DC Comics Bronze Age Read-through Project: January 1972

Superman questions his existence, Superboy meets Jules Verne, and Batman solves a murder. All this, and more, in the comics cover-dated January 1972.

Superman 247: A giant cluster of yellow seed pods are hurtling through space, threatening disaster to any planet it makes contact with. Since Green Lantern rings are powerless against yellow, the Guardians of the Universe declare that this is a job for Superman. To solve this problem, Superman basically creates a planet for the pods make contact with, but due to red solar energy in the area, this really wears down Superman to the point that he blacks out. While recovering in the Power Battery on Oa, the Guardians implant in his mind that he may be holding humanity back by always saving them. Fully recovered, he heads back to Earth, where he spots a child about to be beaten. Turns out the kid refuses to work because of the poor working and living conditions provided by his employer, and the employer was about to make an example of him. Superman, angered that the rest of the workers are suddenly also really to stand up to their boss now that he is there, begins to explain that they need to take care of themselves and not rely on others to do it for them, but since it has been several pages since Superman did something super, an earthquake hits. After working to limit the earthquake, he is then kind of forced to rebuild their homes, but finishes his speech anyway. And in the backup, the first “Private Life of Clark Kent,” Clark manages to talk some gang members out of killing a police officer.

This issue reprints a Superman 2966 story from Action Comics 338 (Jun 1966).

Superboy 181: While tearing down a building in Metropolis, a large metal box is found that no one can open, so Superboy is called in to lend a hand. Inside is Jules Verne, in a time machine of his creation. Since his writings have inspired so much of more modern technology, Superboy takes him on a tour of various top secret military installations to see the latest developments. Glad to see that he has made such a contribution to the future, Verne decides its time to head home and his time machine disappears in a cloud of smoke. It is later revealed that Verne was actually a secret agent in disguise, and the US was testing Superboy due to him having such a high level clearance. They think he’s failed since he showed “Jules” all those secrets and allowed him to take pics, but various clues, such as clothing that was too modern, allowed Superboy to figure things out for himself, and he used his x-ray vision to fog the film before “Jules” tried to head home. In the backup, Lana dreams about being married to Superboy once he’s a Superman, and how she’d make him get a real job, such as a salesman. But his morals wouldn’t allow him to be a very good salesman, so she decides it might not be a good idea to marry the Teen of Steel.

This issue reprints a Legion if Superheroes story from Adventure Comics 355 (April 1967).


Action Comics 408: The Argo project is a series a space flights to send 1 man to the moon, rather than a team like in the Apollo missions. The current mission was returning to Earth but has just mysteriously stopped in space for no apparent reason. With only 8 hours of oxygen left, Superman is called in to save the astronaut. However, a strange mental compulsion prevents him from going out to the space capsule, or even check on it with telescopic vision. After ridicule from the public, and a second failed attempt, Superman decides to build a ship to take him to the scene. This succeeds and he learns the astronaut is caught in some sort of energy warp that is causing him to evolve rapidly, and it was his new mental powers that kept Superman from rescuing him. After the astronaut uses his new powers to clear Superman’s name, Superman makes his rescue. In the backup, taking place back in Clark’s college days, the younger Superman is exposed to some artificially created bacteria. To keep others from becoming infected, he has to wear a special suit for 24 hours, including using a rubber mask and rubber gloves to mimic his face and hands when he’s Clark.

This issue reprints an Atom story from The Atom 9 (Oct/Nov 1963).

Adventure Comics 414: A new villain calling himself Vortex uses a tornado to steal a building. Supergirl investigates and learns that he is doing this for revenge against the owner of the building. Supergirl steps in and takes down Vortex. In the 2nd Supergirl story, little Judy, the little alien girl from a few issues ago, is kidnapped, and the kidnappers also discover that Linda is Supergirl. They use Judy to blackmail Supergirl into committing crimes for them, but eventually Supergirl finds the kidnappers. But before she can confront them, they are basically killed by Judy’s grandparents who have come to retrieve their granddaughter. After a heartfelt goodbye, things go back to normal. In the backup, Zatanna and Jeff, her manager, escape from the warriors and find the dimensional portal they can use to get home. But the ensuing battle ends with Jeff being turned to stone, and the story ends with Zatanna crying in front of the portal.

This issue reprints an Animal Man story from Strange Adventures 184 (Jan 1966).

Detective Comics 419: A man is found drowned in the river, held underwater by several gold Batman statues. While the police investigate, Batman checks out the nearby Irish festival, and discovers that the murder was set up to keep Batman and the cops too busy to deal with a drug smuggling operation. In the backup, Batgirl has realized that the stepson is innocent of the stepfather’s murder due to the fact that the shooter’s glasses did not have lenses in them (therefore, they also didn’t reflect the muzzle flash that allowed Batgirl to see his face in the first place.) Batgirl helps the cops take down the real culprit, the stepfather’s bodyguard.

