September 28, 2023

Gabbing Geek

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Slightly Misplaced Comic Book Heroes Case File #282: Funnyman

The creators of Superman tried again with a character in many ways the Man of Steel's opposite number...with a lot less success.

Superman is, arguably, the most recognizable superhero on the planet.  Since 1938, the Man of Steel’s adventures have delighted readers and moviegoers.  He is the first and probably most iconic superhero ever created, a character that is known to people who have never seen one of his many movies or cartoon shows or read one of his comic books.  He’s probably what most people picture when they picture a superhero.

His creators tried again with another character down the road, a character who was arguably the very opposite of Superman.  That would be Funnyman.  He was a lot…less successful.

Now, to be fair, while Superman was the best known creation of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, Siegel at least had a few other noteworthy creations for DC Comics, most notable the Spectre and multiple members of the Legion of Superheroes.  Shuster was a lot less successful, but to say that all either of these guys gave the world of comics was Superman isn’t precisely accurate.

But, there is Funnyman…

This guy.

Funnyman was, essentially, a comedian named Larry Davis.  He had an idea to catch a pretend criminal while dressed up as a goofy superhero, wearing a gaudy costume and a putty-based nose.  Instead, he came across and captured a very real criminal, and since it was fun, he decided to keep doing it.  He had some enemies in the form of robot criminal Doc Gimmick and a team made up of Schemer Beamer, Bug-Eyes, Crusher, Rockjaw and the Curve.

Those are some goofy names.

Now, Funnyman was published by Magazine Enterprises, run by a former DC editor whom Siegel and Shuster worked during their own DC tenure.  They came over and Funnyman ran for six issues before it was canceled due to low sales.  They tried again with a newspaper strip with equally poor results.  All that happened in 1948.

So, that’s that.  We had a guy who fought crime with cream pies, joy buzzers, and other stuff that’s only really funny when you realize how unfunny they are.  He was like the Joker without the lethal nature as near as I can make it.  I’ve only come across him in a few random articles about how the creators of Superman had this flop character on their collective resumes as well.

So, was that it for Funnyman?  Oddly enough, no.  I was reading one of DC’s black and white reprint collections, this one for the tie-in series for the Superfriends, a surprisingly fun series.  For an issue where the Justice League, working through the “Superfriends” subgroup whose purpose was to train future superheroes (yes, that was why Wendy, Marvin, Wonder Dog, and the Wonder Twins were hanging out with the Justice League), were hosting a telethon.  And Superman stops to introduce an act…

For what it’s worth, Superfriends did that sort of thing rather regularly.  I believe the same issue suggested Bruce Wayne and Tony Stark were friendly business rivals.

But really, for a brief, shining moment, Siegel and Shuster’s best remembered creation shook hands with their worst.  Not a bad reference that only works if you know forgotten Golden Age heroes…