DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: August 1971

This month, DC raised the cover prices to 25¢. To lessen the blow, extra pages were added, but those extra pages were pretty much just reprinted material dubbed Demand Classics. As such, I’m going to change up the format of these posts a bit so I can note what happened in each issue as clearly as possible.

The Flash 208: In the main story, Flash secretly (i.e. he vibrates at super-speed to appear invisible) helps out some kids who not only want to get out of the gang they are in, but return the stolen goods they obtained in order to be in the gang. Not sure why Flash had to do this secretly other than so that it can appear to be a miracle in order to satisfy the cover image. In the backup tale, Elongated Man visits a town founded 50 years ago by a relative to Lewis Carroll. To celebrate, the town his having a festival and parade with an Alice in Wonderland theme, and Elongated Man has to stop the theft of a First Edition printing of the story.

This issue’s reprint is a double-length Flash tale from The Flash 149 (Dec 1964), co-starring Kid Flash.

JLA 91: While flying around in that “blind-spot” area of space that connects nowhere and somewhere, an alien and his pet are thrown from their spaceship. The alien ends up on Earth-2, and the pet on Earth-1. Being apart, plus the Earths’ environments, make these beings incredibly powerful and angry. While Black Canary watches over an injured Flash, the JLA and JSA team up to stop the aliens, discovering that their language can not be translated by GL’s Power Ring. As it turns out, the heroes are not strong enough to stop them, and they end up chasing the aliens into Slaughter Swamp, where they run into Solomon Grundy.

This issue reprints a Knights of the Galaxy Story from Mystery in Space 6 (Feb-Mar 1952), and an Hourman story from Spectre 7 (Nov-Dec 1968)

Batman 234: When a pair of of clowns steal a balloon from the Gotham Merchants Parade, Commissioner Gordon calls in Batman to help with the case. The Dark Knight quickly figures out that Two-Face, who escaped a few months ago, has returned. Harvey’s main goal this time around is to obtain a treasure hidden on an old schooner docked in Gotham. After stealing the treasure, and knocking out Batman, Two-Face is about to escape and sink the boat, except his coin tells him he needs to save an innocent who happened to also be stuck on the boat. This gives Batman time to recover, take out Two-Face, save the innocent, and escape the sinking ship. In the backup, Robin’s search for the shooter of a police officer leads him to a commune. Robin figures out who in the commune shot the cop, but the rest of the commune don’t plan on allowing the Teen Wonder to take the shooter to jail.

This issue reprints a double-length Batman and Robin tale from Detective Comics 335 (Jan 1965).

Superman 241: Picking up right where the last issue left off, I-Ching uses his mystical abilities to separate Superman’s psyche from his body, and sends it out to recover Superman’s powers. It finds the Sand-Creature and absorbs his powers, leaving the creature weak and scratching open a hole in reality. Meanwhile, Superman’s psyche returns to Superman, restoring his powers. Soon, however, it is obvious that something is wrong with Superman as he starts acting out of character and making mistakes, thanks to the brain damage he suffered when he was hit in the head last issue. Consulting with Wonder Woman, I-Ching tries talking to Superman, but he thinks the old man is just jealous. Once again using his mystical abilities, I-Ching and Wonder Woman track down the Sand Creature, learning that he is a formless being from Quarrm. As they go off to try to steal away Superman’s powers again, another Quarrmer escapes from the hole in reality. After tricking Superman into an encounter, the Sand Superman sticks close to the Man of Steel, slowly draining his powers, just as the other Quarrmer attacks, having taken the form of an ancient Chinese warrior. At this point, Superman loses all of his powers, and consciousness, and the warrior drags his body toward the city.

This issue reprints stories from Superman 112 (Mar 1957), and Superman 176 (Apr 1965)

Green Lantern 85: After Green Arrow is mugged by a group of addicts needing money for another hit, he calls in Green Lantern to give him an assist. They quickly find the muggers, and find Roy (Speedy) Harper with them. Thinking he is undercover, they leave him behind while the muggers take them to their supplier at a private airfield. But the muggers double-cross the heroes, knocking them out. In order to discredit the heroes, the supplier and his men basically force the unconscious heroes to inhale some of their product. Fortunately, Roy is there to delay the police until he can save the heroes. After GL creates a horrific monster with his ring, he is basically scared into using all his will power to fight off the drug enough to fly him, GA, and Roy to safety. As the heroes comes down from their high, they decided to get some rest, so GL heads home. GA sees him off, and then returns to see if Roy wants to of his famous chili, and ends up catching his former sidekick shooting up.

