"…Even Alec is speechless as his TRS-80 poses problem after problem for him to solve, faster than he ever thought possible."

§ November 28th, 2005 § Filed under Uncategorized Comments Off on "…Even Alec is speechless as his TRS-80 poses problem after problem for him to solve, faster than he ever thought possible."

Okay, so I’m not the first person to go after the Whiz Kids, the four-color spokeskids for Radio Shack’s line of TRS-80 personal computers, and their various team-ups with Superman. I’m not even the first person to go after this particular comic, Superman in The Computer Masters of Metropolis (1982 Edition), since Ron at Fortress of Soliloquies did so over a year ago. But, hey, I found a copy in our Midnight Madness clearance boxes and decided to keep it for myself, and sharing these finds is one of the reasons I have this weblog, right? Right.

So this story (by Paul Kupperberg, Curt Swan, and Frank Chiaramonte) starts off with Alec and Shanna, the “TRS-80 Computer Whiz Kids,” and the rest of their class being introduced to the idea of computer networking by their teacher. The introduction consists primarily of the teacher sending math problems from her “host” computer to each student’s individual station, thus tricking them into thinking that doing schoolwork is fun.

All of a sudden, Wonder Woman pops in with a surprise…she’s arranged for the class to go on a field trip to the Metropolis World’s Fair, where they’ll tour the fair’s electronics and computing exhibit! I don’t know what the teacher, Ms. Wilson, has on these superheroes, but she sure has some luck getting them to do favors for her. It’s even commented on in the story: says Alec, “first we get visits from Superman and Supergirl, and now you! We’re beginning to look like a regular super-hero convention hall around here!”

But before departing for the fair, Wonder Woman still has a few words to say to the class about the importance of computers:

Okay, why Alec didn’t get his smart mouth smacked off for the “Ms. Expert” comment, I have no idea. But Wonder Woman’s nonchalant mention of her “secret identity” did throw me off a bit. In this post-Crisis era of DC Comics, characters openly discussing the fact that they even had secret identities seems a little…naive? Passe? Quaint? Since part of the mid-80s Superman revamp was the doing away of Supes ever letting on that he even had another identity, it seemed as if secret I.D.s as a whole were less important. Some heroes did away with them (such as the Wally West Flash, or Ray “The Atom” Palmer), others were more careless with them (like Hal Jordan, who didn’t go out of his way to hide his double-life as Green Lantern in the early ’90s). Anyway, Wonder Woman immediately shoots down Alec by telling him lots of people work with computers, you dumb kid.

Finally, Alec and Shanna get to demonstrate their computer whiz-kiddiness by connecting the classroom TRS-80 Color Computer to an Information Retrieval Service using their Modem (Interface II). Look closely, you young whippersnappers, since this is how Grandpa used to get his porn:

Wonder Woman is impressed:

…And then she spends the next page describing how you can use this new technology for weather reports, news updates, online shopping, games, spam, the Nigerian scam, forwarding stupid jokes and absolutely true virus warnings, blogging about All Star Batman and Robin, trading MP3s and movie files, and did I mention the porn?

And what the hell is Superman up to this whole time? Well, that dastardly Lex Luthor threatened to wreak some of his trademark havoc at the fair unless the fair officials ponied up a pile of greenbacks, in revenge for his own inventions being rejected from display, so Supes has been on the lookout. When he does finally track down Luthor, one thing leads to another, and Superman finds himself trapped in a prison of Luthor’s devising…well, partially the fair’s devising as well, since it’s in the temporarily-closed planetarium exhibit. Luthor flies inside, and as Superman follows, Luthor triggers red solar radiation emitters, stripping Superman of his powers. Luthor then locks him inside the building, the doors armed with explosives, with no way to escape! Luthor’s superior intellect has created the perfect trap, without flaw, without the slightest crack or hole in his pris…oh, wait, what’s this?

Yes, it’s a phone. That Luthor sure is sporting. And really, why would Superman need to convince anyone that he’s Superman to get him out of the building? Wouldn’t a “hey, I’m trapped inside a building at the fairgrounds, please come get me” be enough to get some authorities out there to rescue him?

As I noted previously, Luthor’s motivation for causing a ruckus at the fair is because his inventions were not allowed to be displayed. Using your typical comic book logic, Superman figures that Luthor will make his initial strike against the fair at the exhibits were his inventions would have been presented, had they been allowed in. He remembers that the Daily Planet ran a story on Luthor’s threats against the fair some time back, but can’t remember the details on which specific exhibit was the one that did the rejecting. He tries to call the Daily Planet for the info, but gets a busy signal on what is apparently the Planet’s single phone line. So, Superman, who couldn’t remember the details of a story involving his arch-nemesis, remembers the home phone number of Whiz Kid Alec, and calls to ask him to use his amazing computer powers to access the Daily Planet’s online archives.

Alec, despite his smart mouth, is a good kid, and does Superman’s bidding, calling up the Daily Planet stories in question on his home TRS-80 Color Computer:

Once he gets the information he needs, six or seven hours later, he and fellow Whiz Kid Shanna manage to get the info to Wonder Woman, who rescues Superman, then they capture Luthor (who was going to blow up the computer and electronics exhibit, surprise, surprise), and we’ve all learned a little something about the importance of computers. Specifically, the TRS-80 Color Computer, the pinnacle of home computing achievement.

But honestly, if you really wanted to get kids interested in the TRS-80 computers, I have two words for you:


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