Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Wednesday Comics: DC, November 1982 (week 4)

I'm reading DC Comics' output from January 1980 (cover date) to Crisis! This week, we look at the comics hitting the newsstand on August 26, 1982.

Action Comics #537: This is the second cover in a row where Superman is trussed up in some way on the cover. Do Buckler and Giordano think this is Golden Age Wonder Woman or something? Seriously though I wonder if these covers, like the depowering of Superman that has taken place in Wolfman's ongoing storytelling are a means to up the perception of peril to incease reader interest? Anyway, Superman tries to go back into the past to resolve his problem, but Satanis stops him cold. Meanwhile (well, shown to us at the same time) in the past, Syrene plans to filter the Runestone of Merlin's magical energy through the other Superman's invulnerable body and into her. This will probably kill him, but that's not her problem. 

In the present, this new loser called Jackhammer has an armored suit with jackhammer projects on his fists, and he plans to make a name for himself by killing Supes. Jackhammer draws Superman's attention by wrecking a train track. When Superman shows, up he gets the first punch and staggers him, so Superman is barely able to stop the train with his Superman breath, then passes out with exhaustion. Jackhammer gloats realizing he can actually be the man to kill Superman.

In the Aquaman backup by Rozakis and Saviuk, Aquaman is convinced this woman who looks like Mera but claims to be Lt. Miriam Bridgeman actually is Mera, and he won't let it go. He lays a kiss on her and is further convinced though she still isn't sure. I guess she liked it enough to allow him to hook her up to electrodes and some sort of EEG, because that's what happens. The results of that are weird, but still don't prove her identity, so as a final test, Aquaman has her change into a bikini and jump into the ocean with him to see if she can breathe under water. Luckily, she doesn't drown, but instead finds out that she can breathe water and has telepathic powers, though she still does not remember her Mera identity. When she tries summoning fish, she and Aquaman are mobbed by dolphins, and she panics and encases Aquaman in hard water.

Arion Lord of Atlantis #1: Graduating into its on series by Kupperberg and Duursema. On the dead moon Anuleous, Arion has been ensnared by his "mother," a cosmic energy being responsible for his creation. The mage's former master Caculha comes to his aid to win his freedom. Back on Earth, Lady Chian and Wyynde face off against Garn Daanuth who has taken possession of Arion's mortal body. When Wyynde cuts Arion's body, the evil mage abandons abandons it and flees.

The forces of Chaos and Order are again observing and bickering, but this time their altercation leads to Arion being freed from his mother's control. He turns his magic on her, and with the help of Caculha, he is then reunited with his physical form which has been wounded by Wyynde. In anger his mother strikes down Caculha. Angered at his master's apparent death, Arion unleashes his full power against his mother, dispersing her energy across the surface of the moon. Caculha as it turns out isn't dead ,though. Arion brings him back to Atlantis where King D'Tilluh is preparing for a civil war.

All-Star Squadron #15: The next instalment of Crisis on Earth-Prime. We get a couple of sort of humorous scenes of Per Degaton doing some super-villain scenery-chewing with the more realistic reaction of his henchmen, but most of the issue is given to the heroes dividing up in small groups for tasks in classic crossover fashion. Their jobs are complicated by the re-appearance of the Crime Syndicate. Doctor Fate, Robotman, and Superman fly into orbit, intercept Degaton's space satellite, and start demolishing it, but a kryptonite boobytrap takes out Superman, and then are ambushed by Ultraman. Aquaman, Liberty Belle, and Starman head to the Pacific to investigate radiation detected on a small island and encounter a Japanese military outpost and Superwoman. Hunting for hidden missiles in the Midwest, Hawkman, Huntress, and Johnny Quick are attacked by Power Ring. 

The heroes prevail, of course, but Degaton has one more insane plan up his sleeve--one that will allow him to conquer the Earth or leave no Earths left!

