Thursday, October 2, 2014

Back Issue Review: Supergirl #1 - Supergirl Heads To Vandyre University

In anticipation of Supergirl joining the Crucible Academy in November, I  have been making my way through the back issues looking at the times Supergirl entered a new school.

In the 1960s it was Stanhope College.
In the 1980s it was Lake Shore University.
In the 1970s it was Vandyre University. And that new school was introduced here in Supergirl (vol 1) #1, from 1972.

This was Supergirl's first self-titled solo book after almost 4 years of ruling the roost over at Adventure Comics. Interestingly enough, it was released one month after Adventure Comics #424, her last story there. I wonder what spurred the movement to her own title. Did they think Supergirl deserved it after such a long run? Was the plan to turn Adventure back into an anthology book so she needed to move?

Regardless of the reason, this was something of a mini-reboot for Supergirl. She had just quit her job as a reporter/cameraperson for a San Francisco television news crew. It was time for a new start. Despite having graduated from college, it seems that it was time for some more schooling.

And, as this was a new direction, Supergirl got a new creative team. Cary Bates wrote this issue and the bulk of this whole 10 issue run, with a few Arnold Drake and Bob Kanigher stories thrown into the mix. But, the real star of this series is artist Art Saaf who drew the most bodacious, curviest, most va-va-voom Supergirl to date. She really is stunning under his pencil.

There is no better panel to illustrate Saaf's approach to the character than this opening splash page. Kara is radiant as she soars above the Golden Gate Bridge.

But there is something very much cheesecake in this pose, a semi-brokeback view of both her pulchritude and her posterior, a teeny tiny waist. And I am still trying to figure out what is happening with her legs. Still, Saaf is a master of the bombshell Supergirl.

Her life as news reporter is over. So Supergirl is able "to pursue my real ambition ... at last".

Her "real ambition"? As a long time fan, I don't recall Linda pining to be doing something else.

Her real pursuit turns out the be acting? Acting??

And despite her time and degree at Stanhope, Linda hopes to learn her chops at Vandyre University, a school with a Drama major.

Suddenly Supergirl realizes that she needs to move in today! I don't know about Vandyre U. Writing a letter on September 13, sending it out via postal mail, to tell them they need to be in by September 15! Sounds dicey.

Of course, having superpowers makes moving a breeze. In moments, Supergirl has packed up all her stuff and moved it into the school's Delta Zan house (maybe a sorority).

Bates does a good job of setting up a supporting cast. Here we meet Aunt Rosie, the house mother. She seems like a kindly and motherly figure.

And Linda sees the stuff from her roommate Wanda Five, who Rosie call strange ... but nice.

Later, Linda heads to the drama class and is nearly run over by a woman running from the auditorium.

And then we get the first mystery of the book. Linda walks into the class, run by Basil Rasloff, a famous leading man from times past. I have to assume Basil Rasloff is a take off on Boris Karloff.

The scene involves a student 'dying' on stage. But it turns out the student has actually died!!

With no other lead, Supergirl decides to track down the girl who ran from the auditorium. She heads to the dean's office and superspeeds her way through the student files and discovers the person who ran from the scene is none other than Wanda Five!

There is a brief side plot where it turns out the student was being blackmailed. But the blackmailer is not the killer.

Later, Supergirl is drawn mentally to head to a graveyard where she meets Wanda.

It turns out that Wanda has some form of ESP. She was able to mentally concentrate on Supergirl and bring her to the cemetery. Wanda's ESP had kicked in right before the student died. She had rushed there to try to save him.

While talking, Wanda gets another surge of negative energy. Someone else is going to die.

In the goofiest scene, Supergirl streaks with Wanda to the scene. Another drama student is tied to a log heading into a buzzsaw at a lumber mill, like something out of a 1930's serial. Supergirl scoops up the log and makes two shocking discoveries. One, the giant buzzsaw is a plastic prop ... it isn't real. And two, the student is already dead.

