Monday, July 18, 2016

Supergirl Romance Comic Ad

Over on Twitter, my buddy Greg Araujo has a nice little thing going. He will read old comics and tweet out the #ComicBookAds. For old folks like me who remember these crazy ads fondly, it is a walk down memory lane.

Occasionally he posts one which grabs me. Like the one above. I have never seen this one before and it talks about Supergirl, using the famous image of her from that time.

It touts that DC has 'The Three First Ladies of Comicdom!', Wonder Woman, Lois Lane, and Supergirl. And each one has a little blurb describing the current ongoings in their title.

"Despite Supergirl's epic feats - she is faced with the every day problems a teenage girl has!"

I suppose that it is because she is on a journey and growing that I love her as a character. And it does say she performs epic feats. So I like it.

As for Wonder Woman, she is again 'Miss Number One!'. And Lois won't 'give up on the big ' S-shield.

This is pure "end of the Silver Age/beginning of the Bronze Age" DC. I love it!

The ad was lifted from Girls' Love Stories #177 from May 1973.

I suppose that this might explain why the ad talks about the characters' personal lives as well as their adventures.

But I am amazed that this book has a #177! That is basically unheard of in this day and age of renumbering and short leashes on titles.

I thought it might be interesting to take a peek at the titles starring the three First Ladies of Comics from early 1973 to see what their covers looked like.

The month before that Girls' Love Stories, Supergirl #3 sported this famous (or infamous) cover of Kara crying about not being able to get a date. A kitten is there to try and help, giving Supergirl some affection.

This certainly feels like a romance book.

Supergirl's Girlfriend Lois Lane was on issue #130 and was less than a year from being cancelled. The May 1973 cover has her shooting Clark revealing he is Superman. Many of the covers from around this time have Lois in some salacious poses, often tied up.

And Wonder Woman #205 was on the stands that month with the Amazon Princess hog-tied to a large missile. This sort of pose is quite similar to the things seen on the Lois covers from this year too.

I do like that catchphrase of the Three First Ladies of Comics. Does it still apply now? Even for DC? Or would Catwoman, Harley, and Batgirl make more sense in this era?


Martin Gray said...

They're still the First Ladies of Comics to me, even if they aren't all recognisable as the same characters. I've not seen that ad either, it's fascinating. I never thought of Kara back then as a teenager, she seemed so far from her Silver Age self - but then again, first couple of years at college, she would be have about 19

I agree that the Lois covers were salacious, but even though Diana is tied up there, and people always claim that rocket is phallic, to me it's simple a classic superhero cover image - threat to the hero, greater danger to others if they can't escape. Gorgeous.

Anonymous said...

In 1973, Supergirl was already a college graduate who had worked for a local news broadcast before going back to school to study 1973 not so much a teenager. Moreover this was during the misguided period of her short lived first solo book wherein she was depicted as little more than a romance comic heroine cape and all.
At least they were advertising the book....doomed though it was.


Anonymous said...

This trip into the early 1970s seems like an apt moment to bring up an unrelated issue, but one that has been puzzling me... Namely, when is Kara Zor-El actually named Kara Zor-El..?

Can anyone help me..?!?

As I'm sure you all know, when Kara landed on Earth she was generally referred to as "Kara" or "Kara from Argo City". The surname Zor-El was never used. (DC hadn't begun the tradition of Kryptonian women using their father's names as surnames in the late 1950s, I think.) So, as a challenge, I decided to try to track down the first printed usage of Supergirl's full name.

The most obvious place to start was the glossaries of the Krypton Chronicles miniseries of the early 1980s -- sure enough Kara's name is listed as "Kara Zor-El", as I expected. I then tracked backwards through Superman Family, and found an instance of Supergirl referring to her full name in Superman Family #177 (June 1976.) Travelling backwards even further, I discovered that in SF #166 (August 1974) DC published a filler page article with a bio of its main Superman 'family' characters, and Kara's name is listed as "Kara Zor-El" there too.

I kept going backwards chronologically through Supergirl's published comicbook appearances, into the mid 1960s, but found no further traces of a mention of "Kara Zor-El" -- I assumed therefore that the aforementioned bio article was DC's first ever usage of Supergirl's full name. (Of course, I'm scanning each page by eye, so I might have missed something!)