This issue reprints a Roy Raymond story from Detective Comics 213 (Nov 1945), and a story from Gangbusters 61 (Dec/Jan 1947).

I’m going to probably upset some people when I say that “Must There Be a Superman?” is not what I would consider a great story. It doesn’t really have any affect on future stories, and the main point of this story is rendered moot by an Earthquake (which even Superman points out). It is a good, well told story with great art, but I don’t see it as one of the best. The backup was not great either. For one thing, the ending a rushed, and rather unrealistic. Also, it wastes story space with Superman giving smoking a try (editorial mandate maybe?).

Man, the government went to a lot of work to test Superboy. Maybe it is due to my age and being jaded by knowledge of behind-the-scene politics (remember, this is pre-Watergate), but I just do not see government agents going to this much effort in real life. The Lana story was pretty pointless, although it was nice to see that the creators remember that she exists. But, like John Byrne’s take on Lois Lane, her characterization here makes me wonder why Superboy likes her.

The Action story was very frustrating. I don’t understand why Superman didn’t even attempt to tell people that he was mentally being stopped from making the rescue. I also don’t understand why it took him so long to make a second attempt. The backup was frustrating too, since Superman could have gone into the sun to burn off the bacteria, like he has done in the past and will do in the future.

The main Supergirl story was forgettable, and the backup story felt more like a “tying up of loose ends” type a story. And the kidnappers getting killed seemed a little extreme, especially since Supergirl just lets Judy’s grandparents get away with it. The Zatanna story was rather decent, and the ending was pretty shocking. Really enjoying Gray Morrow’s artwork too!

The Batman story in Detective was well crafted. Denny introduced several seemingly unrelated characters or events, and tied them all together beautifully. And while I am proud to say I figured out who the killer was as soon as he was introduced, the mystery of how and why played out really well. The Batgirl story was also good. They really had to play up Batgirl’s photographic memory for it, but it worked.

And thus ends another trip in the time bubble. Next month, thanks to issues cover dated February usually being released in December, there looks to be at least 1 Christmas story. Should be fun!

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: April 1971

Thanks to several reprint Giants, and not-yet-monthly publishing schedules, this is a light month. The ongoing story in Superman comes to a screeching halt so that Superman can enter a dream-state and fight villains that look like angels. Then he tells Black Canary and Green Arrow about a scientist who realized Krypton was going to blow up 20 years before Joe-El, but was ignored (like the people ignoring Earth’s pollution problem). Over in Superboy, Clark has to pretend some ambrosia has given him super-powers, and we are reminded of how petty Lana, and Smallville, can be. Then Superboy is called to the 30th Century to determine which Cosmic Boy is the real deal, and which one is a magical copy created be Mondru. In GL/GA, an weird old man uses a little girl with amazing powers to control an entire school, and it’s up to our heroes, plus Black Canary, to stop them. Also, Hal declares his love for Carol Ferris, who is engaged to the man who owns the school that has been taken over. Well done Hal! In Action, Superman learns that he’s actually the third Superman and that he’s dead, but it turns out that he has been shunted over to another Earth (Earth-AC399 if you will) where Superman is recreated/cloned every time he dies. The backup is a Superbaby story where the Kents take Clark to pseudo-Disneyland and he ends up taking down the infamous Connie and Hyde (not a typo). In Detective, Batman chases a criminal into the make-shift home of some circus-freaks, than has to solve a murder (this was mostly adapted into a Batman:TAS episode, but added Killer Croc). Meanwhile, Batgirl enters the dangerous world of fashion to fight espionage and murder!

This month was…okay. After Superman finally confronts, then we completely change gears with the angel story. The fact that this was by the same creative team adds to the frustration. Nothing much to say about the Krypton story. Another social issue story by Denny O’Neil. The main Superboy story makes everyone else look bad. Lana suddenly loves Clark (despite the embarrassing uniform she makes for him), the townspeople have him doing mundane things, and they demolish a Superboy statue for a Super-Clark statue. Then, when Clark pretends the ambrosia has worn off, they take down Clark’s statue and stitch the Superboy statue back together. And, Lana treats Clark like a loser again. The Legion story was good, probably my favorite of the month. The GL/GA story was frustrating. After suiting to stop the birds at the start of the story, why didn’t the heroes change back to their civvies before dropping Dinah off at the school? Way to protect those secret identities. Also, Hal and Carol seem to have forgotten about Carol’s engagement by the end of the story, despite her fiancè being part of the story. The Main Action story was one of the first Superman stories I ever read, so my rose-colored glasses cover up any flaws. Although, I’m not sure how Superman could believe at a solar project could kill him when he’s been in the heart of the sun without trouble before. The Superbaby story follows the usual formula of Superbaby using his powers to inadvertently do something good, but no one believe he exists. The main Detective story was fine, and had Batman showing off his detective skills (and challenging the reader), but was sort of boring, despite the Neal Adams art. The Batgirl story was a mix. I can see the behind-the-scenes stuff going on, but I don’t think a fashion designer’s decision over mini or maxi would make headline news.

