Tuesday 18 May 2010

Superman Family #164.

Superman Family#164
 The Els, what a dysfunctional family they were, making the Borgias look like the Waltons. In 1974, they finally got their own joint mag - and what a mag it was, featuring a hundred pages of stories, action and special features.

This is the first ever issue. And so, with the kind of logic that exists only in the world of comic book publishing, it's labelled #164. The idea was that each issue would focus on one particular member of the Superman family and, with the sort of logic that got the first issue labelled #164, this debut centres on Jimmy Olsen who isn't in any way shape or form a member of the Superman family. Still, up until this point, the mag had actually been Jimmy Olsen and so clearly some sop to fans of that comic had been felt necessary.

This means that the only new tales in the mag feature Superman's pal, with the rest being reprints. It has to be said the reprints are more interesting than the new stuff, mostly because they're not centred around Olsen. No disrespect to him but he's never going to be as interesting as a bunch of super-beings.

Superman Family #164, 100 pages, Jimmy Olsen

In the first tale, Jimmy investigates when someone starts blowing up his father's orphanage type place. I'm a bit vague as to what the complex in question actually is but, this being the early 1970s, it's full of angry teens who're suspected of being behind the attacks. Needless to say they're not and, with the aid of a psychic, Jimmy captures the real culprit who turns out to be the character who practically had the word "culprit" written all over him from the very first page onwards.

Superman Family #164, 100 pages, a Supergirl caged

Next up, Supergirl takes on Brainiac in a story that, rarely from the era in question, involves neither weird boyfriends nor our heroine worrying about being unpopular. Clearly, she's unpopular with Brainiac though because he tries to kill her. Even better, from the point of view of dramatic tension, he nearly succeeds. Still, the maid of might's nothing if not resilient and sees off the villain in double-quick time. When she's won, Superman turns up and declares he's been watching her fight from a distance but couldn't get there in time to help her. Given his track record of treating the poor girl like dirt at every opportunity, you half expect him to say he could've got back in time but decided to let her die to teach her a valuable lesson.

Superman Family #164, 100 pages, Superboy, Krypto

Next, Krypto the Superdog becomes a Hollywood star and, his nose put out of joint and acting mainly out of spite, Superboy completely wrecks Krypto's life. Upon being told Superboy was responsible for this, Krypto's delighted and loves him all the more for it, when the correct response would've been for Krypto to go mad and savage Superboy to death.

After this, Jimmy Olsen has an adventure involving a house brick.

Meanwhile, in The Death March, Daily Planet boss Perry White basically sets out to kill his staff in the desert, to prove to a rival publisher that they're willing to die for him. At the tale's denouement, his staff, previously furious with him, are delighted to discover that, although he nearly killed them, he was at least trying to kill them for a good reason - winning a bet.

Finally we get an imaginary tale in which Superman marries the three loves of his life (not all at once) Lois Lane, Lana Lang and Lori Lemaris. Drawing a veil over the fact that Lori Lemaris is a fish and such a marriage would be illegal, it says it all that Superman's directly responsible for the death of each of them - and, for once, he didn't do it to teach them a valuable lesson.

So there you have it, Superboy wrecks Krypto's life, Perry White tries to kill his staff, and Superman marries a fish and gets Lois lane, Lana Lang and Lori Lemaris killed.

So, is the comic any good? Actually it is. There's nothing substantial about it but, featuring plenty of art by the likes of Kurt Schaffenberger and Jim Mooney, it's visually more appealing than a lot of DC's reprint-packed 100 pagers, and all the tales, although reason-defying on a grand scale, are a fun read.

I still wouldn't want any of those people round for dinner though.


Jared - Blog into Mystery said...

I really like the Krypto story, but I'm a sucker for the super-dog, and you're right about the denoument - how could Krypto not be upset about his master's sabotage?

Steve said...

I can only put it down to Stockholm Syndrome.

Tim Tipton said...

DC had a great "Family" franchise with Batman &

Steve said...

Hi, TIM. Sadly I never had any of DC's Tarzan related comics but was always impressed by the Joe Kubert covers.

Terence Stewart said...

I loved Superman Family, especially when it became a Dollar Comic, but I've never read this one. I am, however, a sucker for Krypto(I did once toy with the idea of a blog article detailing every cover that Krypto lies dead, or near death, on, tongue lolling from his mouth). Was the Krypto tale here a reprint?

Steve said...

Yeah. Sadly, the comic gives no info on when and where it's reprinted from but the style of artwork suggests it may have been from the early 1960s.

Anonymous said...

As it happens Steve, for most of the old newstand era publishers believed #1s didn't sell as well as established comics - I suppose sales figures must backed that up in the days before a widespread collector market - which is why they preferred to retitle an existing one.
So the numbering is here is actually quite logical, like when Journey Into Mystery became Thor instead of being replaced with a first issue.
Times have changed, eh?

Enjoyed the featured post - its a bit like it was Supergirl Sunday all over again (;


Steve W. said...

Thanks, Sean. Who knows? Maybe Supergirl Sunday will return someday. There do seem to have been a limitless number of Supergirl stories published in the 1960s.