Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Wednesday Comics: DC, February 1981 (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 November 25, 1980.

Action Comics #516: I like the cover on this one. Wolfman's Vandal Savage story continues with Superman out for vengeance against the immortal. Luthor quickly spills it that Savage is traveling through time. He even gives Supes a device to detect where Savage is. Everywhere Superman pursues the dictator, though, something goes awry and their is a big explosion. Olsen and White smell a rat. They get Luthor to tell them more, which includes the origin of Vandal Savage and that Superman's actions in the past now are actually what brings Savage to power. It seems their are time-changing bombs Superman is inadvertently setting off. Luthor sends Olsen back in time to stop all this--which is just another part of his master plan. He's going to see to it that Savage, Superman, and Olsen die in one big explosion, leaving him to be ruler of the world. Back in the Age of Dinosaurs Savage gloats he's about to be struck by a fireball from space like the one that made him immortal, and then his victory will be complete. Superman has finally caught on and doesn't destroy the fireball. Savage's victory is foiled (and Luthor's too). Jimmy and Superman return to a restore timeline where Lois is still alive. 

The Atom backup story by Rozakis and Saviuk is pretty forgettable. Chronos is committing crimes but being really good about not leaving clues. Perhaps too good. Chronos does not come off as particularly impressive either in the story or in Saviuk's depiction of him.

Brave & the Bold #171: Conway and Garcia-Lopez bring us a really off-beat crossover, which well, only happens in Batman's mind, I guess? Bruce Wayne wins an auction for a jewel box once owned by Martha Jennings, the "Florence Nightingale of the Civil War." While Bruce is admiring his $10,000 box he confides in Alfred he had a crush on Jennings when he was a schoolboy, which really tells us that Bruce was a nerdy kid. (Or maybe not, as Garcia-Lopez depicts her as pretty attractive, but I digress.) He finds a secret compartment with a note with the bat symbol on it! As one does in these situations, he goes to see an old professor from college who has a "time hypnosis" technique. Under hypnosis, Bruce goes back in time to see what's up. There, he meets Jennings and Scalphunter, and the two heroes help Jennings get supplies through Confederate lines. Bruce really spends a lot of time wondering what makes that enigmatic Scalphunter tick. But did he ever really meet Scalphunter? And what is time hypnosis? Conway is following in Haney's time-honored "just go with it" writing style.

Nemesis is back in the backup by Burkett and Spiegle. This time there's casino action, and Nemesis actually gets shot, which is a big deal in a way that I suppose is realistic but seems odd for comic book action heroes.

Detective Comics #499: Conway and Newton/Adkins open with Blockbuster contemplating killing Batman, who lies unconscious in a mine in West Virginia, but the corrupt union leader's goons set off in explosion to cause a collapse before Blockbuster can act. In the aftermath, with Batman struggling to help the the crusading reformer, Macon, the giant has befriend, Blockbuster decides to ally with him for now. They all manage to escape the cave, then Batman and Blockbuster go after the badguys who have kidnapped Macon's daughter. In the end, justice is done, and Batman decides to let Blockbuster stay "dead" and remain here.

In the backup, we reach the end of the "Barbara Gordon, Murderer" storyline. Batgirl has to escape from a watery death-trap and rescue Doreen the secretary who helped frame her--all before Barbara is found in contempt for not showing up to her own hearing. In the end, Batgirl gets there in time to reveal the true murderer. The wrap up seems a little bit to quick for how long this drug out--and maybe it is. It seems like from previous issues there was a conspiracy against Barbara (though I'd have to look back).

Green Lantern #137: The Wolfman/Staton tale of GL visiting the future continues. I apparently missed a plot point last issue by not carefully reading one panel: Jordan was drawn to one point in the future but instead wound up in a different point (apparently 1000 years earlier, or something) where he Space Ranger. So the Gordanians attack Earth twice. Anyway, the story opens with GL and Space Ranger in the hands of the enemy who are getting ready to throw cables around the Earth and drag it to Vega so the Citadel can auction it off. Space Ranger breaks them free, but Jordan is still without his memory, so he doesn't know how to use his ring and is useless in the fight. Space Ranger's girlfriend, Myra Mason, shows up to lend a hand, but once she is injured the battle turns against them. At that moment, GL is yanked back to the 58th Century. Apparently he's met these people before as Iona is in love with him from meeting previously (that would be in Green Lantern #51, but the issue has no footnotes anywhere to tell you that). They manage to restore his memory, and GL defeats the Gordanians in this time, then wipes Iona's memory of him so she'll stop pining. He jumps back to help Space Ranger before returning to his on time.

The backup is another Adam Strange story by Laurie Sutton, joined now by Infantino on art. It's an improvement. This is mostly an Alanna solo story, though Adam shows up at the end (courtesy of the zeta beam) to rescue her from bird-riding tribesmen with blowguns. It turns out Sardoth had sent her somewhere to distract her until he and Adam could complete a surprise (big goof on that one, Dad. You almost killed her!) Anyway, a double zeta beam is ready to take her with Adam for a trip to Earth.

