Or – “More Things In Heav’n And Earth, Horatio…”
There is a lot more to the history of comic books than Amazing Fantasy, Detective Comics and Hulk #181. Those big dogs may get all the press, but there are other heroes, lesser heroes (but heroes nonetheless), who work where they cannot. Men and woman and cyborgs and the occasional canine, alien, robot or what-have-you who are proud to stand up and say, “Hey! I’m a caped crusader , too!”
And then… There’s Tod.
TOD HOLTON: MOTHA$&$@IN’ SUPER GREEN BERET!! WITH SILLLVER WINGS UPON HIS CHEST! MAKE HIM ONE OF AMERICA’S BEST! (For some values of best, anyway.)
SUPER GREEN BERET #1
Script: Otto Binder
Pencils: Carl Pfeufer
Inks: Carl Pfeufer
Editor: Wendell Crowley
Publisher: Milson Publishing/Lightning Comics
Cover Price: 25 Cents (Current Near-Mint Pricing: $80)
Previously, on Super Green Beret: Soooo… Yeah. I got nothin’ this time. Let’s just pick up the story where the story picks up, and hope that we don’t need bourbon before the issue is done…
Y’know, I’ve been looking for this comic for quite a few years, ever since I bought my copy of Rovin’s “Encyclopedia of Super-Heroes” back in college, and it never occurred to me for a second that a comic set during the Viet Nam conflict called ‘Super Green Beret’ would be so incredibly, overtly racist in its tone. Does that make me naive? Either way, Uncle Roger does what any good soldier would do, and protects the Abbot of the monastery, and receives a mystical boon for his heroism.
Now, I’m not a military man, and I’ve never been a member of the branch of the armed forces colloquially known as the Green Berets (I believe the actual term is “Special Forces,” if I remember my old G.I. Joe comics correctly) but I’m pretty sure that someone on active duty (even on leave) is not allowed to give away part of their uniform. Either way, nephew Tod’s youthful enthusiasm lets him do what Uncle Roger couldn’t: Channel the power of the Abbot into SUPERHUMAN POWERS!!(powerspowerspowerspowers)
I also have to say I never expected his powers to be “whatever the hell pops into the writer’s mind,” either. Tod discovers that his Green Beret can telepathically tune into minds anywhere in the world, so naturally, he chooses to scan events in Viet Nam. When he “overhears” a squad in trouble, he teleports ALL THE WAY AROUND THE WORLD to save them! (Take that, Bat-copter!)
I can NOT believe how awfully disturbing the depictions of Vietnamese are in this issue, reminding me of some of the worst “yellow peril” images from World War II. He turns the snipers weapons against them (albeit non-fatally) and then leads the American soldiers… right into a trap. Tod salutes, and one of the soldiers looks at him in awe, asking why he is saluting the enemy. Super Green Beret responds, “[I'm saluting them] for having brought up such a defective tank!”
What’s really weird about this story is that it feels like any number of cocky World War II stories I’ve read, such as when Daredevil taunted Hitler, or when Kablammakus punched out Marshal Petain, but in a more modern context (with a 12-year-old protagonist, no less) it’s quite off-putting. Perhaps the entire story isn’t going to be about punching out subhuman caricatures of Asians?
Of course not. Now he’s also going to punch out subhuman caricatures of Central Americans. Oy… Tod’s super-telepathy informs him of a small democratic country about to be overthrown by rebels (the leader of which bears a striking resemblance to Fidel Castro.) As Super Green Beret, Tod finds that he is a match for any army, deflecting bullets Superman style, and throwing tanks like a duck throws off water, but discovers his only weakness for the first time: He’s powerless without his chapeau.
You have to wonder exactly how bad El Presidente’s vision is, as Super Green Beret totally just turned back into
Billy Batson Tod Holton right before his eyes, but he didn’t actually see it. No wonder he needs so much protection, he wouldn’t be able to tell whether the rebels were coming until they were right there in his face. As for Tod, he is taken to the rebel’s secret stronghold by a guard who is clearly too dumb to live..
I’ll say this for Tod Holton: For an ethnocentric jingoistic little punk, he’s got a mean right cross. Before he can get his hat back, Tod ends up getting jumped by the leader’s son, who apparently likes to randomly attack members of the revolution for no reason. Tod doesn’t hold much with this sort of foolishness, throws a right cross and knocks his dumb @$$ out (cuz the boys in the Green Beret hood are always hard, and if you talk trash, they will pull your card.)
Honestly, I kind of hoped that the beret would fail at this point. Super Green Beret takes out an entire battalion of bad guys before personally putting El Presidente back in power, imbalancing the entire region and basically imposing American hegemony on Latin America. Then, he goes home to finish his history lesson…
…during which, he learns of a particular group of World War II soldiers who ran into trouble, and uses his Super Green Beret to travel back in time and… Okay, it’s pretty much the same stuff with different uniforms.
Also worth noting is the fact that he used the “Who won last year’s World Series?” trick to identify himself as an American to the soldiers, making me think that perhaps the hero isn’t the only twelve-year-old involved in the promotion of this comic book. They manage to keep Hitler from dying before he should have died, and then Tod receives a telepathic message from Viet Nam again, as two Viet Cong soldiers prepare to blow up a bridge. Tod kicks them in the face (!!) but doesn’t quite save the bridge. Fortunately for the soldiers, Super Green Beret’s powers make no sense…
Once again, Tod proves invulnerable to all forms of attack, but not to a strong breeze, as his beret is blow off into the nearby river. Said river is infested with alligators (which, you may note, don’t actually live in Viet Nam or anywhere much near it. although Tod may just be misidentifying a crocodile) that want to eat his hat. Luckily, Tod is able to use his charming personality to get the Viet Cong to throw him to the man-eaters (which they, themselves, also misidentify as alligators.)
Tod Holton outswims the alligator/crocodile, which is a pretty impressive feat, grabs his hat and transforms, then uses his powers to take out more horribly stereotypical Viet Cong soldiers and head home. The rest of the issue is taken up with odd pieces like a description of various military headgear and some text pieces that are as gung ho as the comics themselves. Overall, though, I found myself nonplussed about this book, not disappointed so much, as I expected my enjoyment of the book to be hipster-ironic at best, but I didn’t expect the issue to be actually distasteful in it’s representation of “the enemy.” The overall story is nonsensical, though, and there’s just something anachronistic about the book, even 40 years down the line. Super Green Beret #1 is a particularly bizarre affair, and it’s old-school “the enemy is a monster” propaganda is bothersome on more than one level, earning 2 out of 5 stars overall. My excitement at having found the thing still remains high, though, so it’s still a win for me…
Faithful Spoilerite Question Of The Day: Why is it that I’m not so bothered by jingoistic hyper-American racism in WWII era comics, but it’s troublesome in one from 1967?
About Matthew Peterson
Were pop culture a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Matthew still enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear. Surprise. Ruthless efficiency. An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture. And a nice red uniform.