Tuesday, April 21, 2020

A Little Bit of Kandor: Supergirl #2

We are in a new world with the COVID-19 pandemic, with no new comics and very little comic news coming out. With no new reviews in the queue, I will start doing some back issue reviews, trying as best as I can to lean into recent storylines or plot points. That has always been my M.O. here at the site, not doing index reviews but celebrating the rich history of the DCU.

Recently, I covered Batman/Superman #8, a story reintegrating Kandor and setting up the Kandor Compromise. It is definitely a fun issue.

With that book in my mind, in particular the rather rapid reintegration of Kandor in current continuity given that Rogol Zaar had just smashed and stomped it to bits about 2 years ago. So why not take a little look at Kandor?

This won't be comprehensive at all. 'A Little Bit of Kandor' will be like 'Matrix Monday' was here, a side look at some stories that intrigue me or that build a little history. And I thought I'd start with 1973's Supergirl #2,

Now I am a fan of Supergirl. And I tend to be a tad forgiving for her stories.

But this story is crazy.

I mean 'did the creative team drop acid' crazy.

I know that late Silver Age/early Bronze Age stories are stuffed with story elements. How often do I say that a 10 pager in this time period has as many plot elements as current 6 issue arcs. But this story is filled not only with plot elements but significant inconsistencies to continuity, odd off-the-cuff major details, and insanity that I am surprised everyone agreed to do it.

In the end I wonder if the writer basically asked people what they wanted to see in a Supergirl story, got a list of things, and fit a story around those elements. It is the only explanation I can see.

Let's not forget the reason I am reviewing this now. Kandor is a huge part of this story. But I also feel like the rules and landscape of the bottle city we see in the tale are just a bit off as well.

At the very least, I also have to tip my hat to the medicine in the issue. We get a brief message of sickle cell disease. I suppose that is the educational element that was sort of demanded at the time in comics.

On to this story. Strap in!

'Death of a City' has no creator credits but it definitely has art by Art Saaf and Bob Oksner. No mistaking that style. The most logical writer for the story would be Cary Bates. The cover s definitely by Bob Oksner.

Both the cover and the opening page splash jas a desperate Supergirl trying to fish a growing man out of the bottle city of Kandor before he demolishes it.

We are still in the 'beaded shorts' and ballet slipper era of this costume. Saaf continues to give Kara a healthy figure and Oksner adds his lovely inks making this the curviest of Karas.

I can't help but think of trying to fish out the last pickle from a big jar whenever I see these images.

We start at a date on the beach, 'a scene as ancient and as new as the human heart ...'

As was the standard back then, Linda Danvers is way too enamored of a guy who is a sort of creep. Here Jeff keeps trying to cozy up to Linda. She asks him not to go too far. But look at her dead-eyed stare. Why is she with this guy anyways?

While on the sand she notices an underwater emergency and springs into action. She changes into her Supergirl costume en route. (Don't ask me where it was given she was in that teeny bikini before.)

Way out in deep ocean, she sees one of her professors, Dr. Forsyte, unconscious, underwater, and being attacked by two giant octopi and a massive manta ray.

Now lots to unpack here.

First off, look at how deep in the ocean they are. Was the professor in a boat? Because no way he swam out this far.

Next, he has to be dead right.

Nope, back on land and back in Linda's outfit (where is the super suit now), our hero gives mouth to mouth resuscitation and revives the professor.

Unfortunately, all the odious Jeff sees is Linda kissing a professor. He storms off like a jilted lover. Good riddance right??

Later, Linda decides to check in on Professor Forsyte.

He is tireless in his search for a cure for sickle cell anemia. We see him working to exhaustion, trying to give every possible moment of his life towards his research. Linda is impressed by how good a man he is trying to relieve others from suffering.

As she leaves, who happens to come by? Jeff.

He is even more convinced that Linda is making time with her professor and storms off saying he won't be made a fool again.


He sounds like a complete control freak.

You would think that Linda would be thrilled to see him walk off in his striped bell bottoms. She doesn't need that. But this is the 70's Supergirl. She had horrid romantic luck and always seemed to attract (and be attracted to) the worst guys.

But she does seem to be pretty invested in Professor Forsyte and his quest.

She decides to pay a visit to the professor again but this time as Supergirl. She won't risk going as Linda and being seen by Jeff again.

But inside she founds him passed out at his desk. Initially she thinks it is from exhaustion but then she sees his personal notes. He is dying of a rare 'brain malady', one which has no cure on Earth. And if he dies he cannot continue his fight against sickle cell disease.

Now maybe I am something of an intellectual snob. But how close could this guy be? He is a science teacher at an acting school.

