Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Back Issue Review: Superman Family #200

Superman Family #200 came out 34 years ago. A young Anj was in the fifth grade and a $1.00 for a comic was a major financial commitment.

So why am I reviewing it now?

Well, if any comic shows how much comics have changed over time it is this one. Currently in DC Comics, we are reading Futures' End, a brutal dystopia in the near future where villains are loners, where anti-heroes are killing people, all leading to an even more brutal dystopia in the far future where everyone has been turned into murdering, bladed, cyborg tanks.

In 1980, Superman Family #200 looked into the future and had the characters celebrating a wedding anniversary.

I suppose that my comfort zone is somewhere between these two extremes. I don't know if I want to read a comic about anniversary parties every month but this comic gave me some comfort in knowing the future was a safe and better place. And anything has to be better than a robotic Wonder Woman fighting Frankenstein who has Black Canary's head attached to his torso.

I also am a sucker for these longevity anniversary issues as well. Even in the 1980's, a title hitting 200 issues was something of a big deal. In an era where we reboot and renumber every couple of years, I don't know if we will see this again.

And look at this future ... in a 'near (or distant) future, at the turn of the century'. That means this comic is already 14 years beyond it's future time! Perry White has retired. Jimmy is married to Lucy Lane and is the editor of the Daily Planet. Clark and Lois are married and have a 16 year old daughter named Laura. And Lois, who has been a stay-at-home mom for 16 years is about to get back into the journalism business.

But first, there is the celebration of Clark and Lois' wedding anniversary.

There is a lot to like about even these broad concepts. Imagine, Clark and Lois married! Amazing that it actually happened in comics about 15 years later. And a daughter named Laura! It reminded me of distant descendant Laurel. Laura has no powers and bemoans her 'normal' life.

But what about Supergirl?? Or should I say Superwoman!

The book is set up much like every other Superman Family with a Lois solo story, a Private Life of Clark Kent story, a Jimmy story, and a Supergirl ... umm ... Superwoman arc. But all the stories have the backdrop of the characters preparing for the wedding anniversary party of Clark and Lois as well as Lois' rejoining the working world. So we get 'Something swims the time stream' by Gerry Conway (who wrote the whole issue) and Win Mortimer.

As for Kara, she is still in Florida, acting as the local superhero and rescuing people. That includes this rescuing this whole offshore energy site from a tidal wave by lifting up the whole thing.

So we have Kristin Wells, Lucy Lane, and now Kara all having used the Superwoman moniker.

But there is more to Kara than simply being Superwoman. And she has moved way past being a guidance counselor at a New Athens Experimental School.

She is Governor of Florida!!! And the one act we see her perform as Governor is to pardon someone being wrongfully sent to the electric chair. It is reminiscent of the very first Superman story.

But it is also a high compliment for Linda that Conway elevates her to that office, especially for the time this was written.

Ahhh ... but then we get to the real Supergirl mystery. One that has never been solved.

Kara flies home to her husband, someone in shadows ... someone we never see.

But we do get some clues.

He is friends with Clark and Lois already. (Don't guess Jimmy. We have seen him with Lucy already.)

Soo .... friends with Lois and Clark ... hmmmm ...

And then the husband intuits that Kara is anxious because she hasn't got Clark and Lois a present yet.

Then he states it 'doesn't take a detective' to guess that.

Is he letting us know that he is a detective??

So a detective who is friends with Lois and Clark. Dick Grayson?? He is on the cover as a guest.

 Kara speeds off into the time stream to get her anniversary gift, traveling back in time to take video of the key moments in Clark and Lois' life together. Here he is hired at the planet. We see her snapping pics of Superman saving Lois, Clark spilling his dinner on himself like a klutz, etc.

 And then she captures the actual wedding on video.

But it isn't all fun and games and memories and nostalgia.

A white ape-like monster is living in the time stream. Somehow trapped between times, this creature has been leeching life energy off unsuspecting time travelers, and Kara is his next target.

 With little other choice, Kara flies away from him, forward in the time stream, to the edge of time itself.

Somehow, trying to keep up with Kara simply burns the creature up. With no control over his time manipulation, the years ... an eternity of time ... catches up with him and he disintegrates into dust.

Mortimer does his best to be Dali-esque here, trying to create a surreal landscape of cubes and shapes, but he can't quite pull it off.

Happy to be safe and pleased with her gift, Kara streaks back home.

 Meanwhile, in a nice twist, Laura's powers suddenly kick in. She guesses that her Kryptonian half kicked in with puberty. Suddenly we have a new Supergirl (even if she isn't called that here).

But there is one more twist. It turns out that Lois is pregnant again!!

Earlier in the book we hear how happy she was to be an at-home Mom for Laura but she was very much looking forward to being a reporter again. She is upset. I guess the concept of nannies wasn't big back in the early 80s.

Anyways, in a great turn of events, and showing how great these two are as a couple, Clark says he'll stop being a reporter and stay at home as Dad for the new baby (while maintaining his Superman duties). This way Lois can go back to work happily. I love how Clark tells Lois that she was always the better reporter. How fantastic is this!!

There is nothing left to do but show the happy couple and there happy friends at the party.

And so, that was the future of the DCU back in 1980. Superwoman, alive, well, and the Governor of Florida.

And married .... but to who??? Any other guesses?

Overall grade: A (drowned in the sweet syrup of nostalgia)


Doug said...

That was one of my favorite ones too as a kid! And that's probably why I always believed Dick Grayson and Kara Zor-El would be together.

Anonymous said...

They would literally be the Ultimate Power Couple wouldn't they?
That would have been a cute sub plot back in the bronze/silver age...although Dick was depicted in the sixties as being a high schooler while Kara was halfway thru college by 1967 or so...
I like this story as well, but clearly SuperWOMAN is drawn as being about twenty years old by Win Mortimer he doesn't even make her any taller or's a monotonously "on model" depiction.


Nobile said...

You just dropped a bomb! :-) I read this ish 34 years ago as well (US comics were pretty rare in Italy at the time) and never, NEVER linked the "detective" thing and Dick's appearance on the cover.

My childhood will never be the same again ;-)

Anj said...

I really love this issue.

I think in a subsequent letter column, no one officially says it is Dick Grayson. But it seems to fit.

Martin Gray said...

Yeah, this was a great issue, I adored the peek into a future we'd likely never see (I didn't rule it out completely, as we had seen Kara advance several years - until she slipped back a tad).

And as ever, Mortimer (and Coletta? Giella?) edit a beautiful Kara.

Simple charm, I love it.

Jay said...

This is before my time, but I am also a fan of future stories in which things are good like this. But I'm also a big fan of dystopian stories, so I'm just a big mixed bag, lol. But the pendulum is definitely skewed right now. DC loves their future stories these days. And they're always bad. I'd suggest more stuff like this for a balance, but I'm actually anticipating one of the results of Futures End, due to the title, being a marked decrease in these types of stories across the board.

Anj said...

Believe it or not, I also like dystopian stories. Blade Runner is my favorite movie!

But I think DC has been so relentlessly grim that a future dystopia doesn't feel like an abnormality.

In my mind, there hasn't been much lightness to contrast to the darkness to make it stand out more.

From Flashpoint to the bulk of the new 52 to Futures End, it has been depressingly dark.

Now I don't want endless anniversary parties. But some fun would be appreciated.