Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Back Issue Review: Superman Family #213

With a new Blackrock introduced in the pages of Superman:Lois and Clark, I have decided to take a look back at Supergirl's battle with the classic interpretation of the villain. Earlier this month, I covered part one of their battle in the pages of Superman Family.

Today I will finish the story as presented in Superman Family #213.

This book was released in 1981. We are basically about a year away from Daring New Adventures of Supergirl hitting the stands. The Kara in these stories is pretty much an adult established hero so much of the 'beginning the hero's journey' aspect is gone. But it also means we start to see Supergirl acting more confident and intelligent. She is respected by the villain, a rogue from Superman's gallery. She visits Kal and is treated like an equal. And she outsmarts the villain.

While I think Supergirl works best as a young hero learning the ropes, it is interesting to see her in these stories, a valued member of the hero community.

"Bad Day with Blackrock" was written by Marty Pasko with art by veteran Supergirl team Win Mortimer and Vince Colletta. As an old time movie fan, I do like the play on the Spencer Tracy led movie "Bad Day at Black Rock".

Last issue, Supergirl learned that her co-worker Greg Gilbert was deep in gambling debt. Greg made a deal with super-villain Blackrock to help him with what he owed a local mob boss. Greg would steal GBS blueprints for a new 3-D television. Blackrock would eliminate the mobster. This, of course, brought Supergirl into the mix as she tried to both stop Blackrock and help her friend. But last issue ended with Supergirl blasted into unconsciousness in the middle of New York City.

As an aside, there is a running subplot in this story about Lena Thorul Colby having headaches and finally collapsing at home. Lena was a long running supporting cast member for Supergirl and, unbeknownst to her, the sister of Lex Luthor. I have covered the rest of Lena's story on the blog 7 years ago(!!) here. Since most of the subplot in this issue is simply Lena being brought to the hospital, I won't be covering it now.

It turns out that Supergirl may have been playing a little bit of possum. While definitely stunned, she wasn't truly unconscious. She decides that she needs to distance herself from Blackrock. So she burrows underground and pops up behind him, giving him a well needed right hook to the jaw.

I will say, Supergirl burrowed like Bugs Bunny a lot in her early career. She never seemed to miss the left hand turn at Albuquerque like he did.

Last issue we learned about Blackrock's origins when Supergirl visited Superman. Here she does a nice job briefly recapping it. Blackrock was created by television network UBC to act as their personal hero to report on. Their R&D director created the power stone. But different people wore the suit for the network.

Alas, the Blackrock mask is lead lined, so no peeking.

The battle goes on for a couple of pages. Between his force bolts, ability to become intangible, and his creating mass of black cohesive particles, he is able to hold his own.

But now he also knows that his 'partner' Greg is the person who sold him out to Supergirl. If Supergirl doesn't stop him, her friend's life will be in jeopardy.

Of course, this all seems weird. You would think with the power of the stone, he could find easier ways to stay funded.

While powerful, Blackrock doesn't have an inexhaustible energy supply. The stone absorbs ambient broadcast waves to power it. But this fight has gone on too long. The stone is nearly depleted.

So Blackrock does what all good villains do ... property damage that threatens innocents. While Supergirl saves the citizens of New York, Blackrock escapes.

As for Greg, he isn't the nicest guy. He sees the Supergirl/Blackrock battle end in a stalemate. Figuring he is in even more danger, he decides he needs to do his half of the villainous bargain. He slips into GBS and tries to steal the blueprints that Blackrock wants.

Supergirl is there to stop him.

And she decides that now she'll use him in a plan of her own.

I do like that Supergirl seems irked here. She has been trying to help Greg both as Kara and Linda. To see him lapse into bad behavior has to be maddening.

She has Greg contact Blackrock and says that he has the schematics. Blackrock arrives and now that he has the plans, attempts to off Greg.

Supergirl has been standing nearby as an ambush and starts a while new melee.

It is a bit concerning that she would put Greg in danger like this. Blackrock could have evaporated him with the power stone instead of just pushing him off the ship.

This time though, Supergirl has a plan that is more than simply 85% chance of punching. She knows that the stone gets its power from radio and broadcast waves. So she lures Blackrock into the Lincoln tunnel.

Let me tell you, reception stinks in the Lincoln Tunnel. Cut off from his power supply, Blackrock is helpless. Supergirl pulverizes the stone and unmasks him. It's Dr. Peter Silverstone, the R&D director for UBC who created Blackrock originally. He was trying to steal the plans.

He would have gotten away with it too if it weren't for this meddling Maid of Might!

It turns out that he hadn't researched or developed anything in a long time.

Needing to continue his career, he decided he would steal someone else's ideas. But since he couldn't slip into GBS without being noticed, he needed and inside person. He had bugged the GBS phones and knew of Greg's folly, making him the perfect accomplice.

Of course, he could just patent the powerful rock tech. That probably would have set him up for life.

As for Greg, he decides to turn in state's evidence. He'll shut down Sal the mobster and his operation. Greg will have to go into Witness Protection. Hopefully, he'll get some help for his gambling addiction.

This was a silly sort of story, very much the style of these Superman Family stories. This doesn't rise to any level of importance for the Supergirl character as a whole. Still, using the Lincoln Tunnel does put her squarely in New York. And I like the fact she is smart in outwitting in her opponent.

Mortimer's art is its usual serviceable self. I think Kara looks fine here.

And so ends Supergirl's battle with Blackrock. Let's see what happens between him and Superman over in Lois and Clark.

Overall grade: C


Anonymous said...