Thinking the world needs a cure for sickle cell anemia, Kara is determined to cure Forsyte of his 'brain malady'. Of course, there is no cure 'on Earth'. But the universe is a vast place.

She takes him to the Fortress (there is a great panel of her turning the giant key to enter). Superman's robot computer says the answer is in Kandor. She needs to seek out Nor-Kan.

Here is where things get fast, furious, and funky.

In the bottle, Supergirl flies to her family house. Now don't ask me how she can fly in Kandor. But she does.

Zor-El knows that Nor-Kan was working on a mushroom-based panacea. He took it to his grabe in his tomb in the Mirage Mountain. Hmmm ... a mushroom-based formula. Maybe the writer was taking some mushroom-based tincture explaining the upcoming nonsense.

And I am simply grooving on Zor-El's 'Mike Brady' perm. Never have I seen such curly locks on Zor.

So Supergirl scoops up Professor Forsyte and goes flying off again. Now I am pretty sure that she shouldn't be able to do that. She even says in the second panel that she doesn't have super-powers in Kandor ... while she's flying! I wonder if Bates thought they'd be walking but Saaf simply was used to her flying.

Then, out of nowhere, she brings up how she wished she found Nor-Kan's yellow ring which would give her super-powers within Kandor. I have never heard of it. After all, wouldn't someone have used it to be a super-hero in the city? Even Superman or Jimmy as Nightwing and/or Flamebird?

And isn't it just the city in the bottle? Is there really enough surrounding land that they can go through a desert of burning hands and into a mountain range?

In the desert, the two are picked up by a giant bird, a Satan's Swallow! They are brought to the bird's nest, presumably to be fed to her babies.

I don't recall their being monsters in the bottle. But here we are.

And then, by a stroke of luck, Nor-Kan's yellow ring is found ... in the very nest they were dropped in!

Now super-powered, Supergirl is able to bash her way away from the birds and towards Nor-Kan's crypt. And she better hurry. Forsyte has gone blind, a sign he only has an hour to live.

She finds the tomb. Inside, Nor-Kan has been laid to rest in a glass coffin. In his hands he clutches a vial of sparkling liquid. It must be the cure.

She opens it up and has Forsyte breathe in the vapors.

But upon opening the vial, a recorded warning plays. The vial does indeed hold a universal cure. But there is a side effect, uncontrollable giantism!


Okay, it is crazy enough that that is true. But how did he find out? What did he test on that no one saw? Second, if it had that, don't you think you'd put the warning on the outside and not have it triggered once used? Lastly, don't you think you might destroy the cure if the resulting condition would destroy the city?

Again, this is a wild turn, perhaps crazier than the yellow ring subplot.

Forsyte begins growing massively, what I might think would happen if the shrinking ray that sent him into the city wore off.

It looks like he'll crush the city. Zor-El says even Supergirl can't save them.

Ahh ... but Kara is quick on her feet. No shock, Zor-El underestimated his daughter.

She enlarges herself outside the city, uses heat vision and super-breath to make the bottle bigger, removes Forsyte, then uses her cold breath and strength to reform it. I wonder, would all of that cause some sort of disruption of disarray in the city. Would they go through a heat wave and a cold snap?

Anyways, with Kandor back to normal, she can be happy she saved the man who may cure sickle cell anemia.

Not seen is the last panel where she hopes Jeff will have cooled down. UUUUGGGHHH!!!

Whew ... that's some bonkers action in 18 quick pages. I don't know if I can sum up all the craziness in a wrap-up. I will say that Saaf and Oknser are up for the job of this issue which runs the gamut of college dorm to alien landscape. Supergirl always looks the part of the hero.

In terms of this run of reviews, we see Kandor again almost destroyed and saved at the last second. The idea of warping the bottle is new to me!

But outside of being the second issue of her first solo run, not much noteworthy about this issue. That is, outside of it being so psychedelic.

Overall grade: C


Martin Gray said...

I bought this as a kid, and I loved it. You have ruined it, I say, ruined it. You are, of course, correct. It is decidedly demented... but it made sense to me as a nine year old!

No wonder this tale is anonymous. Grand Comic Database gives the inker as Vince Colletta, which I can see, it’s not quite soft enough for Oksner. Spot on re Saar and Bates, though!

I assume her costume was compressed in her purse as she dove into the sea, she’s carrying the bag.

Why DID Linda have a biology professor? Or did acting majors have to have a science minor? Kara is a science gal, so it would make sense.

Why all the theatre references when she meets the manta? They were painful.

I do like Allan’s dedication, awful as his dialogue is. It’s a wonder he never said: ‘Who will save the BABIES!’

