Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Wednesday Comics: November, 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 August 28, 1980. 

Legion of Super-Heroes #269: This is one of the best Conway/Janes issues so far, which is not to say it's spectacular, but it's better than Space Genies. It's approaching election time for Earth's new President, and Colossal Boy's mother gets drafted to run. There's the relationship stuff LSH is known for, but as Shadow Lass and Mon-El are pitching woo, others are celebrating with Colossal Boy's family, and Timber Wolf is moping, the Fatal Five (in league with the mysterious Dark Man) attack. I'm looking forward to the next issue of Legion for the first time in this experiment, I think.

Mystery in Space #113: This continues to be pretty good. The first story by Kashdan with art by Michael Golden and Bob Wiacek has 3 earthlings answering a want ad for computer specialists on a mysterious world. They find the planet to be a paradise, but something about it seems almost to good to be true--and sure enough it is. The inhabitants all have computer brains so they can be immortal, but for some reason they need old fashion human brains to direct their society. When the computer specialists (now prisoners in a gilded cage) have to get computer brains to keep from dying of old age, they place an ad for new specialists. 

The next story by DeMatteis and Grandenetti, has a 2000 AD sort of vibe. The absurdly violent General Windsinger looks into the eyes of a strange alien on the battlefield and is transported to an alien menagerie and what he takes to be a gladiatorial contest. He slaughters his opponents, but then discovers he was the one that lost. The aliens were offering souls ready to leave violence behind in an eternal paradise, but despite his subconscious yearnings, his actions prove he isn't ready. He's returned to the battlefield where he sheds a single tear. "Gremlins" has great Kubert art and a script by Wein. It involves stranded spacemen mistaking the intentions of creatures that look like small, neotenic versions of xenomorphs. The final story by Kashdan and von Eeden, has mankind discovering a species of four-limbed ape-creatures that are highly trainable. They plan to have these creatures replace robots as domestic servants and menials. You know this is going to end badly, but the how is surprising. When the creatures rebel and start killing their masters, they are regrettable exterminated. It turns out the robots used a poison to make the creatures violent because they didn't want to be replaced!

New Adventures of Superboy #11: Lex plots revenge against Superboy, but his device malfunctions and just causes Superboy to develop the power of "bio-magnetism," which really just means he attracts objects to himself he wants to attract (so more selective bio-gravity, but anyway). Eventually, the power grows beyond Superboy's control, and he steals Lex's notes to see how to stop it. Flying out into space to a "cosmic whirlwind" or "space vortex," which pretty much a black hole, but it looks like a whirlpool in space. He uses it to siphon off the "bio-magnetic" energy, but then it traps him--just like Lex always intended. Superboy escapes, of course, by going limp and riding waves of swirling gas. Lex is so angry he says he would rip his hair out--if he had any! In the backup written by Rozakis, Lana's father seems to have found a real genie, but it's really only a over-helpful Superbaby making the wishes come true. Pa Kent instructs his son on how to set it right. This is one of those stories where the toddlers (Superbaby and Lana) talk like fictional cavemen not actual children.

Sgt. Rock #346: This lead story is one of those Kanigher yarns that drives home the point over and over. He also engages in some parallelism between the wisdom of Sgt. Rock and the German unit commander, which is another thing Kanigher falls back on a lot. The conceit here is you don't see the enemy, but he's always there, and a few new recruits learn that lesson the hard way.  The other stories are all over the place, uncredited and often not particularly good. We get "The Star-Spangled Banner" as the narration to a battle with aliens, a former "Water Boy" finally getting the chance to man the machine gun in War World II, a Confederate cavalryman and his horse from artillery fire, and finally (best of the bunch) "Detour" by Kelley and Bissette, where a German tank commander takes out a U.S. bomber and tank in North Africa, only to fall prey to carelessness when his cigarette butt ignites the oil on the ground, and immolates both sides in a funeral pyre.

Super Friends #38: The alien Grax is back and he's teaming up with criminals and helping them commit crimes by using a device to make the Super Friends insubstantial. Soon, our heroes are insubstantial enough they risk floating away. Luckily, the Wonder Twins figure out a way to utilize their powers and with Wonder Woman's lasso, come to the rescue. These stories have more to them than the cartoon episodes, but not much more. Fradon's art helps, though.

