Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 1980 (wk 1, 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 June 12, 1980. 

Now that I've "caught up" with the same month all back in 1980, I'm going to slow down my pace, keeping it in line as much as possible with release dates. Also, I won't have to read as many comics a week!

Batman #327: Great Kubert cover here. This issue continues the Professor Milo secretly controlling Arkham plotline from last issue. Maybe I've gotten too used to modern comics pacing, but it feels like (given we had a whole issue of setup) this storyline should have at least run 3 issues. But no, Wein and Novick resolve it here. The guy we saw getting sent to Arkham last issue turns out to be Batman undercover. He doesn't realize that Milo has cameras in the rooms, though, so he's busted. We get one of those "try to drive the hero crazy" bits were Milo tries to convince Batman he isn't really Batman. The Dark Knight falls for this all too quickly even though he knows he's been drugged, but then seeing his enlarged pupils in a mirror reminds him, and he instantly shakes it off. Milo, of course, falls prey to his own insanity causing drug.

There's a backup Batman and Robin story by Mike Barr with art by Dick Giordano and Steve Mitchell. Batman calls Robin "chum" in the way he does in Barr's Detective run later in the 80s, so he's consistent with that mildly 60s throwback characterization. The action of the story takes place on a train, but in the two days since I've read it, I've forgotten pretty much everything else.

DC Comics Presents #25: Not unlike the Batman/Deadman team-up from last month, this Superman/Phantom Stranger team-up isn't really much of actual team-up. A cover blurb tells us that "the fate of Jon Ross is revealed"--Jon Ross being Pete Ross's son. Apparently Levitz and Dillin are revisiting the events of DC Comics Presents #13-14. Pete is in a asylum tearing up pictures of Superman after the hero and (and his childhood friend) failed to rescue his son who was kidnapped by aliens. Phantom Stranger narrates all this to us as his wont. Anyway, Superman didn't rescue Jon because the Legion told him the future depended on him not doing it. Superman feels really bad and is having attacks of intense pain. Phantom Stranger shows up to give Supes a pep talk and tell him not to give up, but he also goes and fights his old nemesis Tala who has been using a witch to manipulate Superman in hopes of acquiring his soul. While he's busy there, the combined effect of the enigmatic pronouncements of the Stranger and Lois really laying into Clark snap him out of his funk. He goes and rescues Jon fairly easily. As soon as father and son are reunited, Pete's madness evaporates. 

The backup story here is the first of a pretty fondly remembered series in some circles: "What Ever Happened to..." In this case, it's Hourman, as presented by Rozakis and Charles Nicholas. It's really just Hourman coming back for an adventure after retirement, so not the most auspicious start.

Flash #289: It turns out the original Al Desmond (as opposed to his "astral clone") is one of the good guys now after all, which really isn't much of a surprise despite Bates wanting to play it coy. He and the Flash team-up indirectly to defeat the evil Al Desmond. There are several wrong things said about elements in this story ("titanium is one of heaviest elements known") and fictional substances are presented as real ("cavorite") but hey, it's entertainment not education. In the epilogue, we see Barry Allen's attractive but unfriendly neighbor claiming he intends to kill her!

The backup story by Conway and Perez/Tanghal stars Firestorm. Ronnie decides its time to finally tell Stein what's going on, instead of letting the poor guy think he's going crazy with all these memory lapses, which is an excuse for a retelling of their origin.

Ghosts #92: The first story Wessler and Nicholas has a reporter character as a narrator as if he's somebody we have seen before, but I don't think we have. Anyway, the yarn's ultimately about a P.I. trying to help his murderous clients get rid of the ghost haunting them. Instead, the exorcism he commissioned gets rid of the clients themselves and now the ghost is haunting him. In "Unburied Phantoms," Kashdan and Henson bring to light the perils of a career in construction--if you happen to be an ex-Nazi war criminal who buried people you murdered in a shallow grave. Kashdan (this time with Newton) also brings us the next tale, where a rich guy with gambling debts tries playing Scooby-Doo villain to keep some Americans from buying his ancestral home only to die by accident and become a real ghost. The last story features an actor haunted by the ghost of his twin who's threatening to steal his life if he doesn't murder the twin's ex-lover. It's a different spin, at least.

