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.