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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Happy Feb. 29 from Green Lantern and Leap Day William

Our culture pays surprisingly little attention to Leap Year. You'd think that an extra day in February every four years would be a cause for all kinds of fun traditions, but Leap Year tends to be treated as just another day. Even Groundhog Day has more cachet. In the arts, I can think of various fictional characters born on Leap Day (from Frederic of The Pirates of Penzance to Jerry Gergitch from "Parks & Recreation"), but the only story involving Feb. 29 that comes to mind is "The Leap Year Menace" from Green Lantern #3 in 1960.

"The Leap Year Menace" is a perfect artifact of the silly, sexist superhero comics of the 1950s and 1960s. The premise hinges on the tradition that on Leap Year, women can actually propose marriage to men. Green Lantern's alter ego, Hal Jordan, worries that his aggressive female admirer will pop the question and for some reason, simply saying "No" isn't an option. To create an excuse to avoid Carol's company, Hal uses his power ring to create a giant monster to attack the city, and then gets promptly knocked unconscious by a model airplane, leaving the monster to wreak havoc. Hal comes to just in time to make the artificial monster vanish before it destroys the local nuclear power plant, thus rescuing Coast City from the disaster he set into motion. And when the hysterical members of the Green Lantern Fan Club ask him to marry them, he shrugs that he can't marry them all and flies away, leaving Carol disappointed. Apparently "The Leap Year Menace" of the title = dames.

Fortunately, last week's "30 Rock" recognizes the void in Leap Year activities and creates a series of bizarre, elaborate traditions like a cross between Christmas and St. Patrick's Day. Not only is there a Santa Claus figure known as "Leap Day William" (who lives in the Marianas Trench and gives candy to crying children), there's even a hit Jim Carrey movie called "Leap Dave Williams," which translates the Leap Day concepts to The Santa Clause. It's all ingeniously executed, complete with songs and Christmas Carol parodies:

Of course, if there are any other significant uses of Leap Year in pop culture, please let me know.

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