DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: November 1971

Autumn 1971: kids return to school, football starts, baseball ends, and National Periodicals continues pumping out comics.

Batman 236: In yet another, somewhat mystical story by Frank Robbins, the ghost of the victim of an unsolved murder from the 1930s calls Batman into action. Batman manages to solve the murder and arrests both the murderer, and his accomplice. But, he refuses to believe he saw a ghost, instead crediting his sense of Justice and his imagination for urging him on. In the backup, Robin helps the commune fight the fire, then heads to town to get more help. Eventually, the National Guard is called in to snuff out the fire, leaving Robin free to go after Whalon, who he quickly takes down.

This issue reprints a story from Batman 30 (Aug/Sep 1945).

The Flash 210: Barry and Iris head to 2971 to visit her parents, and for Iris to help set up a news outlet. They are quickly met with news that John Wilkes-Booth has just killed President Lincoln, which has Flash run off to investigate. While Iris keeps an eye on things with orbiting news cameras, Flash follows the killer, saves Lincoln (who survived due to his own ingenuity), and arrests the big man behind it all. In the backup, Elongated Man is called into action to help a magician, forced to help with a robbery in order to ensure the safety of his kidnapped daughter. Also, the first Bronze Age appearance of Sue Dibny.

This issue reprints story from The Flash 111 (Feb/Mar 1960).

Justice League of America 94: The Sensei, head of the League of Assassins, sends Merlyn (archery villain) to kill one of the members of the Justice League. While Batman, Green Arrow, and Aquaman dodge one assassin, Merlyn takes out Superman and Atom. We eventually learn that Batman is the target, and he ends up being the one in the least amount of danger of dying. Also, Deadman had taken over Aquaman to help, but didn’t really do much. And while The Sensei vows to kill Batman, some of the other Leaguers apparently teleport up to the satellite, but never arrive.

This issue reprints the first Sandman tale from Adventure Comics (Jul 1939), and the first Starman tale from Adventure Comics 61 (Apr 1941).

Superman 244: A being of electrical energy, that also puts off a purple aura of quark energy, attacks Metropolis, and it is strong enough to knock Superman around. After several tussles, involving Superman saving the WGBS building, a transmission station, and a nuclear reactor, Superman realizes it is somehow tied to WGBS’ news super-computer network. When he gets to the main hub, he’s able to shut down the system, and stop the “Electronic Ghost.”

This issue reprints the debut of Superman 2965 from Superman 181 (Nov 1965), and a Captain Comet story from Strange Adventures 34 (Jul 1953).

Superboy 179: Superboy comes to in Lincoln City, which has been destroyed. The survivors blame him for the destruction, and melt whenever he gets near them. He doesn’t remember anything that happened, but quickly learns that Luthor is behind it all. Then, another Superboy shows up to confront Luthor, and we learn that this is the real Superboy and that the teen we’ve been following, and the survivors, were all advanced androids built by Luthor. The Android Superboy sacrifices himself to save the real steel deal, and Luthor goes back to juvie. In the backup, Superboy saves a “city” of outcasts from being driven out, and their homes destroyed.

This issue reprints a tale from Superboy 92 (Oct 1961).

Action Comics 406: Clark is sent to do a story on a commune, and ends up meeting its leader, a bearded man with amazing abilities. Eventually, he learns that this man is actually a Kandorian, who is sent back to the bottle city after he’s exposed. In the backup, we have a man who used alchemy to become immortal back in 1665, but this also caused anyone around him to get sick. He spent over 300 years locked alone in the Tower of London, and Superman inadvertently helps him finally die.

This issue reprints the first half of a Flash/Atom team-up in Brave and the Bold 53 (Apr/May 1964).

Adventure Comics 412: After investigating a fake Supergirl who has been committing crimes, the real Supergirl (wearing a new costume without any explanation) ends up going to another planet to help a young couple (the current rulers) stay in power when they are challenged by an evil would-be dictator.

This issue reprints the first appearances Animal Man in Strange Adventures 180 (Sep 1965).

