Sunday, 21 September 2014

Supergirl #9 - the Super Amazon!

Supergirl #9, the Super-Amazon, Supergirl holds Queen Hyppolyta aloft as she throws a punch at a group of  shark men
Hooray! We've reached issue #9 in my issue-by-issue investigation of Supergirl's short-lived 1970s title.

The bad news is it turns out I've already reviewed it - over two years ago - which means I'm reposting that review below, in the interests of continuity.

The good news is that, after this, there's only one issue of the mag left to go - and that it features the titanic tale of what happened when the Maid of Might met Prez.

That, of course, will have to wait until next week.

In the meantime, here's that very post I did way back in June 2012......


It's the return of the feature the internet can't get enough of, as Supergirl Sunday makes a one-off return to Steve Does Comics.

How readers thrilled to that feature back in the days when it was a regularly occurrence. And how they flooded me with emails demanding I put a stop to it I give them more.

Admittedly, today's Tuesday, so technically that makes it Tupergirl Tuesday but who cares?

Supergirl clearly doesn't. She's too busy mithering about men.

As always in a Supergirl tale, they're proving to be more trouble than they're worth. If they're not cheating on her, they're refusing to admit they need rescuing by her, or they're trying to give her a snog as a reward for her heroics.

Faced with such wanton boorishness, Supergirl does what any woman would.

She decides to become an Amazon, spending the rest of her life, cut off from the outside world, on Paradise Island.

Supergirl in a tug of war with a group of Amazons as Queen Hippolyta watches on
With her mighty powers, the Amazons readily accept her as one of their own and even give her a tiara and some silly boots, to prove it.

There's only one problem.

Injured in an attack by shark men, Hippolyta's daughter Nubia - who she rather unflatteringly insists on referring to as, “My other daughter,” - needs urgent treatment with a flower or she'll die.

But the flower can only be found on one, distant island.

No time to waste, Supergirl flies there but is promptly attacked by a trio of witch-doctors who seem to make up three-quarters of the island's population and, as seems to happen in every Supergirl story from this era, she promptly loses her powers just as they're about to kill her.

Happily, she's rescued by the other one-quarter of the island's population, a man called Fong who's in the habit of running around in a gorilla costume to frighten off the witch-doctors.

Exactly where he got a gorilla costume from, on a totally isolated island, is never explained.

How come he speaks English is never explained

How he knows who Supergirl is is never explained.

Whatever. The loss of her powers means Supergirl's going to be trapped on the island for the rest of her life.

Supergirl #9, Supergirl throws a two handed punch at a giant white gorilla as witch doctors watch
Not only that but Fong won't help her escape because, having rescued her from death, he believes it his duty to protect her from now on.

In his eyes, “protecting her,” mostly seems to involve violently twisting her arm to near breaking point while laughing triumphantly. Bizarrely, Supergirl exposits that he means well, making you wonder just what her idea of, “Not meaning well,” would be.

Happily, such things are no obstacle to the not-so-Supergirl and she quickly tricks the witch-doctors and gets her powers back.

But her short-lived imprisonment on the island's made her realise she doesn't want to be cut off from the outside world after all.

And so, having got the vital flower to Nubia, Supergirl renounces her tiara and silly boots and heads off back to San Francisco in search of a new boyfriend. Presumably one with less of a propensity for trying to tear her arms off.

For some reason this has always been my favourite of the short-lived early 1970s' Supergirl series. I don't have a clue why, as it's fairly lame and displays a casual acceptance of male-on-female violence that seemed dubious even at the time. It's also weird and frankly creepy to see Supergirl referring to the Amazon's Queen Hippolyta as, “Mother.”

It also has to be said it has a baffling lapse in continuity as we see Supergirl lift a man above her head and shake him about after she's supposed to have lost her powers.

Supergirl #9, Supergirl flies off as a male chauvinist pig pop star tries to kiss her
Perhaps my liking for it's simply down to its basic premise of Supergirl becoming an Amazon. Then again, it may be down to the oddly Gene Colan-esque shark men. It may be down to the presence of a giant white gorilla. Or it may just be the way the witch-doctors seem to spend their days hiding inside carved-out Easter Island style stone heads in case anyone tries to steal their flowers.

But I suspect that, as always, with this title, the main appeal's down to the visuals, with the pencil of Art Saaf giving us a thing that might not make much sense but at least never fails to look charming.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Marvel Premiere #32 - Monark Starstalker.

Marvel Premiere #32, Monark Starstalker
Well, it's certainly been an exciting day here in Le Royaume-Uni as people have been busily rushing to the polls.