So she flies him to the cold regions, with no coat. Put him in your cape, daftie!

Lesser powers indeed! They could just have said she was using the Legion flight ring, it’s not long since Alura reminded her she could use it during the on-off powers days. I could never understand why Superman and Supergirl didn’t wear Legion flight rings at all times, just in case.

It’s a shame Linda never got together with the handsome, dedicated Professor, she could have helped him find a cure. Or they could have cured all the kids and put them in a giant bottle.

At the very least they could have come up with a poison to kill the odious Jeff.

This was fun, I look forward to more Supergirl Comic Box Commentary Bottle Episodes.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

This is the kind of story that happened when E. Nelson Bridwell wasn't around to catch continuity glitches (He's not listed in the indicia, so I assume he wasn't consulted).

Wouldn't you think that heating the bottle like that-making it "molten soft-would cook Professor Forsyte and the residents inside? Like a baby or a dog in a hot car?

And aside from flying while telling the professor she had no powers in Kandor, Kara finds the yellow ring in the nest with her x-ray vision! And, yes it was a lucky break the ring just happened to be in that nest! It would have been more fun if Kara had found the ring in a box of Kandorian Cracker Jacks.

At least they remembered that Nor-Kan had died (in an issue of Action Comics I believe). But Nor-Kan was an older man, bald and with a white beard, not the dark haired, clean shaven person we see here.

Anonymous said...

The 1972 solo book jumped the shark early, as you can see. The haphazard supporting cast established in issue one, vanishes. "Wanda Five" poof! gone for good, Rosie the Landlady Poof! Gone for Good..."Terry & Sabra" who made a one panel appearance in Issue #1, make a glorious four panel reappearance in issue #5 and then...poof! Gone for Good.
Jeff the rage addict would however be the first example of the solo book's ongoing struggle "How dubious a BF can we impose on Supergirl THIS MONTH?"...he'd join a long line of guys who liked other girls, tomcats, sneak thiefs, conceited pop singers and somewhere at the end "Prez".
But Oksner's art is high-noon for "Bombshell Supergirl", the book may not be collectible or even really readable but you still can't forget it...part of that is Oksner's GGA it just improves from panel to panel.


Anonymous said...

"As was the standard back then, Linda Danvers is way too enamored of a guy who is a sort of creep."

Cary Bates writing a story where Linda has fallen for a creep? I refuse to believe it!

In my opinion, one of reasons why Supergirl ended up as Crisis cannon fodder was her supporting cast being jettisoned in the late 60's, and never adequately replaced. Her adoptive parents, Streaky... were replaced with interchangeable college "friends" who barely had one name and one appearance. Similarly, Dick Malverne was forgotten and replaced with a string of abusive creeps and jerkasses.

"Nope, back on land and back in Linda's outfit (where is the super suit now)"

Super-Compressed, is my guess?

"But how close could this guy be? He is a science teacher at an acting school."

I didn't think about it back when I first read this story, but you're right.

"Now don't ask me how she can fly in Kandor. But she does."

I wanted to think she was using her Flight Ring and Bates didn't think of mentioning it, but...

I've to admit that, even though the landscape and the monsters makes little sense, I found that part entertaining.

"Would they go through a heat wave and a cold snap?"

Everything I can think while looking at those panels other than the artist didn't realize the obvious innuendo... Or maybe he DID realize- is Supergirl has killed them all.

It's true this story is downright bonkers, even for the period. Cary Bates was a good Superman scribe but an awful Supergirl writer.

H said...

Most of the stuff I was going to mention has already been mentioned, though I have another theory about how she could fly in Kandor. Maybe she had those anti-grav boots that they used in 60's stories to explain how humans could go into Kandor or back in time to Krypton and move around in the higher gravity. Also, I seem to remember there being lots of creatures and environments captured with Kandor even early on.

DC Database (which usually has good info) also credits Colletta for inks. Also, their guess for the flight is a Legion ring and they mention Nor-Kan's ring came from a Jimmy Olsen story. No guarantees on any of that but they're usually reliable.

Anonymous said...

Kara Zor El, Proudly Rocked It in Wispy Little Red Ballet Slippers....Boots, anti gravity or otherwise were not part of her ensemble...yet.


Professor Feetlebaum said...

There's no way to confirm it, because we don't see the man's face, but I suspect that the fellow who kicks sand in the faces of Linda and her boyfriend on page 2 of this story is the same beach bully from those Charles Atlas ads.

Martin Gray said...

But it’s Jeff who’s the ‘worst nuisance on the beach’!

Well done Prof!

Anonymous said...

At least Jeff didn't slip her a depowering Mickey...he has that in his favor.