During the LEGO Movie 2, we come across Superman in a very happy singing mood. He has found a new Utopia and has decided that the S on his shield doesn’t stand for Hope anymore but Silly. That he is now to be called Sillyman.
It is notable that this is never changed at any point in the movie – so it remains canon. LEGO canon. As permanent as anything can be in a world that can be taken apart brick by brick.
But it did remind me suddenly of a familiarly-sounding character, Funnyman.
Funnyman was created by Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster as a clownish superhero, while they were still working for DC Comics. They anticipated a decline in the popularity of conventional superheroes, thinking a comedy hybrid character would have sustainable appeal.
Of course, they were decades ahead of their time, as Deadpool and Harley Quinn have proven. And, cognisant of what had happened with them and Superman, they were determined to retain the copyright to Funnyman, an anathema to DC Comics. So instead Siegel and Shuster made a deal with Magazine Enterprises, with their former DC editor Vin Sullivan, but they were only able to publish 6 issues and a newspaper strip in 1948 before the comic closed.
The series had TV comedian Larry Davis convinced by his girlfriend and manager, June Farrell, to do a publicity stunt where Larry would defeat Happy, an actor playing a criminal, as a crime-fighting clown. But Larry ended up defeating a real criminal by mistake, decides he likes being a hero, and keeps going as Funnyman, the Comic Crimebuster, protector of Empire City, much to the annoyance of June and Happy, the only people who know his secret.
He used practical joke themed gadgets to battle a variety of madcap villains, as well as two comedy superhero rivals, Comicman and Laffman, trying to beat him to the punch, and police officer Sgt. Harrigan pitted against Funnyman. He also drove a scooter with his face on it and an intelligent gadgeted-up supercar, Jet-Jallopy.
We missed his seventieth birthday last year, and he has remained unpublished since 1948. Some sources have him appearing in the DC comic book title 52 as one of Booster Gold’s pallbearers but I think that was someone mistaking him for another clownish character, Oddman. He did appear in a cameo in his secret identity in Super Friends but… that seems to be it.
It’s also worth pointing out that the character is probably still owned by the estates of Siegel and Shuster. Seventy-one years on, is it time for a revival? Dynamite, I’m looking at you…