Friday, December 24, 2010

Back Issue Box: Christmas With The Super-Heroes #2

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everybody!

Long overdue for a look here at this blog, I figured I would review the Deadman story from Christmas with the Super-Heroes from 1988.

While it is a Deadman story, it resonates most powerfully as a Supergirl story from the immediate post-Crisis DCU, a DCU where there wasn't a Supergirl, wasn't ever a Supergirl, and characters therefore did not remember Supergirl.

'Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot' was written by Alan Brennert and drawn by Dick Giordano. I am always shocked to see Giordano's name on this story. Giordano gave the okay for Supergirl to be killed in COIE #7. This story is such a sympathetic look back at Supergirl, almost an apologia for her being erased from the history books, I am surprised he drew it.

The story starts with Deadman bemoaning his lonely existence as a wraith. Despite all he does, he aches for human contact, moreso at the holidays.

He begins hopping bodies, taking in moments of other people's lives to ease his own emotional pain. He steps into a man's body and enjoys a Christmas dinner, laughing with his family, loving his girlfriend, being someone again.

But then he realizes that his joy is at the expense of this man's life. It will never be Deadman's joy. Filled with anger and self-loathing, he leaves the man and takes off into the night.

It's there that he runs into a young woman who can see him flying there, can talk to him.

She can sense his anguish and tells him what he needs to hear. He is a hero. He does what he does because he can. He doesn't do it for accolades or gratitude. He does it to help people.

And he has to do it ... even if no one knows he is doing it. Even if no one knows he exists. Hmmmm ...

Set again on the right path, Deadman tries to thank the mystery woman. He asks her for her name.

"My name is Kara. Though I doubt that will mean anything to you." I still get chills.

This was Supergirl, the one who did what she needed to do and saved the universe because that is what heroes do. This is the Supergirl that was eliminated from the timeline, expunged from everyone's memory.

And with the lesson learned, she disappears.

His resolve re-established, Deadman thanks Kara ... whoever she is.

There is even a little kudos to Otto Binder and Jim Mooney who were the creators on Supergirl's earliest adventures.

It is such a short and lovely story, getting to the core of who Supergirl was in a handful of panels. It showed her heroism, her strength, her sacrifice. "We do it because it needs to be done. Because if we don't, know one else will."

It was as if someone in the DC offices realized that something special was gone and we needed to be reminded of it. Few stories encapsulate the beauty of Supergirl as a character as this one does. Wonderful.

I see this issue at conventions all the time, dog-eared in the fifty cent bin. It pains me. Because for old time Supergirl fans, this is such a beloved story, a hidden jewel, a near perfect eulogy for who she was and what she represented. The first time I read it, I suddenly didn't feel alone as someone who was a fan of Supergirl, or who missed her. If these creators could write this story, they must feel the same way.

I often rank the back issues I review in terms of their importance to a Supergirl collection. This would get my highest ranking, a very important story in the Supergirl mythos, even if she never appears in costume, never shows her powers. It's short and in a holiday anthology. But its impact cannot be denied. I cannot thank Brennert enough for writing it.

Overall grade: A+

I'll be away from blogging for a couple of days with the holidays. Hope everyone stays safe and has fun.


valerie21601 said...

Sometimes I wonder what Giordano was thinking when he approved killing off Supergirl in the CoIE.

From what I heard over the years he thought Supergirl would be re-done as a clean slate (tabula rosa) and improved upon in many ways. Instead he was shocked to see Kara had been replaced with the shape changing proto-plastmic Matrix Supergirl, Mae and seeing where the Matrix Supergirl was heading wasn't a pretty nor an inspiring path in those days as Giordano had hoped for.

I remember reading somewhere it really hurt him when Matrix got into bed with Lex Luthor and became his willing puppet for a long time and how it would effect the Supergirl image for years to come.

And seeing for decades how DC mishandled Supergirl, even when they brought Kara back they still mishandled her until the Gates and Igle run.

I know he passed away so we may never know what he was thinking of and what he thought would happen when he whole heartedly approved of killing Kara Zor-El off.

Saranga said...

Merry Christmas Anj! Thanks for all your hard work on this blog over the year. It's a pleasure to read and a joy for Supergirl fans!

Martin Gray said...

I cried my eyes out when that story came out, it was beautiful.

Hope you're having a great break, Anj. Happy Holidays to everyone.

Anonymous said...

