Thursday, February 13, 2020

Back Issue Box: Adventure Comics #386

After several days of misery, I thought the blog could use a little bit of levity. And as tomorrow is Valentine's Day, I thought I would review Adventure Comics #286.

"The Beast That Loved Supergirl" was written by Cary Bates and drawn by Win Mortimer and is a brief if silly story showcasing just how endearing Supergirl is. Even a monster would instantly fall in love with her.

I can't help but smile at this story. Bates is able to give us a complete story in an action-packed 12 pages. We get a couple of small moments which put a spotlight on Kara's personality. There is a whiff of Supergirl continuity here, something rare for the time. And the ending is a bit of a shock and totally worth it.

Win Mortimer did a lot of Supergirl's stories in Superman Family. Here he seems to be a bit more vibrant and dynamic. His Supergirl is young and beautiful. And the action is rendered nicely.

On to the book and Happy Valentine's Day!

We start with a great splash page which drops us into the action and gives us some peril. It has the feeling of a cliffhanger of a movie serial. A train is barreling down on our heroine, sort of tied to the tracks. And while Kara is there to stop the train, there is some suspense here.

At this time in comics, the opening splash was a tease for the story, almost a second cover. So I had to wait to see how this was resolved.

The issue starts with Linda Danvers hearing a news report on the radio that a 'Captain Stevens', a world famous explorer, has brought home a monster he captured. And this beast is going to be unveiled at a circus which happens to be at Stanhope. Linda knows she is bringing her 'Helping Hands' kids to the show so is excited.

I assume that 'Helping Hands' is like 'Big Brothers, Big Sisters' because Linda spies on these self-proclaimed 'slum kids' who wish Supergirl would bring them. To make their dreams come true, Linda substitutes her Supergirl identity for Linda, flying the bus to the show.

I love how we see Linda's giving and caring personality. She is a college student but is part of 'Helping Hands'. Help, hope, and compassion for all indeed!

At the circus, before the monster is shown, the elephant goes amok, smashing into the tentpole and endangering the whole crowd.

Now I don't know if you can use friction to 'weld' wood. I'd assume that would make the wood burn instead. But as she tries to prop the tent up, the monster breaks out of his cage.

In a crazy twist, the monster seems to have magical power. He fires an ice beam, trapping the elephant and helping Supergirl save the day.

Immediately, the monster seems smitten with Kara, magically fabricating a bouquet of flowers for her and looking at her dreamily. According to Supergirl he is acting like a 'bashful beau'!

Recognizing she has some sway over the beast, Supergirl coaxes him back into his cage and traps him again.

But then she feels bad that she captured this thing again. Perhaps she realizes it is sentient and shouldn't be caged?

But Supergirl shedding a tear was a meme before there were memes. Seeing her so affected by this is classic Silver Age Supergirl. This time it shows how much she cares, even for monsters.

And don't ask me why but I love that hair!

Later, Supergirl is pressed into action to stop a runaway train laden down with explosives. As she approaches she sees that the monster has escaped again and happens to be standing on the tracks. Again, hoping to woo her, he makes a giant ring out of the train tracks to present to Supergirl.

The police, present because of the danger, assume the monster is responsible and open fire. Once more we see that the monster has powers, enveloping the police in bubbles and having them float away.

The Maid of Might stops the train and saves the police. But while doing that, the monster has once again escaped. Poor Supergirl. She is worried that the monster almost died just because he likes her and was there at the time.

That opening page is a nice tease of this scene.

But the monster soon becomes a pest.

Linda Danvers is at a costume party, dressed as Juliet with her nameless date dressed as Romeo.

Who crashes the party? The monster. He is so attracted to Supergirl, he can see through her disguise. And worse he removes her costume. Luckily, another guest is going as a pirate and Superman. It is a dodgy and lucky excuse. Of course it would also mean Linda would have had to wear a blond wig under a brunette wig to pull of that costume.

But enough is enough with this monster. He can't keep interfering with Supergirl's life.

She gives the monster a slow dance but then decides the time has come to truly communicate with it. She flies it to the Fortress of Solitude to use the 'omni-verbalizer' to decipher it's speech.

Hmmm ... an omni-verbalizer?

