Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Back Issue #17

My thanks to blog friend Gene for telling me about Back Issue #17, published by TwoMorrows publishing. Back Issue (as well as TwoMorrows other magazines including Alter Ego) really does a great job looking back at comics past, specifically how it impacts current books. Here is the link to their site: http://www.twomorrows.com/

I have looked at Back Issue #34 which looked back at Crisis on Infinite Earths as well as the end of the current creative super-teams just before the Byrne Superman reboot. That was a very good issue. Back Issue #17 is even better.

Dubbed the 'super girls' issue, the book has many in depth articles about some characters and times that I really like and appreciate. There is an article about the de-powered Wonder Woman run from the 70s; one about the intricate origins of Spider-Woman.

And, of course, there are a couple about Supergirl.

The main article is titled Supergirl From Argo City To Legend and really takes a very thorough look at Supergirl's comic history from her Adventure Comics days through to Crisis on Infinite Earths. Specifically it looks at the editors, writers, and artists on her stories in those times and looks at each person's take on the character of Supergirl.

The historical review starts with Adventure Comics #397 which was the first for editor/writer/artist Mike Sekowsky. This period included the beginning of new reader-inpired costumes, the introduction of Nasty Luthor, and Supergirl losing her powers. Sekowsky was known for 'humanizing' his characters and so there aren't many outer space or super-powered villains in his run.

Starting in Adventure #409, comics legend Joe Orlando took over as Supergirl's editor and brought with him a new writer Steve Skeates. Skeates was a fan turned pro who wrote strong independent women.

That era closed when the decision was made to give Supergirl her own book and bring her back to college. Bob Kanigher editted this book with Cary Bates as writer and Art Saaf as artist. Her solo series was a brief 10 issues long and suddenly the Supergirl character was one of the Superman Family in the comic of the same name. She was put under the editorial umbrella of Superman editor Julius Schwartz and E. Nelson Bridwell. During this time Elliot S! Maggin wrote her early adventures followed by Jack C. Harris.

The Superman Family stories ended with Paul Kupperberg writing Kara's adventures. He easily rolled over as writer in her next solo book Daring New Adventures of Supergirl.

The article really does a great job reviewing all these periods, talking to as many creators as they could, with side panel articles about the editors and some of Supergirl's more nutty adventures.

One thing that stuck out in the article (much like it did in Back Issue #34) is Marv Wolfman and Dick Giordano's clear dislike of the Supergirl character. I can't believe that DC got more angry letters about Terra than they did Supergirl. And for Giordano to say most people didn't care seems like an overstatement. If no one cared, if her death wouldn't impact people ... why would DC stress the overall importance of Supergirl's death.

As someone who has most of these early issues, this article took me through some of the process that the creative teams had. But for me, the real treasure of the issue is an article about Double Comics, a proposed title which would have both Superboy and Supergirl adventures in it ... a title shot down when Crisis appeared on the horizon.

Luckily some of the first Supergirl script and art exists and so we can see a story that might have been.

Written by Paul Kupperberg and drawn by Eduardo Baretto, the story has Supergirl dealing with a variety of personal issues including the return of Dick Malverne into her life.

Struggling with her place on Earth, she returns to Rokyn to find herself. She actually gets a lot of support from Alura who thinks Kara needs to start finding her own place in the universe.

Judging from the pages we see here, Baretto would have been a fabulous artist for Supergirl. And in reading some of the script, it sounds like Kupperberg was really planning on establishing Supergirl as her own person, distancing her a bit from the shadow of Superman.

What a treat to take a look at this Supergirl issue that never was! That splash page is gorgeous!

I cannot stress how great this issue was ... certainly worth the price for any Supergirl fan. I highly highly recommend it. One thing I liked about TwoMorrows was the ability to buy a .pdf version of the magazine. It is worth looking over the whole website to see if any other of their magazines intrigue you. I recently got the Alter Ego dedicated to Bob Oksner and really like that one too!


