With the Master Jailer episode of the Supergirl television show behind us, I thought this would be the right time to review Superman Family #221, the ending of Kara's battle with the Jailer in the comics.(I have reviewed the prior chapters here and here for those interested.)
This story was somewhat silly, a villain with clearly incredible scientific genius using fantastically powerful devices, so that he can then crack a safe. The Jailer here makes little sense. It was a simpler time.
For me, the more interesting part of this story was the look at the life of Linda Danvers, emerging soap opera star. Linda's character on the soap was the villain so we get to see the public's reaction to her. We see the perks of being a TV star. And we even see Linda acting like a diva as a way to get away from the set. Even though we are just a couple of months away from Linda uprooting and heading to Chicago to be a grad student, this peek at her life was fascinating for me.
'A Trip on the Light Fantastic' was written by Paul Kupperberg with art by Win Mortimer and Sal Trapani. It was edited by Superman legend Julius Schwartz. I have been something of a Win Mortimer apologist on this blog. But it is pretty clear that Mortimer's work looks better with Vince Colletta inking him. Trapani's inks sort of muddy things up. There was a smoothness to the preceding chapters that is missing here.
The opening splash page is wild, with an action shot of Supergirl flying towards some device and being tossed around.
One thing that has always been a bit of an undercurrent of Supergirl is her feelings of inadequacy. Will she ever be a true hero, worthy of the S-shield, respected. We see that even here in a very established Supergirl.
Last issue, Supergirl thought she had captured the Master Jailer only to have it turn out to be a robot which explodes above the city. That interaction was not only caught on film but broadcast on the news. Supergirl finds is downright embarrassing.
She isn't happy. I love her body language in that last panel.
The producer of the soap opera shows up at Linda's apartment with a fun offer. Linda has become so famous that the executives of the soap want to take her out on a shopping spree. She will get a new wardrobe. Linda deserves a fun day and she gets one.
I like this panel if only because it shows what was considered fashionable in 1982. Are those culottes?
She has come a long way from Midvale!
But the day ends on an odd note. As she is walking back to the car, she is met by a fan of 'Secret Hearts'. Since Linda plays the cold-hearted siren on the show, she is actually loathed by the fans. They love to hate her.
So this 'fan' actually calls Linda a hussy and smacks the packages out of her hands. Amazing! I don't know if Linda is too happy about being hated. That sounds very un-Supergirl-like.
Sitting at home after her fun day shopping, Linda decides to head out and try to find the Jailer.
She stumbles onto him trying to crack a safe. This is a guy who has built a tremendous arsenal of futuristic weapons. He built a device to make a Kryptonian intangible. And he is actually trying to crack a safe?? I don't think I'll every understand the motivations of Bronze Age villains. He actually says he needs the money to fund his jail-inspired gimmicks.
I include this panel just because I simply love Supergirl's dialogue. "I knew if I ate all my vegetables and led a clean life, things would work out for me!" Wonderful.
He is able to escape Supergirl by fleeing and damaging the rails of the subway, putting a full train in peril.
I like big rescue scenes, so seeing Supergirl figure out how to safely lift the train and save the day makes me happy.
Later, while she is filming, Linda hears that the Jailer has been sighted. To sneak away, Linda has a 'diva moment', stomping off the set saying she cannot stand the working conditions. Much like being called a hussy, this seems off for the character and that made it fun.
Sure enough, the Jailer is on a roof with some mad looking dish weapon. Supergirl flies straight at the Jailer and is struck by the beam. The Jailer hopes she 'packed a toothbrush' because the beam turns Supergirl into pure light and he beams her into deep space.
So in the span of three issues, the Jailer has made Supergirl intangible and now light. And yet, a couple of panels ago he was on his knees trying to open up a safe. Insanity.
I learned a lot from comics growing up. Whether it was vocabulary or 'Flash facts' or simple facts, comics back then tried to infuse some education into scripts now and then.
So it may have been here that I first learned that Einstein learned light was composed of photons and can be effected by gravity. Supergirl slowly gains control of her 'light body' and begins to turn herself a bit.
Kupperberg must have realized he wrote himself into a bit of a hole. Supergirl was hoping to head through a space warp to just be near Earth again. Instead, the warp somehow ... somehow ... makes her whole again. "I guess there's a lot about space warps (we) still don't understand!"
Whole once again, she heads to Earth to battle the Jailer.
Battle might be a strong word.
In seconds, she disarms him. I absolutely love that first panel with multiple Supergirl's removing weapons off his costume. And then, with a simple right cross, she dispatches him. I wonder why she didn't do that at any other point of this story. But I suppose he had some pretty powerful devices to up his game.
I think this is the worst of the three parts, mostly because of Trapani. It says something when the shopping spree and the soap opera scenes were my favorite parts.
As I said, this is of low importance for a Supergirl collection although it probably best captures her life as a soap opera star.
So which story was better? This Master Jailer one or the television episode?