Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Adventure Comics #389

Adventure Comics #389, February 1970, National Periodical Publications (DC Comics)

Celebrating one month of A Comic A Day. With one-twelfth of this project complete, I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel. I can do this. Granted, many of these posts have come in under the wire, just shy of 11:30 p.m. PST, but what can I say? As much as I'd like to read and write all day, a guy's gotta work. (And fortunately, I love my job, but that's a story for another blog.) So, although I've accomplished the goal of reading and reviewing a new-to-me comic book daily this past month, I haven't fully grasped the potential of this exercise yet. I originally intended to live with the comic for the day, to read it in the morning or early afternoon, let my impression of it stew in the context of my other daily, geeky thoughts, then post a synopsis sometime in the evening. As it is, I've been reading and writing immediately afterward, just to get the damn thing done. I hope things change when summertime is over. After all, in July, I experienced two of my biggest annual obligations: the Comic Con, and my girlfriend's birthday. If I can accomplish this daily digression in the midst of those events, I can do it anytime.

Since I began last month's entries with a Superman tale, I figured I'd begin this month with a Supergirl yarn from Adventure Comics. These stories are obviously intended for a female audience, yet they retain a trace of standard superhero bravado to maintain a secure male readership, as well. For example, the first tale begins with Supergirl deflecting a misfired rocket, then repairing a boy's broken bicycle. (Actually, she builds four bikes from the scraps of one -- a woman after my own pedestrian heart!) Alas, let the feeling begin, when the tale takes its thematic twist: when Supergirl's professor announces an upcoming Fathers' Day festival, one of her classmates sulks because her dad, a magician, hasn't performed since her mother died ten years ago. Convicted to help her depressed friend, Supergirl uses her super-ventriloquism on a picture of the deceased to inspire the magician out of retirement. In her civilian identity, Supergirl aids "Malcolm the Mysterious" throughout his ailing performance, and when a snobby classmate nearly discovers her secret, her tiny father emerges from the bottle city of Kandor to assist with more subtlety. As corny as this story sounds, the writer (whoever they are; the creators are anonymous) actually takes the subject matter fairly seriously, and ultimately, the tale is quite touching. I detect a "Super Gilmore Girls" quality to the college campus quibbles of these young ladies. I can see the appeal . . . if I was a girl, of course!

In the second tale, Brainiac (yes, the green-skinned humanoid Brainiac of yesteryear) traps the wiles of a womanizing space criminal in a robot duplicate so he can entice Supergirl's emotions, and in the end, shatter them. It's actually an intriguing plot; when the robot reveals that even Earth's Supergirl can't win him over, he destroys himself before her, presumably spiraling Supergirl's fragile heroism into retirement. Alas, even Brainiac's plans couldn't account for human error, and the space criminal swipes places with his clone, inadvertently foiling the plan. This story is classic Bronze Age weirdness, complete with liquid adhesive Kryptonite and a faux "rock garden" of Supergirl's jilted boyfriends. With Brainiac pulling these silly strings (no pun intended), the tale clung to just enough validity in continuity to make it enjoyable; if another, unknown villain was working behind the scenes, the yarn would have offered no context for Supergirl's character whatsoever. I mean, despite Brainiac's deviousness, the Maid of Steel still fell for the robot's charm (or lack thereof, really) rather effortlessly. Makes me wonder what a green-K roofie could do.

This issue of Adventure Comics represents everything the A Comic A Day challenge hopes to accomplish. Normally, I'd pass up an issue like this as pre-Crisis fluff for girls. Yet, reading and analyzing it in the broad (no pun intended there, either) tapestry of comics, I appreciate it for what it was when it was first released, and for what it is now. Books like Epic Illustrated, Mighty Samson, Forbidden Worlds -- issues I've enjoyed -- I may have never experienced without this motivation. This exercise is really putting the adventure back in comics.

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