Needless to say, I'm on the side of whichever side wins. Unless it's a draw. In which case I'm on both sides. Frankly, all I care about is the Loch Ness Monster. As long as that's happy, I'm happy.

This has been the sort of in-depth political analysis that only this blog can bring you because only this blog doesn't know what it's on about.

One man who definitely knew what he was on about was Monark Starstalker, Howard Chaykin's outer space bounty hunter from Marvel Premiere #32. Like Chaykin's earlier character the Scorpion, when he sets his sights on a target, that target had better watch out.

What happens is this. Starstalker lands on the planet Stormking which somewhat resembles an old wild west town, sets out to bring in a wrongdoer called Kurt Hammer - dead or alive - and quickly brings him in dead.

Marvel Premiere #32, Monark Starstalker
He does this with the aid of a robot falcon that serves as his ears and eyes, thanks to his own senses having been destroyed in an outer space incident some time ago.

Along the way, he picks up a female ally who just seems to appear from thin air, and he ruffles a few local feathers.

I do have to admit that this was probably my least favourite issue of any comic I owned when I was a kid. At the time, I could appreciate that it looked quite pretty but, for whatever reason, I couldn't get into it at all as a story.

I have to say that, reading it again for the first time since then, I still can't get into it. It still looks pretty enough but the visual story-telling is often confusing, needing captions to help make sense of what the pictures are supposed to be showing and there are times when even with captions, it's hard to understand what's going on. For instance, characters just seem to appear and disappear without it being obvious just where they've come from or gone to.

Marvel Premiere #32, Monark Starstalker
Added to all this, Starstalker has no personality at all for the reader to latch onto. He basically shows up, does what he set out to do and then leaves, with no real insight into who he is or why he's doing any of the things he's doing.

In fact, it's not clear why anyone in the tale is doing what they're doing.

In fact, it's not that clear who anyone in the story actually is.

In a way, it's nice to know my eleven year old self agreed with my no-longer-eleven-year-old self and had a wisdom I might have thought beyond him but I like to like things and therefore it would have been nice for him to have been proven wrong.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Supergirl #8. A Head Full of Snakes - Part Two.

Supergirl #8, A Head Full of Snakes
Here it is, the concluding instalment of my look at a comic that's so epic, so awesome, so multi-layered in its themes and plot twists that it's taken two posts to review it.

Here's what happens.

Having been cast in a play, our heroine is busy leching after her co-star Mitch when she spots one of her college professors being mugged.

No sooner has she dealt with the muggers than she spots something else.

That her head's sprouted a load of snakes and she's turning people to stone.

Needless to say, the Justice League of America can't tolerate such a thing and turn up to give her a good kick in the asp.

Also needless to say, Supergirl polishes the lot of them off in about two seconds and then sets about trying to find a cure for her condition.

Supergirl #8, A Head Full of Snakes
It turns out that the ghost of Medusa is to blame and Medusa has a brilliant master plan, which is to get the ghost of Perseus to possess poor old Mitch and get him to chop Supergirl's head off with his magic sword. Then Medusa's ghost will be free to take over Supergirl's dead body and conquer the world with it.

Now Supergirl has to sort out Mitch and his magic sword and find Medusa's tomb to put a stop to all this.

Supergirl #8, Perseus
It has to be said that the main attraction of this issue is that you get to see Supergirl with snakes on her head and no cape on. Oddly enough, I have to say she looks a lot better like that and I can't help feeling they should have left her looking like that forever.

Other than that, I'm not sure it's a story that makes any sense at all. Medusa's plan would involve her taking over a headless corpse which, I would have thought, would pose certain practical difficulties when it comes to using it to take over the world.

Also, Mitch sees Supergirl's snakes on at least two occasions and suffers no harm.

Not only that but Supergirl and Mitch see the original Medusa's snakes at the climax and it has no effect on them at all.

With its illogical villainous scheme, petrification anomalies and the JLA and Supergirl showing no sense at all in their brief showdown, it does come across like a story that was written in a bit of a rush, without any great thought.

Still, Supergirl looks nicer in it than she's ever done before and that has to be something.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Supergirl #8. Kara Zor-El's baddest of bad hair days - Part One.

Krackling Kandorians! This is a unique moment in this blog's history because Supergirl Sunday has now reached issue #8 of our heroine's 1970s solo series.

With my stupendous mastery of organisation, it turns out I randomly reviewed it a whole four years ago. Therefore, it's time for me to dust that old post off and, in the interest of sequential correctness, re-post it right now.

Because the post was more of a general look at the series, I'm going to treat it as Part One of the review and tomorrow I shall endeavour to write a more specific critique of the issue in question.

So, here it is, what I had to say about that very issue way back in April 2010...


