Saturday, December 1, 2012

Back Issue Box: Action Comics # 307

It was something of a slow news week which means I have been doing almost non-stop reviews! I figured I would go to the long box and find a Silver Age story to review after a week of reviewing current books.

I always try to tie in my Silver Age reviews with current themes but this one feels something of a stretch. My thoughts were to either review the first appearance of the Kryptonite Man from Action Comics #349 (given the recent reintroduction of the K-Man in this year's Annual) or to find an issue where Kara is duped by another Kryptonian (as she is slowly being won over by potential Kryptonian H'El). I decided the latter might be more fun to look at.

Action Comics #307 features a story where Supergirl gets fooled by Tor-An, an escaped Phantom Zone villain. As in H'El on Earth, the villain preys on something that Supergirl wants desperately. In the current book, Supergirl wants to go home. In the Silver Age, I think she just wanted to be loved and accepted. And the oily Tor-An goes out of his way to woo her ... albeit with evil intentions.

One thing to note is that Tor-An has made a modern age appearance. Greg Rucka had Tor-An be one of Zod's sleeper agents being hunted down by Nightwing and Flamebird. Here is a look back at that appearance:

The Silver Age was a simpler time so this story reads a little dated with a somewhat gullible Supergirl. But there is always a foundation of sweetness in these stories, as if the universe is somehow conspiring against Supergirl having a happy life and yet, despite that, she continues to rise above it all and remain pure.

'Supergirl's Wedding Day!' was written by long time Supergirl scribe Leo Dorfman and drawn by Supergirl legend JimMooney.

The opening semi-splash is a perfect set-up for the story. There is a romantic scene, the moon out over a tropical paradise, Supergirl embracing and kissing Tor-An, her hand lovingly on his head. She is happy.

And yet we are privy to those Tor-An's evil thoughts, how this love is a sham to get revenge on Superman.

And poor Jerro, always looking from the outside in. He wants to warn her but is scared.

One thing that I love about these Silver Age Supergirl Action Comics stories is that the Phantom Zone villains were as much a Supergirl rogue as they were for Superman. In fact, maybe moreso! They were always plotting, focusing their telepathy to do her harm.

Here, the Zoners use their wills to overpower Midvale Mayor. The Mayor then asks Supergirl to carry out their wishes. Celebrating the Midvale anniversary, he has Supergirl create a cosmic 'firework spectacular' out of meteors. Little did Supergirl know that this, as anticipated by Tor-An, would open up a small temporary rift from the Zone to reality. As it was Tor-An's plan, he gets to flee with the plan to get the Phantom Zone projector and free everyone else.

In the Fortress, Tor-An easily wipes out the Superman robot defenders. But one of the robots has the wherewithal to destroy the Zone projector so the remaining villains will remain trapped.

With the plan foiled, Tor-An comes up with a more devious way to exact his revenge. And to make sure the Kandorians don't interfere, he booby-traps the bottle.

We learn that Tor-An was a brilliant scientist who experimented on people, putting their minds in monsters.

Now you sometimes have to take these Silver Age plots with a grain of salt. The brilliant scientist who is freed from the Zone doesn't rebuild the projector, doesn't flee Earth to be free roaming the universe, doesn't bide his time to find another way to release his fellow prisoners. Instead he decides the best plan of action is to woo Supergirl and trick her into marriage to sully the name of El. Incredible!

Tor-An uses super-hypnotism to mind-wipe the new science teacher for Midvale High. Tor-An then replaces him.

Shortly thereafter, he begins dropping hints that there is more to him than meets the eye. For example, he draws something similar to Argo City on the blackboard when discussing atmospheres. And at the same time, Linda starts receiving extravagant gifts from a secret admirer.

Finally, he shows Linda his powers and admits he too is an Argo City survivor. And moreover, he has fallen in love with her. At least that's his story.

He whisks her away to his secret cave hideout where he hooks her up to a 'memory machine' to share his phony origin.

He also lived on Argo. His father, Vac-An, was also a scientist. Knowing Argo was doomed and knowing Tor wouldn't leave his family, Vac drugs his child, throws him in a rocket, and sends him to Earth.

Isn't that eerily similar to the current Supergirl's origin?

And then, the coup de grace! Tor-An tells Kara he fell in love with her because she reminded him of Alura. What a great pick-up line! In fact it is so powerful, she swoons, landing in his arm for a dramatic kiss!