Gene said...

I can't stress strong enough how valuable a resource this issue was when I was preparing the Supergirl display.

I was surprised to read that Marv Wolfman had scripted Supergirl's death before the 1984 movie came out. Which debunks the myth that the movie's poor box office return caused Kara's comic book death.

Anonymous said...

Hard to believe that one of Marv's first writing credits at DC was a Supergirl story late in her Adventure Comics run.
That would be Adventure Comics #421, July 1972 "Demon Spawn".
I believe he also had at least one Supergirl writing credit in the Superman Family Dollar book as well.
Marv came out of fanzines, and the mark of a "fan-pro" is an intense dislike and or reverence for certain characters to the point where it seriously affects their writing in a bad way.
What kills me is, Marv apex predator moment at DC writing the Teen Titans a team LOADED with B and C list legacy characters, Wonder Girl, Aqualad, Tula the Aquagirl, Kid Flash...etc etc etc.
For those barnacles on the respective hulks of their original heroes he has nothing but love, yet Supergirl must be consigned to a grave.
I mean what IS his problem with Supergirl anyway?

John Feer

TalOs said...

He's just a has been washed up writer who only has New Teen Titans as his main claim to fame legacy when said and done is all.

On a lighter note man what I would've gave to read the unpublished 80's era Supergirl tale and what may have been the course intended for her before the blasted Crisis.

Anj said...

What kills me is, Marv apex predator moment at DC writing the Teen Titans a team LOADED with B and C list legacy characters, Wonder Girl, Aqualad, Tula the Aquagirl, Kid Flash...etc etc etc.

Thanks for the post.

I have heard you make this point before and you always do so very eloquently. Why was Supergirl an anchor for Superman while Aqualad is a vital character?

It is a question I would love to ask Wolfman in person someday.

Dave Mullen said...

This is fascinating material, I had no idea 'Supergirl #24' ever existed and while i've not read the article the pages of Barretto art are stunning. I thought his work was stunning anyway but with work like this I can't understand whay Supergirl ever struggled to find an audience back then, on the other hand it was always a near impossible book to find on the stands and like Dr Strange I assume it was never a widely distributed book which always baffled me as i really liked them.

The attitudes to Supergirl were also equally mysterious in hindsight, I mean I always liked her and DC at that time had just started to fully embrace teen heroes like the Titans, Firestorm & even a teen JLA was eventually introduced. I guess the plain truth is DC never really got behind the character, if you won't distribute and promote her book properly then obviously people won't buy what they can't actually find. I remember books as diverse and specialist as Arak, Arion, LSH and Amethyst being extremely well stocked, along with the mainstream DC titles - they always were. Never any Supergirl though.

Unknown said...

Well ... to defend Marv Wolfman a little his Marvel work is head and shoulders above most of what he wrote for DC, especially Nova and Tomb Of Dracula.

That said, I always thought certain quarters of DC were too quick to dismiss the Silver Age shenanigans as uncool and literally toss the baby out with the backwater ... especially Supergirl.

As Otto Binder and Jerry Siegel established, what made Kara unique was her desire to fit in as Linda as opposed to the whole meek Clark Kent stuff. She was an every-girl with god-like powers, a characterization Sterling Gates seems to grasp.

As an aside, I always wondered if the story where Ambush Bug can't tell the difference between Superman and Supergirl was Paul Kupperberg's dig at Giordano and Wolfman.


Anonymous said...

"Judging from the pages we see here, Baretto would have been a fabulous artist for Supergirl..."

A heads up. Eduardo Barreto did draw a couple of Supergirl issues including the ones against Kryptonite Man. (Supergirl #21 and Superman #397)

Anonymous said...

Funny how Wolfman tells they never had any death threats but in another Back Issue, retailers reveal some fans actually wanted to kill Wolfman.

Hilariously how he assumes everyone must think like him, and dismisses any and all opposite evidence.