Bronze, Silver and Gold

Today’s post concerns two Bronze Age comics which are very tangentially connected to previous posts on DC’s Legion of Super Heroes.

The first is a 100-page issue of Superman Family: number 169 from March, 1975. FYI, Giant-Size X-Men 1 is only two months away and in the UK, Marvel has launched two new weeklies: The Super Heroes ( Buscema’s Surfer and Lee/Kirby’s original X-Men) and Barry Smith’s barbarian tales in Savage Sword of Conan.

300px-Superman_Family_Vol_1_169

Target of the Tarantula: This story is by Cary Bates and a name unfamilair to me: John Rosenberger. Turns out he was primarily a romance comics artist but also co-creator of DC’s one-shot Lady Cop and Archie’s The Jaguar.

Lois undertakes her second mission for the covert Secret Intelligence Agency with the assistance of the ghost of lovestruck agent Simon Cross. Meanwhile, Adam West-ish tv  hero, the Tarantula ( no relation to the Sandman imitator from the All-Star Squadron) has come to life and is executing mobsters, Punisher-style. 

Two interesting plots are conflated here but the denouement is frustrating. A twenty-ish fanboy is chief suspect of being the “real” Tarantula- even his parents dismiss him as an oddball; how times change. It turns out to be his embittered private eye father, implicating his own son.

As if that grim twist weren’t enough, Supes uses a Kryptonian Ectoplasmic Exorciser to “out” Simon Cross, who concedes Supey is the better man for Lois (being alive and everything) and evaporates.

What I can’t understand is, since Simon is effectively Deadman- why not just  use Deadman? Being Supey’s love rival would have been a new status quo and would bring further pathos. Also, why invent a ridiculous Kryptonian gizmo to summon Simon? Why didn’t Supes go to one of his magician acquaintances, like Sargon or Zatanna ; why didn’t the Phantom Stranger turn up?

League of Fantastic Supermen: even more illogical is this Jimmy Olsen short. I wanted to read it because of the aforementioned LSH connection but also because I included it in one of my fantasy Wanted: the World’ Most Dangerous Villains posts- without having read it…

This is, I think, the second appearance of the LSV; here we first meet Sun Emperor and Chameleon Chief. The villains from the 21st Century plan to impersonate four Kandorian criminals , intending to then gain access to the Phantom Zone and liberate the inmates to swell their ranks.

This makes some sense but once Jimmy Olsen has zapped the “fantastic four” Kandorians with a red-K ray, they now resemble  previous transformations of Superman caused by the wacky mineral ( Lion man, giant head, etc)

Jim tricks the LSV with assistance from Supergirl and Lori Lemaris- something Superman and the three Legion founders struggled to do in the villains  first outing. This gimmicky and bizarre story truly seems to be the madcap justification of a cover image. I do like the manic Villainaires however as drawn by Swan.

The Anti-Supergirl Plot: dull tale of a crooked beat combo who imitate Supergirl, Batman, Green Arrow and Green Lantern. Hopeless Linda has to rely on a girl singer and the real JLAers to save her. As if being outshone by a cub reporter weren’t humiliating enough…

I first read this snoozer in the second Superadventure annual bought for me in Wemyss Bay in the early 70s.

super-adventure-md

Krypto’s Mean Master: unpleasant tale of animal cruelty as mischievous Krypto becomes the prisoner of sadistic and cowardly Solar Boy. Just nasty, really.

Clark Kent’s Super-Dad: very gentle comedy in which windbag Pa Kent is conferred with super powers. Schoolboy fun is had with his “fatherly advice” and “experienced judgement”

The Good Deeds of Bizarro-Luthor: laboured slapstick as Bizarro creates duplicates of Luthor and the Superman Emergency Squad. John Forte seems far more comfortable here than with the LSH.

There are two clip-art features detailing some of the bizarre transformations undergone by the sassy reporter (largely in the Weisinger Era): Four Deaths for Lois Lane and The Strange Lives of Lois Lane.

I read one LL Giant as a child- a collection of Schaffenberger stories from my cousin Jim’s collection- and one story in a Double Double comic.

In the later 80s, a female artist let me read some of her early-70s LL issues. I was more interested in the urban vigilante exploits of the Thorn. I also prefer Teri Hatcher’s kooky Lois to any of her film incarnations.

brighouse

Kid Robson will, I think,  appreciate my amazement last week at returning, pretty much by accident, to the site of a caravan holiday forty years ago. I was astonished to find the site- and the caravan itself!- almost completely unchanged.

This was Brighouse Bay near Kirkcudbright, where I first read a Wonder Woman Super-Spec -since there was nothing else on offer.

Our second Bronze Age book today, from May ’75- is also a  Wonder Woman Giant issue (since the Super-Spec Era was  over). Issue 217 opens with a new story by the Batman Family’s Elliot Maggin and the JLA’s Dick Dillin.

WW 217

The Day Time Broke Loose: is  part of the sequence in which WW undergoes a series of trials to prove herself worthy of re-admission to the League. Narrated by Maggin’s jive-talkin’ favourite, Green Arrow, the story also sees the return of Golden Age villain, the Duke of Deception: a dapper illusionist, not unlike the JSA’s Wizard.

The Duke wants to plunge the world into war to humiliate his former master, Mars. The story, with a Batman cameo, is beautifully drawn by one of my Bronze Age favourites. There is, however, one instance of archetypal WW kinkiness as the Amazon is confined to an illusory bed of nails.

After a feature comprising two pages of clip-art , displaying the Duke of Deception in his original 1942  guise as a wizened, gnome-like Legionary, kinkiness continues in:

The Return of Diana Prince: in which, having borrowed the identity of nurse Diana Prince, WW has to rescue her from Dr. Cue, a Japanese spy chief and kidnapper.

Not only does the murderous medic maintain a “hospital of horrors”, he plans to steal the disintegrator ray devised by Dan White, the real Diana’s husband. Jealous Dan, by the way, has a penchant for chaining his wife to the stove- literally.

This is another jingoistic, feverish pulp tale drawn in storybook miniatures.I don’t care much for Golden Age stories, unless they’re by Kubert or Toth. Give me 50s Batman every time.

Fun House of Time: this 1958 story presents the Wonder Woman I first encountered- the fanciful Kanigher/Andru/Esposito version. An amusement park funhouse transports Diana and Col. Trevor millions of years into the past; to a whirlpool endangering Colombus and to an interplanetary attack in the far future.

It’s a rather humdrum children’s adventure but the art is appealing and distinctive.

The villainous Time Master ( or, er, Ty.M. Master here) is a robed, cowled sorceror type. Over twenty years later, in  Super Friends of all places, E. Nelson Bridwell would reveal that the Time Master was another guise of the Time Trapper, the Legion’s arch foe. I’ve always been fascinated by the alliterative, elusive villain, who’s had a multiplicity of  identities in the past half-century. However, establishing this connection was worthy of Roy Thomas in its obscurity.

Coming soon: sword and sorcery in the Shadow Kingdom and the Hills of the Dead.

All images are presumed copyright of their respective owners

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