Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Bring Back Chiller-Diller!

Your comic book is in trouble when the monster is more interesting than the super hero.

To be fair, writer John Broome was working in a different era when he penned the early adventures of Green Lantern starting in 1959. A story had to be wrapped up in 6-12 pages. That didn't allow much in the way of character development. And any characterization was hemmed by the strict Comic Code Authority of those days.

But as a young reader I didn't notice the lack of three-dimensions with the two-dimensional characters on the comic book page. Now as an adult the lack of depth bugs me.

The Hal Jordan/Green Lantern character comes across as a bland mannequin with a magical power ring. His shtick -- firing power beams and creating various objects with his ring -- is the main thing that differentiates him from other cut-outs like The Flash.

I've been rereading the early GL stories in the collection, Showcase Presents Green Lantern, Vol. 1. Unfortunately the stories are in b&w. To read the original versions in four colors would mean an outlay of a few thousand dollars, so I'm stuck with b&w.

One story, "The Leap Year Monster," caught my attention. Briefly, socialite Carol Ferris is pursuing Green Lantern, marriage on her mind. Since it's leap year, that gives her the right to ask GL to marry her. So he has to somehow squirm out of the marriage question. Of course, a real he-man super hero would tell her to "Flake off" (or maybe use another F-word) but GL is such a nice guy.

GL is sitting on a park bench, trying to distract Carol from popping the question. Acting like a ten-year old sneak, he surreptitiously uses his power ring to create a giant humanoid monster -- what he calls a "chiller-diller" -- so that he has to an excuse to fly off and ditch her.

But after creating the monster, GL is knocked out, allowing his creation to wander off. Unlike most monsters, Chiller-Diller isn't evil or mean, he's just a misunderstood goof.

Walking down a city street, the towering Chiller-Diller terrifies all the people down below. He thinks to himself: "Strange... I know I'm a 'Chiller-Diller' but what that means... or what I'm supposed to do... I don't know. But this place is full of odd-looking creatures.”

Near-sighted and clumsy, he bumps into a building, damaging it. Does he roar in pain and anger? No, he just says: "Oops."

Later on he backs into a statue, breaking it. Not an act of vandalism -- he is just distracted from all the noise from the screaming humans.

The military is called out and they start blasting at Chiller-Diller, but with no effect, of course. Shrugging off the explosions, he thinks: "How do these little creatures stand this noise--?"

Then Chiller takes a bath when he finds that he can't walk on “liquid matter” (AKA river water). Gee, what part of the word “liquid” doesn't he understand?

Unfortunately Green Lantern recovers his senses and shows up to uncreate the bumbling but entertaining Chiller-Diller.

Then GL figures out a way to dodge Carol and her marriage proposal. But I could care less. All I'm thinking to myself is:

"More Chiller-Diller!"


X. Dell said...

Geez. You'd think a quickie marriage followed by a quickie divorce would do far less damage.

Actually, that subject material seems more suitable for the burlesque houses of that era than in a kid's magazine. But I guess there's an important moral, nonetheless: creating a monster to get out of something you don't want to do might wreak more mayhem than what's you're trying to dodge.

Ray said...

Quickie marriage and divorce? Not with the Comics Code Authority! It's better to let a monster go on the rampage in a 1960s comic book than mention something real like divorce.