Wednesday, June 23, 2021

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

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around June 26, 1980.

DC Special Series #22 - G.I. Combat: Just what I wanted, extra Haunted Tank! In the first story Kanigher and Glanzman would have us believe they put tanks on pneumatic skis in the War. I can find no internet verification of this. The ever-resourceful tank crew uses a big snowball to take out a German gun. In the "P.O.W" story, "Monster of the Wehrmacht" German soldiers are just as eager to get revenge on a sadistic prison camp commandant as the prisoners. Jose Montales Matucenio's art here has a Alex Nino sort of looseness I like.

In "Live -- or Die -- by the Cross" a medic breaks his vow to do no harm to fight off the Japanese attacking a hospital in Bataan. His inspiration is his latest patient--a chaplain that broke his own vow. The O.S.S. story by Kanigher and Cruz is a typical tale of double agents and double-crosses. Arnold Drake and Ernesto Patricio deliver the cleverest story of the issue, with the lucky survival of a group of U.S. soldiers in the Pacific Theater predicted by their respective fortune cookies. Kanigher and Glanzman bring it to a close with a somewhat better Haunted Tank yarn than the one we started with.

Action Comics #511: Luthor does what any criminal who has seen the error of his ways would do: he hijacks the TV signal and makes a broadcast declaring his newfound respect for the law and his desire to help Superman. He also provides a cure for the mysterious disorder effecting his new love interest to the world. Luthor wants Superman to take him to the Fortress of Solitude and subject him to all sorts of mental scrutiny to prove he's on the level. Superman obliges, and the tests say Luthor is legit, but when Terra-Man and his alien goons attack, Luthor leaps to Superman's aid, proving he wasn't as neutralized as he was supposed to be. But then Superman knew that, and it was all part of the test! Two parts in and Bates and Swan are sticking to the reformed Luthor. I'm interested to see how it plays out. 

Adventure Comics #475: Aquaman returns to the book courtesy of DeMatteis and Giordano. In this story, Aquaman is seeking an Atlantean doctor for a sick Mera, but has to tangle with the Scavenger. It's pretty good, but it's most interesting because of a scene whether Aquaman, rallying in his fight with the Scavenger, speaks to the (mis)perception that he is some sort of "third rate hero." He says he was saving the world when the likes of Firestorm and Black Lightning "where still in diapers" (which is odd, unless DeMatteis believes Aquaman was the first Silver Age hero, or maybe he's the same guy as the Golden Age version?) and goes on to list his powers and titles. In the 00s, we saw these sort of defenses of Aquaman mounted. It's surprising to see there was felt to be a need for them back in 1980. 

The Starman and Plastic Man stories are more of the same. Starman feels like it might be drawing to its conclusion with Prince Gavyn confronting the villain who usurped his sister's throne. Plastic Man is in Vegas dealing with another Gouldian villain, Even Steven.

Brave & the Bold #166: A Batman/Black Canary team-up by Fleisher and Giordano. The Penguin breaks out of jail (where is was put by Robin in the last issue of Detective Comics), and goes after the former henchmen that rolled over on him who all have fled to Star City. Penguin is sticking with his bird motif and trying to kill them all in a canary-themed manner (because they sang, I suppose). It's a clever enough set-up to get Black Canary involved, and the Penguin is suitably malevolent and as crazy as the Joker (though in a different, less flamboyant way). The Penguin ultimately captures Canary and puts a decoy in her costume to lure Batman into a cyanide-laced kiss. It's interesting that Penguin thinks Batman might be susceptible to that. Is her relationship with Green Arrow not known publicly? Of course, they are on the outs following last month's JLA. Once Batman rescues Black Canary, she does in fact give him a kiss, so Fleisher may have been trying to stir something up here.

The backup story is the first appearance of Nemesis, created by Burkett and Spiegle, who will go on to be a member of the Ostrander Suicide Squad. There is a real "men's adventure" genre feel to this story; it's different from the Punisher, but in the same genre. 

Detective Comics #494: The first story here is a near classic: "The Crime Doctor Calls at Midnight!" by Fleisher and Don Newton/Bob Smith. The Crime Doctor makes "house calls" diagnosing problems and helping criminals with their crimes. He's respected physician Bradford Thorne, but he's become bored with his regular life and turned to crime for excitement. Thorne renders medical care to Bruce Wayne, which leads to him to realizing Batman's identity when he meets him later. A group of criminals who don't want to give the Crime Doctor his take lure both the doctor and Batman into a trap. To be continued.

