And was Prison Jumpsuit Luthor even areound at the same time as this? I can’t even remember now.

§ July 18th, 2022 § Filed under mad magazine, publishing § 4 Comments

So I was processing some new acquisitions at the shop (said shop being Sterling Silver Comics in lovely midtown Camarillo, CA — shop early, shop often) when I peeped my peepers at the back cover of Cracked #317 (July 1997):

I don’t know why this struck me as oddly as it did. It feels awfully…insular a gag to put in a nationally-distributed magazine, maybe? The whole “Electric Superman” thing (featured in this long-ago post of mine with the possibly increasingly-inaccurate title) got some real world coverage at the time, as I recall, but I don’t feel like it was a lot. Remember, by 1997 non-comics-initiated folks were still coming into the shop, seeing Superman titles on the stands, and asking “hold on, isn’t he dead?” That feels like it was the primary public perception of Superman at the time. Not to mention comics were still in, or crawling out of, a market crash, so they didn’t have the huge cultural cache they did only a few years prior.

But of course, not every gag needs to, over even can, hit with everybody, and this one (drawn by Alan Kupperberg) may have received a brief flicker of amusement from those Cracked readers who also had a foot in the door of the comics hobby and were aware of Superman’s then-current status.

I know, I know, I’m overthinking it. Maybe the gag was conceived during that very brief window the new costume was getting some publicity and everyone thought “oh, yeah, this’ll still be a thing everyone will be talking about in three or four months.” Or maybe Cracked was increasingly being sold through the direct comics market and thus more likely to find readers who’d appreciate this joke.

Anyway, I just thought it was odd. Also, “person getting shot is funny” doesn’t, um, play quite as well at this current moment, needless to say.

Coincidentally, I also received in the same collection a copy of Mad Super Special #96 (1994):

…which, as you can see, was their big Super Hero issue. The gags are a little broader, either playing off characters’ more general perception or placing them in jokes that require no special comics knowledge (man complains about a fly in his soup, which is promptly webbed out of there and eaten by Spider-Man), or parodying specific events that anyone reading the mag would know (like the 1989 Batman film), or making jokes about things that are eternal and forever embedded in our culture, like, er…Yellow Pages ads:

…or, um, phone booths:

Okay, admittedly that’s mixing two different things here, the eventual aging of once-current gags versus a gag that kinda hit the ground limping in the first place. But it seemed to me an interesting contrast between humor that, though near archaic, is still amusing, versus a joke attached to an event that’s irrelevant now and was barely relevant to its potential audience then.

4 Responses to “And was Prison Jumpsuit Luthor even areound at the same time as this? I can’t even remember now.”

  • A says:

    For what it is worth, the media push for electric Superman was big enough that Norm Macdonald did a joke about it on Weekend Update on SNL (not going to link since after I looked it up… it has not aged well)

  • Mike Loughlin says:

    There might have been Big 2 comics fans on staff at Cracked who pushed for Marvel & DC specific content. I remember they satirized the Marvel vs. DC series. I think the Cracked issue was released slightly before the comics because the jokes were based on how the matches could turn out (not necessarily how they did). I remember that Storm beats Wonder Woman by using her lightning to frizz Diana’s hair and that Superman beat the merged Hulk by tickling him and turning him into “savage Banner.”

    There’s a chance this was in Mad, but I’m 75% sure it was Cracked.

  • Thom H. says:

    Since Electric Superman (as an entire arc, not just the one Silver Age story) was post-Byrne, I’d say Luthor had outgrown his prison jumpsuit years (decades?) before.

    Alternately, that’s not Luthor. Or I missed the nostalgic return of the prison jumpsuit at some point. Totally possible.

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Actually, Bats, Keaton is one of the BETTER actors who will be playing you.”

    “Wait- including West?”

    “Oh, yeah, West wasn’t bad AT ALL compared to what’s coming.”