Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, February 1981 (wk 1 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 November 13, 1980.

G.I. Combat #226: This story has a couple of decent stories. The Kanigher/le Rose "The 6-Minute War" chronicles the harrowing descent and ultimate death in battle of a paratrooper, 6 minutes after his first drop. Wessler and Talaoc tell the story of an American medic who treats the wounds of 3 German soldiers, then takes them captive. When they try to kill him with a grenade, he bats it back at them with his rifle butt and blows them up! O.S.S. by Regan and Carillo continues to be hardcore and grim. A German working for Control volunteers to assassinate Dr. Mencke who killed his wife and child in Auschitz. He purposely gets captured and sent to the camp where he assaults a SS officer and is shot and killed. Mencke catches sight of his extensive tattoos and takes him to his lab to remove his skin for a nice lampshade. The time bomb that started up when his heart stopped beating explodes and kills Mencke during the procedure. While we're on the note of grimness, Wessler and Vicatan present the tale of a deserting GI being chased by his sergeant. His sergeant saves him from some Japanese, then he saves the Sergeant from quicksand when he could have gotten away. Regretfully, the Sergeant takes the deserter back to be shot by firing squad.

The first of the two Haunted Tank yarns also deals with a runaway tank of deserters. These guys have the decency to die in battle after seeing their error of their ways, though. The second story has the Tank and its crew playing a pivotal role in capturing the bridge at Remagen in March of 1945.

Justice League of America #188: Zatanna's 80s costume designed by Perez has it's co-first appear with New Teen Titans #3 in this issue. Here it is drawn by Heck/McLaughlin. Even though they came out at the same time, I guess this issue is technically the first appearance, since it shows Zatanna debuting it for her teammates. Or one of her teammates; Conway has the Flash is trying to put the moves on Zatanna, and she's conflicted about workplace romance and being the rebound girl, but she's kind of reciprocating. A villain from the Creeper series, Proteus, Man of 1000 Faces, has been defeating the JLA one by one and making them think they are average joes. Zatanna's costume change cues the Flash into the fact something is going on. His suspicions aren't strong enough, though, and he too is replaced, but their are signs the other heroes are coming to the rescue. Proteus wanting JLA duplicates to commit jewel theft hardly seems to be aiming high with all that power.

New Teen Titans #4: I continue to be impressed (or exhausted) by how much Wolfman and Perez put in these issues. We get a little bit more of Raven's backstory here. We find out that she first approached the JLA about helping her against Trigon, but they would because they didn't believe her. They instead want to fight these three wizards she thought were doing the right thing, I guess? Maybe I didn't read it close enough, but I'm a bit confused. Anyway, the Titans fight the JLA not once, but twice. Once because they were give hypnotic suggestions by Psimon, the next time because Raven convinced them they should. In the end, the JLA reveals how much Raven has been manipulating them (for good reasons, she assures them) and now they aren't helping her. The fights with the JLA were well done, and with the backgrounds Perez draws in this magical realm, it really has a "warming up for Crisis" vibe to it.

Secrets of Haunted House #33: "In the Attic Dwells Dark Seth" by Kashdan and Serpe may not be the the best horror story I've read since I started this, but it really feels like the answer to "just what are these horror comics like?" Wealthy and kind of creepy looking Stanley is bringing his new bride (a gold-digger as her thoughts reveal) home to meet the creepy family. Turns out the couple has a baby on the way, and Stanley says the "Professor" expects a perfect baby. His bride doesn't know who the Professor is but when older brother Seth starts howling upstairs she forgets all about that. She's told to leave Seth be and not to disturb him. Naturally, she goes and unlocks the door during the night and Seth, looking like some sort of winged gargoyle, chases her down the hall, until Dad and Mom send him to his room. They explain to their shocked daughter-in-law that they are Satanists. They were supposed to get Satan's perfect child, but instead got this demonic mutation. They didn't want to sacrifice the kid, so they keep him locked up. Turns out Satan kept at it, though, and her husband is the son Satan always wanted! As her sanity flees, the cringing bride hears how she's going to bear the continuations of the line. 