Supergirl #8, Art Saaf, Supergirl v MedusaI was never sure if the deal Supergirl got in life was raw or simply half-baked. Either way, it's a miracle she didn't end up in therapy. First of all her home planet's blown up then her home city's destroyed and then her own cousin puts her in an orphanage while telling her to keep her trap shut and not get noticed.

That's not to mention that, for decades, all her boyfriends turned out to be aliens or robots or ghosts or crooks, or spies, or women or horses.

Still, through all these setbacks, Kara Zor-El battled on, for year after year, until, at last, in 1972, she got her own comic.

The odd thing was that while she'd been able to sustain a lengthy run of stories in Adventure Comics for three years, her own title lasted just ten issues, which poses the obvious question, why would people buy the exploits of Supergirl in Adventure Comics but not in her own mag? Was it that boys, the main comic buying audience, were happy to buy a mag with "Adventure" in the title but not one with "Girl" in the title?

Either way, it was their loss because the comic has a charm all its own. No longer in that orphanage, Superman's cousin's packed her bags and gone to university. If she thought this was the start of a fresh new life, free of the trials and tribulations that fell on her like a sack of anvils at every opportunity, she was to be much disappointed. Her bad luck simply grew and and, by issue #8, she'd sprouted a headful of snakes, and her boyfriend - possessed by the ghost of Perseus - was out to kill her.

Supergirl #8, Art Saaf, Supergirl v Medusa







Apparently it was all a plot by Medusa who, imprisoned somewhere or other, was out to get him to slay Supergirl so she could take possession of the Maid of Might's (presumably hacked up) body. With Supergirl chopped to pieces and Perseus still on the loose, I can spot two problems with Medusa's plan right there but, clearly, the gruesome Gorgon was an optimist. Still, as always, it all ended nicely, with Medusa defeated and Supergirl off back home, no doubt to prepare for her next romantic catastrophe.

For Cary Bates, coming up with Supergirl plots must've been even more of a challenge than coming up with Superman tales. He had the same problem of dealing with a character who was far too powerful for the sake of good drama but with the added problem that this was about a girl and - this being the 1970s - you couldn't show a girl getting a good chinning from a bad guy, meaning the violence levels had to be toned down even further. Still, Bates was nothing if not resourceful and did his usual charming job of it.

But the stories' real selling point was Art Saaf's artwork. With Saaf in charge, it was a whole new Supergirl. No longer the wholesome and blandly pretty ingénue of Jim Mooney, or the plucky girl next door of Kurt Schaffenberger, here she's all legs, cleavage, lips and eyes. For some of us, it's the most visually appealing portrayal of Supergirl ever but maybe in the end that's what did for the strip. Should Supergirl be sexy? Maybe, ultimately, the strip didn't know who it was aiming at. If boys were never going to go for all that romance, and girls weren't going to go for the legs, cleavage, lips and eyes, then who exactly was going to buy it?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2 - War Toy.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2, War Toy
I'll be honest. Tonight, I was going to cave in to public demand and see what our favourite DC heroes were up to exactly fifty years ago.

The only problem is that when I tried to write the post, I couldn't think of a single thing to say about any of the covers in question.

It really does smack you in the face how undynamic and uninteresting DC covers from that era were compared to their livelier Marvel counterparts.

But, if you want to see DC's covers from September of 1964, you can do so by clicking on this very link.

 If you can think of anything interesting to say about any of them, you're free to post those thoughts in the comment box below and succeed where I failed.

In the meantime, having been defeated by DC, I shall retreat into the familiar and descend into the happy days of Marvel UK's Planet of the Apes.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2, War ToyAs you may know, the UK Planet of the Apes comic was in the habit of reprinting sci-fi tales from US Marvel's black and white range; and one of the more memorable of those tales was a thing called War Toy.

It's the tale of a robot created to fight in wars, so that people don't have to.

Sadly, the military give him short shrift and he has nothing to do until aliens invade Australia, at which point he's sent into combat and plays a major part in the Earth's victory.

That's the happy part.

The unhappy part is that no sooner is that war over than the military dump him again and he's left to try and make a life for himself on Civvie Street.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2, War Toy
Having been created purely to fight in wars, he fails miserably to do this and, eventually, his parts breaking down, he's taken into hospital where we find him on his death bed.

It's not what you'd call a happy tale. In fact, it's what you'd call downright angry, clearly meant to draw parallels with the treatment of human veterans of war, trained to serve their country and then forgotten and neglected once the fighting's over.

Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction #2, War Toy
I had always assumed it was an adaptation from a literary short story but it seems, from the credits, that it's an original tale, in which case, all credit is due to writer Tony Isabella and artists George Perez and Rico Rival for creating one of Marvel's more memorable 1970s tales.

