Supergirl Saturday: Action Comics #253, “The Secret of the Super-Orphan!”
|August 10, 2013||Posted by Jess under Comics, Supergirl Saturday|
Last week, Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El arrived on Earth and settled into life at Midvale Orphanage in the guise of “Linda Lee.” This week, we learn that Midvale Orphanage and its environs may in fact be a horrifying dystopia, where children are trotted out like performing seals to the highest bidder. So let’s get to it!
It’s “Get Acquainted” Day at the orphanage, and childless parents have been invited to browse Midvale’s current stock. They specify “childless,” so apparently if you already have at least one bio-kid, you are not allowed to adopt any more. Don’t be greedy, parents!
For those who missed the previous issue, Kara-Linda quickly summarizes her origin for us. Already the timeline is being monkeyed with quite a bit, particularly that third panel, and the “street of homes” saved from Krypton’s explosion has become a whole town (Kryptonians lived in pre-fab suburbs in the Silver Age, because of course they did). But it gets the gist across.
Anyway, all the kids want to be adopted…except Linda, who fears that she wouldn’t be able to hide her other identity from adoptive parents. And we discover that she’s already learning a lot from her cousin, because her way of avoiding getting adopted is to be a total dick about it:
Silver Age comics hew pretty closely to kid-logic, or at least middle aged dudes’ approximations of kid-logic, and the adoption process at Midvale Orphanage is a pretty great example of that; apparently it’s mostly kids 10 and up who get adopted, and usually after about 20 minutes of small talk with prospective parents. Sounds legit.
In that last panel, though, we come to the deeply screwed up part of this story: the kids must display their talents in order to get adopted. In other words, if you’re not ready to go on the 50s version of America’s Got Talent right this minute, don’t even start packing your sad little belongings, kid. I’m not sure whether this is meant to imply that the kids are being sold off as prospective meal tickets or that they’re just meant to play violin/sing/awkwardly lift one leg for their new parents’ entertainment, forever, but either one is pretty disturbing. The underlying message is that parents are something kids have to somehow earn or deserve – that every child doesn’t have a right to a family. What the hell, Midvale?
(Linda is apparently exempt from displaying a talent. IDK.)
Also, the whole thing is hella classist. As Timmy’s comment implies, only kids of certain means, or who were a certain age when their parents died, can actually display any skills in the performing arts. I can’t really condemn the orphanage for only giving children to couples who can afford to keep them, but overall this whole setup is incredibly depressing.
Timmy is heartbroken, and tender-hearted Linda tries to come up with a solution by burrowing under the Wilsons’ farm for a while, hoping to find something valuable that will enable the Wilsons to adopt Tommy, but: “No oil pools anywhere! Nor any gold…metal ores…not even coal!” Not gonna lie, folks, that is actually extremely shocking for a Silver Age comic, where every field was lousy with gold, either yellow or black, and every cave held a pirate’s treasure. She also can’t bring valuable minerals from elsewhere, because “geologists would be suspicious” and somehow this could eventually implicate Supergirl. Sure, sounds likely.
Also, I’m starting a band called the Suspicious Geologists.
Man, in a world where geologists are apparently so afire with scientific curiosity superheroes need to live in fear of them, I want to know what the hell the paleontologists were smoking that let them find nothing suspicious about a hot pink gulch of petrified dinosaurs in the middle of a mountain.
Inspired, Linda heads back to the Wilson Farm and throws a boulder through the Earth so that it comes out on the other side, next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa (sure). In the Silver Age, waking up and discovering a giant hole through which you can see Italy is only a moderately surprising business opportunity:
But uh oh! Now the Wilsons can afford to move to the suburbs, and they fear that a simple farm boy might not like town life. “Perhaps we can find another boy at the orphanage,” Mr. Wilson says, because choosing a son is just like picking a kitten out of a cardboard box, and also fuck girls.
Hearing this, Linda decides that she’d better make boring ol’ Timmy a bit more impressive, so she tells him to put on a magic act, with her as an assistant. (Luckily, the orphanage has a tiny tuxedo exactly Timmy’s size.) Obviously, she uses her powers to make the show a success:
Way to go, Linda, now no one can use that blackboard.
And thus Timmy has “earned” himself a nice set of parents, who definitely won’t ever ask him to do those amazing tricks again or put any pressure on him to pay back their investment in him by becoming a famous stage magician, as predicted. Happy ending? Yay?
Seriously, though, Linda’s expression in that last panel chills me to my very soul. Look at her. She’s trying so hard to make the best of this nightmare: “I can’t be acknowledged or even seen for my true self, but helping others secretly is still pretty good, right? And I did help, right? He’ll be happy despite inadvertently conning himself into a set of parents under false pretenses, right? Please?”
It’s okay, honey. You tried.