Since comic books are usually targeted at children it is no surprise that organizations will tap into the medium in order to inform children about the facts of life. The comic book industry is usually pretty willing to pump out these free PSA comic books because it is brand recognition. A kid will probably read a comic book about saying no to drugs if Spider-Man is on the cover. Right? Exactly!
However, sometimes the subject matter doesn't exactly fit the star of the story, and the end result is something hilariously bad. Case in point, I bring your attention to the gripping tale that is Spider-Man vs. The Prodigy, a story giving kids the dope on sex. This comic was made in conjunction with the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in 1976. It is by far one of the strangest and hilarious PSA comics I have ever read, mostly because I am immature and have intimacy issues.
Our story starts off with Spider-Man doing what he does, climbing walls and slamming tea-parties and the mayor, as he is want to do. That's when he spots a bunch of teenagers being loaded up into a helicopter. Assuming that these kids are too poor to afford a helicopter ride, Spider-Man naturally assumes there is something fishy going on and decides to hitch a ride aboard the chopper.
The helicopter takes the kids to a mansion upstate where an alien called the Prodigy is going to use his "magnetic voice" to convince teens to follow his orders.
So how does this dastardly fiend want to trick kids into boning each other into doing what he wants? Well, this bozo needs to use his power of "magnetic monotone". The writers of this story thought that the idea of an alien from outer space with an influencing voice was too outlandish for a plot about aliens making kids do bad things, so they came up with a rather detailed explanation of how the Prodigy got these powers. One problem though: They didn't have enough pages to actually show people, so they went with the next best thing: A lengthy footnote. This is also a lot of unnecessary exposition for a plot involves tricking kids. This would be like reading instructions on how to install a toilet where the third step informs you of the author's struggle to kick crystal meth. Also, does one truly need a magnetic monotone voice to convincing immature teenagers to be irresponsible?
Still, the idea of brainwashing kids in a PSA comic is pretty common, however, it's usually some petty stuff. The usual stuff, tricking kids into doing drugs or causing damage to property, or how to smash the state. Typical things that you'd want any red-blooded American child to avoid. So what's the Prodigy's scheme anyway?
Wait... What? The Prodigy's evil scheme is to create a bunch of teen pregnancies on Earth so his people can harvest the babies and put them into child labor. Apparently, the people of Prodigy's planet can't be bothered to do any dirty work due to their superior intellects, ergo, slave babies. For a race that claims it is hyper-intelligent, they certainly haven't thought this one out all the way. It's a 9-month plan and even then, and keep in mind I don't know anything about slave babies, I don't think these kids will be ready for work. Even then, there are so many kids on planet Earth already, why not just take all the ones that are already there? We've got a surplus! A lot of them we don't even want anyway. It's not like kids have a warranty or anything. The logistics alone are mind boggling, and for a supposedly superior race wouldn't it just be easy to build robots instead? Or can these aliens only enjoy things that are made from the tears of unwanted children?
By this point of the story, Spider-Man has been riding on the helicopter full of kids making incredibly dated pop-culture references about the Waltons. Spying through the mansion windows, the wall-crawler witnesses the Prodigy giving kids a lecture about how they should have sex because it's fun, and babies are a swell way to pass the time. The kids offer some half-assed retort about how the junior high kids watch videos and how you can buy things at the pharmacy that stop pregnancy and Venereal Disease. This horrifies Spider-Man who apparently knows a whole lot about the responsibilities and fears that these kids will never know the joy of being a 20-something who enjoys hamburgers and going to the movies.
The most honest part of this whole comic book is the fact that Spider-Man admits that he is far too irresponsible to have a kid. Which makes sense consider Spider-Man once forgot to look into a supposed miscarriage-proof baby and then used the power of Satan to opt out of parenthood.
Anyway, by this point, the Prodigy is not just satisfied convincing classrooms full of kids to bump uglies, he has a much grander scheme. Through a private television studio, the Prodigy plans to address all the children of America and use his powers to convince them all to engage in what I can only assume to be the most illegal orgy to ever happen.
Spidey, obviously, tries to intervene but is spotted by the guards and has to try and lose them. To this end, he tries to pose one of the mansion gargoyles to trick them. This plan works about as well as you would think.
Spider-Man eventually crashes in on the Prodigy during his live broadcast and ruins it. He unmasks the alien, tells the kids all the right things, and somehow knows about the Prodigy's backstory even though he was not present for the Prodigy's exposition.
Thus ends our tale and like all PSA comic books, there is a list of facts about the subject matter that would be far too dry for the comic book itself. It's your typical laundry list of do's and don'ts that are incredibly dated by today's standards.
What is most troubling about these facts is the part about homosexuality portion. Nothing about how it's a natural thing that should be accepted. Just some weird nonsense about stealth homosexuals and how it's cool to be a dude-bro. Granted, it's pretty progressive for the 1970s, but man if it skirted the subject any harder it would have slammed into a wall.
Naturally, with any PSA comic they don't tend to have a lot of page time to explain everything, so suspending one's disbelief is a must. However, since I am a writer of nerd culture in the 21st Century, I cannot help but dissect the logical inconsistencies of this story.
Not only is the Prodigy's plan incredibly impractical, the execution doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
First of all, it looks like the Prodigy's powers only work on children. I can only draw this conclusion because Spider-Man listens to Prodigy's speech and it doesn't affect his mind at all. This causes all sorts of implications.
Like where the hell did he hire these armed guards? While henchmen are a dime a dozen in the world of superheroes, that must have been a pretty tough sales pitch. Basically, these guys would have to be okay with kidnapping kids so their boss can convince them to start boning when they are clearly under age. Also, they must be trained to use firearms and be willing to kill anyone who tries to stop them. This was the 1970s! There was no Craiglist. There wasn't a sex offender registry yet. Did the Prodigy hang out around the smut shops in Times Square and hired the only creepiest jerk-off booth patrons? I'm not sure many of them are well trained in the use of automatic weapons.
Third: Where are the parents in all of this? I mean, these kids are just scooped up by these guys in the middle of the night? I don't know many parents who would allow their children to go on a helicopter ride with a bunch of fatigued soldiers for an upstate "educational" trip. If that doesn't scream "weird sex cult" to a parent, I don't know what will.
When I was a teenager in the 90s, the best sex education I got was from Wizard's Toyfare Magazine. I present it to you below:
But then again, sex educationers had little worry about. Between building a Geocities website and making levels for Duke Nukem 3D, I had precious little time to go a courtin'.I guess what I am saying is this: parents, if you want to keep your kids off the sex, video games do the trick nicely.