Monday, March 8, 2010

Back Issue Box: Superman Family #195

With the Brainiac 5/Supergirl crossover coming up, I have been concentrating my back issue reviews on her appearances in the Paul Levitz/Keith Giffen run on Legion of Super-Heroes. But that current continuity crossover is still a couple of months away in the Supergirl title. And I do have more Legion moments to cover.

However, the next crossover to happen in Supergirl is a battle with Superboy. And while a Kara/Conner fight has happened in Supergirl #2 of the current book, I thought I would sift through the long boxes and review some historical Supergirl/Superboy moments from the past.

The first story is found in Superman Family #195. The story certainly looks dramatic doesn't it. It is the primary story showcased on the cover. It is, as the cover suggests, "the colossal battle you never expected to see".

I was pretty excited when I first saw the cover, figuring that this would be a great story with a time travel wrinkle. As we shall see, the old saying 'never judge a book by its cover' is very appropriate here.

One more comment about the issue. Superman #195 came out in 1979 and you can see that is was a simpler more innocent time in comics. The cover was a wrap-around cover with previews of the other stories in the book. Look at the 'Private Life of Clark Kent' one. Can you imagine a story today revolving around someone thinking Clark Kent wears a toupee?

I just wallow in the nostalgia of moments like this.

On to the Supergirl story.

Written by Jack C. Harris and drawn by Don Heck, the story starts out with a bang.

The first page has Superboy slamming into Supergirl, claming that he has sabotaged a blimp to lure Supergirl to her death. It looks like we have a fight on our hands!

Shockingly, the fight ends before it really began. On the very next page, Superboy 'stiffens' and falls from the sky. When Supergirl catches him, she discovers that it isn't Superboy at all. It is a Superboy robot, once used by Superboy to help protect his secret identity.

In the Silver Age, the robots became something of a crutch for writers. The decision was made to rid the DCU of the super-robots by saying that their delicate mechanisms could not work in Earth's polluted atmosphere. So no more Supergirl robots hidden in a tree trunk!

Supergirl drops the robot off at STAR labs where former JLA mascot Snapper Carr was working on the robot trying to reactivate it.

It turns out that the robot has somehow been possessed by an evil spirit who is vowing revenge against Supergirl. Unfortunately one area in my Supergirl collection which has some holes in it is the Superman Family run. I can't say 100% who this spirit is. I can say that Supergirl ends up battling a disembodied Lesla Lar later in this run. Maybe that is who is in the robot.

But the big splash cover plot of Supergirl/Superboy fighting is over in 2 pages. And really there wasn't a fight.

Instead of continuing there, the story moves to the New Athens Experimental School where a young scientist is experimenting on a new type of artificial intelligence ... a self-aware robotic brain.

The scientist hopes that his scientific innovation will make up for his unsavory past where he was a member of a criminal gang called the 'Screaming Demons'. Unfortunately, the brain seems to overload.

Later on, a giant robot begins to rampage through the streets of New Athens. Supergirl arrives, running at super-speed. Her attacks against the robot seem ineffective. As she fights him, she notices that he has an aura which changes colors as she changes her powers.

The robot suddenly seems to have superspeed himself and runs off. When Supergirl tries to follow, she collapses in agony. Her legs are throbbing in pain.

Further interactions with the robot end similarly, with the robot's aura changing color and Supergirl suffering pain when she tries to use her powers.

It even effects Supergirl when she isn't in action. When the robot uses supervision during a robbery, Linda Danvers' eyes begin to water and redden.

And when the robot uses 'super-breath', Linda begins to choke and gag. Luckily the pain seems to subside quickly.

Taking off to fight the robot again, Supergirl comes to the realization about the origin of her pain attacks. It seems the robot is able to absorb Supergirl's powers. When he uses those powers, he creates a negative feedback loop to Supergirl causing her pain.

Supergirl wonders if the reverse might be true. Maybe her over-extending her powers will cause a similar feedback to the robot. She crashes through the tonnage of rubble she is buried under, using her strength to the fullest. Amazingly, it works!

The robot collapses in pain. And with the robot out of commission, Supergirl is 'cured' of her pain attacks. She feels like herself again.

Then, in a Scooby Doo moment, the head of the robot falls off revealing it is actually Paul French, the young scientist from earlier in the story. When he awakens, he says he has no recollection of his acts while in the robot and Supergirl's super senses are able to verify that he is telling the truth.

It seems that the reverberations from the brain when it was activated somehow altered his thinking ... making him act more like the gang member he was. He is thrilled to get another chance in life and vows to help the world with his discoveries.

Now how French was able to create a robot suit able to siphon off Kryptonian super-powers, I'll never know. Nor will I quite understand why it caused painful feedback. Still, it was nice to see Supergirl fight through the pain to defeat her enemy. As I said above, the Silver Age was a simpler time.

I have never been a fan of Don Heck's art and this story didn't change my mind. Nor do I feel this has a place in a Supergirl collection outside of completist collections like mine.

Overall grade: D


TalOs said...

Heh yet another personal fave Supergirl back issue from growing up in the 80's being spotlighted here. Man what I'd give to see the Linda and Supergirl Super bots being brought back by Sterling in a more contemporary fashion when possible during his run! :-D

Anonymous said...

Yeah when did Kara start sprouting those ginormous Mister Spock arching-eyebrows? You can just see inker Frank Chiaramonte trying desperately to fix up Don Heck's rushed scratchy little pencils. Artistically, this is the original Supergirl's hurts my eyes to look at these panels they are so bad.
Bad artwork always drags down mediocre writing, that is about all I can say about Jack C. Harris' script.

John Feer

Mauricio said...

The Spirit is Lesla Lar. She send several foes to fight Supergirl.

I have almost all Superman Family run. I think I only miss 3 issues.

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