Back Issue Box: Adventure Comics #402 - Supergirl Vs. Starfire
Last week I wrote a bullet review about Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner's Starfire.
A while back, on another blog, I wrote about one of my favorite characters from the 1970's Starfire.
So I thought I would review my least favorite Starfire, the organized crime boss who tormented Supergirl in the early 70s in Adventure Comics. These stories were written and drawn by Mike Sekowsky and frankly, I don't think he had any love for the character. He didn't seem to have much knowledge of Superman mythology or Supergirl history. He has Kara be at her most juvenile at times. And, the worst part of his whole Starfire story arc, he depowers her.
I always felt that part of the push for Supergirl to basically lose her powers was the storyline happening in Superman at the same time. Adventure Comics #402, cover dated February 1971 and which also introduces us to Starfire and the depowering plot, came out just one month after Superman #233, the famous Kryptonite Nevermore arc which, at the end, significantly weakened Superman. Had Supergirl not been depowered, she would have been without a doubt the most powerful person in the DCU at the time.
The issue starts with 'two strange people' having a beachside picnic and discussing nefarious plans.
One is Starfire, a wicked woman and leader of an organized crime family comprised solely of women. She is ready to take the next step in her plan of world domination. Her colleague Dr. Kangle has developed a pill which will remove the powers from super-heroes. And Starfire will use her boy toy associate Derek to test the pill on her first target - Supergirl.
The book is a wonderful time capsule of 70's fashion from the Starfire's rhinstoned eye patch to Derek's voluminous locks.
But the plan hinges on one thing. Supergirl has to become so smitten with Derek that he will be close enough to slip her the pill.
Starfire has all the angles. She'll enroll Derek in Stanhope knowing that Supergirl frequents the place.
And despite looking like a huge big toe, Derek is confidant he will be able to woo the Maid of Might.
To lure Supergirl to his side, Starfire orchestrates a phony mugging of Derek.
To make it look real or perhaps realizing what an oily creep Derek is, the muggers get a few good shots in.
Derek yells out some loud screams. Linda Danvers hears, switches to Supergirl, and rescues him.
With Derek seemingly injured, Supergirl allows the muggers to escape so she can tend to him.
The trap is sprung. Derek plants a kiss on Kara's lips to thank her for saving him.
We see the title and its significance. 'Love conquers all .. even Supergirl.'
But then we get Sekowsky's take on Supergirl and it isn't good.
Supergirl is momentarily helpless because of Derek's magic lips. But then we learn 'she even likes the helpless feeling'.
Not exactly what you want your writer to say about your strong female lead.
And that one kiss is enough to have Derek invade Supergirl's mind. He is all she can think about. And he is playing the part right, leaving signs around campus that he needs to meet her.
But it is that first panel that I find odd. When had she ever said 'I can't let myself be emotionally involved with an ordinary human.'? That was about 45% of her stories in Action Comics. Poor Dick Malverne! Sekowsky doesn't seem to know or care about her history.
But what could any girl do against Derek's suave nature and relentless pursuit? According to Sekowsky, any girl gives in and goes out.
I do like how in this time period, Kara does sport different outfits. This 'formal dress' costume is nice.
Derek brings her to a ball where he says how dating her is making him look better. What a creep!
Finally Supergirl says that she cannot see him anymore. That her mission, her pursuit of justice has to come first. He agrees that he won't bother her again ... except for one last picnic date.
I can't believe that any Kara would fall for this tripe.
But she can't resist him.
She goes out on the date. She says that sometimes she wishes she didn't have powers so she could live a normal life. But she does have her powers and she has to use them to help people.
And with that, Derek slips the 'depowering pill' into Supergirl's drink.
Before the picnic is over, Starfire sends a goon squad over to test her scheme.
Supergirl loses her powers.
The gunmen let loose with a hail of bullets.
She apparently dies.
And Derek is all too happy.
It appears that Starfire has won!
Things get all the more wonky after this issue. Powers that flick on and off. Kandorian exo-skeletons. Starfire beating up Supergirl. Female clown gangs.
It is a rough period in Supergirl's history ... a history unfortunately marked by rough periods. Sekowsky seems to have a low opinion of Kara, having her fall for Derek immediately, craving a helpless state, a life without powers.
But Starfire is such a thorn in Supergirl's side that she has to be included in Supergirl's rogues gallery. With nothing but a shrewd calculating mind, she almost defeats Kara. How about Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner resurrect this Starfire to fight a team-up of Starfire and Starfire?
As for this book, since Starfire is a long-standing villain and this powerless arc is pretty long for the time. As a result I must begrudgingly label this as being of moderate importance to a Supergirl collection. Even if she is treated shabbily, it is a key chapter of the early 70's.