Jonah Hex #40: Fleischer's story recalls the plotting of some Western TV shows of the the 60s, where the titular character gets less "screentime" than a new character who the episode focuses on. In this case, it's a rainmaker named Cal, who is actually a fraud and a thief. He eludes Hex, kills his criminal confederates, and will probably get credit for the rains coming at last, but ends up in the hands of the vengeful Paiutes he cheated at the beginning of the story. Don Speigle's Hex is more handsome than most, but it's still always a pleasure to see his art.

The backup story stars Scalphunter, a man without a title since Weird Western Tales was cancelled out from under him. In the first part of this tale by Conway, Ayers and Tanghal, he's attacked by a crazed white man, but then saves the man's life in some rapids. The guy then tries to steal his horse. Scalphunter has the patience of a saint, is all I can say.

Justice League of America #182: Conway and Dillin pick up right after the end of last issue with Green Arrow walking the streets of Star City, doing a little light crimefighting as he ruminates on why he quit the JLA. He gets teleported back to the satellite to explain to to his former teammates why he left the team, because they didn't find the reasons he gave sufficient. He refuses to talk, and they refuse to send him back to Earth. While the most powerful superheroes on Earth are acting like adolescents, we learn that Felix Faust is reformed (following primal scream therapy in prison. Seriously!) and is working as a librarian in Star City. He still, weirdly, wears his supervillain outfit. In going about his duties, he gets possessed by the spirit of a legendary warlock, Nostromus, when he opens an ancient tome. Faust's spirit contacts the JLA for aid. Everyone but Arrow and Canary run off the Europe to stop the warlock from reviving his old, entombed body. The possessed Faust's elemental powers defeat them, and he's about to complete the ritual, when Green Arrow shows up and puts an arrow through the book, ending the whole thing. He's still leaving the League, though, and he and Black Canary split up because she wants to stay. I guess Ollie can't even date a League member? Anyway, Conway seems to like Green Arrow a lot--we get two stories in a row where he saves the day--but at the same time he seems to be trying to get him off the team. 

The Elongated Man backup (guest starring Hawkman and Hawkgirl) by Kupperberg and Rodreguez is easily the best of the week. A charming little story with an amusing ending, and nice artwork by Rodreguez who is a dab hand at a women in bikinis, but also gives more than equal screen-time to Carter Hall in a speedo. Don't say I didn't warn you.


Anne said...

Polite of Firestorm to not let Prof Stein continue to think he's developing dementia!

I don't know what I thought Felix Faust's day job was, but I didn't guess "librarian." Although I bet the real reason he's still wearing his costume because he'd be unrecognizable to the audience in civilian clothes, I'd like to think it's because he ran out of clean laundry and was forced to drag out the last outfit in his closet before going to the laundromat after work. I hope this version of the Green Arrow is still rich enough to afford the fines he'll get for damaging that book!

bombasticus said...

Love it. I guess those are just Felix Faust's clothes and the library isn't going to mess with his personal style.

Was Conway the one who forced the Hawkman/GA feud because he wanted a "Spock" and a "McCoy" and they just mapped weirdly onto the political spectrum? Can't remember. Weird how the show finally made Green Arrow happen.

This is two backups and one lead for Conway in . . . half a week? Guy grabbed a lot of funnybook pages. Capacity on my mind thinking about how Claremont cracked under three titles a month and one of them was Wolverine.

Trey said...

That's a good question. I don't know when that happened. Could be it was a porting over of the GL-GA dynamic when GL wasn't in the League. Conway is definitely of the two (the other is probably Bates) carrying DC at the moment--though Rozakis, DeMatteis, and Kupperberg are no slouches.

Jim Shelley said...

I forgot about Pete Ross going mad. As a kid, I was not a fan of that subplot.

Dick McGee said...

"Was Conway the one who forced the Hawkman/GA feud because he wanted a "Spock" and a "McCoy" and they just mapped weirdly onto the political spectrum?"

Perhaps the justification was that, at the heart of it, this era's Hawkman was a "space cop" in the same way GL was. Once GA stopped being a flat-out Batman knockoff he tended to butt heads with "The Man" in all His forms.

And people say comics are politicized these days... :)