Heading to the police station, Supergirl, Wanda, and the police review the crimes.

The first student, a drama major, was killed by poisoned face cream.

The second student, also a drama major, was killed by fear. He had an underlying cardiac condition and the fright of being on a log heading to a buzz saw killed him.

Hmmm ... two drama students killed in odd ways. What could the connection be?? Come on Supergirl, you're better than this.

Well, the connection is discovered. Both were planning a starring role in an upcoming project. And both plays are one which Basil Rathloff starred in.

And, incredibly, the school is planning a third big production of another play Rathloff was famous for. It is clear that Rathloff is killing off young actors doing his plays.

As if on cue, Wanda gets negative thought waves again. Someone is about to be killed. Supergirl begs Wanda for some clues to where it is happening. Luckily, she gets the clues of a crane on the construction site of the new math building.

At last we hear Basil's reasoning. He curses method acting, long hair, and mumbling voices. Hmmm ... I guess Rathloff would really really hate Marlon Brando!

You can tell that Rathloff has a flair for the dramatic in his murders.

The first student died from poison makeup. The second died from fright after being put in a classic hollywood death trap. And here, he is going to drop the last student from a crane onto a bed of nails! Did he make that bed of spikes? Because I can't imagine a reason for something like that to be anywhere like a construction site.

Luckily Supergirl shows up in time to save him and then take out Basil.

Overall, Basil is no threat to Supergirl in any way. This was really more of a mystery tale.

The book ends back in the Delta Zan house where in the last panels we meet the other housemates Sheila Wong and Terry Blake. That is a pretty diverse household for a comic from 1972. Love that about this book.

I love the last panel of Linda, her finger to her face in a classic Supergirl quirk when she is deep in thought. That is a truly lovely Linda.

And Wanda Five... who is she really?

Unfortunately, the Vandyre setting and these characters are never really the focus of this brief series which is more of a one-and-done random adventures.

This issue also had a page of Supergirl fan-designed costumes. Look at those bellbottoms in the lower right.

But more importantly, is the Paul C Ryan design from now famous veteran comic artist Paul Ryan??? The world wants to know!

For me, the big draw to this issue is the art by Saaf which really pops. I mean, a deranged actor isn't exactly Mongul. But it is fun to see Supergirl slightly de-aged again, set up in school, and learning to be an actress. I always kind of felt that her being a reporter in San Francisco was a little too close to Superman. I want Kara to be part of the family but not a clone of him.

This is a book of major importance for a Supergirl collection as it is her first true solo book. While this book lasted only 10 issues, it stands out for the Supergirl collector as her first time as a headliner.

Overall grade: B/B+


Anonymous said...

Ah yes "Bombshell Supergirl" at High Noon and we have Art Saaf's talented pencils to thank.
Too bad the book itself is so poorly written, virtually NONE of the supporting characters introduced herein would ever been seen again, Wanda Five's mystery has never ever been solved.
Over the subsequent ten issues Supergirl would book off a record breaking six different boyfriends or potential boyfriends...all of them completely random all of them vanishing come the next issue all of them the Supreme Love of Supergirl's Life. In short this book became a sort of romance title with a red cape...very underdramatized compared with the high level of writing Steve Skeates gave the character when she headlined in Adventure Comics. One earnestly wishes he'd a been kept as core writer on Supergirl because the solo series is the first step in a long creative downward spiral that would bring Kara four more career and supporting cast changes and at least one arbitrary return to teenagerdom before COIE #7.

But I gotta give Art Saaf his props when it came to Supergirl he did her proud.


Kirk Cekada said...

Yes -- this series was certainly the start of the downward spiral for the character. So sad that DC gave this book to an editor who couldn't or wouldn't continue the direction that began in post Sekowsky issues of Adventure. Yeah, the book looked good -- with Saaf pencils and Oksner covers. But plots were minimal and characterization was absent!