Monday, April 4, 2022

Back Issue Box: Action Comics #308

Tom King recently rearranging of Supergirl's timeline in Supergirl Woman of Tomorrow mini-series to be a sort of mash-up of her Silver Age original beginnings and some of the more modern turns that have taken place since Kara was re-introduced in the DCU.

With that in mind I have been reading over the back issues to find other points in comic history where her earliest adventures or memories are delineated further.

On that mission, I re-read Action Comics #308 which includes the tiniest little nugget of information about Kara's journey from Argo City to Earth, something which is an interesting factoid which I believe has never been mentioned again. 

"The Super-Tot from Nowhere" was written by Leo Dorfman with art by Jim Mooney and is a typical bonkers Silver Age story with more plot turns in this back-up feature than many multi-issue arcs have in current continuity.

Supergirl is flying over a 'jungle country' when she is astounded to see a young girl falling from the sky. Our hero swoops in and catches the toddler before tragedy strikes. Scanning the skies, Supergirl sees that several planes have passed over the land recently. She assumes this girl, named Candy, fell out of one of them.

But this certainly is a 'thrown into the story' moment. The first panel of the actual tale is Supergirl seeing the girl falling to her death.

I did love how back in this era, the first panel was usually a teaser for the story. I like the exasperation in Kara's words as she realizes being a parent to a super-baby is tough work.

Kara is over that jungle country on a mission. The jeweled eye from the native inhabitants idol has gone missing. The denizens are about to riot and kill some neighboring missionaries assuming they are responsible for the theft. Supergirl swoops in and is able to replace the gem, calming the maddening crowd.

But then a new twist, Candy exhibits super-powers, lifting the massive idol over her head and flying up to it's face. How does Candy have powers? And who is she?

Now we could go on about the savage representation of the natives here, or even the derogatory 'jungle country' but I think we all know that these were wrong then and now.

Realizing that she can't leave Candy alone and still pondering how the toddler has super-powers, Supergirl brings Candy to the Danvers.

I love that Edna is so thrilled to be able to care for another child. But one with super-powers might be too much.

Any time I can showcase the 'finger to cheek' thinking Supergirl/Linda from the Silver Age I will.

But Linda's idea of giving Candy some toys to play with to keep busy while Linda is at school only works for a little bit.

When Supergirl is out, Candy indeed does play with her toy trains.

But then she decides to play with a real train, demolishing it.

Back in the Silver Age, no author could resist putting in the joke of a hobo tossing away alcohol for good after seeing something impossible ... like a toddler dismantling a train engine.

After fixing the train, Supergirl brings Candy back to the Danvers where Mrs. Danvers has made the toddler a little super-suit. 

Who shows up by Dick Malverne, always looking for proof that Linda is Supergirl. And when Candy picks up a hot coal from the fire, he thinks he has it figured out. It seems even more obvious when Candy hands the coal to Linda without burning her.

Thinking quickly, Linda says it is only quartz, replacing it at super speed with a chunk of Red K she has around. Handing that to Dick quiets his suspicions.

But Red K? Doesn't that effect Kryptonians? Back in the Silver Age, a chunk of Red K could only effect a Kryptonian once. And since Supergirl had already been exposed to it, it was harmless. A nice little bit of information given to us by Dorfman back in the day before the internet and comic encyclopedias.

But then this twist.

The Red K does effect Candy, turning her invisible ... just as it had turned Kara invisible when she was exposed to it.

More toddler hijinks ensue. But now they are invisible toddle hijinks. We get a high-speed tricycle race, an invisible chewing gum bubble burst, and other insanity.

Heck this could have been a whole issue.

I love this panel for some reason. A motorcycle cop chasing a riderless, super-speed tricycle screams Silver Age.

It seems obvious that somehow Candy IS Kryptonian. She has all the powers and she can be effected by Kryptonite. So who is she?

Kara goes to the one place that might be able to help her, the bottle city of Kandor. They don't know who Candy is. Even using a computer to show what Candy would look like as an adult (to see if she resembles anyone) is useless.

With little choice, Kara decides to bring Candy to the Kandorian orphanage. But when she hears the pleas and sees the tears of Candy, she decides instead to bring her back to Earth.

So a couple of things here.

One, the Kandorian Orphange building is massive. Are there that many? And in the extreme situation of Kandor, wouldn't they just place them with a family?