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew #9: Scott Shaw and "co-plotter" Thomas continue the Time-Keeper storyline. The villainous Bear takes a liking to Alley-Kat-Abra, which gives her the chance to play for time (heh) while the other members are cast into various eras. This also gives Thomas, I presume, the chance to bring back old DC funny animal characters. Pig Iron and Captain Carrot encounter Nero Fox in ancient world. Rubberduck and Yankee Poodle meet the Three Mouseketeers, and Fastback encounters his uncle in his heroic guise as the Terrific Whatzit in World War II. In the end, Kat-Abra destroys the Keeper's hourglasses and frees her friends.

In the backup, Alley Kat-Abra goes solo against the Debbil-Dawg, a chihuahua painter, Salvador Doggi, who needs a portal out of a Ditko-esque dimension and back into the mundane world so that he can use his reality-warping power to remake it to his artistic whim.

Detective Comics #520: Batman and his allies continue their fight to bring the current, corrupt mayor and police commissioner down. The Dark Knight appears to help Floyd "Deadshot" Lawton escape from prison and a corrupt warden in exchange for Lawton giving up Thorne as the mastermind of the attempt to kill Bruce Wayne a couple of issues ago, but he actually tricks Lawton and keeps him in custody in the Batcave. Meanwhile, Thorne is being haunted (again) by the ghost of Hugo Strange, or so it would seem, and he enlists Dr. Thirteen's help to get to the bottom of it. Thirteen (shaken by his memory loss from Wayne Manor in issue 509) goes on an investigation--and seems to be confronted by Strange's ghost himself! This is a good issue from Conway and Newton and a great Aparo cover.

There's a Catwoman backup by Rozakis and Kane. In Metropolis, Catwoman runs into an old member of her gang and worries he's slipped back into criminal ways. She follows him as Catwoman and learns that he appears to be involved in a robbery. She captures his apparent accomplice, but discovers her friend had actually set up a sting. With everything cleared up, the two decide to go out for a coffee.

New Adventures of Superboy #35:  Rozakis and Schaffenberger continue Superboy's tangle with Yellow Peri, who really isn't a villain but makes some questionable choices. In fact, I had wondered if the twist was going to be that her animate teddy bear friend/advisor, Gadzook, was malign and leading her astray, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Anyway, Superboy finally succeeds in returning her to normal, with no memory of her magic powers, by throwing her book of magic into outer space.

In the Dial H backup, the mysterious Master sends his agent, the Marauder, to break Naiad out of jail, forcing Chris and Vicki must dial up new heroes to fight them, naturally. Two identities for each this story: Gossamer and the Fan for Vicki, and Earthman and Any-body for Chris.

Saga of the Swamp Thing Annual #1: This is an adaptation of the Wes Craven film from earlier in the same year by Bruce Jones, Mark Texeira and Tony DeZuniga. 

Weird War Tales #117: The two features here are Creature Commandos and G.I. Robot, but only the Commandos get title billing where the J.A.K.E.-2 is an "extra." The first story has art by Carillo which is making me miss Spiegle. Anyway, the Commandos are getting some R&R (I guess) in Paris, but face prejudice for their appearance from the citizenry and their own military. Shrieve asks for and gets an alternate posting, but no one wants his old job. The Commandos head out for Lourdes hoping to be cured of their condition by a divine miracle. Shrieve, meanwhile, finds his new administrative duties don't have the same excitement, so he retakes the job with the Commandos, and rushes to join them as they've managed to run into Nazis along the way. They are freaks, he tells them, but they are his freaks. So he's still a jerk.

G.I. Robot is still hanging out in the South Pacific with his dog, CAPD. When protecting a reporter from a group of Japanese soldiers CAPD reveals there's a robotic kitten inside him in a hidden compartment. The military function of that cat escapes me, but its existence allows for JAKE, CAPD, and the cat to pose for a "family" picture. I can't say this story doesn't have a sort of kitschy charm, but Kanigher phone this one in, clearly. While I doubt that it would have been more commercially successful, in a way this book as currently constituted seems to beg for the more bombastic Marvel approach to war stories. The Creature Commandos, in particular, really seem to play with classic Marvel themes.