With all that phony sentiment laid out, Tor-An begins courting Supergirl, lavishing gift on her.

And why not try to woo the family too!

Tor-An gives the Danvers a 'youth potion', one he knows will only last a few weeks. And then he brings Edna a chest of jewels, an old Kryptonian couple. Just like that, Edna is ready to welcome Tor into the family.

And this new found sense of love is effecting Supergirl deeply, to the point where she is literally counting the seconds since she was last kissed by him.

But those who truly love Supergirl, who also happen to have rudimentary telepathy sense something is amiss with Tor-An.

First Jerro tries to warn her only to be told by Kara that he is just jealous.

Then Comet tries to warn her but she tells her horse that he resents Tor-An because she loves him.

It isn't a shining moment for Kara but I think it shows just how much she needed to be loved.

And so a whirlwind courtship leads to a rapid fire marriage. And Tor-An has all the bases covered. First he bullies the Kandorian leader to marry them or he will destroy the city. Then he creates a 'chemical android' to play the role of Superman and act as the witness.  The vows are exchanged ... it's official!

Before even kissing the bride, Tor-An drops all pretenses. He married her out of revenge! He hates her!

Seems like a complicated plan to get revenge, no?

And we learn more about Krypton's customs. In Action Comics #289 we learned that Kryptonian cousins can't marry. Here we learn Kryptonian law forbids divorce. Supergirl's family will forever be tainted by having a felon in their midst. Seems silly? That is his great revenge? Sullying the name of the only surviving Kryptonians? Why not go off somewhere and create super-science weapons and kill Superman instead?

Anyways, turnabout is fair play. Supergirl sheds her veil and costume revealing she is actually Saturn Girl. And the jewel altar turns out to be a time machine platform sending Tor-An to the future where the Legion is waiting.

It turns out that Lori Lemaris and Jerro were so worried they called on Saturn Girl for help. And Imra discovered who Tor-An was and warned Supergirl. Since Saturn Girl looks just like Supergirl (as Lena Thorul and Lesla Lar do), she was able to stand in. Thus the vows are not binding.

Isn't this plan to foil Tor-An a bit convoluted too?

And so Tor-An is trapped in a Kryptonite cage in the future, awaiting Superman to return from his mission, rebuild the projector, and send Tor-An back to prison.

Alas, all the wonders of Tor-An ends. The Danvers return to their normal age. And Supergirl has a hole in her heart. Will she ever find the man of her dreams?

So this is a tough one to call for a grade. Supergirl is pretty much fooled this whole story, wooed by a villain. She certainly isn't strong or savvy. But throughout many stories like this in the Silver Age an unwavering love of life and hope for the future emerges. These stories define Supergirl as someone who doesn't give up and continues to look for the positives in the world around her.

As for a Supergirl collection, nothing crucial happens from a historic point of view. That said, this story has Comet, Jerro, Kandorians, and the Phantom Zone villains. It has a sort of hopeful tone which was the mainstay of many Kara's adventures in that time. It isn't a bad 'old' issue to have to capture the feel of Supergirl in the early 60's.

I can't help but grade these high. Probably higher than other would.

Overall grade: B+


Anonymous said...

Jobbed out to a walk on guest star ne'er to be seen again...but that was Supergirl in the Silver Age.
This isn't one of her better stories from that era, but then it was the mid-1960's truly independent superheroines didn't exist in the comics by and large.
Although compared to the passive-aggressive mess that was Wonder Woman in the Silver Age, Supergirl is practically a feminist!
Leo Dorfman tended to set Supergirl's default position at "Romance Comic with a Cape". There is a great two -parter around Action 330 or so, an "Imaginary Story" wherein the Supergirl-Superman age dynamic is reversed and Kara is the senior partner.
Turns out Kal El can't take orders from a strong confident woman and comes to should review it some time.


Anj said...

Thanks for the post.

There is an element of innocence in these stories which I find charming in a retro sort of way.

As for that imaginary story, I have covered it here ... albeit 2+ years ago. Here is the link.

Anonymous said...

OOPS! Dopey me, apologies.

Still the main thing to recall about the SA SG, is that despite the stereotypes that got hung on her, she bailed her cousin out of more jams than he ever reciprocated...That to me is the hardworking essence of the character in a meta context.


Anj said...

No need to oops or apologize. Even I lose track of what I have covered here!

I agree thought, Supergirl was always working to help her cousin. He often wanted to banish her.