Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Back Issue Box: Superman Family #204 And The Enchantress

The Flashpoint event starts in earnest in June with the multiple mini-series that flesh out this new universe being released. I have vowed in the past to never get too wrapped up in events like and yet it looks like I will be getting a number of the Flashpoint minis.

Perhaps the one that I am most interested in reading is Secret Seven, written by Peter Milligan and drawn by George Perez. The creative team alone would probably be enough to get me to buy but the book also stars Shade the Changing Man, one of my favorite DC characters. Milligan wrote the fantastic Vertigo version of Shade, so this will be like coming home.

But another character that is going to be in the book is also on the cover.

The DCU's version of the Enchantress also stars in the book. The Enchantress of the non-Flashpoint DCU was a reluctant hero who occasionally veered to evil when she used her magic too much. She maybe be best known for starring in the John Ostrander Suicide Squad book.

But the Enchantress also has some history with Supergirl. With June Moone weaving her magic again, I thought now would be a good time to head to the back issue box.

Supergirl battled the Enchantress in successive issues of Superman Family, starting with Superman Family #204.

Supergirl was the lead in this book and even I will admit that these aren't the best stories.

'The Earthquake Enchantment' was written by Jack C. Harris with art by the team of Win Mortimer and Vince Colletta. This was the Supergirl team on the book for some time, especially Win Mortimer who drew Supergirl's stories until the end of the Superman Family book. Harris wrote a bulk of her stories although a number of others did as well including Marty Pasko and eventually Paul Kupperberg (leading into his Daring New Adventures run).

At this time in Supergirl's life she was a guidance counselor at the New Athens Experimental School in Santa Augusta Florida. This story opens with her returning to the school after a break, flying home carrying her luggage! It is an odd opening to an even odder story. As she flies over the campus, an earthquake rattles the school.

To get her hands free, Supergirl flings her luggage high into the air and zooms to the ground to help out. But after a few seconds of heroics, stabilizing some buildings, the earthquake ends.

And it's a good thing that the quake was so brief; it allows Supergirl to catch her luggage as it falls back to the ground.

Okay, the 'toss the luggage in the air' maneuver is odd enough. But changing into Linda Danvers on the campus grounds rather than in a room seems even odder. It is bizarre moments like these that make me realize that the Silver Age was nearing its end in 1980. It doesn't make too much sense for Supergirl to do any of this, not when she could put her bags down on a roof, on the ground, or just about anywhere else.

The school's staff are thrilled to see Linda back. And there are some new additions. The school's new parapsychology department has hired June Moone, an expert of sorcery. I guess an Experimental School would have parapsychology professors.

One of the staff science teacher is quick to note that the school's seismograph did not measure the earthquake. At least by scientific methods, the earthquake did not appear to happen.

Later that night, another quake hits the area. Burrowing underground, Supergirl finds the epicenter and tunneling back up to the surface. The center of the quake is the New Athens campus and standing there is the Enchantress. That's why the quake didn't register on the seismograph; it was a magical earthquake.

The Enchantress seems to be exuding magical energy because Supergirl feels weak and sickened just being in the sorceress' vicinity.

While the two square off, Harris retells the Enchantress' origin.

June Moone was a young artist invited to a costume party being held at an 'old estate castle'. There, she accidentally discovers a hidden chamber which is the home for a magical creature named Dzamor. Granted mastery over sorcery, The Enchantress defeats a monster at the party and vows to use her powers from then on to battle evil.

It is a standard origin story for the Silver Age. I do like the look of Dzamor.

But back to the fight. The Enchantress refuses to stop the quake saying that what she does must be done.

Of course, the quake is endangering lives. If Enchantress won't stop on her own, Supergirl will stop her. And since she can't get near the Enchantress, she has to do it from afar. Ripping up the sod, Supergirl upends the Enchantress, forcing the sorceress to retreat.

The next day, Linda decides to do some research Dzamor, the name the Enchantress shouted during her escape. Thumbing through a rare old volume about the nether gods (the Experimental School really has a lot of resources), Linda runs into June Moone. Moone talks cosmic events when conditions are exactly right during which the old gods can impact the modern world.

In something of a leap, Supergirl puts all the cryptic things the Enchantress said during their battle as well as Moone's comments to come to a conclusion. Santa Augusta must be the 'focal point of an astral alignment' which will give the Enchantress unlimited power.

