Literature / The Superdictionary

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Teaching children grammar by Breaking the Fourth Wall.

"We all want our children to be excited by learning and gaining an early command of our language. This superb dictionary was carefully and systematically researched to accomplish just these things. Based on established educational methods, it contains all the words children need to know in the early grades. And it is so dynamic in design that children are highly motivated to use it. What could be more exciting than to have the greatest superheroes give meaning to a solid reading vocabulary."

The Super Dictionary is a children's dictionary. To be precise, a Warner Educational Services book, featuring superhero characters from DC Comics (including Batman, Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman) as well as a few Canon Foreigners. It has the characters act out the words and their definitions, in often bizarre ways. Developed specifically as Edutainment, it was marketed as "a convenient and entertaining resource book unlike any other."

Well, that last part was true...

As a side note, Craig McCracken, the creator of The Powerpuff Girls, has stated that Mojo Jojo, one of the villains from the show, was partly based on this book. Namely, his tendency to repeat himself in strange ways.

It was published in 1978 by Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

But let's be honest, you're just here for Lex Luthor stealing 40 cakes.

Not to be confused with Superdickery.

This work contains examples of:

  • Ambiguous Syntax: "Before Batgirl went to Catwoman's house, she took her car apart." Did Barbara dismantle Catwoman's car, or was it her own? (And in either case, why did she do it?)
  • And That's Terrible: The Trope Namer, said when Lex Luthor steals 40 cakes.
    • Amusingly enough, Lex Luthor's character bio in the book actually mentions that "He's terrible."
    • The dictionary also makes a point of clarifying that Joker, Penguin and Catwoman are all "bad". In fact, villains are often referred to as "bad men."
  • Artistic License – Physics: No, Wonder Woman, it is not possible to make invisible things look "bright". (Though it would probably make sense to clean off the dirt from your plane to keep it invisible.)
  • Adaptational Wimp: The Penguin is a threatening character in the actual comics, but in this version he's a harmless buffoon who does things like leave the door open and get caught in his own trap.
    • Superman seems to be afraid that Lois Lane might beat him up.
  • Batman Gambit: Conjura tries to spread peace by writing the word "peace" backwards on a chalkboard, hoping that people will read it out.
  • The Beastmaster: Firehair, who is every bear's friend.
    • El Dragón, when he leads a horde of elephants.
  • Black Comedy: "Crashes like that could be heard almost every night. People who try to fly like Hawkgirl crash. They fall to the ground. After they have crashed enough times, they give up."
  • Butt-Monkey: Robin. An awful lot of things seem to happen to him more than any other character...
  • Canon Foreigner: A few characters were created especially for this book. Most of them do not appear anywhere else. These include:
    • Intrepid Reporter Wilson Forbes.
    • Alien SR-12.
    • Time travelling magician Conjura.
    • Husband and wife detective team Ted and Terri Trapper.
    • Tomahawk's partner Jody.
    • Spanish superhero with mental control over electrical devices El Dragón (other name: Miguel Rodriguez.)
    • Space pilot Jonna Crisp.
  • Captain Obvious: Many characters in the book become this, given that they are supposed to be adults, yet talk in a way meant to teach grammar to first-graders.
    Ted Trapper: "This is a picture of my aunt."
    Teri Trapper: "Then she must be your mother's sister, or your father's sister, or your uncle's wife."
    • "When Catwoman is awake, she is not sleeping."
    • As Hawkgirl flies over a mountain range, she realises that mountains and fields are, in fact, not the same thing. (Though in fairness, the mountains were apparently not marked on her map.)
    • The book also points out that Comet and Krypto are not the same, as one is a horse and the other is a dog.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Catwoman seems to clean her tigers by dusting them off.
    • Also, Jimmy Olsen.
    Jimmy Olsen: "I am sad inside myself."
  • Comically Missing the Point: The narrator thinks that people ran away from the Joker because he was smoking, and they didn't like the smell of cigars. Not because he was, well, The Joker.
  • Compelling Voice: The Flash seems to have this.
    "If the Flash talked to you, you would pay attention. You would look and listen carefully."
  • The Complainer Is Always Wrong: The Flash has gotten really tired of people complaining about him running through walls. He isn't actually destroying them, you know.
    • Though he later says that he is quite used to knocking down doors, so the complaints may not be totally invalid...
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Supergirl challenges a butterfly to a race. Unsurprisingly, Supergirl wins.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Supergirl realises that somebody is hiding behind a curtain and asks her to show herself. That scene currently provides the page image for this trope.
  • Dem Bones: Jimmy Olsen ran into some hostile ones during an adventure. He isn't certain that he wants to have any more adventures after that.
  • Doppelgänger Attack: Catwoman of all people is apparently capable of this in this continuity.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: El Dragón, who - despite his name - doesn't really have any sort of dragon theme. Though it's still a pretty badass moniker.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Robin. When Batman allows him to drive the Batmobile, it ends with the car tumbling off a bridge and into a river.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Alfred is only referred to as "a butler".
  • Face–Heel Revolving Door: Catwoman seems to randomly change between a dangerous supervillain who gets into fights with the Batfamily and a perfectly law-abiding circus cat trainer who hangs out with them like friends.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Lex Luthor is convinced that only The Joker or The Penguin could be the cause of a loud noise, not realising that The Joker is standing right behind him with a machine in plain view.
  • Fantastic Fruits and Vegetables: Conjura has magic peanuts that can be used to summon elephants, of all things.
  • Gender-Neutral Writing: A rather awkward example.
    "He brought the young boy or girl out."
