Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, August 1980 (part 1)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands on the week of May 8, 1980.

Batman #326: Wein and Novick have Batman facing a criminal he knows should be in Arkham. Gordon calls the head of the facility who assures him it's all okay, but the guy's all hidden in shadow so I'm suspicious, but Gordon just takes his word for it. It turns out it's Professor Milo with another nefarious scheme. Wein evidently likes Milo, as he brought him back in the 70s after an absence of over a decade, and brings him back again here.

DC Comics Presents #24: This is my favorite issue of this title since I've been doing this review. The basic plot is, admittedly, a little silly, but it's solidly Bronze Age. A scientist somehow hooked his heart device up to the Earth, hoping it would stabilize his arrhythmia, but instead it works the other way and causes earthquakes. Deadman is sent by Rama Krishna to get involved with this because he's being all mopey. No one in this issue sees or hears, him but he does some humorous cheerleading from Superman who is uncharacteristically hard-ass and no nonsense here. Garcia-Lopez is always great on Superman or Deadman.

Flash #288: Flash is still dealing with the returned Dr. Alchemy, who isn't who he expects. It turns out he's some sort of astrological twin, with a weird sort of relationship with the Desmond Flash has known so that they influence each other. Yeah, I don't get it either. Anyway, the original Desmond goes into action on the last panel--but for good or evil?

Ghosts #91: The thing that hurts this title compared to DC's other horror books is that the plots have a much more rigid formula: malefactor kills someone, then the murdered person's ghost somehow causes the malefactor's death. The Kashdan/Rubeny story tries a novel riff on the formula where the ghost makes it into a glassblower's glass. Haney/Landgraf have a ghost haunting a wealthy family over generations, with the twist being that the evil-doer doesn't know he's a member of the family, and the murder he committed wasn't the murder of the ghost. Nice effort, but they still feel straight-jacketed.

G.I. Combat #221: I've mentioned before that I'm not terribly fond of the Haunted Tank feature and none of the stories here change my mind, though Kanigher and Glanzman get points for sheer weirdness in "Wars Never Change" by having Stonewall Jackson's ghost mix it up with Attila the Hun's ghost--and suggesting these two are old enemies! In "Falling Star" they have a 4-F Hollywood star desperate to prove himself riding to the rescue of the Haunted Tank crew on horseback, and dying of a heart attack in a twist I didn't expect, I must admit. In other stories, a private saving his unit thanks to his adopting a stray cat, and POW gets into the ring with a sadistic German commandant.

Jonah Hex #39: Fleisher must have seen Red Sun, because we get Hex befriending a samurai looking for his kidnapped daughter (who has Chinese name rather than a Japanese one for some reason). It ends in characteristic downer Hex fashion with Hex forced to serve as second for the samurai's seppuku. The art here is by Hex co-creator Tony DeZuniga.

Justice League of America #181: Conway and Dillin  carry on the tradition of bowmen being pains in the ass in superhero teams. Green Arrow narrates this tale that starts with him complaining that the Justice League is out of touch with the "little guy" or something, then saving the day when Star Tsar returns. Notably Batman is absent, and it's sort of Batman-type "detective work" that allows Green Arrow to succeed.

Secrets of Haunted House #27: A lackluster issue with a story by Kelly with stiff Nicholas/Colletta art about a street gang terrorizing the New York subway being manipulated by a witch who wants to get back in Satan's good graces. The second story by Seeger and Redondo has a nice title ("Cold as Isis") but is a muddled tale of a mummies, reincarnation, an Egyptian god, and a swimsuit model.

Superman #350: In typical Superman fashion of this era, there is a lot going on here. Conway has Clark and Lana attending a college reunion where a number of their classmates just disappear during a boring speech by a professor. The professor's named Lemuel B. Tolkein, for no particular reason. When an office building disappears too, it turns out it all has to do with side-effects of the Prof's experiment that has turned the subconsciouses of the disappeared students into some sort of psychic monster. 

Weird War Tales #90: This one is pretty good. The first story by Haney and Cruz has a German U-boat transporting a set of coffins to South America after the fall of Berlin. The only problem is his crew keeps dying, and Hitler, occupying one of the coffins, seems very much alive! A nice riff on the Demeter parts of Dracula with some Haney twists. The second story by Kashdan and Carrillo has the French colonial army facing an army of ants in the Congo.

Wonder Woman #270: So Conway and Delbo have Hippolyte praying to Aphrodite to make Diana forget Steve Trevor and the tragedy of his death, which the goddess does. There's a fight with another elemental monster, then some Bermuda Triangle stuff, and a new Steve Trevor crashes a jet in the ocean for Diana to save. Conway's whole goal here appears to have been a reset of the Wonder Woman status quo before Trevor's death, and he's taken the long way around to do it.

World's Finest #264: I have questions about the lead Batman/Superman story by O'Neil and Buckler. Why is the Clayface of this story called "Clayface I" when he is Clayface II by Who's Who standards? Is it a mistake or is O'Neil counting him as the first Earth-1 Clayface? And since when can Clayface replicate Kryptonite? Anyway, not a bad story despite my questions. The Green Arrow story by Haney and von Eoden has Queen writing a utterly unsourced column accusing a new casino of being mobbed up (which he knew because of illegal surveillance). Then as Green Arrow, he takes down the transgender gangster running the joint. The Hawkman story by DeMatteis and Landgraf has a very Marvel vibe, to me, but B-grade Marvel, at best. Rozakis and Delbo have Dr. Light taking on Aquaman, with all the lack of thrills that implies. Bridwell and Newton bring the charm along with the Monster Society of Evil in the Marvel Family tale.


Dick McGee said...

"Notably Batman is absent, and it's sort of Batman-type "detective work" that allows Green Arrow to succeed."

Seems somehow appropriate, given that GA spent his early years as a second-rate Batman knock-off that traded the bat motif for an obsession with arrows. He really ought to be able to manage a bit of sleuthing on his own.

Y'know, given Batman's ability to do practically anything well and his fondness for disguises, you'd think that "Green Arrow" would turn out to be Bruce with a green suit and a silly fake beard once in a while. Maybe it actually happened a lot and we just don't know it. The more fiendishly clever versions of Batman would probably decide pretending to be GA would be a good way to get villains to let their guard down a bit, and Ollie strikes me as the type to miss JLA outings often enough that he might never know about being impersonated. :)

Hell of a fine cover on Weird War again. They're making a habit of that lately.

JB said...

"...ends in characteristic downer Hex fashion..."

Don't they all?

I'm surprised Jonah Hex was still being published in 1980 (I always associate it with the 70s...the Hex comics I read in my youth had all been owned by my uncles in Montana), but wikipedia tells me its first run went through the mid 80s!

Didn't the Hex stories fall outside the Comics Code?

Trey said...

The 70s and 80s Hex stories were Code approved. The 90s Vertigo stuff is not code approved.

jdh417 said...

I'm really enjoying these posts. It's reminding me of when comics were fun.