This issue reprints a double-length tale from Green Lantern 11 (Mar 1962)

Action Comics 403: When a criminal is fatally wounded trying to escape from Superman, he claims that he is a Zohtt, and will have his revenge.

The next day, Superman is called to the year 3458, where he is exposed to a micro-virus created by the now-dead woman the Zohtt was inhabiting. Now that the Zohtt has inhabited the virus, it is affecting Superman, leaving him with 48 hours to live. After thwarting all of his attempts to remove the virus, Superman is left with no choice but to fly off to die in peace. Once Superman’s heart stops, the Zohtt leaves Superman’s body and learns that Superman is on an asteroid, with no one else around to inhabit. Fearing death, it goes back to Superman’s heart to try reviving him, but actually ends up in the “heart” of a robot. The real Superman recovered from the virus now that the Zohtt isn’t inhabiting it, and then switched places with a robot while the Zohtt was distracted. Now inhabiting a fake heart that contains sulfur (the Zohtt’s weakness), the Zohtt is trapped, and Superman heads home. The backup story flashes back to Clark’s college days, where a professor tries taking advantage of a janitor with the power of Skrying (which may be misspelled in the story). Eventually this backfires on the professor who ends up getting himself killed in an explosion that not only removes the janitor’s ability, but causes him some brain damage as well.

This issue reprints a Vigilante story from Action Comics 176 (Jan 1953), and a Superboy story from Adventure Comics 310 (Jul 1963).

Detective Comics 414: According to legend, the keeper of the Keymoore Lighthouse was too busy getting lucky with a lady to turn on the light, causing a ship to crash into the rocks. The keeper was so upset by this that he killed the woman, and now haunts the lighthouse waiting for a chance at redemption. In the present, Batman has traced a group of gunrunners from Gotham to Florida. He takes down the muscle, but the lady of the group offers to take him to where they were going to make the drop, the Keymoore Lighthouse. There, they meet up with a South American General and his soldiers, who were actually planning to take the guns and kill the gunrunners. Batman takes down the soldiers, but the General escapes. However, the girl, even though she’s been shot, manages to damage the boat enough for Batman to catch up. Unfortunately, the storm rolling in causes the boat to lurch, knocking Batman into a railing, leaving him open to an attack by the General. But, a blinding light from the lighthouse sets the General on fire, and he becomes so scared that he jumps in the water and attempts to swim away. However, the storm has cause the water to be a very dangerous place, and the General is crushed by the pounding waves. Our story ends with Batman heading up to the light tower to find that no one has been up there for years, and he thanks the ghost of the lighthouse keeper, who, according to the caption, is now at peace. In the backup, Barbara Gordon and Jason Bard go to see a play, and end up foiling an assassination attempt during the show. With only minimal clues, Barbara runs off to follow a hunch.

This issue reprints 2 non-superhero related detective stories: one from World’s Finest 66 (Sep-Oct 1953), and one from Strange Adventures 83 (Aug 1957).

Review: This was not the best of months. The Flash story was weird, mostly due to the fact that Flash stayed invisible the whole time for no reason. The Elongated Man story was fun and enjoyable, and had some beautiful Dick Giordano art. The JLA/JSA story was just “meh.” This is the 2nd JLA/JSA crossover during this read-through, and so far I am underwhelmed. The Two-Face story in Batman was disappointing. This was O’Neil and Adams bringing back one Batman’s oldest villains. I was expecting some kind of psychological drama, and instead I read a very straightforward, cookie-cutter story. If you are interested in a more of a psychological drama, check out the stories in Batman Adventures, Batman & Robin Adventures, or Batman: Gotham Adventures. They are great. Anyway, the Robin backup story was just kind of boring.