  • Go Fetch: Apparently, a candy bar is all that it takes for Batman to distract a tiger long enough to save Robin.
  • Harmless Villain: The Penguin can barely be called evil. He thinks leaving a door ajar is the height of villainy, flees Batgirl on an ostrich, gets apples dropped on his head, and bakes cookies for the whole town. Despite all of this, it's implied that there are people who want him dead.
  • Hollywood Law: In the entry for "judge", the judge pronounces the Penguin guilty. Juries pronounce people guilty, and judges only give the sentence (except if they have a bench trial, where the defendant waives their right to a jury, which rarely happens).
  • Human Alien: SR-12 could easily be mistaken for a human, but she has Purple Eyes, purple hair, a number instead of a name, and wears a purple Latex Space Suit.
  • Hypocritical Humor: It is said that The Joker will never use this one bank again because somebody stole his money... right after he has robbed it.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: It is stated that Clark Kent uses eyeglasses to help him see, but then it says that Superman doesn't actually need eyeglasses.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: The Penguin is portrayed like this. He bumps into some guy at the bus, gets caught when he tries to start early in a race, is unable to catch up to a running Batman, drops the sticks he is carrying, gets hit on his head by falling apples, and tumbles of a cliff. Oh, and there are tons of people who want to beat him up, too.
  • Insult Backfire: The Penguin doesn't mind Batman calling him crazy.
    The Penguin: "You are right, Batman. I am crazier than you."
  • Interactive Narrator: The narrators actually tells Jonna Crisp to "Look out" when she hears explosions.
    • It's later implied that the narrators are actual, unseen characters. They mentioned that Conjura visited "their" school, so they are presumably students and/or employees.
    • The narrators also yell at The Atom to get bigger, as he is being attacked by 50 bees. That's as many as five tens. And that's too many bees when you are tiny.
  • Invisibility Cloak: SR-12 has caps which seem to fill this function.
    • Conjura also makes a drink that will turn her invisible.
  • Mountain Man: Tomahawk and Jody, who dress like Davy Crockett-style trappers (though they must have been born decades before Crockett to have fought in The American Revolution).
  • Muggles Do It Better: Conjura uses a crystal ball to contact an old man. He tells her that she should have simply used a phone instead.
  • Mundane Fantastic: Magic necklaces are used to discuss... rising prices.
    "For most people, magic necklaces cost too much money."
  • Mundane Utility: Green Arrow likes to ring door bells by shooting arrows at them.
  • Never My Fault: Robin is unable to hit the basket in a basketball match. He is certain that there must be something wrong with the ball.
  • Noodle Incident: Some of the scenarios comes across like this.
    • Why does Lois Lane have a box on her head?
    • Why are Green Arrow and Green Lantern running away from an angry crowd while carrying a duck?
    • Why does Batgirl jump onto the roof of a train driven by Batman (without realising that he drove it?)
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Averted. Christianity is still practised in Jonna Crisp's time.
  • Painting the Medium: Teri Trapper throws a ball which bounces off the the panel's border and the text within it.
    • Supergirl's super sight is portrayed as a "zoomed in" circle showing her point of view... except she says that she can actually see Superman "in the circle."
  • Phone Booth: Unsurprisingly, Clark Kent uses one to change into his Superman costume. Surprisingly, he actually uses it to make a call first.
  • Poke the Poodle:
    • Lex Luthor stealing 40 cakes, of course.
    • Oswald Cobblepot seems to think that leaving a door ajar counts as evil.
  • Pronoun Trouble: Lois Lane gives us this line:
    Lois: "Is anyone here? Is there any woman, man, boy or girl here?"
  • Serious Business: Jonna Crisp is really concerned that somebody else got to empty a glass of water before she had the chance.
  • Skewed Priorities: Even though Wonder Woman is about to fight several large monsters, she is mostly worried about sneezing.
  • Sci-Fi Bob Haircut: Worn by SR-12.
  • Super Dickery: Batgirl is seen burying a (by implication, stolen) money bag in a sand dune. No context or explanation is given for this.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Conjura has almost the exact same "cast spells by speaking backwards" powers as Zatanna, though she can also travel in time. She was originally going to be Zatanna, but she was replaced by an black Canon Foreigner in order to add more diversity to the dictionary.
  • Take Me to Your Leader: Said almost word for word by Jonna Crisp. Though in this case there doesn't seem to be any antagonism involved, and Jonna hopes that said leader will be a Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Characters are able to have long conversations when they really shouldn't be able to. For instance, Firehair manage say to say all of this while a pot is breaking:
    Firehair: "Don't break those pots. Do not tear them apart. If you broke them, you would have nothing to put water in. If they have been broken, we cannot fix them."
    • Some pedestrians also manage to say quite a lot as a bridge collapses beneath their feet.
    Pedestrians: "The bridge is falling, Wonder Woman! The road across the river is falling. Save us."
    Wonder Woman: "Don't be afraid. I've caught bridges before."
    • Robin apparently has more than enough time to say several sentences a woman falls off a building.
    Robin: "I just hope he can catch her. I hope he can take hold of her as she falls though the air. If she isn't caught, it's the end."
  • There Was a Door: "Chimneys are for smoke, not people. Next time, use the door."
    • Flash also has a tendency to enter buildings by running straight through the wall.
  • This Is a Drill: For some reason, Lois Lane's job at the Daily Planet requires her to drill holes in walls.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Jody seems quite nonchalant about how big the wolf he comes across is. Its head is just as big as a grown man, and yet he only treats it like an unusually large specimen.
  • Wall Crawl: Done by The Joker, of all people, apparently after Catwoman asked him to do so. He succeeds.
  • Whole Costume Reference: SR-12's bodysuit seems to be based on the one worn by Saturn Girl, only purple and with a slightly different pattern.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Literature/TheSuperdictionary