Wessler and Bingham follow that up with a confusing yarn about a guy the cops think killed his 4 previous wives, but they can't prove it. There fears seem founded, because he clearly seems to be planning to kill his new one. The cops are trying to find a way to stop him, but he's too slick. Until, that is, his new wife brains him with a hammer, killing him like she did his other wives. Kashdan and Wade then present a pointless yarn about a spy sneaking into a Baron's castle and getting vampirized. Finally, Rozakis and Spiegle are back with a Mister E story involving a wealthy man who is being blackmailed by his chauffeur who has a cassette tape of a voodoo ceremony that appears to resurrect the dead. He's threatening to use it to bring the man's brother back to life and get him arrested for insurance fraud (since he's brother's insurance policy was the source of his fortune). Mister E exposes the blackmailers as frauds, and scares them by impersonating a zombie, sending them falling from cliff.

Secrets of the Legion of Super-Heroes #3: The Legion origins continue, wrapped in the RJ Brande is dying story. We learn that Bouncing Boys costume is not in fact a costume, but the regular clothes he was wearing when he got his powers. Anyway, Saturn Girl spills the beans, revealing that the reason for reviewing the Legion's origins is that one of them is Brande's kid.

Superman #355: "Battle of the Super-Hyper Powers!" by Bates/Swan pits Superman against that Sean Connery lookalike, Vartox. Clark Kent and his tv co-workers are skiing up at Mammoth Mountain, but then Vartox shows up. He came to let Lana know their love can never be because he found a planet that needs a champion, so that takes up pretty much all his time. But all is not as it seems! Vartox believes the people of his new world are playing games with him. They've been manufacturing world-threatening dangers to keep him busy. Superman goes to the world pretending to be a space outlaw, so Vartox can apprehend him and they can work to discover what's going on. Meanwhile, the Tynolans summon dread Noxumbra and plan for Vartox to be a sacrificial hero!

The backup by Newman and Deblo is the first of the "Fabulous World of Krypton" features. It's the story of an ancient member of the Nor family who enlisted the help of aliens in securing leadership of his people, but then led the rebellion when the aliens proved to be untrustworthy. While in exile, he also destroyed a space cloud that threatened Krypton.

World's Finest Comics #267: Burkett and Buckler have Batman and Superman teaming up with the Challengers of the Unknown.  It's a decent team-up yarn with everyone getting something to do as they go after terrorist with the power to effect gravity. Haney/von Eeden switch it up from Green Arrow to give his lady friend a chance to shine. Black Canary saves a Black woman police officer from a mob convinced she killed a man in cold blood. Canary tries to prove the cop's innocence, but not before the officer is kidnapped and put on trial by The Graffiti Gang. With a blind man as her star witness, Canary reveals that the real killer was one of the gang members who was dealing drugs. This story is almost "70s socially relevant" and seems very naïve in 2021, but von Eeden's art is great in it.

The Red Tornado story be DeMatteis and Delbo has RT kidnapped by a macrocephalic T.O. Morrow who has been killing himself with his super-advanced brain and needs a new body. He transfers his mind into RT and then precedes to take over the android's life. The Rozakis/Saviuk Hawkman story has the insectoids that were menacing last issue attacking. At the end, the Hawks prepare to face off with Lord Insectus! Birdwell and Newton get to the culmination of their Monster Society of Evil story with the villains staging an all-out assault on the Rock of Eternity. Captain Marvel calls in Mary Captain Marvel Jr. and the Lieutenant Marvels for the battle. The individual takedowns are clever. This is my favorite story of the issue.

