DC Super Stars #9, November 1976, National Periodical Publications (DC Comics)
various creative teams
I thought this series was titled The Man Behind the Gun, since those words were emblazoned across the cover and included in the introductory text of each of this issue’s stories. The publication print, however, reveals that this series is actually dubbed DC Super Stars, presumably with an emphasis on a different genre with every issue, as the next issue blurb boasted, “Strange Sports Stories on Sale 4th Week of September.” Guns, sports . . . is this a guy’s comic book or what?
This issue featured not one, not two, not even three, but five epic tales about, well, guns, from a variety of eras, and in the hands of a variety of characters. The feature story actually stars Superman, at the mercy of Lex Luthor’s former cellmate who has built a gun that can harness the Man of Steel’s powers and use them to repel him. More interesting than the X-Gun is its effects of old Big Blue, as it hurtles him first into the sun, then through the time barrier itself. Talk about an armor-piercing bullet! With the help of Jimmy Olsen, Superman willingly exposes himself to Kryptonite to taint the gun’s strength, proving that a weapon is only as strong as its target is vulnerable, I suppose.
The other stories aren’t as interesting, and in fact, they literally decrease in quality and entertainment factor until the reader finally stumbles upon a carefully shrouded futuristic history lesson in the creation of the first hand held destructive laser. I understand what these writers, including Batman scribe Bill Finger, were trying to do, to analyze the power of the gun through various contexts of fiction, but the structure obviously became more important to the concept than the intrigue. Although the settings ranged from the Old West to a crippled but still capable submarine, each yarn adapted a formula that became too apparent with five similar back-to-back stories. “Here’s a gun, here’s the guy pulling the trigger, and here’s what makes this yarn so interesting.” Okay. I get it. I’ll never sneak a peek inside that shoebox in Daddy’s closet again.
When I, as a reader, spend more time pondering why the creators took the artistic routes they did, an issue like this becomes less about the men behind the guns and more about the men behind the comic. Although this stratum of the reading experience is still a form of escapism, the comic just doesn’t pull you in enough. It just shoots blanks.