DC Bronze Age Read-through Project: February 1972

Batman helps provide a Merry Christmas with a little help from God, Flash is almost killed by television, the JLA take on Starbreaker, Superman may have finally met his match, someone is trying to kill Clark Kent, and Batman has to prevent a murder a decade in the making. This and more happens in the comics cover dated February 1972.

Batman 239: Its Christmas Eve in Gotham, and Batman is chasing down a man who has been knocking out Salvation Army Santas, and taking their money pots. Fortunately, the last victim managed to injure this attacker, slowing him down enough for Batman to capture him. The attacker, Tim, pleads with Batman to allow him to plead his case, and takes the Dark Knight to an apartment in one of Gotham’s worst slums. When they enter, they meet Tim reason for turning to crime, his daughter Betsy. Tim explains that his was fired by his boss due to a drop in business, and promised to be rehired around the holidays when business would be picking back up. Because of this promise, he didn’t go out looking for another job, and his boss sold the company to new owners not interested in rehiring former employees. But Betsy is sick, and medical bills have eaten all of his money, forcing him to steal money to give Betsy a Christmas. When Batman points out that Tim’s beef with the world should really just be pointed at his old boss, Tim knocks out Batman, and heads out for revenge. When he comes to, he takes Betsy along to stop her father. The icy conditions, and heavy snowfall, make the trip impossible for the Batmobile, but Batman manages to find a horse drawn sleigh, and continues his trek. Meanwhile, Tim, who managed to stay ahead of the storm, has threatened his former boss, only to learn that the old man is very sick. Batman arrives and they all manage to get Tim’s boss to a hospital in time to save him. Figuring Tim’s legal troubles can wait until the following week, Batman hands Tim a handful of cash, wishes him Merry Christmas, and then finds that the horse and sleigh are missing, which Batman also chalks up to God creating another Christmas miracle. Speaking of religion, in the backup, Robin is giving Dick Grayson’s college buddies a tour of the Gotham, when they encounter what I can only describe as religious hippies. After Dick’s buddies talk some smack about the “Jesus freaks,” they encounter another group trying to intimidate a kid named Rick, including the use of fists. Dick’s buddies rush in to save Rick and a fight ensues, until Robin and one of the hippies are able to calm everyone down. As the students head back to their place, Robin stays with Rick, who is taken to one of the hippies’ apartment, since he is unconscious. While there, Robin sees Terri in a vision, and learns that Rick’s father doesn’t love him, which is having an adverse affect in him. Coming out of the vision, Robin heads off to find Rick’s dad, while wondering what the deal is with Terri.

This issue reprints a Christmas story from Batman 15 (Feb/Mar 1943).

Flash 212: Barry is babysitting Dustin, a neighbor’s kid who looks like the TV obsessed boy from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. While watching one of Dustin’s favorite TV shows (subtle!), Abra Kadabra appears on screen, taking over the show, using his abilities to force Barry into his Flash costume, and to come through the TV and into the show. For reasons I cannot fathom, Flash also grabs Dustin to bring him with him. While Dustin is busy lassoing some pixies, Flash is being chased by a couple of others, forcing him to vibrate is molecules to defeat them. Kadabra uses this moment to send some special grounding rods Flash’s way, preventing him from being able to completely materialize, and holding him in place so he can’t vibrate. The idea is that once the show is over, the TV world, and the Flash, will cease to exist. Flash manages to trick Dustin to shoot him with his rubber bullets, which set off enough of a vibratory chain reaction for Flash to vibrate himself free of his trap, and then take Dustin to safety. Now outside of the TV world, Kadabra tries to stop Flash with a “spell,” but Flash is able deflect it with some counter-vibrations, causing Kadabra to turn into a cardboard cutout. After depositing him with the authorities, Flash returns Dustin to the Allen residence, and returns as Barry before Dustin’s mom to pick him up. In the backup, Ralph and Sue Dibney witness a child plant a dollar bill and grow a money tree. With his nose twitching, Ralph goes on the case, learning that Timmy is the son of Victor Dennison, the “fox” of the finance world. Some old man had given Timmy a magic potion to grow the tree, so that he would have enough money for his father to notice him. Victor accepts the money, but is more interested in how he can invest it than in Timmy. When Ralph tries to bring Victor’s attention to his behavior, he just throws some of the money at Ralph, thanks him from bringing Timmy home, and kicks him out. Suspicious of the money, Ralph checks the money and finds out its tainted. He heads back to Dennison’s, but he has left instructions to be left alone, and puts his house on lockdown. Ralph basically has to break into the house, but by the time he reaches Dennison, the poison has already taken affect. Later, as the body is wheeled out, Dennison sits up and calls out his killer, who reveals himself to be a member of the crowd of onlookers. Ralph takes him out, and learns that the man had a business that was bankrupted by Dennison, and he wanted revenge. The money tree was some magician’s trick, and the “magic potion” he gave Timmy was the antidote, which kept him from being killed by the money. Fortunately, Ralph has managed to give Dennison the antidote before it could kill him, so he now has a second chance to make things right with Timmy.

