When you’re a little kid, it’s hard to predict what’s going to scare you. I could read horror comics all the time, and they never did much for me one way or the other. But what scared the dickens out of Li’l Scott back in 1976?
This issue of WORLD’S FINEST, for one thing.
In writer Bob Haney and artist Dick Dillin’s “Killers Come in All Sizes,” from WORLD’S FINEST #236 (March 1976), Superman and Batman contend with a deadly epidemic in the way that makes the most sense in the DC Universe: shrinking to microscopic size and duking it out with the virus personally.
As the story begins, a heroic Gotham City policeman is felled by a mysterious ailment, and medical tests show he’s being attacked by microbes so small they can’t be seen by the most powerful microscope. Naturally, Batman is called in to consult, and he calls in his friend Superman for a second opinion, and to use his own microscopic vision to boost the microscope power and get a look at the microbes. What does Superman see?
The germs are actually living creatures, tearing apart the red corpuscles of his blood. How creepy is that? The solution is to go into the patient’s body at microscopic size and kill the germs individually with toxic poison. However, in order to properly reach the microbe aliens, the volunteer must be disintegrated and reassembled inside the patient’s body, which means that the indestructible Superman can’t make the trip, So a specialist is called in, none other than the size-changing Atom, who’s surprisingly quick to volunteer to be pulverized:
In short order, the Atom is disintegrated…
…and reassembled in the bloodstream…
…and soon is headed for the source of the disease (if he doesn’t get crushed by a heart valve first):
While the Atom heads to kill off the microbe dudes, Batman decides to do some more investigating into the source of the disease, and along the way runs into Liza Faraday, the Gotham beauty queen saved by the hero cop before he fell ill:
(And by the way, Batman does not take being kissed well. What’s up with his lips?)
Meanwhile, the Atom tracks down the evil microbes, and prepares to hit them with the poison:
But before he can, he’s spotted by a germ lookout and sent floating up the lymph river (and by the way – bleah…)
Back in the big world, Batman stumbles upon the modeling portfolio of Liza Faraday, notices that she was in contact with all three of the infected patients, and realizes that she’s the carrier of the disease. She also has a devastating karate chop for a fashion model:
Batman’s never gonna hear the end of that one at the JLA meetings. Getting his ass kicked by Heidi Klum.
When the docs realize that the patient with the most germ beings in his system is doing the best, Batman jumps to an even more far-fetched conclusion:
Batman heads out to capture the walking disease, and finds in her in the subway. Logical enough, I guess. They tussle, she falls onto the third rail, and turns into what looks like a giant tick, which I guess is what giant disease germs look like.
Okay, what the what?! The fashion model was really a giant sentient virus germ? In disguise? And the best thing about is the way this is just presented as if it happens every day! No one even blinks at it! Oh, she’s a virus, of course.
Now that they know the truth, Superman shrinks down with the help of the Kandorian shrinking ray to stop Atom from killing the germ dudes, now known to be helpful anti-viruses. He enters the patient’s body, and sends a message to Atom (now freed from his mucousy prison) to leave the germ guys alone. And how does he send the message?
So much for that whole “first, do no harm” business, I guess…
The above column first appeared on November 17, 2010.