Required Reading is DoomRocket’s love chest, where each week one of our contributors goes crazy over a book they just can’t seem to get enough of. This week, Jarrod revisits the DC/Dark Horse crossover, ‘The Superman/Madman Hullabaloo!’.
By Jarrod Jones. One of the defining traits of Superman is that he cannot be confined by any one medium, house style, or editorial mandate. So long as the core concepts remain — he must be able to fly, he has to have at least one errant strand of hair dangling over his forehead, and you best make sure he stands for Truth and Justice — the character unquestionably remains Superman.
That notion is what sets The World’s Greatest Superhero apart from Michael Allred’s Madman. Once removed from Allred’s brushes and pens, the innovative spark behind Frank Einstein’s hip and crazy disposition begins to dwindle. Madman is exclusively an Allred innovation. As such, he requires the playful instincts of the artist’s musical mind. Frank can only truly thrive in the worlds his creator provides.
That’s precisely the case with Allred’s The Superman/Madman Hullabaloo! Here, for the brief matter of three issues, the Man of Steel was decidedly Allred’s own, left to make heads or tails inside the trappings of Snap City. And yet, if you look (and you don’t have to look too hard), you’ll find it’s a world that’s only too familiar to the Superman faithful. There’s a bit of Al Plastino found here. You’ll find plenty of Wayne Boring too. Allred’s influences are happily evident on the page. He’s not afraid to let them show, and Superman adapts to his pages beautifully as a result.
So Allred took the Last Son of Krypton and made him just as human (and slightly bent) as his greatest invention. Even though Hullabaloo was a Dark Horse Comics/DC Comics co-publication set during a time when inter-company crossovers were a bit more commonplace than they should have been, Allred imbued it with a Pre-Crisis wonder and aw-gosh earnestness. It’s a book so big-hearted, it’s dedicated to Christopher Reeve. (“The real-life Superman.”)
And with a “ZOOCHH!“, it began.
As both illustrator and writer, Allred approached the two heroes’ personalities in the most straightforward manner possible: Frank Einstein is reliably zippy (“Holy cow! I’m practically flying!“), while Superman’s delivery is typically mild. (“I–I’ve lost the ability to fly.”) That provided Allred all he needed to play this role-reversal as broad as possible, merging the two heroes into two separate amalgams.
The first chapter is committed to stirring the pot. Frank is seen wandering about gawking at the fast-paced world of Metropolis. He gets a lucky break from some gas jockey named ‘Bean’, and later he gets the screws put to him by none other than Lois Lane. Superman, on the other hand, is at the mercy of the wondrous Joe and Professor Flem. (Flem, it has to be said, has more than a passing resemblance to comics scribe Brian Azzarello.)
While the displaced heroes explored their new surroundings, Allred made sure to keep Hullabaloo in lock-step with his Madman Comics. Captions alluded to prior issues, designed to intrigue newfound readers introduced to Frank, while simultaneously keeping the Post-Crisis continuity of Superman vaguely in check. (i.e. Lois and Clark were engaged, Superman had returned from the grave, stuff like that.)
At no point did Allred squander his limited time with the Man of Steel. In fact, he made this crossover one for the books: one of the more lyrical moments is when Frank asks Superman if he believes in God. Here, both men acknowledge, more or less, that they’ve experienced death. Frank makes a point to mention that with everything he’s been through since his reanimation, he sometimes doubts the nature of this own reality, “my entire existence, even.” That’s the moment Allred moves in for the kill with a single panel featuring Superman bursting through the fourth wall, laconically saying aloud to the multiverse, “Tell me about it.”
Of course, the next sequence finds Frank at the business end of tiny fists belonging to a little pig-tailed girl. But it’s that balance, struck between the poetic and the inane, that makes The Superman/Madman Hullabaloo! sizzle with crackling energy. It’s that vibrancy that makes the reader settle in comfortably — so comfortably, in fact, that you completely accept that the climactic battle between Superman, Madman, and the mini-series’ big bad takes place atop a Twister mat.
That’s because this is a crossover with a difference. It mushes two icons together, not for the sake of shrewd business, but to thoroughly explore what it is exactly that made us love these characters in the first place. It’s a book that has such a blast that it even has to make fun of its own central premise: “It appears to be a success! They’re crossing over!”
DC Comics/Dark Horse Comics
Written by Michael Allred.
Art by Michael Allred.
Colors by Laura Allred.
Letters by Sean Konot.