365 Reasons to Love Comics #129
Another change of pace coming at you today as I discuss one of the weirdest super-characters to grace a comics page, in one of the strangest places for such a thing to appear. He’s the forgotten creation of a brilliant writer/artist team. Maybe this column will only be interesting to the groovy Johnny Bacardi, but I hope there are some other hep cats who can jive to it! You dig?
Super-Hip was the creation of Arnold Drake and Bob Oksner, and I shouldn’t have to tell you that they were both geniuses. Let me take you back to 1965, when DC was still publishing The Adventures of Bob Hope. I can only imagine that some of the higher-ups didn’t think Bob Hope was hip enough for that generation’s youth, and left it up to wonderfully crazy Arnold Drake to come up with a new hook for the title. Enter Super-Hip.
The aforementioned awesome blogger, Mr. Bacardi, is officially Super-Hip’s #1 fan (though I don’t think there’s much competition), and has already explained the premise better than I could, so here goes:
Super-Hip came along as the Hope comic was beginning to run out of steam a bit, and DC became desperate to appeal to the young hippie crowd in the mid 60s. They tried all kinds of things, from Go-Go Checks on their covers to hippie heroes (Brother Power, The Geek, anyone?), but nothing really worked because as we all know, Marvel comics were the comics of choice for the college crowd back then, and the DC folks were all from the WWII generation…and just didn’t get it. Super-Hip was in reality Bob’s nerdy nephew Tadwallader Jutefruce, and he came to live with Uncle Bob and his talking dog Harvard-Harvard (Don’t get the joke. Still don’t.) in issue #95. He attended Benedict Arnold High School. Its faculty was made up of classic Universal horror movie monsters, including a Dracula type (Dr. Van Pyre) as principal, a Frankenstein’s monster as football coach, a werewolf (Dr. Von Wolfmann-oh, my aching sides) as science professor and so on. There was also the requisite Reggie Mantle-type who gave Tad a hard time, name of Badger Goldliver. Whenever Tad got upset or angry, then he would go into convulsions and transform into Super-Hip, a Brian Jones look-alike who could fly and shape change. The new direction of the book wasn’t enough to save it, eventually writer Arnold Drake and his editors seemed to tire of the character (he didn’t even appear on the last four or five covers) and Bob’s title bit the dust after issue #109…but I always remembered it as being funny in that Henny Youngman, borscht-belt, Mad magazine type way and look back on those comics fondly. And Super-Hip is pretty cool in a retro-kitschy kind of way. God forbid that DC should ever bring him back, he’d be a heroin addict or something.
There’s a few more bizarre quirks of Super-Hip lore, like how his catchphrase was “Blech to Lawrence Welk!” and how Tadwallader had no idea he was really Super-Hip. Let’s not forget the tagline DC attached to the character, either: “America’s most disgusting super-hero!”
As far as I know, Super-Hip has not appeared since the 60′s. In fact, the only time he showed up outside of a Bob Hope comic was in the issue of Doom Patrol where Mento and Elast-Girl got married. Naturally, it too was written by Arnold Drake.
Super-Hip is probably the most obscure superhero to be published by either of the Big Two. He’s absolutely ridiculous, but it was a dazzlingly strange and fun idea from some great creators. Of course I think he deserves a comeback! I can’t tell you the hows and whys of his spectacular return, however, until tomorrow, for the next Reason will reveal another title/character which has some thematic ties to our beatnik Beatle. Trust me, they go together like the Monkees and Neil Diamond, or something.
In the meantime, enjoy some more Super-Hip covers:
Scope those groovy go-go checks! Oh yeah!
Super-Hip was a zany, twisted Silver Age concept– my favorite kind! Kooky clothing, ludicrous lingo, madcap music, frightening faculty, Harvard Harvard, and even shape-shifting into delicious and incapacitating pies– Super-Hip had it all! He was a true gem of his era. I can’t imagine what Bob Hope must’ve thought.
You can read more about Super-Hip on Don Markstein’s Toonopedia, which is a terrific resource that I keep coming back to. Thanks, Don!