -- and it won't be me!"
-- Captain America in Tales of Suspense #92
Seriously, if some fanboy ever challenges me to a fight, I know what I'll be shouting... ;-)
Crooks, to each other in Detective Comics #327:
"What was that?" "An EAR-- in the fireplace!" "He must be up on the roof!"
Elongated Man was spying on some jewel thieves who had stolen his and Sue's car.
Just to show how great the Silver Age was, I picked up my Supergirl Archives Volume 2 to a random page and found this from Action 276
Bad Guy #1 "I just heard from Kiley at the mine! kent's trapped! But so far no robots have shown up to rescue him!"
Bad Guy #2 "They couldn't! Not with this electronic static I'm beamin' at his house! This interference would bust up the functionin' of any robot!
Ah yes -- two mooks are such experts in robotics that they know exactly how much static will disrupt a robot's operation
I can't believe it took seventeen posts before someone (meaning me) mentioned this gem:
"I've got the strangest feeling I'm being turned into a puppet!" -- Flash, from the cover of The Flash #133
I think its virtues speak for themselves.
Yeah, a contest!!
Since there wasn’t a stated limit on entries/person, I’ll restrain myself to three (with a recurring theme), in order of entry if you need to set a limit.
These quotes may not be contest-winning, but it was ton of fun digging them up!! (I’m posting the actual panels on my site, The Planetary Chance Machine.)
The first entry is by Ed Hamilton; the second two, Jim Shooter.
Adventure Comics #319, "The Legion’s Suicide Squad", 1964
Spoken By: Brainiac 5
Spoken To: Saturn Girl
Situation: Using The Planetary Chance Machine, the Legion has just chosen members for a dangerous mission on the planet Throon. Brainiac 5 announces the selections.
Word Balloon: “Saturn Girl, Bouncing Boy Superboy, Lightning Lad, Chameleon Boy and Invisible Kid! But... It’s too dangerous for a girl! I must eliminate you, Saturn Girl!”
Virtues: Silver Age sexism means never having to say you’re sorry. (Plus the preceding panel has The Planetary Chance Machine. And not just any panel, but the very panel featured in the TPCM logo!)
Action Comics #378, "The Forbidden Fruit", 1969
Spoken By: Light Lass
Spoken To: Timber Wolf
Situation: Timber Wolf has become addicted to the Lotus Fruit, needs more and has met his dealer in an alley. After Light Lass floats away the basket of Forbidden Fruit, Timber Wolf asks, “What are you doing?”
Word Balloon: “Trying to help you, love!... Watch me! I’m wiring this basket... If one fruit so much as wiggles, the blast grenade strapped to my belt explodes! Touch that fruit and I die!”
Virtues: It provides an important lesson to all girlfriends in every time period: if you really loved your drug-crazed boyfriend, you’d be willing to let him kill you for a fix. F*ck rehab! (And Light Lass used that same tactic and those EXACT words AGAIN, after catching T-Wolf and Queer Legion in the boys dorm. I told T-Wolf he should lock the door. And let me tell you, you don't ever want Light Lass to wire your basket!)
Adventure Comics #368, The Mutiny of the Super-Heroines", 1968
Spoken By: Supergirl
Spoken To: Light Lass (on panel), Saturn Girl and Princess Projectra (off panel)
Situation: While the female Legion members “add feminine touches to their new dorm section” (Shooter’s exact words), they discuss the ambassador of Taltar, a planer ruled by women, where they, not men, are the dominant sex. Light Lass comments that Supergirl’s just as strong as Mon-El or Superboy.
Word Balloon: “Not really! Though our strength has never been accurately measured, theoretically, Superboy is stronger than I, just as a normal boy is stronger than a normal girl!”
Virtues: The only thing better than Silver Age sexism from the guys, is having the girls put themselves in their place!
"What the Green Gophers are we waiting for?
"Let's move our bottoms out there, for the luvva Kookamonga!"
Spoken (simultaneously) by Green Arrow and Elliot S! Maggin, in "Crisis on Earth Prime!"
