Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, April 1981 (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 January 22, 1981. 

Legion of Super-Heroes #274: Conway and Ditko/Chiaramonte present "The Exaggerated Death of Ultra Boy." Pulsar Stargrave apparently killing Ultra Boy has only sent him sailing through space where he is picked up by a pirate ship, whose lady captain wears a really ridiculous costume. The amnesiac Jo Nah becomes a member of her crew and her lover. The Legion comes into conflict with these pirates, with only Saturn Girl realizing the identity of Ultra Boy. This is a pretty good issue, but Ditko's art just doesn't seem right for the Legion to me.

Detective Comics #501: Conway and Newton/Adkins deliver a really solid lead story this issue. Busybody Bruce Wayne is concerned when Lucius Fox and Alfred separately receive telegrams from Paris that cause them to drop everything and head out to the airport. Batman follows and discovers someone is trying to kill them. It has something to do with Mademoiselle Marie, the famous French WW2 resistance leader--who both Fox and Alfred worked with at times during the war. Batman confronts his friends, and they tell him to go home. Then a group with guns, led by a dark-haired young woman, breaks in and threatens them. Batman starts taking them out, but Alfred hits from from behind saying he can't let him hurt "Julia." The dark-haired Julia, for her part, levels a gun at Alfred and announces that either he or Fox is Mlle. Marie's murderer--and she plans to execute the killer!

Burkett and Delbo continue the adventures of Batgirl in the backup. Dr. Voodoo is plotting his revenge. He injures her friend who repairs her bike, then strains her relationship with her boyfriend with voodoo. Finally, he attacks her and injects her with a "mystic drug." This really seemed a very Marvel sort of story. Maybe not a great Marvel story, but one of that style. To be continued next issue.

New Adventures of Superboy #16: An Olympic athlete and a Nobel laureate move to Smallville with their son. They secretly hoping to find the source of Superboy's power to empower their merely above average son. Another snoozer from Bates and Schaffenberger, who have done better here before, but not usually. The backup continues the story of the Superboy from one universe teaching the Clark Kent of an earlier era in another universe how to use his powers. I never bought the rationale for Crisis that the DC universe was too complicated, but stories like this undermine my argument.

Sgt. Rock #351: Kanigher and Redondo put Easy in North Africa, where Rock runs afoul of a German commander who things men are like ants. Because Kanigher never met a central metaphor he didn't want to hammer into the ground, the German buries Rock up to his neck and sets his special ants on him. There's a story set during the Boer War that doesn't amount to much. There's a two-page featurette on the Holocaust with art by Joe Kubert, which doesn't sit right with me particularly, at least in part because on its list of people killed in the camps it puts Protestants ahead of Jews and Catholics ahead of Romani--and leaves off a lot of other groups.  The last story is a "Men of Easy Co." feature about a brutal, perhaps even sadistic, soldier name Johnny Doe, who either is killed by his own grenade or shot by Rock, we aren't told. 

Super Friends #43: Bridwell and Tanghal follow-up the evolved clone of the Overlord with an even more evolved clone, Futurio-XX (times 10). Futurio manages to capture a number of the Super Friends but Green Fury helps get them out. Ultimately Futurio-XX gives up pretty easy because he's smart enough to realize Overlord plans to betray him and not give him the bride he promised.

The Pasko/Staton Plastic Man strip that used to be in adventure turns up here as a backup. The punny villain here is Lou Kwashus aka Chatterbox, a talk DJ with mob ties. I really can't say anymore about that.

Unexpected #209: Wessler and Tanghal open things up with a "curse mummy's treasure" tale that sees the treasure seeker decay to dust as the mummy steals his life. Next is a Timewarp story by Drake and Duursema about indigenous Mesoamericans who are fooled into thinking arriving conquistadors are gods, but then kill benevolent aliens who arrive afterwards, having become mistrustful of "Gods from the Sun." The Witching Hour story by Kashdan and Rodriquez is notable for the youngest witch, Cynthia, being a character in the story (not just the narrator) and also for all the sexy poses Rodriquez draws her in while she's narrating. Her boyfriend, a would-be puzzlemaker, gets swindled by the owner of a large company, but she gets revenge by trapping him in a puzzle. 

The Barr/Sparling Johnny Peril story has Johnny on the run from the "geeks" as he calls them, that were working in the factory from last issue. Johnny makes it to the front porch of an old friend. He finds the parents of the girl he met last issue (who turned out to be another "geek") are also hiding in the house with his friend with the geeks surrounding them. Luckily, some of Johnny's friends from previous issues arrive. They escape the house and head out to storm the factory. The Master of the Star-Gems takes a moment to gloat to Peril before disappearing.

Warlord #44:  Read more about it here. The OMAC backup by Mishkin/Cohn and LaRocque/Colletta has OMAC trying to navigate the new peace now that he's helped IC&C defeat the Verner Brothers. It's interesting in that I have no idea where they are going with the story.


Dick McGee said...

Heh. The comments on the old Warlord issue mentioning how much Grell hated Vince Colletta's inking of his work gave me a good grin. Jack Kirby eventually got fed up with Colletta's work as well, and these days the Kirby fandom excoriates him for ruing a lot of Jack's work by removing details and characters to save time. Jack wasn't mena enough to chop one of his hands off by proxy, though.

Anne said...

That Detective Comics cover is really attention getting, and the story sounds pretty good. Hopefully they won't mess it up in part 2.

I think the over-complexity you mention in the story where a Superboy from one universe trains a Clark Kent from a different universe comes from the editors deciding to really commit to the ideas of continuity and systemization. The problem is, once you start doing that, it leads to more complexity, not less. The original Crisis on Infinite Earths was successful by many metrics, but I don't think we can honestly say that the DC universe became significantly less complex afterward.

You mentioned the Holocaust mini-comic making you uncomfortable, and I have to say that I have that reaction to a number of their "historical" stories, whether in the war comics, Westerns, or whatever. The conquistador story from Unexpected sounds pretty terrible too.

Dale Houston said...

Mr. Colletta's inks on Mike Grell still piss me off to this day, 40 some years later. I understand he was fast and could make not-ready-for-Prime-Time pencillers look pretty good. But he just flattened everything out.