Saturday, January 5, 2013

Amazing Heroes #17 (1982)

I am hoping that people don't mind my looks back at Supergirl history from time to time. As I said recently, time off at the holidays meant time to read. And that meant time to thumb through the long boxes and read some stuff in my collection that I haven't revisited in a while.

Amazing Heroes was a comic magazine that came out in the early 1980's. This was the pre-internet days so if you wanted to read interviews with the creators, or read about older issues, or even find out what was coming out, there weren't many resources.

I discovered Amazing Heroes in the latter half of the decade when I was driving myself to the comic store and discovering that there were certain creators who I was going to follow. When those creators were interviewed or spotlighted in the magazine I would buy the issue. And when characters I liked were highlighted I would get those issues. And with the advent of a comic book store, I could look at back issues and buy them. And that was how I ended up getting Amazing Heroes #17 which looked at the history of Supergirl. In fact, it ends up being a 2 part review, the second half appearing in AH #18.

With some time on my hands, I thought I would reread this article from 1982, a time when Supergirl had just graduated to the solo title Daring New Adventures of Supergirl. She was still in hot pants and 4 years away from being killed in the Crisis. What was the feel for the character in those days?

Of note, I have to comment on this (I think) painted cover of Supergirl by Kevin Nowlan. I am a big fan of Nowlan and his comic art and I would not have pegged this as work from him. His style certainly has evolved. At first I thought she was holding a cigarette but it is chalk with which she has written 'and heroines'. And check out the frizzy locks! Still, I like the cover.

The article is titled Supergirl In Action: A Heroine History and written by Dwight R. Decker.

I can't comment on who Decker was or his credentials. But it is clear he is a Supergirl fan even if I don't necessarily agree with what he says all the time.

The first part of this two-part series is the better article (I assume I'll review the second part at some point) as it takes a look back at the earliest days of the character, including the 'trial run' Super-Girl that was featured in Superman #123. That hyphenated Super-Girl, wished into existence by Jimmy Olsen, was probably used as a gauge to see if there was in interest in another member of the Super-family. That story ran 9 months before Kara graced the cover of Action Comics #252.

Here are a few other tidbits from the article that I thought were worth sharing.

Otto Binder, who penned the earliest Supergirl stories had also created Mary Marvel for Fawcett long before Supergirl came into existence.

I will admit I haven't read too many of the early Mary Marvel stories so I don't know if the tone mirrors the earliest adventures of Supergirl. When he says it was 'reliving the past', it makes me wonder if he revisited his Mary's stories, retreading some plots.

Of all the things in the article, this piece was the most fascinating to me.

DC applied for a trademark of the name 'Super-Girl' all the way back in 1944, a full 15 years before she became a consistent character in the DC universe. I wonder if other people pitched a use of the name before the version in Superman #123.

One thing I don't agree with is Decker's somewhat relentless disparaging of Jim Mooney's art. Here he says he has a limited repertoire, swiped other people's work, and made things silly or dull.

Elsewhere he bemoans Mooney as being a copycat. He even says that Kara was never 'pretty' when drawn by Mooney.

I simply don't agree. I love Mooney's work.

Decker does do a good job of pointing out the subtle changes that wormed their way into the Supergirl origin during reprints and revisits. Initially it was a 'street of homes' that was blown off of Krypton intact. That changed to Argo City. It was initially a bubble of air for atmosphere; that became a dome. At first it was straight up Green K that killed the citizens. But since Green K is later found not to effect non-super-powered Kryptonians, it is changed to anti-Kryptonite. So things kind of get refined over the years. He reviews Zor-El and Allura's roles too.

The remainder of the article looks mostly at Mort Weisinger and his editorial style and a thorough review of Action Comics #252.

So there are some nice 'behind the scenes' pieces of Supergirl's history make this a decent article. And, as I always say, Supergirl publicity is almost always welcomed by me. Amazing Heroes was one of the few comics scene magazines out at the time and certainly one of the biggest. It's great Supergirl made the cover and had this in-depth coverage.

The articles in the book include some funny cartoons and other drawings from (what I assume) are artists on the Amazing Heroes' staff.

This one was funny enough to reprint here, a sort of amusing look at the 'secret weapon' phase of Kara's career.

In terms of a Supergirl collection, I think text pieces like this on the character are rare so it is worth hunting down for readers interested in more than the comic history of the character. I don't know how many of these things survived and they might be in the bargain bin so well worth a couple of bucks. I would put it of low importance but of moderate interest.


Anonymous said...

Yeah agreed I own these two issues as well, Jim Mooney came in for some undeserved criticism here. The man was laboring under the heavy hand of the Superman "House Style" administered by Mort Weisinger who was not a nice man to work for by all means.
I bought some artwork from Jim Mooney before he died he was a very nice honest man to deal with...Over time I think he developed a very proprietary interest in Supergirl as a character.


valerie21601 said...

I consider most artists work a acquired taste especially when it comes to their time period and the styles of the past.

Have a couple of Mooney Supergirl/Brainiac 5 drawings posted on the Querl-n-Kara fan club at

There is a Mooney picture on DA that can't be shown on here that's too al natural for this site.

Diabolu Frank said...

I freaking love that cover. It's not quite who Supergirl should be, but that late '70s/early '80s vibe rocks my socks off. Nowlan is a technically superior artist now, but he lost that New Wave Noir sultry Nagel cool along the way.

Amazing Heroes was a fantastic magazine, and I hope someday to pull a set together. It was nerdy and amateurish, but it had the right spirit-- unashamed of super-heroes but willing to embrace more progressive material without the pretense of The Comics Journal.

I'm pretty sure the cartoon is by Jaime Hernandez of Love and Rockets fame, though that obviously hadn't come yet in 1982.

I enjoyed this post, and it partially inspired a response I'll run tomorrow on my blog.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments.

I also was able to grab a Mooney commission several years ago right before his passing. He was a gentleman throughout that process and even sent a handwritten note with the piece.

And Frank, I think you are right, that probably is Jaime Hernandez from Love and Rockets! Unreal!

Gernot said...

Thanks for publishing this! I'd SEEN the cover back in '83, because a brother bought it for his bus ride to his college town, but lost it shortly after. I NEVER got to read it, and it drove me crazy 30 years ago! LOL :)

I ALWAYS thought that cover was hot, and would've LOVED to have met the model! ;)

And a friend used to use the cartoon for his signature on a message board I mod, and I sent it his way. He and I both send our thanks. :)

And Jim Mooney ROCKED! Heh. When I first saw him on Spider-Man years ago, I wondered why everyone looked like a Supergirl character! :)

Thanks again! :)


Anonymous said...

Nevertheless lets face it, the Silver Age Kara's origin is a contrived convoluted far-fetched mess all things considered. With it's domed city in space motif it is not Otto Binder's best work not by a long shot.
Convoluted origins tend to haunt super heroic characters and act as a weird metaphoric drag on their development I think this was very much the case with Supergirl.
Of the many many things Paul Dini did when he took on the world to revive Supergirl in the Superman animated series is that he gave her a vastly simplified and more sensible origin and even played a bit with the odd cryogenically driven difference in their ages.


Mhunt said...

I was lucky to exchange a few emails with Jim Mooney after an interview that appeared on the web, there were some tension between him and his editor to the point that he quit.

How his artwork were given away to visitors, they even cut panels out of his pages and give them to visitors, without asking him, and other stuff I don't remember well.

I don't think he was treated as good as he deserved.