Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Wednesday Comics: DC, November 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 August 20, 1981.

Action Comics #525: Wolfman and Staton start this story a year ago, when Superman responds to a terrorist attack (courtesy of Luthor) on a nuclear power plant. Superman saves two of Luthor's hirelings, but they lie for some reason and tell him there wasn't anyone else, and Supes can't see the guy due to lead shielding I guess. The hireling, Nat Tryon (get it?) manages to survive and makes his way back to Luthor who puts him in a suit under a ray--and leaves him there for a year. Tryon is changed by a into Neutron, a nuclear-powered villain, and when released by an accident seeks revenge on his former buddies and Superman for not saving him. In the end, Neutron kills his former cohorts, but his fights with Superman are draws. If he can't kill Superman he decides to destroy him emotionally by striking at Metropolis itself. This a lot more action-y story than most in Action; Wolfman brings more of a Marvel approach.

In the Air Wave backup, Hal and his girlfriend science fiction art exhibit, encounters a costumed thief called the Cosmic Corsair and gains a case of amnesia. His girl has to cosplay as the Cosmic Corsair to shock him into regaining the memory of his superhero identity so he can defeat the badguy.

Adventure Comics #487: The cover blurb calls this "the most talked about new series!" I am skeptical. In the first story, Radiator and Crimson Star are working for the mysterious Master, but the Avatar (one of the more interesting IDs in this title) and Kismet stop them quickly. Chris and Vicki also patch up their differences (mostly) and decide to be friends and partners again. The second story is pretty silly with a scientist having turned himself into a giant snake. Our heroes have to save him from the police who plan to kill the monsters. 

Brave & the Bold #180: Fleisher and Aparo, the creators of the infamous Bronze Age Earth-1 Spectre, present this team of that character with Batman. An ancient Japanese relic is stolen from a Gotham museum and a guard is murdered. Batman discovers the item is part of a staff belonging to an evil wizard with the un-Japanese name of Wa'arzen. If the pieces of the staff are re-united, Wa'arzen can return. Jim Corrigan gets involved as well, bringing in his alter ego, the Spectre. The wizard achieves his power, and is strong enough to challenge the Spectre, but Batman uses a well-placed batarang to knock the scepter from his hand, so the Spectre can defeat him. Teamwork!

All-Star Squadron #3: Thomas and Buckler have the different groups of here defeat the disparate portions of Per Degaton's overcomplicated plan, and the team finally comes together! A lot of "business" goes on in this issue, and I'm going to go to the unusual step of linking to a detailed synopsis here, because the author humorless points out the plot goofs and continuity errors. As a kid, I would have eaten this up but as an adult I feel its a bit to jam-packed with stuff that winds up being not terribly entertaining. Some of it may be a consequence of having to juggle so many protagonists.

Detective Comics #508: Conway and Newton drop the ball here after the Manikin two-parter. Selena Kyle is missing. Batman finds dust that he realizes (somehow) is the same as dust from ancient Egyptian tombs. He goes the the museum for help from an expert, but resident Egyptologist, Geoffrey Griffin is also missing. It turns out, Griffin was obsessed a Egyptian Queen Kara (who happens to look a lot like Selena) and the pyramid at Giza. Bruce is off to Egypt and finds Griffin and Selena in a previously undiscovered room inside the Sphinx! Griffin thinks he's Khafre reincarnated, somehow has magical Egyptian artifacts, and wants to preserve Selena alive as his undying queen. Fight ensues, Batman defeats Griffin who then gets mauled to death by jackals. This is 70s cartoon level plotting.

In the Batgirl backup by Burkett and Delbo, Barbara gives an impassioned speech for prison reform. Meanwhile, a geologist who feels people are taking his discovery of an energized space rock seriously goes an mutates himself into a superhuman freak with it. Calling himself the Annihilator, he defeats Batgirl. When Supergirl shows up to save the day, he begins absorbing her power!

House of Mystery #298: The first story here by Harris and Sutton is okay. It's a Twilight Zone pastiche about a 19th Century looking settlement were an alien arrives and robs the grave of the recently deceased burgomeister--and is mistaken for the undead and attacked by the townsfolk until it's revealed the alien actually rescued the burgomeister from premature burial and cured him. The alien takes off his space helmet and proclaims he brings greetings from Earth.  