"But I'm here today not to damn the prosaic but to praise the dynamic."
Now that's a good one. Antithesis, wordplay and a subtle reference to Antony. truly, you are a master wordsmith.
As much as I hate to admit it, considering how emotionally attached I am to the idea of the Hulk traveling around in the Toad Men's spaceship and destroying mankind, I think Lois's comment about the ostrich pretty much negates all the competition.
With the possible exception of the crooks reacting to Ralph Dibny's ear in the fireplace.
"An ear! In the fireplace!"
"The Hulk must be trying to destroy mankind in the Toad Men's spaceship!"
"we'd better do something! But wait until I get done feeding pictures of my old boyfriend to this ostrich!"
Here's some more quotes from various issues of LL:
"What's in here? ...Oh, no! It's the monstrous Hydra of ancient legend!" (Lois, opening a door and finding a hydra inside)
"Behold... The Incomparable Luthor, world famous pianist! Who would suspect I am Lexo, with a million-dollar reward on his head?" (Lex Luthor, world famous pianist.)
"Gosh, we're sorry! Some guy went around hiring hoboes who had your build, dressed us up with Superman costumes and masks, and paid us to march carrying fake kryptonite! He said it was part of the entertainment!" (a hobo in a Superman costume apologizing for nearly getting Superman killed)
"Circe? Why, she's an ancient witch with magic powers! She visited the 20th century once before, to meet Superman!" (Lois, following a mental command to enter a cave containing Supergirl in a Circe disguise)
"Lois, darling, I'm using these life-like manikins to show you how I would carry you over the threshold after our wedding, and to model the clothes and jewelry that would be yours as wedding gifts!" (From a splash panel, admittedly, so it may not count; there's another good one in the actual story belonging to it, though:)
"They're automated manikins, dressed in different costumes to match the many ways I've dreamed of you!" (Spoken by Superman disguised as Lance Fortune, a handsome millionaire supposedly in love with Lois)
"Now comes a job for Topo, Aquaman's pet octopus! I must order him to climb the eel ladder with his tentacles coiled around the unexploded depth bomb... *gasp!* H-he's DOING it!" (Lois, that one time she was turned into a mermaid by some surgeon Aquaman knew because her legs were crushed by an undersea shipwreck's mast)
"Eureka! The tip I got was right! This is the hideout of the country's top crime kingpin... an armored fortress -- on the sea bottom! It even has watertight watch-towers! I guess those racketeers get there in those little submarines!" (Lois, discovering said fortress)
"Right... IF you can! But he lives in a FLOATING CASTLE... a converted AIRCRAFT CARRIER which is always surrounded with a barrier of FLAMING GASOLINE! His guards include ARMORED KNIGHTS and WILD BEASTS!" (Perry informing Lois about the difficulties involved in interviewing that new "mystery millionaire")
And one from Superboy:
"(Now I'll let the baby penguin take off! Maybe it'll migrate instinctively back to its mother!) That's it birdie! Go home and roost! I'll follow you!" (Superboy thinking about and talking to a newly hatched baby penguin as it takes off and flies back to its mother. No, really. It's in #93.)
"Now that's a good one"
Thanks for noticing, Chance.
Lois Lane AND Topo!?! In the same story?!?
NO FUCKING WAY!
THAT IS AWESOME!
Who did the art?
Kurt Schaffenberger, as usual. It's in #12.
"A Hydra death squad on skateboards! Those murderin' clowns don't miss a trick!" - Nick Fury
"Must lay low till they’re under some big, heavy prop"
...Oh, you have to be making that one up.
"I almost didn't, Alanna! If my jets had been any slower, a girl or a gorilla would've appeared in my place!"
From Justice League of America #144, which makes me wonder how many women, gorillas, and random objects have been Zeta-beamed to Rann over the years.
"Well, if sonic blasts'll do nae guid, let's see how yon kelpie fares-- --against close-range machine-gun fire!"
UNCANNY X-MEN #96, in which Moira McTaggert leaps into the fray and into my heart.
It won't work in reality, that's exactly what I consider.
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