Next month, all I know for certain is Superman returns to the Sand Creature story, and Batman takes on the League of Assassins again.

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: March 1971

March 1971: Aquaman saves Detroit from algae, but with a bit of a cliffhanger that won’t be resolved due to this being the final issue of the series (for now), although, they might have had room if it wasn’t for the pointless 2 page Aquagirl story. In Wonder Woman, she manages to play detective and find a guy before he makes a terrible mistake, all without the help of any men (finally!). In Superboy, the Teen of Steel goes up against an honest-to-goodness gorilla from Krypton. Then, the Legion makes its debut in this title with a quick recap of their origin, then tells how Lightning Lad and Light Lass’ brother became Lightning Lord, and got his white hair. In Superman, the Man of Steel has to deal with a man who keeps stealing his powers by using a magic harp, while also having to deal with being weakened by the Sand Creature. The cover to Batman makes it look like he’s going to deal with the Black Panthers or something, but instead it’s a misguided gang the Batman actually put together, that has no black members. Also, Robin deals with violence on campus. Over in Flash, Iris keeps keeps blurting out other people’s secrets without knowledge of doing so, including the identities of Barry and his fellow JLA members, and in the backup, Kid Flash has to keep the spirit of an Egyptian prince from inhabiting people. Speaking of the JLA, humans that apparently inhabited Earth before humans did (didn’t makes sense to me either) have returned to reclaim the planet. The JLA intervenes, but it’s actually 3 ordinary humans who save the day (even if 2 of them have no idea that any part of this story is actually taking place). Action Comics tells its own version of Clark moving from the Daily Planet to WGBS, then goes into a story about people being controlled by the music at various music festivals. The backup story involves Superman trying to save animals, and Supergirl, who have been turned into trees. But it turns out, they are only tree duplicates of whatever, or whomever, was near the tree as it grew. Also, Superman uses his x-ray vision in a way that makes no sense. Finally, in Detective, Batman takes on a guy who is damaging the paintings of a guy that he blames for a car accident that ruined his good looks. Meanwhile, Batgirl stops the man responsible for sabotaging matador’s career.

While Wonder Woman finally got a chance to shine without needing a man to help her, not all of the others heroes fared as well this month. The Batman stories were both subpar, with the one cover being completely misleading. Batgirl was a continuation from last month, and wasn’t bad, but I’m finding the Robin stories to be pretty bland and boring (and focusing on him saving the day despite being wrong a lot). The Aquaman story would have been better if the ending hadn’t been rushed, and ended on a cliffhanger, despite 2 extra pages for a pointless Aquagirl story. My only guess with that one is that they didn’t know it would be the last issue at the time. The Superman stories were pretty good, although the alternate take on Clark’s switch to TV news seemed redundant. And the backup was annoying because they had to through a pointless action scene in the middle of it that revolves around Superman using his x-ray vision to make the bad guys see each other as skeletons. That’s not how his x-ray vision works! Superboy introduces a new survivor of Krypton that is never seen again, although the Legion story ain’t bad. The JLA story is kind of pointless, although they do bring an end to the rarely mentioned Batman-Black Canary-Green Arrow love triangle by having Black Canary telling Batman that she seems him as more of a brother. And Flash was actually pretty good, and ties into the story from last issue.

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: September 1970

Boy is that Aquaman cover misleading. Just a scam to get some rich guys to blow up Atlantis with an atomic bomb. The Wonder Woman story is pretty forgettable, although she was still able to to find a full buccaneer outfit in full white. Superboy thwarts some Nazis before America enters World War II, therefore indicating that Superman must be in his 40s (this will be fixed later). Green Arrow and Green Lantern end up fighting each other while trying to end a dispute between some Native Americans and some white dudes. Batman gets accused of murder and has to clear his name, then basically has to do the same thing for someone else in the backup. Flash’s mind gets all messed up for the third issue in a row, but this time it involves him killing the President (how many references to the number 200 can you spot?). The Spectre sacrifices himself to save Earth-1 and Earth-2 in the JLA issue. In Action, After taking away his son’s powers last issue, Superman is saved by him. Somehow, this means that Superman Jr deserves to have his powers again, so Superman gives his powers to his son, then retires. And, in Detective, Batman has to avenge a murder that hasn’t happened yet, while Robin pretty much messes up again, but this time it all works out.

I just cannot get into the Wonder Woman series. I’m finding it kinda boring, and it’s getting annoying that she cannot handle anything solo, requiring someone, usually male, to help her. This is probably due mostly to the time period in which these stories are being written, but it is still annoying.

