TROUBLE CITY

PSA's From Hell

PSA's From Hell: Superman vs. Nick-O-Teen

ReviewsNick PeronComment

SPOILER ALERT: SMOKING IS BAD FOR YOU!

Even though it has been known that smoking is bad for you for about half a century, organizations need to constantly remind children not to smoke. Apparently part of the problem is that there is not enough awareness. I don't profess to be an expert on the subject (being a smoker myself) but maybe kids think that carcinoma is cool. You ever think of that, Mister Smarty Pants Anti-Smoking Crusader? Well regardless of the facts, organizations have teamed up with the comic book industry to help battle the seemingly unending war with big tobacco.

Back in 1980, The Health Education Council of London teamed up with DC Comics to produce the 8-page epic titled Superman vs. Nick O'Teen. In it, Superman battles a cigarette themed villain while also teaching children the dangers of smoking.

The entire thing opens up with an ominous introduction to the villain of our piece, the dreaded Nick O'Teen. Take a look:

Superman-NickOTeen-01.jpg

With an introduction like that, I'm expecting one menacing villain, one that will strike fear into the heart of all who beholds him. A yawning demonic face that belches plumes of carcinogenic smoke from a tar dripping maw with teeth made out of sharpened cigarettes. Instead, we get this....

Making a dog run away in fear doesn't make you evil, just an an asshole.

Making a dog run away in fear doesn't make you evil, just an an asshole.

Nick O'Teen's whole thing is to lurk around in alleys looking for children so that he can give them cigarettes. He happens upon a young boy named Johnnie who is waiting in the alley for his friend Billy to show up. This gives Nick O'Teen the moment he has bee waiting for, offering children free packs of cigarettes.  If we were passing out awards for peer pressure, Nick O'Teen wouldn't even get a participation trophy. He doesn't really do much other than saying it will help kids grow up fast. His sales pitch is ruined by the arrival of Billy to the nearby playground, prompting Johnnie to depart without even declining the offer. 

Depending on where you live, that's a $15 value. 

Depending on where you live, that's a $15 value. 

After totally botching his first sales pitch, Nick O'Teen hears children rollerskating in a vacant lot. Given that these children have chosen the worst place to try and rollerskate, it's no surprise that Nick O'Teen believes he can easily coerce the twelve children he happens upon. Meanwhile, at the Daily Planet, Clark Kent is getting a scoop on a news story when he spies Nick O'Teen in action with his x-ray vision.

It was a slow news day.

It was a slow news day.

Naturally, Clark Kent pawns off this seven cat story on Lois Lane so he can change into Superman and stop this dastardly fiend. He arrives just before Nick O'Teen can light up a cigarette for one of the children. Superman then uses his super-breath to blow out the match and then does the sensible thing by throwing Nick O'Teen high into the air. He then tells the children that he doesn't smoke because his x-ray vision shows him the sort of damage that cigarettes cause to people's lungs Addressing the reader, Superman then asks children to help him in his campaign to stamp out Nick O'Teen.

But say yes to  Martini and Rossi  on the rocks.

But say yes to Martini and Rossi on the rocks.

 

Why This PSA Doesn't Work

First of all, billing Nick O'Teen as the villian, as Superman's "arch-nemesis" is a long reach. Tell this to Lex Luthor, Brianiac, and Darkseid. However, peddling smokes is less their bag. So I'll forgive it. 

Second of all, Nick O'Teen needs to step up his peer pressure game. Telling kids that it will make them grow up faster is not the hard sell as he makes it. Also, anyone who has a career in preasuring kids to smoke should have a leather jacket, sunglasses and motorcycle. That's a scientific fact.

Also can we talk about how condescending Superman is in all this? You don't smoke because you know how bad it is for normal people? You'd be the only one who could smoke harmlesslyAlso, I don't think x-raying people's lungs (without consent no less) is not healthy either. Lastly, nobody seems to care that Superman just murdered a guy. It doesn't seem as though Nick O'Teen has any powers other than nicotine stained teeth, so what happens to him when he hits the ground? Nobody seems to care.

Then again, maybe a burning cigarette reminds Superman of the destruction of his beloved planet Krypton. Way to trigger the Man of Tomorrow, smokers!  

Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex but Were Too Afraid to Ask Spider-Man

ReviewsNick PeronComment

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.

"Pull of the Prodigy" is not a double entendre, sadly.

"Pull of the Prodigy" is not a double entendre, sadly.

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. 

Kids go crazy for  Sha Na Na  records!

Kids go crazy for Sha Na Na records!

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?

"Swallow all the sludge I hand out."? Dude, they're children.

"Swallow all the sludge I hand out."? Dude, they're children.

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?

Pro-Tip: Eating Twinkies daily is a good way to make your kids orphans. 

Pro-Tip: Eating Twinkies daily is a good way to make your kids orphans. 

 

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.

Lingering Questions

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.