The Superman story was enjoyable, and it feels like we’re ramping up towards a big conclusion, but I may feel this way because I’ve read it before and know what to expect. I will complain that O’Neil keeps hopping between Metropolis and New York like they are the same city. He does better with the GL/GA story, which was pretty good, but could not live up to all the hype that has been built around it after more than 45 years. Interesting that while they were allowed to show drugs and paraphernalia, they couldn’t use any drug names. Also, while being shown as a bad thing for the whole issue, the dope that GL and GA were forced to inhale seems to have fixed Ollie’s arm, which was injured during his mugging and apparently no longer needed to be wrapped and in a sling after the heroes came down from their high.

The story in Action was entertaining, but after reading Superman, and then the GL/GA story, Action seems to still be stuck in the late Silver Age, although they did show a guy dying in a helicopter crash. Same thing with the backup. I look forward to this book catching up with the others. The Batman story in Detective was a good, solid story, typical of most of the stories from this period, even if it was another story with a mystical element. The Batgirl story didn’t have much to it. It was basically all one scene. I’m guessing this will be a 3-parter like the Robin story, but I’m not looking ahead to find out.

My favorite this month would probably be the Superman story, and I only pick that over the drug issue because the Superman story was allowed to be fun due to the subject matter.

Next month, the big Superman story concludes with a final showdown between Superman and the Sand Creature. Also, unless it is delayed due to Adams’ inability to do a monthly book for very long, we get GA angry at Roy and slapping him around a bit, and then Roy going through withdrawals.

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: July 1971

Another mostly magically, mystical month in the DCU. After being stuck in a snow storm, Diana and I-Ching, along with some escaped convicts, take shelter in a mysterious inn. Meanwhile, Superman, who just isn’t as affective with the lower power levels, accepts an offer of help from I-Ching, who offers to uses the mystic arts to try to heal him. In the process, he receives a blow to the head which will have repercussions fairly soon.
Superboy technically gets a new sister when Martha’s childhood friend dies in a car crash, leaving her daughter in the Kents’ care until her father can return from out of the country to get her. Shenanigans ensue. Meanwhile, the Legion try to figure out how to stop a criminal with the same powers as Invisible Kid. In Action, Superman figures out the secret to the “Indian magic” that is removing his powers, and discovers the real reason why Haldine refuses to stop construction on the sacred land. In the backup, Superman and Supergirl hate each other and use their powers to fight over possession of the Fortress of Solitude. Over in Detective, Batman solves the mystery behind the “haunted” town of Phantom Hollow while also dealing with the social issue of tolerance. And Batgirl closes the case of the skull crushing wigs.

The Wonder Woman story was actually pretty good, although being stuck in a snow storm in an issue published in late spring/early summer is ironic. Also, I got a chuckle over the novelist trying to impress and “protect” Diana, and she hardly seemed to notice him. Denny O’Neil’s year-long Superman story begins it’s final phase with this issue, beginning the setup for the finale. Interestingly, this is the only non-team up book to acknowledge the Wonder Woman is still part of the DCU. The Superboy story was interesting, although the title is misleading. I thought the Kents were going to adopt another kid or something, not basically play babysitter. The Legion story was cliché, and I’m not a fan of the George Tuska art, but Invisible Kid trying to figure out how to defeat himself was somewhat interesting.

So, the mysterious “Indian magic” at the end of last month’s Action story was not magic at all, but the explanation of it makes sense. The plot twist with Haldine, however, came right out of nowhere. And, I highly doubt the government would give back land with all the treasure under it, I’m sorry to say. The backup was pretty good though, as both characters realize that they used to like each other and don’t understand the reason for their hate. The only problem is that Superman performs 2 super-feats off panel that should be pretty impossible given the setup. Guess that’s how you write yourself out of a corner. The Detective issue was just bleh all around. The Batman story was boring and the Batgirl story didn’t really hold my interest. Also, Don Heck is inking his own pencils on the Batgirl story, so the are there has taken a dip as well.