House of Mystery #289: "Brother Bob's Home for Wayward Boys and Girls" by DeMatteis and Rubeny is the opener. It's starts off with the familiar sort of sanctimonious disciplinarian who runs up against a new resident, Joshua, who seems able to thwart him and inspire the other kids to petty rebellion. Bob is convinced Joshua is Satan, but in the end Joshua reveals he works for the other Guy--whose vengeance is also terrible! Kashdan and Zamore follow with an odd tale (told in a different style, it could almost be a Ligotti yarn) of two thieves wanting to steal a treasure from cultists in a cave. In order to win it, they impersonate Kronus, the god of the cult, and Braxus he's opponent in myth. The Kronus imitator kills his companion, seemingly possessed by an unnatural rage. He ascends the throne to claim his treasure, but finds the cult won't let him leave, and if he removes his costume, they'll kill him. He hears the dark laughter of Kronus ringing in his years. DeMatteis returns with Amongo for a story of a reclusive "hippie" musician trying to make a comeback, but when taunted by the crowd looking for something newer (they're all over the place wanting Alice (Cooper), disco, and the Village People--harder not to see DeMatteis making some comment on post-60s music), he lets his vampiric hunger take over and kills them. He flies off into the dawn as a bat and dies, leaving the crowd awed by the theatrics and the promoter wanting to repeat the show tomorrow night.


Dick McGee said...

House of Mystery: "...but in the end Joshua reveals he works for the other Guy--whose vengeance is also terrible!"

Anyone who's read either the Specter or the Old Testament will certainly attest to that. The Saint of Killers had the right idea where "the Other Guy" was involved.

"He flies off into the dawn as a bat and dies, leaving the crowd awed by the theatrics and the promoter wanting to repeat the show tomorrow night."

To paraphrase from Daffy Duck, "it's a great act but I can only do it once!" The idea of a vampiric hippy musician who hates disco is kind of appealing, though. Wonder how he would have felt about all the New Wave stuff that was due to show up later in the decade.

Brave & the Bold: Martha Jennings, the "Florence Nightingale of the Civil War" -Where did they pull her from? Never heard of her and I assume she's fictitious. Between Clara Barton and Mary Hill the position has already been quite adequately filled with actual people. Then again, neither if them met Bats or Scalphunter AFAIK.

Nice to see Bruce dabbling in kinky bondage covers though. It ought to help later on when writers try to sell us on a romantic attraction between him and Diana Prince. "So, I was thinking we could get dinner, maybe see a movie, and then later you could tie me to a cannon and tell me what a bad bat I am."

Anne said...

I have to tell you, I'm not really a Blockbuster fan, and he seems to keep showing up over and over during this time period. I know many of the best Batman villains gain a bit of audience sympathy from their obvious mental health issues, but Blockbusters whole caveman / head-injury combo has always struck me as both too silly and too sad.

Are there really three time travel stories this week? (Well, okay, Batman might just be imagining he time traveled, but still. I guess four, if you count Atom and Chronos?) Superman's sounds complex but interesting, at least in your retelling. Green Lantern's seems unnecessarily convoluted, and the amnesia element really isn't helping.

That thieves versus cultists story is nice and creepy!

Elements like the name "Scalphunter" and tribesmen with blowguns hopefully wouldn't make it into new issues today...

Trey said...

Very true! To be fair, the name Scalphunter probably only appears once in the issue outside the title, but it's easier for me to remember who to spell than his Kiowa name. I could call him Brian Savage, I guess, but the issue never does that.

bombasticus said...

Super depressing to realize Vega is still messed up tens of thousands of years from now and may even be more advanced with this planet stealing plot.

Or maybe they always had these cables for special occasions and that's how the Vega system was cobbled together in the first place, one swiped planet at a time?

Dick McGee said...

"I could call him Brian Savage, I guess, but the issue never does that."

Not sure if that's better or worse than Scalphunter, but they're both some level of awful.

Trey said...

What's awful about Brian Savage? Do you just mean it doesn't have a marquee quality? I mean his dad got by with Matt Savage, Trail Boss in his strip .

Dick McGee said...

It's awful because it's pretty clearly meant to hint at the old "red savage" and "savage Indian" slurs that were used as descriptions of Native Americans for centuries, reinforcing the whole character concept of "Caucasian guy that looks and acts like a Native American" thing the covers sell. They could have picked any name at all for him - and they went with one that's an ethnic slur. Not sold on that being an accident.

Yeah, "Savage" is his biological family's name, and he's got an involved backstory as a childhood kidnap victim raised by his abductors that explains everything - but how many casual readers know that?

Trey said...

I'm not sure whether it's accidental or not. Matt Savage predates Scalphunter as a character by 20 years, and while his first appear doesn't make it clear that his father is that guy, except that it's a comic book and they have the same name.

I agree it is unfortunate in the sense that it can be misunderstood, even if they didn't have any intention with it.