Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, August 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 May 7, 1981.

Justice League of America #193: This continues the Red Tornardo/T.O. Morrow story from the previous issue. Morrow can't seem to replicate Reddy, so he's going to take him apart to figure out why. Aquaman plays Batman and busts through a window to save him, but Morrow takes him out easily. The JLA attacks Morrow as a group, but the Tornado Tyrant has been unleashed and defeats them all but (Conway creation, I'm sure that's no accident) Firestorm. Firestorm meets the relatively small Tornado Champion and hears its origin and by extension the origin of Red Tornado. I have no idea if there are any retcons here as this is the version I know from Who's Who. Anyway, Firestorm helps the Champion reintegrate with the Tyrant with Firestorm's help so they can revive Red Tornado, even though that means the Champion will again lose his memory/identity.  Firestorm is now the only one that knows Reddy's true origin story. 

Then there is an All-Star Squadron preview by Thomas and Buckler/Ordway. This is basically set-up but pretty interesting. It's December 6, 1941, and FDR is trying to get in touch with the JSA, but they're all off doing other stuff--and running into villains that they don't know but who know them, implying they are time displaced. Degaton is at the root of all this, and Pearl Harbor is about to occur without the heroes to help. This is a solid issue, I would have no doubt read and re-read as a kid.

New Teen Titans #10: Terminator is back and HIVE wants him to steal stuff from Project: Promethium, which Terminator does, but he plans to auction off to the highest bidder. A lot of the issue is taken up by "slice of life" character stuff with the Titans before Terminator's machinations draw them in. In the end, HIVE betrays the would-be bidders, Terminator betrays HIVE, and the Titans trick Terminator who thought he had killed them in his demonstration of a "Promethium bomb." The competency of the creative team is clear, but this story feels like treading water between better stuff, though clearly since this is the second issue with it, Wolfman is more enamored of Promethium as a MacGuffin than I am. Also, this title has a bit of a 80s cartoon feel in that HIVE and Terminator have been such recurrent villains over this first year.

Secrets of Haunted House #39: Another lackluster issue, though a couple of stories here are just odd. In the Seegar/Patricio opener, a woman (named Taaro of all things) finds an injured man in an alley and brings him back to her place and kind of lets him move in. She shows him her wall full of memorabilia: photos from her modeling career, the cast she recently had removed and the crutch she used. Ignore the weirdness of this wall, because this is essentially a Chekov's gun moment. Romance doesn't bud, but the guy does kill her rival for a commercial gig-- 'cause he's a vampire. Then he gets jealous of her and a guy that offers he a job. He reveals he's a vampire and menaces her, but she stabs him through the heart with the handy crutch. 

The last story is by Drake and "Magpie-o" (Magpayo). A man escapes from psychiatric hospital and abducts his daughter (presumably) for a trip to Mexico. He encounters a reclusive but locally famous silver artist called Caballo, who wears something like Aztec get-up and long gloves all the time. The guy thinks all of this doesn't add up. He hears about Xotoka, a god who had a silver touch, and he reads about a ritual in an old book he took from Caballo's. He performs the ritual, and receives a burn on his forehead, but now everything he touches becomes silver. One afternoon, he returns to the hotel and his daughter is gone. He races to Caballo's for a show down, convinced the artist is trying to protect the secret of the ritual, but it turns out Caballo doesn't have that power--he's just a murderer that dips people in silver--including the man's daughter!

The Mister E story by Rozakis and Spiegle has E in Boston dealing with two dogs that work for witches. And this is ill-conceived yarn has a second part.

Superman #362: Lana and Lois both fall ill from a mysterious illness, which causes a great deal of distress for Superman, who realizes its the same illness that killed Jonathan and Martha Kent. A lot of the issue is consumed by that flashback, which is maybe new here, I don't know. It's continued next issue.

The backup is an "In-Between Years" story by Rozakis and Schaffenberger. Clark arrives at college in Metropolis only to find the campus on alert due to a bomb threat by Vietnam protestors. I figured this was going to be some criminal ploy blaming the protestors, but nope they are indeed responsible. However, a group of criminals does try to fake bomb scares after the real bombers are apprehended, but they are stopped by Superboy.