Detective Comics 417: Jan Paxton is a reporter who writes about people by living their lives for a night. He’s been a wrestler, the Gotham City Police Commissioner, and now he wants to be Batman. Even though Batman finds valid reasons to not allow it (too emotional, and threatens a guy with a gun), he allows the reporter to go out in costume. But it isn’t until his sister is killed in a robbery that Paxton learns what really drives Batman. In the backup, Batgirl manages to save her father, but accidentally calls him “Dad” in the process. She then pretends to be the fake Batgirl to learn who the real cop-killer is, and Gordon shows up to make the arrest. The story ends with Gordon wondering if Babs will ever tell him that she is Batgirl.

This issue reprints an Alfred story from Batman 31 (Oct/Nov 1945), and a story from Gangbusters 49 (Dec/Jan 1956).

This was a strange month. Once again I am reminded how Frank Robbins’ Batman seems very much like the Silver Age Batman in slightly darker, less jovial, stories. His story in Batman was alright, but the Batman story in Detective was seriously messed up. Batman only tested Paxton’s fighting prowess, and still found a good reason to not let him go out as Batman, but still allowed him to anyway. Then Mason picks up a gun, giving Batman another very good reason to shut him down, but he still allows him a second night as Batman. Not a fan of this story at all. The 3-part Robin story ended pretty satisfactorily, as did the 2-part Batgirl story, although Don Heck’s art in the latter one really took a step back from last month.

The Flash story was weird, and I felt like I was missing something. We’ve only seen Barry and/or Iris venture to the future twice to see her family, but here they are well known. Flash is well known enough that they know his powers, and that he’s married to Iris. The only thing I can figure is that this was Cary Bates’ first time with a Flash story in the future, so maybe he was confused. Also, the gimmick to have Lincoln in the future makes me think the cover came first, and Bates wrote a story to fit the cover. The Elongated Man story was good, and it was nice to finally see Sue this time.

The JLA story was pretty good, but I really cannot wait for Joe Giella to leave for other assignments. His ink work is really holding the artwork back in the Silver Age while to stories are trying to move forward. This issue emphasizes it thanks to a few pages of Neal Adams art, and the use of the League of Assassins in the story. Also, the cliffhanger kind of has me confused because it looked like the JLAers down on Earth couldn’t use the transporter, but when Superman flies up to check on things in the satellite, Black Canary acts like they did use it, but never arrived. Hopefully this will be explained next issue, but i won’t hold my breath. On the other hand, while I am kind of enjoying the way the stories keep flowing from issue to issues, I’m sure it creates a huge headache for those to worry about chronological continuity.

Denny O’Neil is still writing Superman, although it seemed like the difficulties he said he had while trying to write Superman stories were coming through a bit here. I liked the story, but it felt a bit padded. Then again, there are no ongoing subplots, or new concepts to introduce, so there was less stuff to fill the pages with. I am still amazed at how quickly Clark has gone from newspaper reporter, to TV field reporter, to news anchorman. It’s been less than a year in real time since Superman 233, so it has probably been even less time in-continuity. Also, it appears that Lois has also started doing some WGBS work as well. The Action stories were not as good. Actually, the backup was okay, but the lead story was not great, and at one point Superman acts way out of character when the Kandorians ask for help to repair their census machine. I don’t really have any complaints about the art, although there were a few instances of Superman striking some weird poses during take-offs and landings.

Superboy has been disappointing, especially since Leo Dorfman took over as writer. The main story sounds a lot more interesting in concept than it is in execution, and the backup ended too abruptly and neatly. The Supergirl story wasn’t bad, but it would have been nice to acknowledge that she’s wearing a different costume than she was wearing the last 2 issues. And considering how close that costume was to the costume she will be wearing for most of the Bronze Age, this change was surprising.

Overall, this was an okay month. Not terrible, but nothing great. Next month is the last month with a 1971 cover date. Hopefully it ushers ‘71 out with a bang.

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: October 1971

Another lighter month (lighter based on the number of books, not subject matter), and, unfortunately, quite a step down from last months offerings.

Superman 243: Returning to Earth from a mission in deep space, Superman is drawn back in time to an alien world where he’s basically forced to help a couple reconnect. The aliens have evolved to Super-intelligent brains, but the female wants a body again. In the back up, we learn the origins of the mysterious green mists that make up the Trails of Trolius.

