Tuesday, March 14, 2017

COMIC BOOK RETROVIEW: DC 100-Page Super Spectaculars, Part Three

Continuing a look back at DC Comics' 100-Page Super Spectaculars in the 1970s. Begin with Part 1, move on to Part 2, and return to the spinner rack here:

As a twelve-year-old in 1972, I may have had a teeny little crush on Supergirl. Also on Batgirl, The Scarlet Witch, Dumb Bunny of The Inferior Five, Lilith of The Teen Titans, Beautiful Dreamer of The Forever People, all of the female members of The Legion Of Super-Heroes, Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek, various Playboy playmates, actresses Raquel Welch and Paulette Goddard, and my classmate Annette Tullar. Among others. I was a fickle kid. I think my Dad was a little concerned about my potentially fragile machismo whenever he saw me reading what he thought were girls' comic books--Wonder Woman, or Supergirl's exploits in Adventure Comics--but he needn't have worried. It's not that my interest was purely prurient--I dug superhero comics, regardless of the gender of the superdoer in question--but I was very much in favor of pretty girls. Quit worryin', Dad.

Adventure Comics # 416, DC's tenth 100-Page Super Spectacular, promised "World's Greatest Super-Females." Regular Adventure headliner Supergirl was the star, bookending an irresistible selection of DC heroines. Although Supergirl had been the solo star of a few previous DC Giant collections--curiously, there had never been a Wonder Woman Giant--this Super Spec was only DC's second-ever multi-character collection of distaff heroes, following 1969's DC Special # 3, the...er, "All-Girl Issue." See Our Fighting Females Do Their Thing! Oy....

My first copies of both DC Special # 3 and the 100-Page Adventure Comics # 416 were coverless, delaying my opportunity to appreciate the Neal Adams/Nick Cardy mashup on the former and Bob Oksner's parade o' cutie-pies on the latter. But I loved the contents of each. The DC Specials may be a subject to cover in future blogs. The Adventure Comics Super Spec was another 100-page winner.

The issue began and ended with Silver Age Supergirl stories, all with clean and appealing art by Jim Mooney. The rest of the issue was all Golden Age material from the '40s, from the first appearance of The Black Canary (as a beguiling antagonist for the hapless Johnny Thunder) through an amiable episode in the exploits of Merry, Girl Of 1,000 Gimmicks. There was also a three-part Wonder Woman tale from 1948, but the highlight for me was the DC debut of The Phantom Lady, another Golden Age character that DC had purchased from the now-defunct Quality Comics line. Following Kid Eternity's appearance in the seventh Super Spectacular, this was the second time DC had re-introduced a Quality character in these 100-pagers. I confess that Phantom Lady's skimpy costume was likely the chief draw for me at the time, but between her, the Kid, and my old pal Plastic Man, the Super Specs were turning me into a Quality fan. And there was still much more of them yet to come.

This trend of old Quality heroes returning continued in the next Super Spec, alias The Flash # 214. Alas, Quicksilver (no relation to Marvel's subsequent Mighty Avenger of the same name) didn't captivate me anywhere near as much as Kid Eternity or Plastic Man, nor as much as Phantom Lady's wardrobe. I liked The Flash all right, but this issue was a lesser treat for me. Silver Age Flash, Kid Flash, and Metal Men stories shared space with a previously unpublished Golden Age Flash story, plus Johnny Quick and Quicksilver. (Quicksilver was much, much later revived as Max Mercury, a mentor to The Flash's young protege Impulse.)

The Super Specs returned to the Superman Family for the the twelfth issue, aka Superboy # 185. This issue spotlighted "World's Greatest Young Heroes," and it included another Kid Eternity story, the second one I'd ever seen. That was the highlight of the issue for me. There were two other Golden Age stories (starring The Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy and Little Boy Blue and the Blue Boys), a pair of Silver Age super-teams (The Teen Titans and The Legion Of Super-Heroes), with the Boy of Steel opening and closing our show. It was fine, but not quite as spectacular as some previous Super Spectaculars.

Oh, but the next issue? That was spectacular. Jaw-dropping. Amazing! Little did I know it was also going to be the Super Specs' final act, at least for the time being. We'll fly high in the next edition of Comic Book Retroview.

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