"Tales of Gotham" by Harris and Spiegle has a pinball wizard runner for organized crime develop a conscience and give up his own life to save a a kid who idealizes him, in one of the better stories in this series. Batgirl encounters organized crime entwinned with civic corruption in a forgettable tale by Burkett, Delbo and Chiaramonte. Back at Hudson University, Robin cracks the case of a murder posing as a hazing incident in a story by Harris and Nicholas/Colletta. DeMatteis and Forton win the prize for best title of the issue in "Explosion of the Soul," where Black Lightning takes down a vigilante killer ("The Slime Killer") who wears a purple costume with a very familiar, skull motif.

Green Lantern #132: Kupperberg and Staton present a more "street level" and more humorous Green Lantern adventure than what we usually get. Thieves have hidden some stolen diamonds in an aircraft seat and are stealing a new fighter to get it back. They briefly stymie Jordan with a yellow tarp, but ultimately he wins the day. Toomey and Saviuk conclude "The Trial of Arkkis Chummuck" which I enjoyed thoroughly. It ends with the prosecutor forced to "put up or shut up" and become the tutor for the fledging Green Lantern he recently tried to get booted out.

The second backup is an Adam Strange story by Harris and Rodriguez. A giant is attacking cities of Rann. It turns out to have been created by the Akalonians and directed by psychic energy. Strange appeals to the desire for peace among the dissident scientists powering the creature and they rebel, destroying it.

House of Mystery #284: "Ruby" by DeMatteis and Zamora is really the only decent story in this issue. A couple (the Paulsons) in a "small mid-Western town" decide to adopt a small girl that comes stumbling out of the darkness and passes out on their porch. The sheriff can't find any reports of a missing girl so he declares the kid theirs (lax laws they have in the Midwest!). Soon the family dog is dead. Then an elderly woman in town seems to recognize Ruby, and is found dead the next day. Linda Paulson awakens at 2 am to see Ruby crawling down the outside of the house. Shefollows Ruby to town where the girl reveals herself to be a vampire and meets with her undead victims. Rick Paulson happens to be out in the middle of the night doing research at the library where he uncovers that Ruby is really a young girl who disappeared 70 years ago after a European traveling circus came to town. Ruby attacks her adoptive parents, but sheriff appears in the nick of time with a handy stake. As the shocked Paulsons head home--twist!--the sheriff reveals himself to be a vampire. He didn't want Ruby's actions blowing his cover!

The next story by Simons, Giffen and Celardo (giving us a bit of a Hal Foster vibe on art) has a knight teaming up with a dragon to bring a comeuppance to a greedy king. "Friend to the End" by Kelley and Lofamia is a dumb story about jealousy that ends with the murderer getting killed by a pitching machine. Jodloman's and Wessler's "Deadly Peril at 20,000" is even dumber. A man dies of "pneumonic plague" (no, Jess Jodloman, that isn't the black death) on board a transatlantic flight. A doctor realizes his body needs to be disposed of, but his grief maddened wife won't allow it. A quick thinking (and ruthless) stewardess throws a hammer through their window, and the couple is sucked out by the pressure. 


Dick McGee said...

I recall enjoying the Brave & the Bold issue, and you'd really think the Penguin would get involved with other bird-themed supers than he does. Black Canary and Hawkman & Hawkgirl/woman really ought to see Cobblepot more than they do. Bats aren't birds, after all.

The Crime Doctor is seriously weird to me, because there was a Crime Doctor on radio and in films throughout the 1940s who was very definitely a good guy, an amnesiac criminal who becomes a criminal psychologist and helps solve crime under his new identity. Had ten B-movies made about him, so not exactly an obscure character. Winder if his DC version is some kind of jab at the idea from someone who hated the original.

That's a fairly creepy cover of House of Mystery this month. The "cop is a vampire" twist seems a bit implausible. How does a small town lawman manage to work solely on the night shift?

JB said...

I feel like the Penguin image on B&B's cover has become something of a classic. Was this reused?

Trey said...

@JB - It does have that sort of feel to it, but I don't know.