Monday, January 21, 2008

The Super Powers Anti-Coloring Book (1984)

I've always been a big believer in the "Melting Pot" notion of America, seeing as I was a white boy growing up in the barrio within ghetto apartments. This meant while there were other crackers in houses that went to my school, my neighborhood consisted of apartments filled (often quite literally) with a Latino majority. As a matter of survival, this meant I hung with mostly black and sometimes Vietnamese kids as a minority clique. It also meant that I had a sense of personal identity formed under such adverse conditions with such diverse influences that no place on earth can quite replicate them, and I'll always be amongst people "other" than my singular myself. Might help explain a few things, eh?

Anyway, in the late 80's I moved from Houston to a suburb of Las Vegas for a year. I went from being among the poorest of the poor in the pot to being the poorest of the poor amongst affluent white kids who though ah tahlked funny. This was where my misanthropy and true outsider status was born. One example of culture shock was the "Pic 'N' Save" retail chain. Being poor white trash, I was no stranger to second hand thrift stores, flea markets, and upscale establishments like K-Mart and Woolworth's. What was unfamiliar was a discount store selling brand newish product like our spotlighted $3.95 squarebound activity book for just 98 cents. A steal, I tell you!

Conceived by Susan Striker, initially with Edward Kimmel, there was apparently a whole line of these suckers, but you know I was all about Super Powers. Each page featured partial illustrations by Jose Delbo, with large gaps intended to be filled by a child's imagination with mild coaxing from the author. Wonder Woman stands on the wing of her invisible jet on the upper right corner of a page wrapped in a star scape bordered by the wide berth of a magic lasso. "I've flown into outer space to capture an alien. What does it look like?" Green Lantern, Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, Green Arrow, Robin, Supergirl, and Flash encircle a page. "The Super Powers hear an important bulletin on their wrist communicators! What is it?" The Front Page of the Daily Planet shows nothing but blank lines, space for a photo, and the headline, "Latest News Scoop!" by Lois Lane. You were given a two page spread to design the new Robinmobile, Aquaman discovers new undersea life, you could create a board game, add your fingerprints to the Bat-Computer, and much more. Great fun, though I was a wretched artist and insisted on filling the text sections with inane and cryptic continuity linking disparate pictures to a "story" complete with indicia indicating "issues" reprinted in this "trade." I missed my true calling as a frustrated assistant editor, clearly.

Sadly, J'Onn J'Onzz received attention that could be measured in millimeters, as last guy on the right in the front page group shot (which I'd swear was swiped from Jose Luis Garcia Lopez.) This sad little appearance is featured below, larger than originally published and colored by one of those silly four-slot ink pens (black, blue, red, green) you never see anymore. Whoever thought I'd be nostalgic for one of those poorly functioning contraptions?

Speaking of the melting pot, dig that cover. The kid with the bangs could pass for Latino, so the only way to make this thing more diversity friendly would be to have him wearing the tiara...


Michael Netzer said...

You have great gift and honesty. I also grew up in a housing project and melting pot in a rough Detroit neighborhood. But I was into paint by number sets and couldn't get into coloring books. Very nice post.

Diabolu Frank said...

Oh, that was one of the only coloring books I ever owned, and you'll note, it's technically an "activity" book. All my money went to comic books and action figures. I didn't get a bike until I was twelve, and I owned a handful of toy guns. Oh wait-- we had some video games too. But seriously, 98% of my worldly possessions were clothing, comics, and action figures.