With One Magic Word

This post is about the third and final 100-page Super-Spec I read on my uncle’s farm outside Galston in the summer of 1974. The other two were the Injustice Gang issue of JLA and the Devil-Fish issue of LSH. This third giant-sized comic was bought for my brother, who was seven years old at the time. I can remember certain moments of that week with total clarity even though it was before Tom Baker, before the Sex Pistols, Princess Diana, the Miners’ Strike… In many ways, the 90s now feel more remote and obscure but maybe that’s middle age.

I can think of few covers that say “Seventies” to me more clearly than this one: Mary Batson’s flares remind me of Susan Dey in the Partridge Family while Freddy Freeman looks like a Dickensian urchin and yet is the most realistically-rendered member of the trio:

The Golden Plague: The book opens with a typically whimsical 70s short about Dr. Kilowatt whose machine creates a Midas Effect. Cap mimics Atlas in a pleasing Classical reference but the plot also involves a reporter from the future, Jarl 499-642-831. Jarl dresses like a sinister space version of Velma from Scooby-Doo and in a Mort Weisinger story would be a villain, so  is therefore hugely distracting. It’s all a bit silly.  Bob Oskner’s clean, cartoony art reminds me of a colouring book.

Mary Marvel versus Nightowl: Mary gets her own super-villain, who looks like an ancestor of Daredevil’s Owl and is inspired by the Nyctalope, the French pulp hero who, in turn, inspired Dr. Mid-Nite.  The high point of the story is a ghoulish Forties moment where Mary is about to be crushed by a warehouse pressing machine.

Billy Batson’s Family Album: a gallery of Batson “relatives” including the deathless Freckles Marvel, whom I don’t expect to see in the New 52 universe any time soon.

Uncle Marvel’s Wedding: My introduction to the elderly villain  Minerva, Aunt May as a crime lord. A farcical comedy with pleasingly detailed art (for a Golden Age story)

The Longest Block in the World: Elliot S! Maggin, with his annoying idiosyncratic exclamation mark, was an audacious, would-be hipster who wrote two Superman novels. The one I read, Last Son of Krypton  featured alien musician Towbee and Luthor calling Superman “old fruit”. It’s awful.

Towbee, not Mowpee

Here he brings us Gregory Gosharootie, the World’s Dullest Mortal and a parody of Dr. Kissinger. Maggin, you crazy nut! The artwork by Giordano is gorgeous however and Freddy is dynamic.  I wonder if the new “Curse of Shazam!” version can accommodate the other Marvels?

The Sivana Family Strikes at the Marvel Family: The high point of the comic is this entertaining  three-part “novel” in which Thaddeus, Georgia and Sivana Junior scheme to set up their dynasty. It ranges from the Sivanas’ floating laboratory to the sinking of Atlantis and on to 12,000 AD. The climax of the story reminds me now of one of Jean Grey’s Hellfire Club fantasies as the Sivanas hunt the powerless Marvels like foxes. This epic was also reprinted in the 2002 Shazam Family facsimile annual, IIRC. I can’t believe that was a decade ago already!

Mighty Master of  the Martial Arts: Maggin is back with a story about the kung fu craze. Iron Fist had  debuted at Marvel the previous month as did the b/w magazine Deadly Hands of Kung Fu the month before that.

With one image, we sum up the difference between DC and Marvel in ’74

Maggin’s character is Jeremy Senshoo, a drugged tv star committing crimes to the tune of his evil chef, Pierre. Again, it’s an unfunny spoof      ( and spoofs usually are) drawn in Oskner’s simple, airy style.

Shazamail: further discussion on the make-up of Mary’s chart of godly names and a learned letter about an Egyptian magician Zazamonkh, the “Scribe of the Book”!

Having bought a second copy recently on ebay, I was pleasantly surprised to find I enjoyed this 1o0-pager but I wouldn’t include it in my top five due to Maggin’s irritating whimsy.

Next: Would you like me to be the cat?

All images presumed copyright of their respective owners

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