World's Finest Comics #285: Nice cover on this issue by Miller and Giordano. In this first full-length story for the title, by Burkett and Buckler/La Rosa, Superman is flying Batman back to Gotham when they spot a man being attacked by a tiger man. The heroes engage, and more animal humanoids appear. Superman is whisked away by a strange, black cloud leaving Batman to do battle alone. He wins the day but collapses from exhaustion and injury afterwards. This opening leads to the two being embroiled in a magical plot, one related to their old foe Dr. Zodiac and some mystical coins, but with Batman as a target. The story is continued next issue. 

What's more interesting than the story, perhaps (though it isn't bad), is the shift in characterization of Batman and Superman. They are still buddies as per the standard of this era, but their friendship seems more than just a surface camaraderie. Batman, particularly, is vulnerable in a way that seems shocking in this post-Dark Knight Returns world. He asks Superman to stay and have coffee to soothe his mind. Superman relates stories of his childhood in Smallville and Bruce actually likes hearing them. I can't fully say it's better as it's alien to the portrayal of these characters over most of my lifetime, but I'm also reluctant to say you can't take the characters in this more humanized direction. 


Dick McGee said...

Action Comics #537: Supes gets portrayed "in danger" on covers quite a lot over the years, and yeah, I agree it's meant to encourage reader engagement. How well that actually works with such a powerhouse character I couldn't say - but hey, he's still in print in 2023, so I guess they were doing something right. The problem with a mostly-invulnerable character is you can't portray him as injured or even a bit battered the way you can with (say) Batman - or at least not very often.

" a final test, Aquaman has her change into a bikini and jump into the ocean with him..."

Maybe-Mera - "Does it have to be a bikini? I've got a perfectly good one-piece, or I could just fill the bathtub and try sticking my head under."

Extremely Suspect Arthur - "No, no, the bikini is vital. Very important to expose as much surface area directly to the water when you're out of practice. In fact, now that I think of it skinny-dipping might be better. If you're uncomfortable I can just peel down with you."

Maybe-Mera - " No. The bikini will be fine, I guess."

Dick McGee said...

Weird War Tales #117: "...CAPD reveals there's a robotic kitten inside him in a hidden compartment. The military function of that cat escapes me..."

Speculatively, a smaller, less obtrusive stealth recon platform. Or an assassination tool. Given how many kitten-scars I have from the organic variety, a metallic one programmed to infiltrate living quarters and massacre sleeping soldiers is a pretty alarming prospect, especially if its claws and teeth and poison injectors or something. :)

Dale Houston said...

I bought 4 of these: Arion, Captain Carrot, All-Star Squadron and the Swamp Thing Annual.

Captain Carrot was a lot less fun for me once Roy Thomas stopped providing the dialogue. His tendency to overwrite led to lots of puns which my youthful self appreciated.

This issue might have my favorite CCAHAZC pun of all, in which someone tells a German soldier "Don't be sour, Kraut."

I stuck with Arion for two issues. Enjoyed this JLA/JSA crossover. Didn't buy Swamp Thing again until the 2nd or 3rd Alan Moore issue.

bombasticus said...

Suddenly the Crime Syndicate as precipitating factor in the Cuban missile crisis is the missing link I needed to restore the 1963 annual. It's always earth-3 somewhere I guess!

JB said...

Damn...I own the Justice League comic that has the final installment of that Crisis on Earth-Prime crossover event. Just found it the other day (like, two weeks ago). 1982? Man, 41 years is a long time. In 1982, WW2 had only ended 37 years prior.

Jeez. I am OLD.

JB said...

I also VIVIDLY remember the cover of that Batman (#520) comic, though I don't recall if I ever owned it.

Trey said...

We're right there with you.

@Dick - You get the no-prize.

Dick McGee said...

Joy! I never did get one of those back in the day. :)