The backup story by Bridwell and Oskner is actually more interesting. It's a solo story for Seraph, hero of Israel from the Global Guardians. He's visiting a settlement when it's attack by bikers posing as "Arabs." They are actually thieves after a treasure of Solomon, but they figure the PLO will take credit for the attack anyway. Seraph stops them but gets so worked up that he almost kills one of them after the guy surrenders. God takes away his powers and speaks to him in a booming voice (or either Fourth World Source writing, it's not clear). Seraph has to go and pray and repent to get his powers back.

Unexpected #204: The first story by Case and Calnan is an unusual (for DC horror titles) psychological horror piece. A child star is pushed by her overbearing stage mother to appear and stay child-like even as she becomes a teen. Eventually the girl snaps and kills her mother, then retreats into child-like fantasy. The next story by Ms. Seegar, Newton and Blaisdell has a philandering magician casting spells to woo a young woman away from her beau, but the magician's witch girlfriend has other ideas. In "The 13 Hex" by Wessler and Payne a man's date to a carnival is troubled by the continued reappearance of the number 13, convinced it harbingers bad luck. The man is too pre-occupied with his debt to organized crime and the hitman that's after him to worry about that. In the end, the date is the assassin, and the number 13 is unlucky for her, but not for her intended victim!  

Unknown Soldier #245: Kanigher and Ayers have the Unknown Soldier in occupied France trying to protect a blind Allied agent who knows the whereabouts of German missiles armed with a deadly chemical agent. The agent's beauty and kindness has the Unknown Soldier lamenting his own disfigured features. They are captured, but when the Unknown Soldier escapes and goes to rescue the woman, he discovers she's really German agent, and essentially a female version of himself, her face having been scared by Allied incendiary raids. Next comes a chase down snowy mountainside. The Soldier's toboggan jump across a crevasse fortuitously allows him to drop explosives on the German rockets below. The German agent dies in the explosion presumably, and despite her attempt to kill him, the Unknown Soldier feels regret.

In the backup story "The Vanishing American" by Kanigher and Yeates, a cavalry patrol, eager to wipe out an Indian tribe whose warriors they have already killed in reprisal for Custer's Last Stand, is led into an ambush by the tribe's women. In the Dateline: Frontline story by Burkett and Estrada, the reporter, Wayne, makes the decision to take an assignment in Bataan, while the woman he's been dating decides she has to volunteer to become a nurse in the European Theater.

Warlord #38: Read more about it here. The OMAC installment continues the battle between the IC&C and Verner Bros. I don't know if my supposition last month regarding these being Marvel and DC stand-ins is right, but it's amusing in the light of our era where AT&T owns Warner Bros. Anyway, Starlin definitely delivers the action in this installment.


Dick McGee said...

I only had Warlord and Mystery In Space out of this lot, recall both being pretty good - Warlord being helped by my fondness for OMAC due to his connections to Kamandi.

The various "national" heroes introduced in Superfriends leave me conflicted. On the one hand they were often based on really shallow stereotypes that haven't aged well at all, but on the other many were surprisingly creative about what they actually did with those stereotypes and they were rare examples of a more global viewpoint that you just didn't get much of in the 80s. Lots and lots of aliens and extradimensional super-characters in comics, but finding ones from plain old Earth countries that aren't the US of A gets a lot harder. Who's Bolivia's greatest hero? Does Indonesia have a super-team? At least Superfriends was thinking about that sort of thing, even if their execution makes me cringe some.

bombasticus said...

Love that super baby cave talk! Around the house the cats will often revert to that syntax.

Interesting to reimagine Seraph as a kind of Fourth World figure.

Republic of Replicants said...

Nice feature.
1980 to 1985 is probably DC's Finest Hour, and one of my favorite eras, with Legion and Titans leading the charge for them.
Unfortunately Crisis broke their big hits and when they turned their attention to Batman in 1986, due to Miller's Dark Knight success, they began to lose interest in anything without him in it.