I suppose it 'makes sense' but it still seems like a stretch to go from those comments to that conclusions.

But, it turns out that Supergirl is right. A third earthquake rocks the school.

And the Enchantress says that the current alignment will grant her the power to eliminate all 'science based' super powers on Earth. And then, armed with near limitless power, she will use her magic to rid the world of evil: crime, sickness, terrorism, and war. Throughout her comic history, and here included, the Enchantress has walked a fine line between being a hero and a villain. Her goals might be noble, but her means aren't right.

And those goals might sound nice but Supergirl realizes that the Enchantress seems pretty unstable. Absolute power in her hands doesn't sound as good as her promises. And with more magic rippling off the Enchantress, Supergirl knows she needs to get far away. Straining, she is able to get up, up, and away into space.

And up in space, Supergirl realizes that anything that puts the heavenly bodies out of alignment will break the 'perfect' confluence and turn off the power rushing into the Enchantress.

In a perfect moment of late Silver Age lunacy, Supergirl literally kicks the moon slightly out of its orbit. That is one mighty kick! You either love moments like these for their lunacy or hate them for their stupidity. I tend to nostalgically love them. I mean how can you not like that second panel?

The sudden change in the cosmic alignment breaks the spell and the Enchantress has no choice but to disappear. But she leaves with an ominous statement ... 'From this day forward -- the Enchantress is the avowed enemy of Supergirl!'

Before coming back to Earth, Supergirl kicks the moon back into its right orbit.

But this isn't the end of the Enchantress/Supergirl feud. Supergirl knows the Enchantress is lurking around. And June Moone isn't going to forget her vow. She will clash with Supergirl again, and soon.

I will admit that almost all the Superman Family Supergirl stories tend to be forgettable. But any story where Supergirl kicks the moon in and out of orbit is just wacky enough to hold a special place in my heart. I credit Harris for saving the Enchantress from DC limbo. This was her first appearance since the late 60s. Mortimer's art is workmanlike.

From a Supergirl collection viewpoint, this issue is of low importance (as almost all the Superman Family stories are). It can probably be found for under $5 at conventions and stores.

Overall grade: C


Anonymous said...

I give Jack C. Harris props for taking a D-List DC heroine like June Moone over to the dark side without making her necessarily a cackling one note super villainess. I also give him props for trying manfully to gin up Supergirl's profile in the DCU and give her an interesting rogue's gallery.
Nonethless it simply astonishes me to this day that DC could allow artwork this crude and amateurish to be published in one of their prestige dollar comics. I mean I think two thirds of the panels are close up of character's heads at three quarter's pose. Win Mortimer's figures are shapely enough but stiff and stamped onto badly rushed layouts.
And Vince Colletta's inks? In a word, Awful!
A lot of things lead to the cover of COIE #7, and this crapulous artwork certainly did not help matters any.
Still it'd be fun if Kara and June M. started up where they left off in 1980....just sayin'

John Feer

Anonymous said...

Wait, how did DC get away with a magical character named Enchantress without Marvel calling its lawyers?

Anj wrote:
"One of the staff science teacher is quick to note that the school's seismograph did not measure the earthquake. At least by scientific methods, the earthquake did not appear to happen."

That science teacher looks like Peter Parker.

"Okay, the 'toss the luggage in the air' maneuver is odd enough. But changing into Linda Danvers on the campus grounds rather than in a room seems even odder."

I agree that it is silly, but it does make better sense than the scenes in the Supergirl movie where Kara changed into Supergirl by simply walking by a tree, or flying through a window.

"In a perfect moment of late Silver Age lunacy, Supergirl literally kicks the moon slightly out of its orbit. That is one mighty kick!"

I nomimate that the phrase "kicking the moon" be the new lexicon for Supergirl fans to use to describe silly comic book moments.

I wonder if this was the issue that inspired screenwriter David Odell to have Supergirl fight a witch in the movie. Frankly they should have just used Enchantress as the villian with Helen Slater kicking the moon towards the end to defeat her. I mean if Christopher Reeve could spin the Earth backwards....

Enchantress would make an excellent rogue for Supergirl today.


Martin Gray said...

And maybe they will, John, after today's announcements ... oh Lord, please let Kara be OK.

Anyway, lovely piece on a daft old tale. I love the Enchantress, that go-go check skirt is the business.