Weird War Tales #102: I'm surprised the Comics Code let DeMatteis and Carillo get away with this Creature Commandos story with a bunch of brainwashed kids shot up with some sort of super-soldier formula by the Nazis. The creatures (as is common in this strip) show the most humanity, viewing the children, however murderous, as more victims of callous science--not unlike themselves. In the end, the kids turn on their creator just before the unstableness of their condition kills them. 

The other stories aren't as strong, but two-thirds are okay. In the Fleisher/Zamora story a G.I. gets the ability to predict another soldiers death by seeing their dog tags glow, and winds up trading out dog tags with his buddy to save his friend's life. In a best-forgotten tale by Kashdan and Celardo a genii fulfills the wish of an ambitious officer to to lead an army of fierce soldiers, so the genii shrinks the guy to the size of an ant so he can command ants. The last story by Mishkin/Cohn and von Eeden/Ordway is a bit like The Last Starfighter (3 years away) where a kid playing a video game frees an alien people and is honored by them.

Wonder Woman #282: This is probably the best installment of this Etrigan team-up arc, but I still don't like Delbo's rendition of the Demon. Conway's script actually handles him pretty well, though. Anyway, the Demon and Wonder Woman escape the Netherworld and manage to bring Etta Candy home. Wonder Woman realizes Diana's and Etta's landlord--ex-Senator Abernathy is the one that set them up as potential sacrifices. When confronted, he admits it and says he was being blackmailed by Oscar Pound of Delphi. Wonder Woman again infiltrates Delphi only to find the Demon is already there and has fallen under the control of Klarion. Before she handles that, Diana has got to deal with Pound who has been turned into a Minotaur as Klarion's cruel way of fulfilling his promise to make him walk again. Etrigan refuses to kill Wonder Woman who he calls his friend and breaks free of Klarion's control. He seems to destroy Klarion but tells Wonder Woman that such a creature can't truly die. Pound is human again, but also unable to walk. They leave him for the police.

In the Huntress backup by Levitz and Staton/Mitchell, our hero is trying to find the Joker by looking for the source of his Joker venom tracing precursor chemicals. She comes up empty until she gets an idea. She heads back to Wayne Manor, which she hasn't visited for years, and the Batcave. Which makes we wonder why she as the heir doesn't do something with it? Aren't the taxes on the place killing her? Anyway, we cut to the Joker who sees a report of a sighting of Batman, swinging through Gotham. The Joker is overjoyed: he didn't want the Batman dead until he kills him. The last caption tells us that the Joker thinks the Batman is back, and we readers think it's the Huntress in disguise, but we are both wrong.


Dick McGee said...

Memory insists that was a pretty good issue of JLA, but it's been years and I might be overrating it for nostalgia. Stuck in my head pretty well, I can see the "Aquaman window crashing" sequence in my skull quite clearly.

Weird War sounds surprisingly grim, yeah. I wonder if Creature Commando stuff was getting some sort of pass from the CCA - or maybe we're into the period where they'd shrunk to the point where they were only reading a fraction of all the books that came out and rubber-stamping the ones they couldn't get to. They never did have any real enforcement capability, and it was well faded by the 80s.

The "dog tag precog" thing makes me wonder if just, you know, not wearing dog tags while they're glowing would save everyone involved. Is it really just an indicator of doom, or is it causal?

Shrinking to lead an army of ants has worked out pretty well for, well, Ant-Man, so assuming the genii actually gave the guy ant-control powers that doesn't seem all that bad a fate. I suppose being stuck at tiny size would be irritating, but you could always go into the super biz after the war - or better yet, espionage.

Wonder if the video game story inspired Last Starfighter at all? With my luck the aliens would put me on trial for war crimes - I killed an awful lot of saucers in Space Invaders as a kid. :)

As far as Haunted House goes, did the guy with silver touch just never hear of Midas or something? That's really not an ability you want to acquire. Rather be a tiny ant-general myself.

Jim Shelley said...

That Red Tornado Origin blew my mind - it was a Bronze Age Anatomy Lesson.

JB said...

I owned that JLA issue (with Red Tornado) and can attest I re-read it many times. So many things I found...just...GREAT in it.