Next up, DeMatteis and Gonzales have the ghost of a blind bluesman get revenge by blinding the record exec who cheated him. Then there's an EC type story with an EC-esque exploitation of deformity, where an escaped robber on the run from the mob with money is drawn into a weird house for people with various gruesomely acquired deformities. When he see's their room full of money, he decides to rob them too, only to have a terrible accident like all the rest and wind up a hunchbacked, twisted, permanent guest. 

The last story by Jones and Infante exemplifies the principle of Chekhov's dynamite retrieving dog. A a handsome ne'er-do-well is caught dynamite fishing on the property of a reclusive, but wealthy young woman, who has a pure breed dog he is quite taken with. The man feigns interest in the woman to get her to marry him, and she has done so, he drowns her in the pond. He celebrates his wealth with a little dynamite fishing, but the good dog retrieves the dynamite and they both die in the explosion.

Superman Family #212: Pasko and Mortimer finally reveal what the deal is with Greg and his odd behavior: he's got a gambling problem. They leads to Supergirl tangling with Blackrock, who I only knew from the Who's Who before this. Also, Lena is having severe headaches. In Mr. and Mrs. Superman, a rival reporter plants a fake "Superman stops A Flying Saucer Story" but Lois and Clark but turn his lie into a staged reality. In the Rozakis/Calnan "Private Life of Clark Kent," a newsboy who wants really badly to be a reporter manages to actually help Clark on a story by being an eye-witness to a jewel robbery. In the Levitz/Oksner Lois Lane story, she tangles with yet another criminal who wants her dead. It involves a scene of Lois, undressing from the shower, when a hand grenade is lobbed in her window. She quickly picks it up and throws it back outside, then takes her shower. 

The Jimmy Olsen story by Pasko/Delbo is the wackiest of them all. After a visit to the dentist, Jimmy is plagued with insomnia and people keep trying to kill him. Turns out, the dentist and his nurse are both plants and working against him (though not with the same goals) and the fake distant has been broadcasting a high pitched signal into a receiver implanted in Jimmy's tooth to keep him awake.


Dick McGee said...

House of Mystery #298: Okay, the vampire robot cover would have sold me on it if I'd seen it as a kid, so - mission accomplished? :)

Detective Comics #508: Also a nice striking cover. Shame about the insides.

Adventure Comics #487: Rather like most of the character designs here, especially Kismet and Crimson Star. Disappointed that the Radiator isn't part of a car-parts themed villain team alongside Transmission, the Battery, and the sinister Muffler. And why the blazes is Avatar riding a flaming(?) tiger? Interesting coincidence that he's the master of elements, considering the much later Avatar: the Last Airbender cartoon.

Also hilarious that the cover describes all four one-shot characters as super-stars. Dial H always did try too hard.

"They leads to Supergirl tangling with Blackrock, who I only knew from the Who's Who before this."

The couple of appearances I've seen him in had Blackrock portrayed as a pretty darn serious threat, capable of pushing Superman to his limits. Manipulating the whole EM spectrum and all of Earth's transmissions seems like Magneto-grade levels of power, but here he is playing D-lister for a gambling organization?

Also, it's funny that a guy named Silverstone was the creator of a villain named Blackrock.

"It involves a scene of Lois, undressing from the shower, when a hand grenade is lobbed in her window. She quickly picks it up and throws it back outside, then takes her shower."

Stone cold killer, that Lois. :)

"Turns out, the dentist and his nurse are both plants and working against him (though not with the same goals) and the fake distant has been broadcasting a high pitched signal into a receiver implanted in Jimmy's tooth to keep him awake."

Okay, because it's comics and comics are weird, I have to ask - were they literally plants, as in photosynthetic aliens or something, or just plain old undercover operatives of some kind?

Trey said...

Blackrock is portrayed as pretty powerful here. He isn't working for gangsters, he kills the gangsters to do a favor for Greg so Greg will do one for him. He's after some experimental TV plans at GBS.

The dentist and nurse are actually plants, alas, but very human imposters.

Dick McGee said...

Ah, yeah, that sounds like Blackrock's kind of gig. Regardless of who was using the stone (I think there were four of them prior to crisis) he was always fascinated by broadcasting stuff. Must really hate the modern all-cable/streaming era. :)

jdh417 said...

That bit with the dog and the dynamite was tragically repeated on the English show, Monarch of the Glen. That was one way of writing out one of the main characters.

Dick McGee said...

I've seen a dog-retrieves-dynamite story in some old Western novel as well. Seems to be a pretty well-used idea, and I guess it might be based on some real world incident, or at least an anecdote claimed as real.