Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, October 1980 (wk 2 pt 2)

My goal: read DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, I'm looking at the comics at newsstands around July 24, 1980. Other obligations kept me from getting through all the comics by Wednesday, so look for a follow-up later in the week with the rest.

Legion of Super-Heroes #268: I like the Perez/Austin cover on this, but the story is rough. DeMatteis introduces perhaps one of the goofiest villains to ever appear in a comic, and I don't mean goofy-charming like sometimes happens. Having Ditko on art chores doesn't do the story any favors either; he's a poor fit for the LSH. Anyway, Dr. Mayavale appears as a handle-bar moustachioed guy with hair something like a white guy's afro, a cowboy hat, a "Like Ike" medallion, a chainmail skirt, and 6 extra, noodly, green arms. He's a bit like Marvel's Stranger, I suppose, but with worse fashion sense. And more arms. Anyway, he's an alien mystic who's aware of all his past lives, retaining the knowledge of them. After being virtuous for so long he decides to be evil for a bit. He bedevils the Legion members that fall into his grasp by sending then back to their supposed past lives including being Native Americans of the Great Plains and the assassins of Julius Caesar. He plans to sacrifice Dream Girl for, well, I don't really know what. It turns out all those "past lives" really aren't and the characters they meet are robots. The Legion prevails against them and Mayavale withdraws to contemplate his next move. Hopefully it takes him a long time. 

Mystery in Space #112: The first story by Barr and Sutton is that old standby: a tale of prejudice. The starship U.S.S. Liberty assumes the humanoid race on an alien world to be the virtuous defenders and the reptilians the aggressors--a perception the humanoids foster until they've had human help to eliminate their foes. Then they turn on the humans. In "Howl!" by DeMatteis and Wise, the United Earth ship Lenin rescues a young ensign, Luanna Helstrumm adrift in a lifeboat following an attack by alien warships. Captain Karamozova is uneasy about the Helstrumm, and gets even more so when her crew starts turning up dead. Helstrumm is revealed to be a vampire and Karamozova tries to kill her in a star, but has to settle for entombing her forever in a starship made of silver. It's a bit silly, I guess, but I feel like DeMatteis redeems himself (a bit) for that Legion story.

In the next story by Kasdan/von Eeden, an emblezzer injured in a spaceship crash gets rebuilt in the image of his stepson's reptilian toy by helpful aliens. The final story by Kashdan and Bingham sees a ham radio operator in a loveless marriage accidentally transporting a beautiful alien to earth in a radio beam. They develop a relationship over a number of nightly encounters. When his wife discovers them she attacks the alien only to to killed by an equally alien pet. The radio ham is arrested for her murder. When convicted he gets the electric chair, which transports him to the realm of his alien lover when he's shot full of electricity. Overall, this issue was a cut above what we previously got in Timewarp, I think.

New Adventures of Superboy #10: Superboy travels to the 52nd Century where he finds a replica of Smallville and an android ("humatron") version of himself in a futuristic theme park. He subs in for a malfunctioning humatron and gets nabbed by a rival of the park's owner who wants to improve his own alien replica androids. Superboy teaches the thief a lesson while never revealing he's the real article, then slips back to his own time. Bates' and Schaffenberger's story could reasonably be said to have "Silver Age charm," though it probably wouldn't have interested me in the 1980, and honestly isn't the sort of thing I would seek out now. The Rozakis, Calnan, and De Mulder backup is sort of a day in the life of Krypto and has a similar feel to the main story. The only break with Silver Age tradition is that this Bronze Age Krypto thinks in full sentences.

Warlord #38: Read more about it here. In the backup, Starlin's continuation of OMAC rolls on with the GPA destroyed and the U.S. now in the hands of corporations. We are told by the corporate representative Wiley Quixote that IC&C control's one half and Verner Bros. controls the other. Given the similarity of those names to the corporate owners of the Big Two at the time (Cadence Industries Corporation and Warner Bros.) I can't help but think Starlin was making doing some allegory for the comics industry here.


Dick McGee said...

Actually had several of these for a change, guess I wasn't entirely reading indie books yet.

Hadn't registered on the CIC ref in the OMAC story, always thought IC&C was a play on AT&T back then. The Warlord story was okay, but not Grell's best work.

Apocryphally from a friend who worked for DC briefly, that Mystery In Space issue (which still stands out for me, surprisingly) was literally an unpublished issue of Timewarp with a new logo on the cover. They'd had it mostly done and figured they might as well use the material. The "vampire in space" story in it also reminds me of the rather similar "Space Vampire" episode of Buck Rogers, which aired January 1980.

That Legion issue was just terrible, and stands out in memory because of it. Ditko's an amazing creator in many ways, but he's a very poor fit for Legion and Doctor Mayavale feels like a deliberate attempt to get out of drawing future issues by creating such an appallingly stupid design.

bombasticus said...

Love the notion that Krypto's grammar is the real Bronze Age Line.

Ugh, Mayavale. I want to say he's a hip 1980-era Kurt Vonnegut swipe but checking would require a close reread. You've taken this one for the team.