Another short but interesting month. Nothing really spectacular, but almost no real complaints either. On to August…

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: June 1971

This month, Superboy’s soul is separated from his body, leaving his body useless and his soul stuck being a child’s genie. In JLA, we learn about the dangers of dumping our trash in the oceans in a story that is in no way subtle about it’s preaching. Meanwhile Flash is missing, and when Batman finds him, it looks like he’s been through the ringer, which apparently sets up next month’s JLA/JSA team up. In an unrelated story in The Flash, Sargon the Sorcerer (Golden Age hero turned Silver/Bronze Age villain) uses his limited magical abilities to force Flash to retrieve his magic ruby, which will fully restore is powers. He succeeds, but ends up sacrificing his relationship with his niece in the process. Also, Kid Flash helps out a speedster who is actually of a species that lives beneath the earth’s surface.  In Superman, our hero deal with a terrorist threatening to destroy the earth with a hydrogen bomb, while also dealing with vastly reduced powers. Also, we learn home Krypton got it’s name. In Batman, The Dark Knight meets Ra’s Al Ghul, and they travel around the globe to save Robin and Talia, who have been kidnapped. In GL/GA, our heroes have to contend with an entire town that is being mind controlled by one of Green Lantern’s super villains. In Action, Superman secretly helps a Native American tribe get rid of a government missile testing facility built on their sacred land, but when it doesn’t work out quite right, Superman is seen as a villain, and taken hostage after they use magic to remove his powers. In the backup, the town of Masonville is evacuated when Superman accidentally triggers an unstable meteor that has crash landed and could blow up the entire town if he moves. Everyone escapes except for a crippled orphan who is willing to sacrifice himself (see, the longer Superman waits to detonate the explosive, the bigger the boom will be). Can Superman save the kid without breaking his code against killing? In Detective, Bruce Wayne’s uncle is near death, and has requested the presence of all remaining Waynes for the reading of the will once he passes. But the castle he lives in is haunted, and Batman must save his relatives from an untimely demise. Also, Batgirl has to figure out the mystery of wigs that will crush your skull in.

A lot of mystical stories this month. It is kind of fitting for when I’m reading these books (October 2017), but not really for when the issues came out (release dates: April/May 1971). Superboy kind of tries to get around it thanks to using science to enhance the mysticism. The JLA issue could not have been more preachy if it was a special one-shot created in collaboration with some anti-pollution group to help spread their message (like DC did with the government for Kennedy’s exercise programs, Nancy Reagan’s War on Drugs, etc). Also, since when does Bruce still have living relatives? How did he not get shipped off to one of them when his parents died?

It was interesting to see Neal Adams’ work inked by Bernie Wrightson in GL/GA. Unfortunately, the quality varied from looking great to looking sketchy. I wonder if this had anything to do with Adams’ being notoriously slow and Wrightson having to deal with deadline pressures. It never really looks bad, just inconsistant.

My favorite stories were the Superman and Batman stories by O’Neil. The only gripe is the way he has the heroes treat their (for lack of a better word) sidekicks. Batman refers to Robin as “kid” and his dialog with Robin reads as less than someone concerned about his ward. Superman seems kind of nasty to Lois, but without any scenes of them being nice to each other to balance it out. As much as John Byrne is criticized for writing a Lois that Superman shouldn’t be in love with, O’Neil writes a Superman that Lois shouldn’t be in love with.

And poor Batgirl. The last 2 issues have had her in the dark world of fashion, and now she’s in the world of those who wear wigs, which apparently was a big thing in 1971. I don’t know, because that was 9 years before I was born. Is there nothing else for female characters to deal with besides these crimes? She lives in Gotham City for crying out loud.

Next month, a combination of reprint only issues and this being an odd month mean that there won’t be as many issues to read. But I can already see, just be looking at the covers, that we’re getting more mystical horror again. Sigh!