This issue reprints the infamous “Battle of the Atoms” story from Superman 38 (Jan/Feb 1946).

Superboy 178: Superboy’s career is in jeopardy when he keeps transforming into giant animals and causing destruction during super-rescues. It turns out to be a movie producer using red Kryptonite on Superboy to make a monster movie. More on this below. In the backup, Superbaby meets a young boy named Gary, who just so happens to be a witch. They bond quickly thanks to both having special powers, and inadvertently help the police capture 2 escaped cons.

This issue reprints a Legion story from Adventure Comics 320 (May 1964).

Action Comics 405: In an imaginary story that takes place in the near future, Superman is called when the President of the United States receives a death threat from someone calling himself Maserpun. By trading places with the President, Superman is able thwart the assassination, but is unable to learn who was behind it all. In the backup, a bug is planted on Clark, who eventually has to go into action as Superman to prevent a ship from an anti-matter universe from making contact with anything in our universe. Fortunately, the bug only picks up audio, and the anti-matter aliens spoke to Superman telepathically, so, once Clark learns of the bug, he’s able to pass it off as watching a video of Superman doing super-feats.

This issue reprints Vigilante tale from Action Comics 192 (May 1954), and an Aquaman tale from Adventure Comics 206 (Nov 1954).

Detective Comics 416: While working to destroy everything associated with his Man-Bat formula in his museum lab, a combination of a new sonic-bone scrubber and a full moon, cause Kirk Langstrom to once again transform into Man-Bat. Fortunately, Batman is eventually able to get him to take a stronger version of the antidote, and he reverts back to human form. In the backup, Commissioner Gordon is looking for a cop killer, but a fake Batgirl appears to be leading him to the wrong guy. Meanwhile, the real Batgirl is trying to prevent her father from making a terrible mistake.

This issue reprints a Rex the Wonder Dog tale from Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog 3 (May/Jun 1952), and a Casebook Mystery from Gang Busters 30 (Oct/Nov 1952).

Adventure Comics 411: An alien comes to San Francisco, and we get a story about the social issue of judging someone based on their looks. Oh, and we also get men telling a Super-powered, Kryptonian woman how much better they are than her due to their manliness. Sigh!

This issue reprints a Legion of Superheroes story from Adventure Comics 337 (Oct 1965), and a non-superhero tale from Star Spangled War Stories 18 (Feb 1954).

Green Lantern 86: This is the story I️ thought we’d get last month, but Green Lantern isn’t a monthly title yet, so we skipped last month. Anyway, after Ollie puts on his Green Arrow costume and slaps Roy around a bit, he heads out to stop the dealers and supplier from last issue. Green Lantern eventually helps Ollie, while Roy goes through withdrawals with only Dinah to comfort him. In the end, the heroes win, Roy has kicked his habit and heads off take down more of this drug organization. I️ should also point out that this issue also shows one of Roy’s junkie friends shoot up, overdose, and die in a span of 2 pages.

This issue reprints a Golden Age Green Lantern story from All-American Comics 92 (Dec 1947).

Like I️ said above, this month just did not measure up to last month. The Superman issue was okay, but nothing great. The Superboy story should not have worked because of the established properties of Red Kryptonite (unpredictable, only affects a kryptonian once, etc), but Leo Dorfman has made similar mistakes before (lead blocking super-hearing for one). These Superbaby stories are kind of predictable at this point. Clark uses his powers when he shouldn’t, and inadvertently stops some bad guys without anyone realizing it was him.
Action was pretty good this month though. The main story was imaginary (aren’t they all?), and involved Superman being driven crazy, but the mystery behind it, and the tension it created, had be glued to this story. The backup did not have a great premise, but executed it well.
I’m currently at a point in my life where I️ kinda like Frank Robbins art (I️ used to really dislike it), and his women look especially good, but with this issue, it becomes apparent that it was Neal Adams’ art that made the previous Man-Bat stories enjoyable for me. As for the Batgirl backup, the tension of the story really grabbed me. Something tells me that Gordon will somehow see through the ruse, but Batgirl running into trouble while trying to help her father was fun (if you aren’t Batgirl).
Supergirl’s story started off somewhat interesting, and then plummeted into bad pretty quickly. Just a pointless, depressing story. the GL/GA story was also devoid of happiness, other than Roy being able to kick his drug addiction. Watching the one kid OD was quite an experience, and O’Neil actually made a pretty good argument for why people turn to drugs. It was kinda of nice to see Ollie not have all the answers for once.