She asks the monster to repeat the noises the machine makes to help figure out his language. And inside those gutteral noises must be 'Kltpzyxm' because after repeating the monster form disappears and we find out that it was Mr. Mxyzptlk all along.

Supergirl figured out that only Mxy could have powers like the monster displayed. So she made this trap.

How wonderful that Kara figured this all out and banished Mxyzptlk all on her own. We get a Superman cameo at the end but only to hear how Supergirl saved the day. Pretty slick! And a nice twist ending I wasn't expecting.

Moreover, it is a bit of Supergirl continuity. Back in the early Silver Age, Mxyzptlk definitely has a little crush on Kara, almost making her marry him in  Action Comics #291.

So not a bad little story. A little romance for Valentine's Day. A caring Supergirl trying to help everyone and feeling some compassion. And a she is the hero in her own story, figuring out the villain's plan and foiling it.

As interesting as the story was this ad for the premiere of Sesame Street promising Superman and Batman would be guest stars. Did that ever happen.

This won't be a big issue for a Supergirl collection although the Mxyzptlk connection probably nudges it up the importance meter.

Overall grade: B+


Martin Gray said...

And of course, TV Mxy was after Kara too.

It does seem odd that Kara would think only Mxy had magical powers like the creature's after all the sorcerers, enchantresses and sundry mystical beings she's met, but we must go with it. And I love the hair too, it has such life.

Was it Win Mortimer who liked to draw an especially sexy Lois and Linda in Superman Family or am I confused?

Thanks for a great review and Happy St Valentine's Day for tomorrow.

Steve said...

I never checked but I always assumed Mortimer had been an escapee/graduate of the romance comics. His female characters were always sexy and wholesome...

H said...

Seems like more of Golden Age/Good Girl Art situation to me. Whatever the case, both Win and slightly silly Kara stories are always appreciated.

I think Superman and Batman were on Sesame Street but only a couple times and very early on.

Martin Gray said...

Hi H, ‘Seems like more of Golden Age/Good Girl Art situation to me.‘Oh, I love Win Mortimer; I wasn’t referring to the art here but in stories Anj has covered which are very cheesecakey, from the Seventies. There’s Superman Family #206, for one

Anonymous said...

An old gem. I remember reading this for the first time, wondering curiously where it was going to go with this craziness. It was a lovely lil comic. Thanks for digging it out for some good memories.

Unknown said...
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William Ashley Vaughan said...

Cary Bates could write good Supergirl stories, but his later Supergirl in romantic agony stories in every issue formula capsized her own title. However, he was less formulaic and more fun in her Adventure Comics run. I like Win Mortimer. He was a capable penciller and Jack Abel is a much better fit for him as inker than Vince Colletta was in Superman Family.

Anonymous said...

I like this story because as usual, the remorsely logical Kara Zor El, simply out thinks Mxyztplk, no violence, no bombast she just did what she did best, thought logically and acted accordingly. This was back when Win Mortimer could still manage a good range of facial expressions, Kara's vexed fearful look on the splash page is a stone riot....Geez how'd we get away from all this?? :)


Professor Feetlebaum said...

This was somewhat unusual even for a Mxyzptlk story. If Mxy's motivation here was to "court" Supergirl, tell me why he would take on the form of a monster who could only "speak" in odd noises?

I'm thinking that Cary Bates may have written the story with a different ending, and the monster turning out to be Mr. Mxyzptlk was a last minute change, possibly by Weisinger.

I looked up Win Mortimer. He was Canadian, and he drew posters during World War II. He hooked up with DC-National after the war through Jack Schiff, and had long runs doing covers for Action Comics, Detective Comics, Superman and others. He also drew the daily Superman newspaper strip for several years. I believe he did his own inking in those days.

Jack Abel did a good job inking Mortimer's pencils, but I think I prefer Murphy Anderson, who inked the first story in Adventure Comics # 383.

H said...

Hey Martin,
I appreciate the response but I was responding to Steve's comment about Win Mortimer's art looking like something out of a romance comic. Sorry about the confusion.

Martin Gray said...

Aha, cheers H, it is hard to keep track of who’s being addressed as this is Anon Central. Thank you for being H, that helps.