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: May 1971

This month, Wonder Woman basically adapts “The Prince and the Pauper” except with a princess so that Diana can be the shlub. The irony is that she is actually a princess herself, so this is actually “The Princess and the other Princess,” but this fact is never actually brought up. Over in The Flash, 2 different people live through accidents that end up killing their loved ones, so some aliens offer to bring them back, but only if they trade their lives for their loved ones’. They agree, and are given 24 hours to put things in order, which also gives them 24 hours of immortality. They use their time to help people, so The Flash steps in to prevent the aliens from claiming any of the lives by showing the full potental of the human race. Along the way, he tackles the social issue of forest fires. Meanwhile, Elongated Man returns to take on Mirror Master. Justice League of America introduces a character named Harlequin Ellis (can you guess who he’s based on?) who can create entire dream worlds with his writing. He uses this ability to try to win the love of Black Canary, but it doesn’t work out for him. In Batman, the Caped Crusader once again clashes with the Man With Ten Eyes, while Robin solves the mystery from last issue and Dick goes on a date. Over in Superman, the Man of Steel winds up as the carrier of a space virus, and the only cure he can find is contact with the Sand Creature. However, this severly reduces his powers, and he still has to save Lois and a pilot from a swarm of army ants. In Action, Superman is given custody of the son of a Nobel Prize winner when the prize winner dies, but the kid hates Superman. See, when Superman saved the kid from one of his father’s experiments that had gone out of control, he was exposed to some strange gases that left him with the ability to temporarly transform into other living creatures. Superman offers to help him learn his powers, and calls him in to help on several emergencies, giving him the codename Changeling (sounds familiar…). Eventually, this leads to Superman taking the kid to see the Fortress, where the kid accidentally activates the disassemble feature on a satellite in space. While Superman’s dealing with that, a report comes in of a trapped sub that needs super-help. The kids uses his powers to become Superman, but his transformation time runs out before he completely finishes the rescue, allowing the water pressure to crush him, and Superman returns in time to finish the rescue and watch the kid turn to dust as he dies. This is followed by a story that takes place in the Bottle City of Kandor, but was so boring I couldn’t finish it. Over in Detective, Batman enters the Den of Death Dealers, meets Talia Al Ghul (who removes his cowl, but only vaguely reconizes his face), and finally comes face to face with Doctor Daark, who is killed when a shot from Talia causes him to fall onto train tracks right in front of an oncoming train. Finally, Batgirl manages to survive her death trap from last issue, and then is released by one of the fashion guys who believes that murder is going too far. She then follows the his “friends” to the cruise ship of the injured fashion guru, arriving just in time to prevent her death. The story ends with the guru not making a decision about skirt length, but instead designing an incredibly ugly outfit based on Batgirl’s costume.

Okay, first off, I just want to say that the back-up stories this month were entirely forgetable. The Robin and Batgirl stories are hampered by the fact that all of them have been 2-parters so you are literally only getting half of a story, and aren’t memorable enough to recall what had happened the previous issue. I liked the Elongated Man story when I read it, but I almost forgot to include it with the Flash summary. And don’t even get me started on the Kandor story. Ugh!

As for the main stories: After taking 1 step forward last issue, I feel like Wonder Woman took a half step back by adapting a rather famous story. The art wasn’t terrible though. Thank goodness for Dick Giordano’s inking! The Flash was a good sci-fi type story with some great art. Irv Novick’s art looks drastically different with Murphy Anderson inks. The JLA story was pretty ho-hum. Apparently, Harlan Ellison was given a copy of the script, and actually gave permission to use his actual name, but the decision was made to keep the fake name. I don’t know how true that is, but as much as I wasn’t impressed by this story, I hope it is followed up on at some point. The guy can create entire dreamscapes and bring other people into it, and Green Arrow and Black Canary just let him walk off at the end. Also, this was also an excuse for Mike Fredrich to use some write some very wordy captions. Hope he was paid by the word for this one. The Batman story was a pretty good follow-up to a strange story (Alfred took Batman to an eye doctor, at night, with Bruce in full costume, and the doctor checking his eyes through the cowl), but is kind of lost amidst all this League of Assassin/Ra’s Al Ghul that Denny O’Neil has been doing. Speaking of which, this was my first time reading “Into the Den of Death Dealers” and it really feels like a prequel. Talia’s introduction is really low-key and she does name drop her father, but this issue’s assassins seem to be from one of the low level classes considering how easily Batman dispatches them (although they did kill their intended target). And Doctor Daark did not live up to the hype. The Superman issue was not my favorite from this run, but it does move the Sand Creature plot forward, and we get the first significant weakening of Superman. I’m not sure why the virus is so selective. Superman spends time in a hospital, and Clark spends time with people in the TV studio, and no one is affected. I’m also not sure bathing in radiation was a good idea either before going back to work. Maybe a trip through the sun would have been safer, all things considered. But the main story over in Action does not live up to the “anniversary issue” hype. It was literally just another silver-age story, which is even more noticable compared to the stuff happening over in Superman.

Next month: I have no idea. I’m not looking ahead to make the experience more authentic.