This was one of the nicest and most inspirational Christmas stories DC has published, provided you knew the background and who everyone was. It's also a very sad one for me to read again, because when I bought the comic and read this story I was finally convinced there would be no Comic Book return for Kara. It was too final, and too perfect as a capstone to her story.

And wow, I sure miss Giordano's artwork, if not his vision. Kara is absolutely gorgeous.

Hope you all have a nice holiday season! And ANJ, thanks for all your work here. It's been a good year for Supergirl readers, here's hoping we can have another one.

valerie21601 said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, Anj!

Anonymous said...

I had a heartfelt reaction to this story when it was first published as well. But in the intervening years my feelings hardened somewhat "Where was all this love and appreciation for the character when she was in-continuity and NEEDED the TLC??"
But it is a Christmas story NOT a Festivus story so I will decline to air grievances.
Happy Holidays to all

John Feer

Jamal Igle said...

Ok a little biut of personal trivia on that issue. If you look in the very end of the book amongst the staff signatures you'll see mine. I was a production intern at DC at the time and that's the first thing my signature ever appeared in

Anonymous said...

This story pretty nicely defines pre-Crisis Kara's approach to the world, and it's something that I really miss. A willing acceptance of her own fate, even when the heroic acts that brought about her fate won't be remembered because of the very act itself, is heroic in a way we'll never see today where every hero is full of angst and self-pity and rage over their fate.

Maybe pre-crisis Kara should come back to talk to Superman while he's on his road trip.

What a nice place to start in the comic book world Jamal!

I hope everyone here has a happy holiday season! Thanks especially to Jamal, Sterling, ANJ. You've helped make 2010 a great year.

Gustavo Delamarques said...


Jason said...

I've always thought this was a wonderfully heartwarming and touching story, especially considering the time at which it was written, when there was supposed to be NO reference to anything pre-Crisis. I agree with the all the sentiment here. It's as if someone at the time decided that Supergirl really was special and deserved some kind of final acknowledgment and closure. It really does come off as an apology from DC to the Supergirl fans in that regard. I've also read in various places that Mark Waid got in trouble with DC for this story, for breaking the "no reference to Kara or anything pre-Crisis" rule. I wonder if there's any truth to that. And that's awesome that Jamal Igle actually had some small part in this story!!! Talk about fate. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year, Anj!!

Martin Gray said...

Yeah, I heard Mark Waid lost his job due to that story - but how could that be when executive editor Dick Giordano drew the story?

Gene said...

Wow, interesting tidbit Jamal!
Best wishes to everyone here!

Supergirl's Pal

Anj said...

Thanks so much for the kind words and interesting tidbits about this story.

Sure enough, there is Jamal's signature.

And I would love to hear what Mark Waid would have to say about this story today!

TalOs said...

This Xmas special always manages to bring me to tears in the end too and just shows what grave injustice was done to Supergirl come her non-existent role in allowing a Post-COIE DC earth continuity. :-(

B McMolo said...

"for old time Supergirl fans, this is such a beloved story, a hidden jewel, a near perfect eulogy for who she was and what she represented. The first time I read it, I suddenly didn't feel alone as someone who was a fan of Supergirl, or who missed her. If these creators could write this story, they must feel the same way."

Right on!

Discovering this post and reading it made me feel much the same. This story has always had such a special place in my heart. It's kind of funny how people don't remember it so much (present company excluded) as it makes the message therein even more poignant.

Thanks very much for this great write-up.

Brian Hague said...

Alan Brennert's work was one of the most blessed things to ever grace the pages of comics, and in exchange for this wonderful gift of a story he provided DC and its readership, he was blacklisted from the company for over a decade. The editorial department of the Post-Crisis Superman had a long reach and Waid lost his editorship over this as well. When Waid returned to DC, years after the narrow-minded, mean-spirited politics of that era passed, he hired Brennert once again to write a Batman Black & White story in which Batman meets the Golden Age Green Lantern, Gotham's defender in the days before Batman. He was able to end that story with Batman thanking the Alan Scott GL for "one more ride on the merry-go-round." Brennert was an emotional powerhouse of a comic book writer and a class act.

Martin Gray said...

Brian, have a listen to the recent Fire and Water Podcast interview with Mr Brennert himself for not only the story behind every one of his DC tales, but his insight into the assumption that 'Waid was sacked because of Kara and Deadman'.

It's an especially great episode of a splendid series.