This morning’s post deals with another DC 1oo-page Super Spectacular that I bought online as an adult. The theme of the issue is Modes of Transport; previous issues were themed by gender or age but this is a cute idea that would appeal to mechanically-minded kids.
There had been something of a hiatus- some six months- since the Flying Heroes Super-Spec and several reprint books had been launched by DC. But the 100-page format was revived due to public demand.
Nick Cardy’s cover depicts the heroes standing in front of a strip of multi-coloured movie frames. The prominence of Wildcat is interesting: although he was quite a C-list character in 1973 (having featured in only two JLA-JSA team-ups and one issue of Brave & Bold), his 60s appearance in The Spectre by Neal Adams and two subsequent team-ups with Batman seem to have made Ted Grant a fan-favourite. So, he swapped places on the cover with Blackhawk.
Batman: This 1939 curiosity is a two-parter by Gardner Fox, pitting the “weird menace to all crime” against The Monk, who possesses the “powers of a Satan”. It introduces the Batarang and the Batgyro and is a feverish Gothic with a giant ape, a snake pit, and a hectic quest in Hungary: “Land of History and Werewolves” and “the Lost Mountains of Cathala by the turbulent River Dess”. It’s notorious as the story where Batman uses a gun to shoot Dala and the Monk with silver bullets (although it makes sense to me to pit a Bat-Man against vampires.) You can imagine the Teen Titans raptly listening to Robin recounting the daffy plot at a Hallowe’en slumber party.
“Battle of the Tiny Titans”: This is the best-looking strip in the collection: a collaboration by Gil Kane and Murphy Anderson, it’s both dynamic and elegant. Classy Art Deco logo aside, Ray Palmer is one of the dullest of DC’s science heroes but this Gardner Fox story has a Burroughsian antagonist, Kulan Dar, and features the debut of the Atom’s costume. There’s also an ad for Secret Origins but more on that later…
“The Treasure of Ghanpat”: This is the second Golden Age Blackhawk story I’d read and it’s highly enjoyable. It’s picturesque and pulpy with an exotic Sultanate, a helicopter crash and a giant lizard! It also finishes with the Blackhawk Song: “Fighting far, Fighting near. Ridding all good men of fear. We’re Blackhawks!” I find it fits the theme to the Fleischer Bros Superman cartoons.
Wonder Woman: This early WW tale introduces the Magic Lasso and Baroness Paula Von Gunther, whom I’d first seen in the Adventure Double Double Comic ( See http://somefantasticplace-dougie.blogspot.com/2011/09/caveat-emptor.html) The haughty Gestapo agent is an effective contrast to the Amazon. But yet again, I’m turned off by the silliness of the Kangas, the bondage scenes and the primitive art.
Doll Man: “The Heroic Half-Portion of Living Dynamite” just didn’t appeal to me. His bare-legged acrobat outfit is almost as flamboyant and camp as that of Black Condor. This was the second Doll Man reprint I’d read and it introduces Elmo, the Dynamic Dog., who looks pretty demonic on the back cover. Unfortunately, I found this tale pedestrian and unappealing.
Wildcat: This rather thin, cartoony strip is the first appearance of the “eerie” Catocycle; we’re told the motor doesn’t “roar”, only making “a soft purr”. The story also introduces “comedy” sidekick Stretch Skinner, the hayseed “deetecatif ” who reminds me of Peter Purves’ Morton Dill.
In ’73, Wildcat almost seems like a proto-Wolverine. I can’t imagine the JSA without him now although his female counterpart in the 80s was, surprisingly, less successful. However, if Ted Grant had been the third JSAer to move to Earth-2, perhaps Hugh Jackman would be playing him now.
“The Batmobile of 1950”: When I picture the Batmobile, it’s the one Adam West drove but I have a fondness for the retro-futuristic Fifties version. I even bought a Corgi-style replica from M&S four or five years ago. Again, this is a superior Batman story by Dick Sprang with the collapse of a mined bridge; crooks called Snake and Zoot; and the “miracle car” itself with the “grace and smooth-flowing power of a panther”.
A Look Through The Super Spectacles: Editor Bridwell plugs the (short-lived) reprint series of the LSH and The Doom Patrol (which I loved). I never saw any issues of the Challs or the Metal Men in ’73 and I would have avoided the Western Johnny Thunder (I had tried Marvel’s cowpoke series but never warmed to them). There are further plugs for Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser (another series I’ve never sampled), The Shadow and Shazam. ENB also bemoans the shortage of Quality Comics to reprint. Blackhawk aside, I don’t feel that was a great loss.
This Issue’s Cover Features: The text feature also plugs Secret Origins. As a reprint mag, I think I ought to alternate it with the Super-Specs in this blog, starting next time! ENB explains that Blackhawk Chop-Chop was later drawn “more realistically” and refers to GA nurse Diana Prince, later the mother of Super Friend Marvin (categorically not the version infamously eaten by Wonderdog in TT#62!). Bridwell also rather candidly says he’s never seen the origin of Doll Man.
This one wasn’t a favourite but although the stories weren’t up to much in the main, there was some gorgeous art.
Coming Attractions: Visit Some Fantastic Place for reviews of “Wanted: The World’s Most Dangerous Villains”.
All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners and are used for the purposes of nostalgia and comment.