Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, September 1980 (wk 1, pt 2)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm continuing my look at the comics at newsstands on the week of June 12, 1980. 

Secrets of Haunted House #28: I don't understand the ending to the first story by Kelley and Rubeny. A Hollywood agent plans to jumpstart his career by pulling a recluse former star out of retirement. On the way to get the star back in the game, the two are in a car wreck and the star dies. Luckily, an island shaman shows up and offers to revive the star, but it will require another life in his place. One assistant's demise later, the star is ready for his close up. Trouble is, it takes periodic deaths to keep him alive. Eventually the agent tires of all this and goes back to the shaman to beg him to end the star's life. Twist! The shaman is in cahoots with the star, and it's the agent that meets his end. But why? It was established previously that just not killing for him would lead to the star dying. 

Next, Barr and Cruz give us a hillbilly Romeo and Juliet among feuding mountain families, except there's also a corrupt revenuer framing them for making moonshine. Ultimately, the apparition of a burning man (in this case the revenuer, on fire) is just the omen the families need to bury the hatchet and have themselves a wedding! The last story, by Kelley and Carrillo in the most EC-like of this issue. A bullied, young warehouse worker loses his tormentors to something in a deep freeze. When forced to confront it himself, he finds a vampire that he dispatches through quick thinking.

Superman #351: This continues Conway's and Swan's story of the fallout from Prof. Tolkein (not that one) demonstrating his "genesis machine," and instead empowering some sort of creature from the subconscious. If this were a Marvel Comic of the era, the creature would be wrecking all kinds of havoc, and though it does fight Superman, there isn't really a sense of danger to it. Lana talks with Tolkein to piece together what happened, and it turns out he tried to create a psychic circuit from the minds of students (without their consent) back a decade ago, and re-activated it to power the genesis machine at the reunion. The trouble is, the circuit didn't work right because Clark Kent wasn't a part. He's immune to hypnosis, naturally. Once this is revealed, Superman joins the circuit, allowing it to discharge safely. Everyone's mind is sort of reset, so none of the participants remember what happened. 

In the backup story, written by Denny O'Neil Mr. Mxyzptlk causes trouble at a circus, and Superman has to fill in to keep the performances going for the kids. In the end, Mxyzptlk is undone by one of the children's favorite toy, a tape recorder. This is lightweight, but fun and has Garcia-Lopez art.

Superman Family #203: I will say this for this title, it makes the members of the Superman Family seem more interesting to me than they have historically. I wouldn't say I'm eager to read about their exploits, but it does make Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen more worthwhile as characters. Harris and Mortimer/Colletta provide the Supergirl story this issue, which is more horrific to me than what they intended. A young woman who has been in a coma for 7 years (miraculously thriving, though she doesn't eat) suddenly wakes up and thinks she's Supergirl. And she has the powers to prove it. X-kryptonite is the culprit and the woman got exposed to it at Supergirl's crash site. There's some nonsense with an industrial spy who Supergirl deals with, but tragedy of the woman who lost her childhood  after contact with an alien technology is sort of glossed over, focusing on the reuniting of the family rather than the loss. Tales from the Loop made whole downer episodes from that sort of material!

Next Bridwell and Tuska treat us to a really trivial Mr. and Mrs. Superman story where Lana Lang arrives at the Daily Star and gets a job as a tv critic. After a poison pen review, a tv writer tries to kill her (and Lois) in an elevator. I'm uncertain when this story is suppose to take place. I would have guessed the 70s based on the fashion, but Earth-2 Clark and Lois are still pretty young, and TV seems to be in black and white. The early 60s maybe? The Clark Kent story by Rozakis and Janes has Clark helping a movie star whose developed the power to predict disasters. "Helping" in this case means convincing her she really doesn't have the power anymore, so then she really doesn't? 

Rounding out the issue, we have Lois and Jimmy stories. In Wolfman's and Oksner's Lois Lane piece, Lois is captured due to a trick elevator (bad elevators are a theme). A deprogrammer with a high tech apparatus steals her memories for some shadowy someone. Before they can kill her, she escapes. Suffering from amnesia she meets a widower haunted by the past, and they have a whirlwind romance-- Before goons show up to try to kill her. To be continued. Jimmy Olsen overhears a plot to kidnap a congressional candidate, but he has a hard time getting anyone to believe him, particularly after the criminals feed him false information to discredit him. Ultimately, it's revealed that the candidate too good to be true is really in league with the criminal element, and Jimmy has a target on his back.

Weird War Tales #91: I'm a bit surprised by the first story here because it's about the U.S. (conventional) bombing of Japan in WWII, and it takes a critical view. I wouldn't have expected that in a kid's comic in 1980. JM DeMatteis and Ernesto Patricio present a sadistic bomber captain, a young Japanese boy with pyrokinetic powers, and the war-weary bomber crewman that somehow helps facilitate the boy's revenge for the loss of his family. It's only marred by the narrator hitting us over the head with the fact that all the principles died, both righteous and wicked, because "this is war--where their is no justice--no happy ending--only death!"

The next story by Bernstein and Ayers and Adkins is much more standard issue. Some Italian soldiers decide they're done with the Germans and seek to surrender to the Allies. The Germans don't take too kindly to that and pursue them into the catacombs to kill them. Ancient Roman bones rise up to defend their descendants. In the next yarn, Haney, abetted by Sutton's intricate art weaves the tale of the doom of Harold, the Norman Invasion, and a certain comet. Finally, a futuristic tale of prejudice that I think I may have seen as a kid. Kupperberg and Ayers/Celardo present a post-apocalyptic world where "muties" with skins like California raisins are mistreated by a racist soldier--until he is cast down after his wife bears a mutant child, thanks to the mutants placing a source of radiation under his bed. Seems like neither side takes the high ground here. The future is like a weird mix of cod Roman Empire and modern day which the art fails to sell.

Wonder Woman #271: I'll be brief with this Conway/Delbo reset. Diana saves Steve Trevor's life, again (not the one from her Earth than had died, but another one). Then, she wins the right to be Wonder Woman again in a competition. Then, she leaves with Steve Trevor again for Man's World. Years of continuity dumped with no fuss, no bother. There's a backup story starring the Huntress by Levitz and Staton which isn't bad.

Two digests the first half of June: Best of DC #7 focused on Superboy and DC Special Blue Ribbon Digest #4 full of Green Lantern stories.

1 comment:

bombasticus said...

I like this longer format so naturally these are shorter comments to just get on the board ASAP. I remember that Fiend With 9 Faces! Surreal.

The Wonder Woman reboot is really interesting. Maybe her story is a flat circle that always returns to its origin when it's run out of things to say or for some other reason. I think the last Morrison story hints at this with the Hippolyta / Diana inheritance cycle.