Thursday, December 24, 2020

Back Issue Box: Adventure Comics #382

Hello everyone and welcome to the holiday season here at Supergirl Comic Box Commentary.

Today I thought I would review Adventure Comics #382. This was the second issue in the Supergirl run as head character in this book. 

As for the 'why' I am reviewing this issue, I consider it a gift. 

Recently on the Into The Weird podcast ( they did a Bizarro world episode, covering Bronze age DC weirdness as opposed to Marvel books. And one of the stories they covered was a Superboy story. When they discussed that book they wondered if other stories like it are out there and this one counts.

So as a nice holiday gift, I thought I would cover this here. Merry Christmas gents!

I won't mention it here, why spoil the surprise. You'll need to read on.

The Super-Team's Split-Up was written by Cary Bates with art by Kurt Schaffenberger. 

Be aware that around this time it was pretty common to have Superman disparage Supergirl and threaten discipline or even exile if our hero screwed up. So seeing him yelling at her on the cover, or seeing this splash page of him yelling at 'Topar' to remove her powers because she bungled feels like a par for the course.

It is one of the crazy things about Silver Age or early Bronze Age Supergirl stories. She is always trying to impress Superman. But she is also seems afraid of him.

And who is Topar?

One thing to love about this is Schaffenberger's art. I really like his Supergirl stuff.

Now this is a 'novel length' story, taking up all 22 pages of the comic which is a little unusual. But what isn't unusual is the amount of story we have stuffed into the issue.

We start out with Superman storming off and Supergirl feeling terrible about the gaffe she made on an outer space mission. But Superman is acting pretty petulant, storming off like a spoiled brat.

Meanwhile on Stanhope University campus, the Red Rebel, a prankster in costume, spoils the appearance of a Congressman by firing rockets in the air that spell out his name.

How does this all tie in?

Later, Supergirl flies into the nearby woods to find her Linda Danvers robot sitting on a log, her tree hiding spot left wide open. 

Supergirl worries this could lead to someone learning her secret identity. But then Topar reveals himself. He compelled the robot to reveal herself. He is going to show Supergirl that she doesn't deserve her powers. That girls don't deserve powers. And he will bother Supergirl enough to make her ask for him to remove her powers.

Hmmm ...

She tells Topar that she would never give them up. She has been a hero for a long time. And, perhaps to show it, we see Supergirl smash a group of meteors into dust before they can smash into earth.

But things continue to go wrong for Kara.

The Dean of Stanhope calls Supergirl to his office saying she is the Red Rebel, or at least she is aiding him. The Red Rebel rockets have finger indentations.

It has to be Topar. But who is he? He can control Kryptonian robots. And he can bend metal. 

Who could it be.

And it gets even worse.

Supergirl had made sure the meteors were composed of elements that would disintegrate when she pulverized them. But instead, the tiny particles remained solid and rained down on the campus like red hot needles. The student body knows Superman would never do something that stupid.

Poor Supergirl.

A failed hero and a presumed delinquent!

Why does Topar want to attack Supergirl?

What could go wrong after those two bungles?

Well, while Linda walks around campus, a Supergirl flies through it, busting water mains, freezing the water to icicles, throwing the icicles around the campus, and melting them with her heat vision. Lots of property damage and a doused student body is making everyone doubt that Supergirl is a hero.

It is another Supergirl robot, this from the Fortress. And when Supergirl catches it, this robot says it was Supergirl's voice that commanded here to do these things.

Who could compel the Linda robot, bend the Red Rebel rockets, and then use super-ventriloquism to activate the Supergirl robot?

Maybe ... just maybe ... its Superman?

Can't be, can it?

Love that last panel.

Look at the image that Kara conjures in her head when she thinks of Superman. He's angry, scowling, arms crossed. That was there relationship then.

And then, finally, the recap where we see just why Superman is mad at Supergirl. On a recent mission, she flew point and used her heat vision. The villain reflected the heat vision back at Superman but increased. It laid Superman out.

Just how immature is this Superman? How petty? 

At least Supergirl does something right. She captures the Red Rebel. It's Nick, a boy Linda is dating.

