I’ve been on holiday in the Rhins of Galloway and fell behind with posts. There are only four more 10o-page Super Spectacular comics in my collection to review. Two of those are facsimile editions from the turn of the Noughties in any case. At the end of the summer, I’m going to turn my attention to the Tabloids and Treasury Editions of the Bronze Age, which should take us into the New Year. I’m excited at the thought of revisiting that format- recent Super-Specs have brought diminishing returns in terms of enjoyment. Here’s another instance, which I won earlier this year on ebay: Action Comics cover-dated January, 1975.
The blue and yellow don’t really harmonise on this Cardy cover. Supes appears oddly hunched but the other heroes are raring to go. It’s a little misleading, since there are no solo stories for Atom, Batman or Green Lantern. They appear however with the rest of the JLA in…
Clark Kent, Super-Hero: A beautifully-rendered but juvenile Superman story, scripted by my least-favourite writer of the period, Elliot S! Maggin. Re-reading these comics over the summer, I’ve been a little surprised by my responses: I now find Gardner Fox a little tedious; Len Wein is an efficient but complete nostalgist; and Maggin’s cutesy, campy approach is dated and highly irritating.
In this adventure, Silver Age JLA foe Zazzala the Queen Bee has captured the League, except for Superman. She’s assembled a prototype Legion of Doom, the Anti-Justice League: Brainiac, Clayface, Sinestro, Chronos, Grodd, Ocean Master, Merlyn the Archer and the Harpy. (Who? I think this is one of the harpies from the Adams/O’Neil Green Lantern era.
In other words, a poorly-researched opposite number for Black Canary. The original E-2 Huntress would have been a better choice).
Supes’ plan to baffle Zazzala’s strategist,Brainiac, is to go into action as Clark Kent while Superman plays the bumbling stooge for bullying Steve Lombard. Cue hokey pratfalls and clowning. This jejune gimmick seems to be the whole point of the story since the Anti-Justice League are dispatched over two pages. Swan and Blaisdell cope well with the huge cast, although the figurework is small, lessening the drama. Also, Red Tornado doesn’t look robotic enough for my taste but Elongated Man, rarely drawn by Swan, looks very heroic. Green Arrow’s raspberry at the end, however, sums up aptly my feelings about Maggin’s writing.
7 Threats in the 7 Seas: a 2-page nostalgia feature, spotlighting some of the bizarre undersea menaces faced by the scuba-diving Sea Devils. The line-up of aliens and monsters reminds me of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea...
The Ghost of the Deep: however, aside from the resemblance to the Fantastic Four, I have no real interest in the Sea Devils. I can appreciate- but don’t enjoy -the moody pencils of Russ Heath. Here, the three males are bewitched by a giant Sea Siren but blonde Judy saves the day. Robert Kanigher pulls out a wearisome “was- it- all- a dream?” ending by explaining Rapture of the Deep.
Revolt in Painted Canyon: I actually enjoyed reading this second adventure of Matt Savage, Trail Boss, although I’m certain it’s “inspired” by Rawhide. Gardner Fox explains the origin of the singing cowboy tradition- soothing restless cattle- and Gil Kane draws a suspenseful gunfight. The melancholy, angular face of Matt Savage is surely modelled on someone real. But who?
The Super-Brain of Adam Strange: An elegant, polite Fox/Infantino sci-fi yarn from November, 1963. The Jet-Pack John Carter undergoes an experiment that will prolong his visits to the planet Rann. Unfortunately, he evolves into a “swell-headed” future man ( as in The Outer Limits episode, “The Sixth Finger” from October ’63. Hmmm). A restored Adam leaves a rock from his adoptive planet in the Midway City Museum; this is the first part of a crossover with the back-up strip in Mystery in Space…
Amazing Thefts of the I.Q. Gang: The sequel is a gorgeously-drawn Hawkman tale by Murphy Anderson, whose pencils I always associate with DC’s version of John Carter. Petty crook Ira Quimby develops an enhanced intellect, due to exposure to the Raanian rock. He designs “aeroshoes” and goes on spree of robberies in a cravat and jodhpurs! Again, it’s a bit tame and very slow.
Throne of Spain: A 1942 adventure of the Black Pirate, from Sensation Comics. It’s a reworking of The Man in the Iron Mask, with an authentically swashbuckling tone. I found it hard to follow and frustrating, however, due to the primitive artwork and narration.
If I had read this Super-Spec as a kid, I might have been excited by the super-villain content. However, I’m afraid that this rather genteel comic is a dull read, despite some classy art.
Coming soon: the three final Super-Specs and the Mystery Men of August in possibly five instalments!
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