This issue reprints a story from Flash 126 (Feb 1962).

Justice League of America 96: Superman arrives on Rann and runs into his team-mates fighting some giant mechanized ants that are tougher than even he is. Flying around at super-speed, Superman manages to interfere with the radio signals to the ants, causing them to turn on each other, and allowing the other leaguers to take them out. Then Hawkman relates that they were brought to Rann thanks to a Zeta beam intercepting the JLA transporter beam, and pulling them there rather than the satellite. We also learn about their foe, Starbreaker, who is basically DC’s version of Galactus. When Green Lantern’s ring discovers 2 more groups of ants, the heroes split up to take them out. Meanwhile, Starbreaker creates 3 versions of himself to take on the Leaguers. Based on how Superman managed to stop the first group of ants, Flash and Green Lantern manage to stop their ants, and surprisingly take out Starbreaker. Elsewhere, Hawkman and Superman manage to do the same. Regrouping, the heroes fly their Starbreakers to the city and meet up with Adam Strange and company, who thank the heroes for their service. At this point, the Zeta beam wears off, sending Hawkman, Flash, and GL back to Earth, followed closely by the 2 Starbreakers also disappearing. Elsewhere, the real Starbreaker vows revenge, vowing to head to Earth and destroy it.

This issue reprints the debut of Hourman from Adventure Comics 48 (Mar 1940), and a Wildcat story from Sensation Comics 84 (Dec 1948).

Superman 248: The Earth has been devastated, everyone is dead, and Lex Luthor is to blame. He created a Galactic Golem that feeds on galactic energy, then secretly used his galactic cannon to bathe Superman in that energy. The ensuing fight ended with an incredible explosion that seemingly annihilated Superman and every other living thing. The Golem then turned its attention on the galactic cannon, but Luthor is saved by Superman. While the Man of Steel wrestles with the Golem, Luther manages to bathe a passing meteor storm with the galactic energy, causing the Golem to take off. Meanwhile, Superman explains that during the fight with the Golem, he managed to set up vibrations to send the entire population of Earth to a different dimensional plane. And although Superman has once again survived and he has to return to prison, Luthor is happy and relieved to not be responsible for all those deaths. In the backup, we learn about a war on ancient Krypton that escalated to the point where an All-Element Bomb was dropped. Eventually, due to being tired of war, the fighting ended, but without any sort of truce declared. Soon after, the effects of the bomb were realized when the next generation of children were born with large heads, weak bodies, and an inability to speak. Eventually, these children were gathered up and sent into exile. Over time, these children learned to communicate via telepathy, and learned that they had telekinetic power (or were strong with The Force, take your pick). Eventually, they were able to build their own community and began to thrive, when they received a message from the older generation pleading for their help to stop a Doomsday weapon. After debating whether or not to help those that has exiled them, they eventually agreed to help, but were unable to return to their old home in time to stop the weapon. With the previous generations wiped out, the kids renamed their community Kryptonopolis, and ended up having children that were born completely normal. And, of course, Kryptonopolis grew into a huge city, becoming not only the 2nd Capitol of Krypton, but also the birthplace of Kal-El.

This issue reprints a Superman of 2966 story from Action Comics 339 (Jul 1966).

Superboy 182: While helping out at the Kent General Store, Clark comes across an old newspaper headline about the death of Thomas and Martha Wayne. Even though it’s been 2 months, he decides to check in on his friend Bruce. As Superboy, he flies to Gotham and finds Bruce to be a very angry young man with revenge in his heart. Since his time-scope has shown him that he and Bruce will grow up to be friends and partners as Superman and Batman, he feels compelled to help. Bruce is after the Zodiac Killer because he overheard a reporter tell a cop that a zodiac symbol left near the crime scene ties their death with his crime spree. Bruce sets a trap to catch the Zodiac Killer only to learn that he is not real. The reporter from before was actually washed up and needed to break a big story in order to keep his job, so he planted the Zodiac symbols at random crime scenes to make it look like there was a serial killer, and to give him a big, job-saving series of stories to write. This means that the Wayne’s death was just as random as it appeared (until years later when Batman uncovers evidence about Lew Moxon hiring Joe Chill). And, since there is no more room for the story to continue, it ends. In the backup, Superboy recalls other teen heroes who either died or left Earth before they could become famous.

This issue reprints a Superbaby story from Superboy 102 (Jan 1963).

Action Comics 409: Superman has spent every night for the last 3 weeks building a new city to provide free housing for the underprivileged. Meanwhile, during the days, he’s been dealing with someone trying to kill Clark Kent with some very fantastic death traps. An alien who is trying to graduate from his detective school offers to help and discovers that it is Superman trying to kill Clark, all thanks to his lack of sleep. In the backup, an untold tale of Superman, a strange golden slab mysteriously appears in Metropolis Park. The police use everything at their disposal to either move or destroy it, but nothing works. Eventually, Superman arrives and takes it away. Turns out it was all a test of a new metal alloy that Superman created. Superman takes the slab up north and uses it as the door to his Fortress.