But second, and more important, this idea of dropping of Candy at an orphanage is too similar to Superman bringing Kara to an orphanage to be coincidence. And Supergirl realizing that she couldn't and shouldn't do that, even crying as she contemplates it, shows her compassion. She isn't her cousin. She has more love in her heart. Of all the moments in this book, this was my favorite because of that callback.

And then, finally, the answer and that new detail to Supergirl's origin.

Back over the jungle country, looking for clues, Candy shows Supergirl a cache of food she found. It is Kryptonian food!

And then Kara remembers when she first entered Earth's atmosphere in her rocket (still colored purple for continuity) she accidentally jettisoned her food cylinder. Candy eating the Kryptonian food must have given her powers somehow.

So much to unpack here. 

In current continuity, Supergirl was placed in suspended animation for her trip to Earth. This  food cylinder implies that in the Silver Age she was awake the whole time, needing to eat and drink for the trip. So that is crazy.

Second, does being food under a yellow sun give the food different properties? Why hasn't it spoiled? Is it invulnerable? How can Candy eat it?

And I suppose most importantly, how does eating the food give her powers? I am afraid we will never know.

Since it has been a while since she ate the food, Candy's powers subside.

And since she ate the food while on that land, Supergirl figures out her parents must be explorers there. Sure enough, she spies a woman who looks just like the Kandorian image of a grown up Candy. She reunites the family.

This was a cute story filled with a lot of moments I just love. Kara's caring for Candy, even hoping to be a mother one day, just warms my heart. That moment when Supergirl rejects the idea of putting Candy in an orphanage is just heavy with history. And, of course, the addition of the food cylinder to Supergirl's origin, all make this a winner. 

I suppose all of that would make me say this is of medium importance to her legacy and worth seeking out if the price is right.

Overall grade: A


Martin Gray said...

Thanks for a cracking review of a very obscure issue, I’ve not read this one – the detail with the rocket really is interesting. Like you, I think that Leo Dorfman was having a pop at Superman sticking poor, orphaned Kara in the orphanage. And how lovely, we have Edna making her first super costume for her daughter, we know she does this again later!

H said...

I thought I had it when I saw that second image- a shiny red jewel, must be Red Kryptonite! Just shows that they can still do fresh and original twists, even at the height of Silver Age restrictions. My biggest surprise is that Kara was steering the rocket. Why did it crash if there was someone at the controls?

Kara does seem to meet lost little super-powered girls often though, doesn't she? I seem to remember a few others from here and there.

Martin Gray said...

She did. I’ll start. Judy from #410…

Anonymous said...

Welp, one thing is for sure Kara’s maternal instinct works just fine, it even subtly rebukes her neglectful cousin’s orphanage decision quite Candy’s powers come from eating Kryptonian Cheerios?? That makes complete sense to me, moreso than the dumpster fire that is “DC versus Vampires” currently. And yes Supergirl was once DC “babysitter of choice”...There was Candy, Val Lena Luthor’s son, Judy the lollimoppet...
This is the closest DC got to depicting Supergirl as a harassed single mom...but then ya necer know what there next decision will be when it comes to Supergirl...

Professor Feetlebaum said...

Yeah, this story is something of a precursor to the Judy story in Adventure Comics 410 and 414.

Nice call on Supergirl not leaving Candy in that Kandor orphanage. Before changing her mind and going back for Candy, Supergirl tries to rationalize her decision, thinking "She'll be better off in Kandor, until she's mature enough to use her powers correctly!" Wasn't that one of Superman's reasons/excuses for leaving Kara at Midvale Orphanage????

Odd that Supergirl seemed to be unaware of the food capsule attached to her rocket. You would think Zor-El would have told her about it.

It's funny that when Candy (now invisible) crashes through the wall on page 7, she leaves a child-shaped hole in the wall, like Sylvester or Wile E. Coyote.

Anj said...

Thanks for the comments!

This was fun.

Yes, the food cylinder being unknown to Kara is odd.

Love the call out to all the other young girls Supergirl has befriended.

And love the word 'rebuke' in describing Kara not sending Candy to the orphanage. It is a rebuke of Kal's decision.

Fun story!

SG Fan said...

Another fine example of Linkara's 'comics are WEIRD.'

While even though this pure Silver Age shenanigans, I like how you point out the character of Kara showing through, with her not able to go through with leaving Candy with the Kandorian Orphanage. I'd say it's not completely unreasonable to maybe think the writer was giving a bit of commentary on what Superman did with Kara, dumping her in the Midvale Orphanage.