Old fashioned Super Duck

Today’s Zippy brings modern comics fans back to 1955 and good old-fashioned Super Duck:


The contrast here is between the conventions and content of American comics in their classic period and those of more recent years, where innovative formats, topics. and narrative organizations are common.

Griffy (from a seat at his telescope in the Griffith Observatory in L.A.) tosses Super Duck at the superhero fanboys, to astound them with the conventions of the classic days.

Bonus later: if Super Duck, why not Super Dick? Why not, indeed — in any number of senses.

Background note 1. In cartoons, ducks are almost always figures of fun, while superheroes command respect, so a superhero duck is intrinsically silly (compare the cartoon character Underdog).

Background note 2 (linguistic). The element super is complex. It certainly does function as an adjective, as in this NOAD2 entry:

adjective informal  very good or pleasant; excellent: Julie was a super girl | [as exclamation]: You’re both coming in? Super!

As is usual for Adj in an Adj + N composite, the N gets the primary accent. In superhero itself, however, and in named superheroes like Superman, Superwoman, Superboy, etc., including Super Duck, the primary accent is on the element super, as is standard for N + N compounds (like héro dùck, versus heròic dúck).

In general, the element super- as an affix (rather than a separate word) has secondary accent when attached to an Adj (it’s accented like the degree modifier very), but primary accent when attached to a N (or V). These uses are mingled together in Michael Quinion’s lists on his Affixes site (I have underlined words with bases that are clearly Adjs)

super- Above, over, or beyond; great or large; of a higher kind. [Latin super, above, beyond.] Though a number of words have been imported from Latin with this prefix already attached, most have been formed in English, particularly because it has become a popular way of forming superlatives in recent decades.

The most common sense refers to something having greater influence, capability or power than another of its kind, or exhibiting some quality to a greater degree: superabundant, superbug, supercharger, supercomputer, superconductor, supercool, superfluid, superglue, superhero, superman, supermodel, superpower, superstar, superwoman.

Other examples suggest something extra large of its kind: supercontinent, supermarket, superstore, supertanker. Some imply a position or status above or beyond another: superstructure, supersonic, supernatural, superscript, superstratum, supertitles. In systematic classifications of the living world, it indicates a higher level, as in superfamily, superclass, and superorder. In chemistry, it is occasionally used to suggest an element is in greater proportion than usual: superoxide.

Super Duck. From Wikipedia:

Super Duck was a comic book character created in 1943 for what was then MLJ Comics (now Archie Comics) by staff artist Al Fagaly (1909–1963).

His first appearance came in Jolly Jingles #10 (Summer, 1943). As his name implied, Super Duck (nicknamed “Supe”) was a parody of Superman, even down to a red and blue costume. He got his powers from a prescription for vitamins, much in the manner of Hourman, the Blue Beetle and others. He soon switched to a green and red suit, presumably to avoid legal action, but his time as a superhero was short, and by Jolly Jingles #16 (the last issue) his stories became more conventional, in the Carl Barks mode. By this time (late 1944) he had gotten his own book, fully titled Super Duck, the Cockeyed Wonder and his most familiar attire: a black shirt, red lederhosen and often an Alpine hat.

Supe now had a temperamental girlfriend Uwanna, a rival Dapper, a bratty nephew Fauntleroy (sometimes called Fluke or Faunt, sometimes identified as his younger brother), and a burly derelict friend named Mushnoggin.

Lots of changes over time. Here’s Supe (still in red and blue, and engaging in heroic exploits) in Jolly Jingles #10:


And here in Super Duck #67, in black shirt and red lederhosen, doing conventional comic-strip gags:


Bonus: Super Dick. Three relevant (all informal or slang) senses of dick here:  ‘penis’; a phallic pejorative (Ben Zimmer’s term), a slur roughly equivalent to dickhead ‘a stupid, irritating, or ridiculous person’ (NOAD2); and ‘private detective, private eye’.

(On the phallic pejorative, from my 11/30/10 LLog posting “Retitling Strunk & White” (as Correct Your Friends Like a Dick), about dick as a phallic pejorative (cf. prick, tool, weenie): “a term for the penis extended metonymically for pejorative reference to the bearer of the penis, and (then, in some cases for some speakers) to generalized pejorative reference, regardless of sex.”)

That’s the dick part of Super Dick. Then there’s the super part, connoting size, power, ability, etc. (see Quinion above). These components can combine in various ways. In no particular order, with no claim to exhaustiveness:

(1) There are plenty of references to men with super-dicks, really magnificent penises.

(2) The Superdickery website, described here:

Dickery: noun   The state of being a dick

Superdickery is a website that was created to support the central thesis that the character of Superman is, in fact, a dick. Its scope has expanded over the years, and is now a site devoted to the cataloging and displaying of bizarre and amusing images throughout the history of comic books, fan artwork of questionable content, and the barely intelligible thoughts of its author [Mike Miksch].

(3) People have created any number of Super Dick cartoon characters: a superhero penis seems to be an irresistible idea. Here’s one from the NewGrounds site by Rennis5:


This one has a human head. Other creations are more clearly penises in superhero costumes.

(4) On to a combination of ‘penis’ and ‘private eye’, in a 1971 X-rated comedy film:


From Wikipedia:

Cry Uncle! (also American Oddballs and Superdick [Super Dick]) is a 1971 film in the Troma library. It is directed by John G. Avildsen and stars Allen Garfield. The story, based on the Michael Brett novel Lie a Little, Die a Little, follows the misadventures of a slobbish private detective who is hired by a millionaire to investigate a murder. The movie features one of Paul Sorvino’s first screen performances, and an early appearance from TV star Debbie Morgan. Avildsen directed this film six years prior to his Oscar-winning project Rocky.

The film features a great deal of nudity, sex, drug use, and an explicit act of necrophilia.

(5) Finally, a bilingual phallic food example:


Super Dickmann’s is the name of this particular candy (chocolate covered marshmallow with a soft wafer base), made by the Storck company, which also makes Werther’s Original caramels and hard candies, Haribo bears, and many other candies. Now Dickmann can just be a proper name, but as a common noun it’s a compound literally translatable as ‘big man’ (with dick ‘thick, big, bulky’). I don’t think it’s stretching things to see the candies not just as men, but also as penises. They are prall ‘plump’ and also knackig ‘crispy, crunchy’. Bite them.

One Response to “Old fashioned Super Duck”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    And of course, on the Super Dick theme, there are all those possibilities in which Dick is a proper name.

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