This issue reprints the first half of a Teen Titans story from Teen Titans 4 (Jul/Aug 1966).

Adventure Comics 414: A space plunderer has chosen Linda Danvers of Earth to be his bride, and sends a scout team down to collect her. Once she’s left alone, she changes into an incredibly ugly Supergirl costume, and is quickly knocked out. She learns that the plunderer and his crew are from the planet Somar, and escaped from the planet after being imprisoned for speaking out against their corrupt leaders. But, Supergirl reveals that since they left, the people of Somar revolted, the planet is under new leadership, and the plunderer kept this info from his crew. With this info, her guard kills himself, leaving her free to take out the crew and damage the ship so it can’t fight the Planetary Galaxy Patrol who have arrived to arrest the plunderer and his crew. And with this arrest, the story ends, leading into the backup in which, after a costume change, Supergirl returns to space to investigate an unmarked satellite orbiting Earth. Inside is a discredited nuclear scientist who plans to use the satellite to launch the U.S.’s entire bank of defense missiles and basically cause a new world war that would destroy Earth. Supergirl stops the missiles, but while she’s busy, the satellite’s orbit decays, causing it to crash to Earth, and kill the scientist. In the other backup, Zatanna and the statue of Jeff return to New York, where Jeff reverts back to human form. They then confront Zatara in Time Square and learn that his body has been possessed by Allura, his greatest enemy. After faking Zatara’s death, Allura leaves his body to possess Zatanna, but she manages to use her magic to capture her in a bottle.

This issue reprints an Animal Man story, his first as a costumed hero, from Strange Adventures 190 (Jul 1966).

Detective Comics 419: 10 years ago, Piet Van Doorn killed Allan Trevor after they made a big diamond find in South Africa. Now, Trevor is after Van Doorn, and Batman has been called in to stop him. However, after 10 years working near a radioactive mine, Trevor can cause a Geiger counter to go off. Batman ends up finding him hiding in a coffin, and takes him down. Later, Batman arrives at Van Doorn’s mansion, but it’s actually Trevor in disguise. But before he can attack Van Doorn, the real Batman arrives to save the day, but Van Doorn ends up suffering a stroke due to his fear and guilt. In the backup, Commissioner Gordon heads down to Mexico City to investigate a drug smuggling operation sending drugs to Gotham, and ends up taking Babs with him (since he secretly knows that Babs is Batgirl). While Jim meets with a local commissioner and heads to a conference, Babs is taken on a tour by the local commissioner’s son. After crossing paths with the local mob boss (unknown to Babs), they pick up Jim and head for their hotel. Unfortunately, that involved traveling outside of the city where they are intercepted. Babs manages to escape, but Jim is knocked out

This issue reprints a Captain Compass story from Detective Comics 215 (Jan 1955), and a story from Gangbusters 57 (Apr/May 1957).

A very up and down month, with Superman being my definite favorite of the bunch, despite the idea of Superman being able to shift the entire population of Earth to another dimensional plane. The Superboy story is probably the most disappointing because nothing changes. Other than revealing that the Zodiac Killer didn’t kill the Waynes, Bruce is still the angry kid he was at the beginning, and has a costume that is never mentioned again. I’m also not a fan of Superboy having used his time-scope to learn of Bruce becoming Batman, but at least he was not aware of the event that would send Bruce down that path. Also, the scene where he basically creates a short “imaginary story” with Superboy and Bruce teaming up with Superman and Batman was pointless. The main Action story wasn’t bad, but if you are plunking down 50¢ to read both Action and Superman, this causes a big continuity problem. Good thing little things like that weren’t a big deal back then. The Supergirl costume in the first story from Adventure was hideous. I hope these alternate suits disappear soon. Ugh! And the Frank Robbins art in Detective’s Batman story was hideous and unclear. On the plus side, the Swanderson team in the 2 Superman stories were great as usual, and Anderson did a great job of enhancing the art of Bob Brown and George Tuska. The Batman story in Batman was great, and Rick Butler on Robin was a nice change. The Don a Heck art on a Batgirl wasn’t terrible, but looked hurried and unfinished. The best art of the month, once again, belongs to Gray Morrow on the Zatanna feature. So great! The Flash story was good, but not great. However, it was fun to see How Kadabra was handled before Mark Waid came along. Definitely enjoying how Cary Bates has really been bringing back Flash’s rogues gallery after then being away for the first part of this reading project.

Next month, 2 imaginary stories (oh joy!), a Silver Age Flash reprint that sets up the next new Flash tale, the Legion in new costumes, and another appearance by the Al Ghul family!