Here’s hoping that November of 1971 is more consistently enjoyable.

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: September 1971

Another month o’ fun from the folks at National Publications!

Wonder Woman 196: Diana spends most of the issue protecting an ambassador from assassination attempts, then has to take him down when it is revealed that he is an assassin in disguise (the real ambassador has already been killed) with plans to assassinate the President.

This issue reprints Wonder Woman’s first appearance in All-Star Comics 8 (Dec/Jan 1941), and an completed but unpublished story from the Golden Age.

Superboy 177: Superboy has the Kents jailed when they are threatened by a villain named Cerebron, who is actually Luthor is disguise. In the back up, After helping Lana and Professor Lang out of a cave in, he helps them with their archeological discovery (the remains and accessories of an ancient Egyptian wizard). After Superboy opens a sarcophagus and unleashes the “Curse of a Thousand Deaths,” which pretty much kills everyone in Smallville in less than an hour, he uses another one of the wizard’s magical objects to turn back time an hour (not travel back in time, but actually turn back time), and opens the sarcophagus in space where no one can be hurt.

This issue reprints a Legion story from Adventure Comics 320 (May 1964).

Superman 242: After a powerless Superman has surgery to repair his brain damage, he and the Sand-Superman work together to stop the Quarrmer inhabiting the Chinese warrior statue. They are then show a vision of what could happen if the 2 Supermen fought, which causes the Sand-Superman to renounce his powers and head back to Quarrm. As for Superman he’s seen what can happen if you have too much power, and decides to remain at roughly half power. This does last beyond the final page of this story.

This issue reprints Superman tale from Superman 96 (Mar 1955), and a non-superhero take from Strange Adventure 54 (Mar 1955).

The Flash 209: After Flash “dies” battling Captain Boomerang and The Trickster, Gorilla Grodd threatens to end them as well. Meanwhile, Flash’s soul is actually in the unknown area between life and death and traveling at the speed of life (not a typo). He’s been pulled there by The Sentinel to defeat The Devourer, which he manages to do. He then returns to the normal world, and makes short work of Grodd and the other 2 villains. In the backup, Wally’s ring is accidentally switched with the ring of the smartest kid in school, who just so happens to be planning to use the knockout gas in his ring to take down a mob boss and his crew. Unfortunately, when he goes to release the gas, the Kid-Flash costume comes out instead. Fortunately, the mis-coloring of the costume causes enough confusion for Kid-Flash to take them all out at Super-speed, wearing a similarly mis-colored backup costume.

This issue reprints a Flash tale, co-starring Elongated Man, from The Flash 119 (Mar 1961)

Justice League of America 92: After basically getting their rear ends handed to them by Solomon Grundy, the JLA and JSA retreat to regroup. Meanwhile, the alien and his pet are getting closer to death, while elsewhere the Robins complain to each other about how the older heroes treat them, and decide to show them what they can do. The heroes converge on the dying alien, and the Robins are able to get Alan Scott’s GL ring from him. While the Earth-1 Hawkman returns it to its owner, the Robins realize that the alien is dying and suggest bringing the alien pet over to Earth-2 to see what happens if they are together. While the two GLs work together to stop Grundy and keep him trapped in Slaughter Swamp, the alien and his pet are reunited, restoring both to full health. Their rejuvenated life energies allow the alien’s buddies to track him and his pet down, and they are able to retrieve them and head home.

This issue reprints a story of Barry Allen as a one-man JLA in The Flash 158 (Feb 1966), and a villain becoming, basically, and one-man Injustice League long before that was actually a thing in Mystery in Space 29 (Dec/Jan 1956).