Then I got a shock..!

Later, in a totally separate project, I spent an afternoon wiring up Tesseract (Google's open source code for extracting text from images) to convert the letters pages of huge numbers DC comics into text that could be searched by computer. One of the tests I tried was searching for "Kara Zor-El"... and that's when I discovered Carol Strickland's letter. In May 1972, in the letters column of Adventure Comics #419, Carol innocently referred to Supergirl as "Kara Zor-El" ... This meant that my assumption that SF #166 was the earliest usage of Kara's full name was wrong!

So... does anyone know exactly when Kara Zor-El got her full name..?

(Perhaps, if this is a worthy enough question, you could publish a blog posting about it -- maybe we can crowd source an answer..?)

Martin Gray said...

Fabulous research, x5Red. I doubt Carol came up with that, I'm sure I remember an ancient lettercol in which a reader asked why Kara was referred to as Kara Zor-El while Superman was simply Kal-El and they said it was traditional for girls to take the father's name. See also Lara Lor-Van. I shall see what Carol says...

Martin Gray said...

X5red, Carol's currently on a coach tour here in the UK, but she tells me she definitely did not come up with that Kara Zor-El business and was incensed when she first saw the name by the idea that females were properties of their fathers or husbands, but males didn't have to suffer that. She promises that when she gets back home she'll sit down with her Actions and Adventures, etc to see what she can find. TO BE CONTINUED...

Anonymous said...

Martin, thanks. I didn't for one moment think that Carol herself had made it up -- why would DC adopt a name simply because it had been mentioned by a reader? Besides, if it was Carol's invention, she would have said so in her letter. :)

It is seemingly such a trivial matter, but a character's name is kind of important, so it would be nice to know exactly when Kara Zor-El got her's. :)

Btw, I also tried to track down the 'ancient' letter you dimly remember, but with no luck. The text extraction code I'm using isn't perfect; it typically misreads 10% to 15% of the words, although this increases to 50%+ if the page is blurred, dirty, or very yellowed. Fantasy names are particularly prone, because the code can't use a dictionary to help its accuracy (although I may look into training it to better id Kryptonian names.) This means that your letter either wasn't in an issue I fed in ...or... my copy was too low grade for the software to accurately get enough text out that I could locate your letter with a few simple keywords guesses.

I'll continue to track through Supergirl's appearances -- maybe I can find a few more clues before Carol turns her talents to the problem. In the meantime, if anyone reading can drop any further hints, I'll be more than grateful. :)



Anonymous said...

Got it! (I think!)

The 'ancient' letter you refer to Martin was in Action Comics #365 (July 1968) -- reader Phil Lumsden queried the use of the name "Kara Zor-El" in a recent issue of Adventure Comics. The editor replied that girls take their father's name as a last name on Krypton.

So, I checked the Adventure Comics of the period, and just a few months before Adventure Comics #365 (February 1968) had run a picture feature on the Legion of Super Heroes members, including the detail that Supergirl had been born "Kara Zor-El". The issue's story didn't feature Supergirl, which is why it escaped my attention.

So, the timeline appears to be this...
* Adventure Comics #365 (Feb 68) -- first ever usage in a LotSH feature.
* Action Comics #365 (July 68) -- letter querying Adventure #365.
* Adventure Comics #416 (Mar 72) -- Who's-who key to accompany the issue's wraparound cover.
* Adventure #419 (May 72) -- Carol's letter.
* Superman Family #166 (Aug 74) -- Article on Superman characters.
* Superman Family #177 (Jun 76) -- !!!FINALLY!!! Kara mentions her full name in the actual comic strip itself..!!

Unless... someone knows different... ;)


Martin Gray said...

That's so impressive! Nice one. Looking at Action #365, I've never had that issue but if memory serves - and it usually does in these delightfully small-but-fun matters - a couple of years later, UK readers were treated to a reprint title, Super DC Monthly, which reprinted old letters from the US with UK addresses, and I think it came up there.

Or Mort Weisinger printed a similar query. Let's not go there!