Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tales From the Vault: ADVENTURE COMICS #420

It's time for another trip through the way-back machine, this time to the heady days when Supergirl briefly was popular enough to command her own series within a series in the pages of Adventure Comics. Of course, back in those days the old Adventure brand really meant something, because while Supergirl was successful for 44 issues in Adventure, as soon as they spun her out into her own series it nosedived into the turf, getting canceled after just ten issues that took almost two whole years to publish. Not good.

But enough about failure. Let's crack open this bad boy and find out why she was popular and why the DC 25 cent giants of the day were, in contrast, very much not popular.

Details: This issue is from June of 1972 and the first story is written by Raymond Marias and Len Wein, which was relatively early in Wein's career and right at the beginning of the period when he seemingly began writing every comic book on Earth. The art is by one of the classic DC pencillers of the era, Tony DeZuniga. And the story is straight out of a drug induced fervor, which makes perfect sense. After all, where did you think the term “420” came from?

Synopsis: We start with Supergirl flying through space when she is suddenly attacked by a "plastoid globe" which is, you know, a big ball of plastic. And it doesn't attack so much as float. Nonetheless, it drives her to land on a nearby planet, where a missile sends strands of hair to grab her; when she melts the strands, it turns to amber. Yeah, that happened to me at Supercuts once.

Completely confused, Supergirl is suddenly rescued by some dude named Togran, who has a magic garden (strictly for medicinal purposes, no doubt) and commands his plants to save her. He then explains that a neighboring nation has killed everyone except his dad and his dad's two friends, who were presumably saved because they were in their dens playing online poker when the attack happened. Those three, as it happens, are wizards who have formed a collective entity called the Mind-Warp, and who use their powers to affect people's emotions. They also look about as stupid as humanly possible, wearing outfits that look sort of like hooded sweatshirts with mini-capes and domino masks. Plus, one guy has his beard collected in what appears to be a napkin holder with an X-Men logo on it.

Anyway, after the exposition, Supergirl is like "whatever" and decides to leave. Before she does, though, Togran grabs her and plays tonsil hockey with her while copping a feel. Supergirl flies off "with the taste of Togran's kiss still in her mind" – which, really, eww -- when she sees a passel of missiles fly out of nowhere and blow him up. Shocked, Supergirl becomes vulnerable to the Mind Warp and they infect her with a rage, causing her to fly off to the neighboring kingdom to kill everyone.

Of course, the missiles were actually from the Mind Warp themselves; it was all staged in order to get Supergirl to royally mess up their enemies. As soon as she’s out of sight, Togran's dad rushes down and revives him with magic; but Togran flies off to stop Supergirl even though in his weakened state he'll die from the exertion, because he ain’t even trying to hear that. Togran's dad then goes into a rage and, while Togran heroically sacrifices himself to stop Supergirl's rampage, his dad hacks down the other two Mind Warp guys with a huge sword. Since they are all mind linked, all three of them die. In the annals of well thought out plans, this whole sequence of events is probably down near the bottom.

Yes, it's tragedy all around, except for Supergirl of course, who’s totally fine other than having that dude’s taste stuck in her face. Worst of all, though, one of the dead Mind Warp dudes is named "Opra". My God, there goes the Book Club.

And, that's… THE END!

Extras: In case you were wondering, that's a ten page story. So what's the rest of the 42 pages in this 52 page special? Well, it's all reprints. As you would expect from a Supergirl series, there's an Animal Man story and some space monster story in addition to one lone Supergirl reprint. Of course, I didn’t read any of this nonsense because if there’s one thing I can’t stand it’s a dirty reprint scam. I want new content! Of course, since this is a back issue, technically none of it is new so you might say I’m being arbitrary, but there’s the principle of the thing to uphold. If I had bought this issue new with a shiny, hard earned quarter back in 1972, I would have been royally steamed. Plus, I would have been a fetus, so the whole thing would be really kind of logistically awkward.

The story itself is pretty 1972, i.e. a thinly veiled meditation on peace, love and the Vietnam War. Is it just me, or was there more of this sort of thing going on at DC than at Marvel? I don’t just mean the obvious stuff like the Green Lantern / Green Arrow “relevancy” stuff, but just in general DC seemed to have a lot more topic of the day type stories during this time period.

Lastly, I also want to quickly point out that Supergirl appears to be wearing your grandma’s underwear. Yes, elastic is functional, but red Depends are not quite the fashion statement I want from my Supergirl. Other than that, the design from the era is pretty sweet, but seriously.

My grade: The Supergirl story gets a B for sheer weirdness, the rest of the issue gets an F for being a dirty reprint scam.

Bookmark and Share


Awesome man, thanks for sharing :). Does she actually kill people though =/?