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This issue reprints Wonder Woman’s first appearance in All-Star Comics 8 (Dec/Jan 1941), and an completed but unpublished story from the Golden Age.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

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: December 1970

This month, Superboy has to work to keep his secret identity a secret when the Kents have a houseguest. Then he accidentally goes to the past and saves the life of Attila the Hun as a child, insinuating that if he’d known who it was, he wouldn’t have saved him. Hmm… Anyway, Batman tries to prevent Alfred’s niece from being sacrificed, while Robin deals with some political shenanigans at Hudson U. Flash heads out west to save Iris on assignment in LA, and Kid Flash takes on an evil ancient spirit inhabiting the bodies of innocent people. Green Lantern and Green Arrow’s “hard traveling heroes” story comes to an end while also shedding some light on the social issue of overpopulation. The Justice League stars in another socially relevant story in which they have to stop all of the Earth’s plankton from being stolen and sent to another planet suffering from pollution. Despite the cover, Superman does not meet at woman who is mightier than him. He does however meet a warrior woman from another planet who he falls in love with. Also, Supergirl uses hypnosis to try an experiment on Superman without him knowing. And finally Batman works to stop the League of Assassins from killing another shipping magnate, while Batgirl tried to find out who bombed a Gotham building.

Overall not a bad month. I’m noticing a growing amount of protesting, and stories about pollution, which makes sense for this era. And mystic stuff too. Next month, a new era of Superman begins!