Sunday, 27 March 2011

Supergirl's Adventure Comics #424. Supergirl gets serious.

Supergirl Adventure Comics #424
Hooray! I've finally reached the last of the 85 million Supergirl comics I impulse-bought a few months back. And appropriately my marathon slog comes to an close just as Supergirl's tenure in Adventure Comics comes to an end. After this issue, she was transferred to her very own mag which, despite the best efforts of Art Saaf, famously failed to set the world alight.

So, does she go out with style?

Well, it has to be said it's a very strange way for her to make her departure, with by far the grimmest and most earnest Supergirl comic I've read from this era. Bruce Ryan, a former gangster, is drip-feeding intrepid girl reporter Linda Danvers info about a criminal syndicate he was once a part of. Fearing for his life, he has to go into hiding but, thanks to Supergirl's recklessness, the syndicate manage to find and kill him.

Blaming herself for his death, Supergirl sets out to smash the syndicate but not before a sequence where they kidnap Linda Danvers and torture her with a branding iron. It doesn't hurt her, of course, what with her being Supergirl but it is totally at odds with the mostly light fluff that readers had come to expect of a Supergirl comic.

Something else that jars is a scene where, to teach Bruce Ryan a lesson after he flees a thrown hand grenade - thus leaving Linda to get blown to pieces - Supergirl pretends to be Linda's ghost, telling him he's to blame for Linda's "death". It's an extremely silly scene, a throwback to the days of Jim Mooney and Kurt Schaffenberger and, in an otherwise serious story, it feels horribly out of place.

But maybe that was the idea, because this prank ends with Ryan shot dead, Supergirl having failed to save him because she was too distracted by her messing about. Maybe by having an old-style Supergirl prank end in a man's death, writer Steve Skeates was signalling that it was time for Supergirl to grow up and put such Silver Age frivolities behind her, ready for her new, more grown-up, mag.

Supergirl clearly thought so, as, at the tale's end, sickened by the fact that a man died purely because of her desperation to get a scoop, Linda angrily quits the newspaper she's been working for and walks off to-who-knows-where.

The only problem with that is that when her new mag arrived it was for the most part as frothy, juvenile and escapist as we'd come to expect of a Supergirl comic. If the new seriousness on display here was meant to be the start of a new direction, it was one that only lasted for the duration of this issue.

Mention should also be made of Tony De Zuniga's artwork. It's as stylish and sophisticated as ever but that feeling he generates that you're looking at work copied from photos gives it a sense of reality that doesn't  feel at home in a Supergirl comic. In the end, the writing and art combined have to be seen as a brave attempt to do something new with the strip but, given how it turned out, you can see why it wasn't repeated.

The issue's back-up strip's drawn by Don Heck.

This gives me pleasure.

Don Heck wasn't my favourite artist but I did like his early work on Iron Man and the Avengers and, bearing in mind the stick he's often got over the years, and tales I've read about editors ignoring him at times in his career, it does please me to be reminded that he was still finding work post-1960s.

It's the tale of an alien spaceship heading to Earth to invade and enslave us all, confident that Earth's primitive technology can't save it from the mightiest war machine in the galaxy. Given this set-up - and that I've read a gazillion of these twist-in-the-tale outings, I guessed what the ending was going to be before I'd even finished the first page.

I suspect I'm not the only one who could do that.

Therefore a Steve Does Comics No-Prize goes to the first person to correctly guess how the tale ends.

Remember, it's the mightiest spaceship in the galaxy. As far as its crew are concerned, nothing can stand before it, such is its huge, awesome power.


Anonymous said...

They're eaten by a small dog?


Steve said...

Not quite but you deserve the No-Prize because you're close enough. Shock horror, it turns out they're only tiny and their "mighty" spaceship is destroyed by the water from a garden hose pipe. Well done, B.

Blaze Morgan said...

In my callow and arrogant youth, there were a few artists I underappreciated. (And a few that I thoroughly overappreciated.) With a more experienced adult eye, I came to realize the skill and craft in their work. Curt Swan is the major example in this vein.

However, I'm sorry, I still find the work of Don Heck to be dull and forgettable.

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