Sunday, May 31, 2020

Superman For the Animals

Superman for the Animals came out polybagged with a handful of comics with a November 2000 cover date. I must have gotten mine with Superman Adventures #41 as I didn't read any of the other comics that this book was sold with. Superman for the Animals was made by DC Comics for the Doris Day Animal Foundation and it's made to talk to kids about animal abuse. The story follows Tommy Delaney, who is new in town, and him getting in with the wrong crowd. This crowd doesn't do the normal things that punk kids do like spraypaint graffiti or sit around drinking alcohol and doing drugs. No, these punks abuse animals.

Superman for the Animals was written by Mark Millar, art by Tom Grummett and Dick Giordano, letters by John Costanza, colors by Glenn Whitmore and Digital Chameleon, edited by Paul Kupperberg. As always, Superman created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. I do have to warn you, this comic gets rough with animal abuse on every page so if that's something that triggers you, you should bow out now.

The issue starts off with Superman reading some of the many letters that he receives from people all around the world. One of the letters Superman picks up begins "Dear Superman, my name is Tommy Delaney and I'm twelve years old." Tommy is new in town--Springdale. Not only is Tommy new, he had to move mid-semester so he's coming in the middle of everything. Tommy is seated next to Ballser, an angry looking young boy.
Turns out their science teacher has a squirrel in the classroom. Mr. Mulligan found it in a ditch, wounded, so he took it in and has been nursing it back to health over the last two months. "Bushy-tailed rat's probably given half the class rabies by now," Ballser says as he kicks some pigeons out of his way. Tommy has also made other friends and they all hang out with Ballser: Charlie, Donuts, and Eightball. Turns out Ballser has a very specific idea of fun and he quickly reveals it by seeing who can hold their breath the longest--him or Tommy's goldfish.
This would be my first sign that maybe I should stop hanging out with Ballser but Tommy doesn't. Tommy does admit in his letter to Superman that his friends could get a little wild and, yes, even played hooky. Ballser borrows his dad's rifle to get some revenge on a junkyard dog. Donut was bitten by the dog last year and Ballser feels its payback time. Up on a hill, the four boys take their post and Donut takes the shot. The bullet hits the dog in the leg and has to be taken to the vet. The man who owns the dog lives next door to Tommy so Tommy and his dad are outside when their neighbor returns with Major, who had to have his leg amputated. It's here that Tommy learns that there have been a rash of animal attacks lately--hung cats, a dog burned alive in his kennel. Tommy starts to feel really guilty.
Tommy doesn't know what to do. He knows Ballser is behind the attacks but he doesn't know who to go to. Meanwhile, Ballser and the others are out luring and capturing a cat. They go to a highway overpass and proceed to throw the cat over into traffic. Luckily, Superman happens by and rescues the cat. Ballser wants "his" cat back but Superman apparently just takes it as far away from those boys as possible.
Turns out Superman was in Springdale because of a fire at the chemical plant. The same chemical plant that Tommy's dad works at. Tommy stands in awe of Superman, not because of his superpowers but because of how Superman acted. Superman has all of this power but doesn't use it against people weaker than him. Superman just wants to help which inspires Tommy. At school, Tommy stumbles upon Ballser and the crew blocking a sink with paper towels and flooding Mr. Mulligan's classroom. They have also put the squirrel cage in the sink. Mr. Mulligan gets back and the boys flee out the window. He then notices the cage in the sink and...
Tommy has had enough. At Ballser's house, Tommy says that he is going to confess to Mulligan if Ballser doesn't. "Are you threatening me, Boy Scout?" Ballser sneers. Tommy answers with a fist to the jaw. The two scuffle for a bit with Ballser screaming "I'm gonna kill you for that, moron!" while shoving Tommy into a cabinet. The impact knocks a small case off and it breaks open. Inside are at least a hundred pet collars from what we can assume are Ballser's victims. We've got ourselves a future serial killer in our midst.
"How many animals have you killed, Ballser?" Tommy asks.

"C'mon, th-they're just dumb animals. It's not like I really did anything wrong or broke the law," Ballser tries to explain. "It's not like they feel pain...or have souls like us. Doing stuff to isn't any worse than chopping down a tree or burning trash, right?" Ballser then starts swinging a bat. At humans. At his friends. Charlie takes the bat from him.

"What now, Ballser? People not have soul either, dude?"

Tommy and the others tell Mr. Mulligan about what they did to the squirrel. Ballser is sent to therapy and the other four do some volunteering at the local animal shelter where Tommy makes a new friend. Tommy wraps up this letter to Superman telling him that he deserves to hear some good news. Superman inspired Tommy to do the right thing. Being a hero isn't about throwing your weight around. It's about helping those who can't fight for themselves.

If you suspect or witness animal abuse, you can contact your local law enforcement or animal shelter to file a report. You can remain anonymous. You can learn more about animal abuse from the Humane Society of the United States.

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