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!

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: 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: January 1971

A new month and a new year does bring some excitement, as well as some big changes. But not in Aquaman, where our hero goes back to that crazy, miniature world he was stuck in a few issues ago to help the girl that has been helping him. But, she doesn’t really want his help. Over in Wonder Woman, it is all out war, with the good guys having a major disadvantage. Fortunately, Diana is there to introduce these people to gunpowder, which only barely evens the score. In the end, the evil queen is forced to surrender, and the Amazons show up to take Diana back to her normal surroundings. Also, she wears a suit of armor that is all white. It’s like she’s a Power Ranger or something. Everything she wears is white.

Next up is the most exciting Superman story I’ve read so far. An experimental Kryptonite engine explodes, transforming all Kryptonite on earth into iron. Also, Clark begins his career as a TV newsman by standing way too close to a launching rocket. Also, at the site of an explosion, a creature made of sand rises mysteriously. Also, in a tale from Krypton, Jor-El invents an anti-grav system that doesn’t work too well in space.

Over in Superboy, the Teen of Steel meets Aquaboy, and they the social issue of pollution. Also, an announcement is made about bringing Superboy a little closer to the present. See, since Superman was created in 1938, and there would have had to be Superboy before that, all Superboy stories had been taking place in the 30s. But that would seriously age Superman. In order for him to stay 29, Superboy has to move up. So as of this issue, Superboy stories take place in the mid-50s and will move up in time so he always stays roughly 14 years behind.

 

Next up, Action has an imaginary story where Superman has lost his physical powers, but not his sensory powers. As such, he has become a wheelchair-bound beggar. In the backup, a sub-atomic race kidnaps Superman to recharge the core of their sub-atomic world, but by trying to trick him rather than asking for help, they end up super-charging the core and the planet explodes. And in Detective, Kirk Langstrom’s fiancé allows him to turn her into a bat-creature so they can be together, but Batman is able to turn them both back to human form, this ending the Man-Bat saga, until he returns. And finally, Batgirl escapes her death-trap and stops the jive-talking bombers from blowing up any more buildings.

This was the first time since I started this little project that I was more into a Superman book than a Batman book. I was really surprised about the Superboy timeline change, as I thought it would be a subtle change rather than a big announcement. Aquaman and Wonder Woman still aren’t doing much for me, but Aquaman is about to end so that will take care of that. Considering we aren’t too far off from Wonder Woman getting her powers back, I’m not expecting much from her book. Otherwise, it was a fun month, and a great way to start the new year.

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!