In an odd turn, Nick says he is writing a thesis on the effect of vandalism and so has gone into vandalizing ... for research of course.

With the Red Rebel mystery solved, Supergirl asks Nick for a favor. A way to trap Topar.

Rick uses his pyrotechnics to spell out the word Kltplzyxm. When Topar arrives, he says the word and doesn't disappear. So it isn't Mxyzptlk.

With that out of the way, Supergirl swoops in with a giant magnet. She uses it to gather up the shiny particles covering Topar.

Topar is the Kryptonian Teacher!

We get a brief recap of the Teacher's first appearance. Jor-El knew Kal would have powers on Earth and would need to learn how to use his great powers. So Jor built a robot teacher to educate Clark on the use of his powers as Superboy. 

And it was another Kryptonian Teacher story that was covered on Into The Weird!

After teaching Superboy, he went into space to teach other young heroes.

But then Topar got word of Supergirl and knew he needed to test her. He is the Kryptonian Teacher after all.

He had never had a female student before. And casually misogynistic, he says couldn't accept a girl with her abilities. So he needed to test her.

Creepy. As creepy as one of the other Teacher stories.

But it doesn't take much to change his mind.

He psychologically attacked Supergirl at a time she was vulnerable to see if she would quit. Instead she turned the tables on him, revealing who he was and proving she was a hero. He can now leave knowing she can be a hero. 

I can only hope he has learned that casual sexism is wrong.

And then, things look even better.

Superman has calmed down and forgives Supergirl. The cousins reunite.

Okay. Where to start. I only knew this adventure of the Kryptonian Teacher. But between this one where he is a sexist and the one covered on Into The Weird where he mind controls a woman, he seems creepy. 

But I do like that Supergirl stays strong and doesn't back down. Instead, she defeats the person who doubts her and proves herself.

So there you go, another Kryptonian Teacher story. And one where Supergirl is basically emotionally and psychologically attacked by a villain and Superman and somehow still makes it through.

Overall grade: B


John (somewhere in England) said...

A very Merry Christmas to ANJ and all other SCBC readers!

Daxam1978 said...

Happy Christmas anj

Anonymous said...

Those are "Textbook Head Studies" from Kurt Schaffenberger they should be used in any classroom that teaches comic book illustration (assuming such places exist) every one tersely expresses the required emotion.
I wish Supergirl at the end of this story had pulled a "Don Rickles" when Superman lugubriously apologized, "Not Now Superman, Can't You See I am Eating!!??"

Happy Holidays to ALL! Kurt Schaffenber on Christmas Eve is no small gift at all!!

H said...

Strangely enough, I guessed Robot Teacher from the third panel you used. You know you've been reading too many Superman stories when you can guess the mystery villain's identity on page 2 or 3. Then again, the Robot Teacher stories have a somewhat similar pattern and he has a very distinctive way of speaking. Also, Cary wrote the other story you mentioned (which gets creepier the more you think about it- it's strongly implied Superboy lost his virginity to the girl).

Happy holidays to all.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

This looks like one of those situations where the cover was drawn first, and the writer had to come up with a story to go with it. I believe that the 2 Superboy flashback panels are from the original story drawn by John Sikela (and written by Edmond Hamilton, according to DC Database).

I don't know why Superman was so upset with Supergirl. I thought the reason he revealed her to the world in issue 285 was that she had proven herself. And I'm sure there are many stories where Superman goofed.

Now if Superman had been upset with Linda because of her poor choices in boyfriends, he would have had a point. Here we have another one, Nick (name appropriate for Christmas). If Nick had been writing a thesis on Jesse James I suppose he would have taken up train robbery. They're lucky he wasn't studying Hiroshima and the atomic bomb!

At least Superman came around in the end.

Regarding Supergirl and Superboy connections...have you ever covered Adventure Comics # 278,"Supergirl in Smallville!" ? Supergirl travels to the past and reveals herself to Ma and Pa Kent in order to prove to Superman and to herself that she is ready to be adopted. Pa Kent passes her off as his niece "Linda Kent", and Clark never finds out who she really is. The story was reprinted just once, in Superboy # 129 (May 1966) an 80 Page Giant.

Happy Christmas and Merry New Year!