I sorta like "Mature All Up Supergirl"....she'd passed thru a long difficult sporadic apprenticeship so a little respect was more than Due IMHO.....I seem to recall that in the SMF Dollar Books Kara was busting heads all over the place thru out her run clearly she'd learned how to box at some point between "Adventure Comics" and the "Superman Family".
In fact I wouldn't mind DC revisiting "Mature All Up Supergirl" in some Elseworlds Context, I mean does Superman have a worthier inheritor warming up in the bullpen?


Martin Gray said...

I'm also a big fan of mature Supergirl - she was an adult when I first came across her in the early #400s of Adventure Comics and I loved following her beyond that. Even when she was soft-booted back to 19 she was treated as the same experienced heroine. I do revere the early Jim Mooney-drawn tales, but I prefer her as Superman's partner rather than his secret weapon. Those stories apart, the younger Supergirl is, the more likely writers are to treat Kara as dumb.

I do like Win Mortimer's art, bar the way he drew her shorts. Could they (cue Chandler Bing) BE any more Granny?

And yeah, Blackrock is one of those 'why does he need to be a villain?' villains. I love that bit about him not being able to get into WGBS unnoticed so he bugs the phones - he can't have been THAT bad at getting in there.

I wish you were covering Earth 2 Insect Queen!

Anj said...

I will say that seeing a fully formed hero Supergirl both here and in Daring New was exciting and different. She had 25 years of comic history under her belt by this time. So it made sense.

Still, if I had to pick, I prefer the young hero trying to find her way, both emboldened and saddled by the weight of the S-shield.

Anonymous said...

BTW BlackRock and Insect Queen would both make handsome additions to the TV show's rogue's gallery.
Back in her Action Comics run, Supergirl was depicted as being very-very brainy but she tended to resolve things in a very "feminine fashion", this was when she wasn't rescuing Superman's life or dignity every two weeks or so. Clearly SMF's fisticuff were "making up for lost time".
Now there is a quick elseworld's story..."Who Taught Supergirl How to Box?"
My money is on Batgirl, she and Kara used to be quite chummy in the silver-bronze age and we can never have too many Kara-Babs team ups IMHO.


Uncle Screensaver said...

I too am a fan of adult Kara, even when they (didn't but they did) de-age her. She had the experience and wasn't just second saddle, or whatever that term is, to Superman. She had grown into a woman and as a young woman whose favourite music was Hard Rock and Jazz gave a broader range to the character than Superman. Back then Linda was the real identity, not like with Clark.

She was still finding her place but she had more maturity and experience with her now, and in many ways she had truly adopted Earth as her home. She wasn't afraid to get in there and mingle. Clark knew his "place," and part of that was he mourned for a planet and culture he really only knew from that Memories machine of his. Kara even had two sets of parents while Kal-El had none.

Back around this point, Kara really showed herself to be just as much Brains than Brawn, and this was made clear in the Radio Shack Giveaway where she had to use her wits to escape from a trap that had taken away her powers.

While Kara appreciated her powers and the responsibility they gave, she wanted so much an "ordinary" life, and she knew that if she were to truly live, and also not interfere in everything, she didn't have to put out every fire if the Fire Department could handle it. Not every emergency needed Supergirl and when that was the case, she could live her life as Linda Lee Danvers.

Linda could be depicted as having a cup of coffee and it seemed natural. Put Clark in that same place and although when he was dating Lois in this secret identity, I would be waiting for him to spill a cup of coffee as we heard, "Oh, Clark!" and he'd give us a wink and a smile. Nothing wrong with my favorite Man of Steel but when I think of the characters I love (and miss) I don't recall as much casual action for Clark as I do Linda. But, I'm probably just biased.

As for the boxing, I wouldn't say it was Barbara. They weren't really all that close. I don't think they even knew their secret identities until Crisis brought them together and inferred an actual friendship outside the capes. Plus, Kara hadn't heard from her in months.

To me, she might have had training with Wonder Woman or from Batman, and possibly in that Batgirl costume Batman gave her for her sweet 16th. It could have been Lois Lane because then they could discuss her cousin. "You were 15 1/2 and he told you he wanted to marry you!" It could have been in the future with The Legion, in a training session. Maybe she even had training with Wildcat since it seems almost everyone has at some point, heh.

As for best friends, I think of Barry and Ray. They had that case together, and later she went to Ray for help. But, Barry most of all. In that Crisis on Three Earths or whatever it was called, if I remember right Kara and Barry were on the same side, and they conversed more than the others. Plus, if we factor in the valentine of them together, and that they were shown together on and in the 1982 Style Guide, and with the novel version of Crisis they had Hitchcock marathons and he knew that she preferred bottled water.

I could see her hanging out with Barry and Ray because even if she had a super-brain, she'd like to hang out with those who had more of a scientific approach to things, and she could have helped with upgrading some of the primitive technology they would deal with. Plus, if she wanted a more feminine friend, there was Iris, someone who knew all the super hero talk but could also just have a normal one on one with another woman that wasn't her mom. Despite being more powerful, Kara would be more laid back herself, and I could see them together rather than the older (?) more in charge types like Clark and Bruce and Diana. While Princess Diana and Kara would be confidantes, I don't see Linda and Diana Prince being able to just chill so much, although I guess they sorta did when SHOPPING the NEW Diana Prince had her boutique. But, I'll shut up now.

Anonymous said...

Naw I say its Babs....they encountered one another and or teamed up some four times over the span of the silver-bronze age, much more could have been done with that team but there was a strong continuum there. In contrast Supergirl teamed up with Wonder Woman all of once prior to 1979 while the Amazon Made exactly one cameo appearance in Kara's book.
Besides BG & SG are both youthful legacy females who consistently outperformed expectations that makes them good potential galpals.


JF (don't mind me I love "Historic Supergirl Chats")