I suspect I'm not the only one who found it memorable because the other thing I've always assumed about it is that the movie Short Circuit was to some degree inspired by it, as there are some fairly obvious similarities.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Supergirl #7 - The Sinister Snowman.

Supergirl #7, Zatanna and the Snowman

This is it. After weeks of the Maid of Might being held back by having to share a comic with the Siren of Sorcery, the two finally get to meet.

And, needless to say, Zatanna's still cramping her style.

What's happened is this. Horny as ever, Supergirl's desperate to get down to some serious canoodling with a man she's met in a driving incident.

Supergirl #7, Kara loves Tony

That man is Tony Martyn, a handsome and mustachioed member of the Peace Corps.

There's only one problem. Right now, he's in danger of becoming a member of the Peace Corpse because he's gone missing in the Himalayas.

In fact, there's another problem too.

And that's that Tony's also met Zatanna - and she's as keen to tickle Tony's tonsils as  Supergirl is.

Supergirl #7, Zatanna loves Tony

So, independently of each other, the two heroines set off to the Himalayas and soon find themselves at odds over just which of them should be rescuing the object of their desire.

It all comes to a head when they find themselves up against a giant snowman created by the mountain-living demon Orgox who's holding Tony captive.

Fortunately, after accidentally zapping each other instead of the snowman, it dawns on them to act like adults and team up against the the thing.

Supergirl #7, Snowman

That dealt with, now all that's left for them to do is rescue Tony from Orgox and that's that.

Except it isn't because it turns out Tony doesn't have the hots for either of them and is an engaged man who can't wait to get home to his fiancée, leaving Zatanna and Supergirl to return home in a huff.

Supergirl #7, cavemen
There's not really a lot to say about this tale apart from... ...erm, well nothing really. It starts, it finishes and it has some stuff happen in between. Supergirl and Zatanna both come across as needy, clingy, petty, stupid and immature - and also somewhat negligent, as it seems that Tony's been missing for ages before either of them motivate themselves to actually try and save him, despite their declarations of love for him.

Personally, I'd have preferred it if Tony had turned out to be gay and not just engaged, just to really thwart their amorous designs but it's the 1970s, so I suppose the chances of that happening were always going to be low.

Flatmate count in this issue: Zero.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Forty years ago today - September 1974.

Good gravy! It's in the news that they've found the remains of yet another previously unknown dinosaur. This one was called Dreadnoughtus Schrani and it was meganormous.

How they know what it was called when there was no one around at the time to write its name down, I have no idea but I do know how our favourite Marvel heroes would have responded to it.

They'd have smashed it in the face.

They smash everyone in the face.

Frankly, if you turned up without a face to smash in, they wouldn't know what to do with you.

But that doesn't matter. All that matters is finding out who were they smashing in the face exactly forty years ago.


Avengers #127, the Inhumans

Unless my ever-loving memory deserts me, this is the first half of the two-parter that sees Crystal marry Quicksilver.

Needless to say, it's not long before the Human Torch is wanting to smash him in the face.

But let's face it, what girl wouldn't want to marry Quicksilver? He's quite the charmer.
Conan the Barbarian #42, Night of the Gargoyle

I've never seen the inside of this comic but that's a rather belting cover that I assume is by Gil Kane.
Fantastic Four #150, Ultron and the wedding of Quicksilver and Crystal

Unless my ever-loving memory deserts me, this is the second half of the two-parter in which Crystal marries Quicksilver.
Incredible Hulk #179, the Missing Link

Hooray! It's one of my Hulk favourites, as the Missing Link returns as a good guy and Bruce Banner gets a job as a miner.
Iron Man #70, Sunfire and Ultimo

To be truthful, I do find it difficult to enjoy any story that Sunfire turns up in.

Just imagine if there was a comic where Sunfire teamed up with Quicksilver. What a barrel of laughs that'd be.
Amazing Spider-Man #136, The Green Goblin Lives Again

This is more like it. The Green Goblin's back, in the form of Harry Osborn.

I always wanted a Goblin Glider. I think I might make myself one.
Thor #227, Hercules and Firelord

With Firelord, Hercules and the living planet involved, it would appear to be a clash of the egos.
Daredevil and the Black Widow #113, the Gladiator

DD's greatest foe is back.
Captain America and the Falcon #177, Lucifer

I've not read this one, Is the Lucifer who appears in this tale anything to do with the Lucifer who appeared in an early X-Men story?

Then again, was there a villain called Lucifer who appeared in an early X-Men story, or am I just imagining it?

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