Batman 235: One of Ra’s Al Ghul’s scientists has developed a special compound, but it turns out that prolonged exposure to the air turns it into a deadly plague. The scientist is on the run from Ra’s, Talia is after the scientist because she thinks he’s killed Ra’s, and Batman has been brought in by Ra’s to stop them both. In the backup, Robin joins the commune, earning their trust, and convincing them to allow him to take the cop-shooter into custody. The criminal runs off however, and starts a brushfire in the surrounding woods.

This issue reprints a double-sized Batman & Robin story from Detective Comics 329 (Jul 1964).

Action Comics 404: Clark is assigned to do a story on a local science institute, but an Earthquake while en route is a job for Superman. While making sure everyone and the institute is okay, Superman is introduced to their super-smart genius who is also one of Superman’s biggest fans. The genius tricks Superman into a device to siphon Superman’s powers into his body so he can rule the world. Superman’s powers are too much for a human body to handle, and not only are Superman’s powers returned to him, but the process also leaves the genius as a vegetable. In the backup, back in his Metropolis University Days, we learn how Clark showed a fraternity how dangerous hazing can be.

This issue reprints an Atom take from The Atom 5 (Feb/Mar 1963), and an Aquaman tale from Adventure Comics 220 (Jan 1956).

Adventure Comics 410: while apartment hunting, Supergirl has to save a man named Mike from bird people. Later, while Linda is on a date with Mike, the bird people return, taking them to their native island. The bird people were natives that were experimented on by Mike and the scientist he was assisting. They also stole a gem from the natives, but the scientist died in the process. Mike helps Linda escape, she changes to Supergirl to save him, but her powers fade out and she is knocked out, so he has to save her. While she’s out, he reveals that he still has the gem, and knows that Linda and Supergirl are one, and he runs off. In the backup, Supergirl is look for Mike and has to stop a giant gorilla from a nearby circus. Supergirl meets and befriends an alien girl with powers, but it turns out she has been sent to kill the Girl of Steel. However, due to Supergirl’s kindness, the girl refuses, and has her powers taken away. Meanwhile, her boss was watching too closely in his ship, and gets blown out of the sky by the military.

This issue reprints a Legion take from Adventure Comics 326 (Nov 1964).

Detective Comics 415: Batman prevents an assassination, and while investigating ends up uncovering an extortion racket as well. In the backup, while Batgirl follows the physical evidence from last issues assassination attempt, Jason Bard focuses on the killer’s voice, and both end up confronting the killer together.

This issue reprints a tale starring Mysto: Magician Detective from Detective Comics 211 (Sep 1954), and a story from Gangbusters 54 (Oct/Nov 1956).

This was one of the best months so far in my opinion. This is Mike Sekowsky’s last issue as editor on Wonder Woman, and he only writes one more, but the book has been going in the right direction lately by allowing her to actually be the hero in her own book. Hopefully this continues with the new creators coming in. Superboy was okay but not great. At least he learned a lesson in carelessness in the 2nd story. I liked the Superman story, although it did seem a bit rushed. It was nice to see the rogues return to the pages of The Flash, and I found Cary Bates’ first Flash story to be quite refreshing. The Kid Flash story was pretty good too, although, as I mentioned above, his costume is miscolored throughout the entire story, giving him yellow pants and red boots rather than red pants and yellow boots. Still not a fan of the JLA story, so I’m glad it is finally over, but it does leave us with an interesting cliffhanger for next issue. Denny O’Neil’s Batman story shows he really likes Ra’s Al Ghul, as these stories have been the best ones he has written. However, I hope we get a short break so there is no risk of over-exposure. The Robin story was better than I had feared. The commune members were trusting of Robin, and came around to allowing the arrest fairly quickly. Interesting that Superman’s powers would be siphoned away in Action the same month he gave away half his power in Superman. Either way, he’ll be back to 100% next month. I’ve decided to add Adventure Comics now that Mike Sekowsky is not on Supergirl anymore (not a fan of his work on the title), and found it to be somewhat enjoyable. I hope this temporary power loss thing goes away pretty quickly though. I did like how the backup picked up where the main story ended though. Frank Robbins’ Batman story in Detective was good, but he writes a very different Batman than O’Neil. This was one of his best stories though, and could easily have been adapted to the Animated Series. The Batgirl story was fun, in that it shows her and Jason solving the same case 2 different ways.

Here’s hoping next month is good too!