The Aquaman story annoyed me right off because it was very misleading. It wasn’t a dream, not an imaginary story, nor a cautionary tale about what could happen if a large enough earthquake hits (which may or may not be caused by a 200 megaton bomb). Just a dumb plot to scare some rich guy. Even the introductory splash page lies.

The rest was fairly entertaining, although the Action issue does not make up for last month, and seemed to be rushed. Also Frank Springer is a much better inker for this more modern Batman rather than Joe Giella, who seemed to be trying to keep the art in the 60s “New Look” style.

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: August 1970

This month, Batman takes on a monstrous man who is also a very articulate crime boss (O’Neil must have been paid by the syllable for this one), Flash dies (with a poorly attended funeral), the JLA and JSA begin their annual team-up, Supergirl rescues Superman from the Execution planet but also watches a bunch of people sacrifice themselves to their evil gods. Also, all those criminals who stole Superman’s uniform and sent our naked hero away in a rocket appear to have gotten away with it.

Then we have an imaginary story where Superman and Batman act way out of character. Superman acts like an a$$-hat because his son isn’t very good with his powers while Batman’s son is getting awards (which Batman likes to rub in Superman’s face). The first problem is that Batman works with his son, while Superman expects his son to just know what to do on his own. Secondly, Superman says the last straw is when his son wrecks the fortress to destroy a Superboy robot he invented to help with his son’s training. First of all, Superman failed to tell his son about the robot. Second, he should be doing the training, not some robot. Not that his son is completely innocent, but he definitely has self esteem issues, since Superman literally spends the entire issue telling him that he sucks.

Then we end the month with the return of Man-Bat, who completes his mutation into a bat, and Robin re-dedicating himself to being the best hero he can be. At least I think that’s what happened. The story just kind of ends without much of a resolution.

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: July 1970

This month, Aquaman returns to Atlantis, Wonder Woman goes to Red China made up like a Chinese woman (although with this art, the only change was the skin color), Superman saves Metropolis from bombs, but the second story has him losing his powers and costume before being sent to the Execution Planet (to be continued), the story of Superbaby blowing up the Earth helps Superboy save it, Black Canary is hypnotized, Superman entrusts the President with a weapon that can destroy even him (definitely pre-Watergate), Batman is stalked by a hunter, and Batigrl and Robin finally team up in their 2-part team-up story.

Also, in case you weren’t aware, Kirby is coming…

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: June 1970

Another fun month down. Superboy time travels, GL and GA arrive in Desolation, Batman and Robin solve the mystery of the “not-Beatles,” Flash thinks he’s a little kid (but is allowed to make out with Zatanna in front of Iris in the backup, so it’s not all bad), the JLA go crazy while Jean Loring regains her sanity (not an Identity Crisis in sight), Superman acts way out of character so as not to arouse suspicion while preventing an alien invasion (a huge, convoluted plan that wasn’t necessary, but will be explained to the public 100 years after Superman dies), 3 Legionaires fight a robot, Batman meets Man-Bat, and Batgirl and Robin are supposed to be in a story together but don’t. Next up, more Silver/Bronze Age goodness, including a Superbaby story (oh joy)!

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: May 1970

Another month down! Aquaman was doing decompressed storytelling before it was cool (which is annoying in a book that only came out 8 times a year). I’m not a big fan of Wonder-less Woman, but the Cyber story is starting to ramp up. Still waiting for the bat-books to be more consistent. For an era that is supposed to be going back to basics, there sure is a lot of mystical stuff going on outside of Gotham that Batman has to deal with. And the super-books were a bit weird this month, with both a Red Kryptonite story, and a sequel of sorts to the old “The Night of March 31st” story. And, once again, the JLA are saved by Black Canary’s mysterious, uncontrollable, sonic power.

And yet, I really enjoyed reading these books. Had trouble putting the iPad down. Weird!

Also, Commissioner Gordon never puts on his glasses during the Detective issue. It will be interesting to see how long this lasts.

DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: April 1970

Another month done. The Superman and Superboy issues feeling like the story was written based on the cover idea, which I know they used to do back in the day. Superman plays God in the Action issue, which makes no sense considering the dead planet he was using. The GL/GA storyline kicks off with the only issue I had read of it so far, so I’m looking forward to the others. The Batman story was solved for him because they ran out of room, and the Robin backup ended with a cliffhanger just as it was getting started. I’m also noticing the same creative team (Frank Robbins and Bob Brown) working on Superboy and Detective, and I’m liking their Superboy a little better. The writing isn’t bad (Robbins handles Batman better in Batman where he has more pages), but the art looks more like Infantino “new-look” Batman than the more modern work by Irv Novick and Neal Adams. Although, to be fair, this could be more due to Joe Giella’s inks than anything else.

Now to see what May had to offer…