Weird War Tales #96: The cover warns the reader that you "might hate" the cover story by DeMatteis and Spiegle, suggesting perhaps than stories about Vietnam were still considered "edgey" in comics of this era. And this one kind of is, at least for kids. It's 1967, and Marty Voight, hippie, is drafted. He's injured when a buddy is blown up by a mine, and he becomes convinced that some energy in the Viet Cong device got into him and is mutating him. He's also using heroin, and starts using more to deal with the pain in his shoulders. His response to being forced to participate in atrocities and seeing friends die is more heroin. He hallucinates his friends back home and the girlfriend that left him as he stumbles through the streets of Saigon. Finally, the mutation is complete and he sprouts wings, at least in his mind. He jumps from a helicopter, to his death. "It was the drugs," one soldier opines, but another doesn't seem so sure it was only the drugs. I think this may be the strongest story since I've been reading this title.

The rest is a let down Kasdan and Rubeny deliver a short yarn about a tulip field in Holland that subsumes German and American combatants to keep things peaceful. Kashdan and Henson reveal the futuristic late 1990s where the ultimate weapon has been developed, but it will inadvertently destroy the entire solar system, so a soldier colludes with an alien to cripple it.  The final story isn't particularly a Weird War Tale, but Kanigher and Vicatan have a racist U.S. soldier getting a supernatural comeuppance after abusing the locals in 1899 in China.

Wonder Woman #277: Staking out the funeral of Priscilla Rich (Cheetah I) Wonder Woman has her first run in with a Kobra goon. Conway really doesn't portray Wonder Woman as having super-strength most of the time--or at least only minor super-strength. It turns out Kobra has infiltrated the military and draws her into a trap at Carlsbad Caverns. Meanwhile, the plans for the "ultimate dirty bomb," Cobalt 93, have been stolen. Wonder Woman finds them in the caverns in the hands of Kobra. 

The backup story by Levitz and Staton brings the Huntress/Power Girl story to a close. The DA (who now knows Huntress' identity) reveals the Thinkers plot. Power Girl is briefly in the Thinker's control, but our heroes rally, and the Thinker's helmet gets smashed.


Dick McGee said...

RE: GI Combat "Regretfully, the Sergeant takes the deserter back to be shot by firing squad." I don't expect historical accuracy out of these comics, but there was one and only one US soldier executed for desertion during WW2, his name was Eddie Slovik and he deserted and was executed in France. He's pretty famous in military law circles, in large part because prior to his case you have to go back to the Civil War to find another execution for desertion. Forty-eight other WW2 deserters were sentenced to death but none of the executions were actually carried out. Calling that sort of thing "rare" is an understatement - at least in the US services.

Also "The time bomb that started up when his heart stopped beating explodes and kills Mencke during the procedure." How is this kind of deadman switch not more popular in gaming circles? Seems like just the kind of thing an evil mastermind would implant in their henchmen, or exceptionally spiteful PCs in a cybertech campaign might use.

Re: Teen Titans "I continue to be impressed (or exhausted) by how much Wolfman and Perez put in these issues." We sure were getting our money's worth out of these issues. 50 cents for enough content to fill a year or more of any modern book I can think of. The heck with this decompression nonsense. :)

"Battle of the Super-Hyper Powers!" Just knowing that was the title of an actual non-ironic Superman story brightens my day immeasurably.

JB said...

It would be interesting to read the "letters page" of future Weird War issues to see what the readers' reaction to the Vietnam story was. Did people find it edgy?

Damn, that GI Combat issue sounds dark.

Anne said...

My first exposure to the Teen Titans was their (first) cartoon show, but I've gone back and read a fair bit of the Wolfman & Perez run.

It's kind of wild how different some of their personalities are! Starfire is an absolute rage monster who constantly has to be restrained from murdering her enemies, quite different from her basically happy-go-lucky cartoon personality.

Beast Boy in the comics at this point is one of those awful characters whose entire personality is hitting on and harassing women. The slightly immature prankster of the show is far preferable!

In the comics, Wonder Girl *exists*, and also has a boyfriend who looks old enough to be her father.

Raven is drawn in such a way that she initially looks at least twice as old as everyone else. I also think she looks South Asian in some of the early issues, although that changes later. And of course, she briefly causes Kid Flash to fall in love with her, which briefly gives him something to do besides be a conservative wet blanket who hates on Red Star.

Like I said, it's a wild ride!