Friday, March 6, 2015

Back Issue Review: Superman Family #208 - Supergirl On TV

Let's face it, the biggest story of the year so far has been the news of Supergirl heading to television. As a Supergirl fan, I am pretty cautious with my optimism. I go into Supergirl news very warily due to past missteps. But so far, every announcement about this show has been great. This feeling of optimism is strange to me ... novel.

With that news percolating, and needing a back issue to review, I thought I would take a look at Superman Family #208. This issue has, in a sense, Supergirl heading to television. And, it also seemed to be the beginning of a new chapter in the life of Kara ... an interesting foil to the ending of the current incarnation's book and the new chapter (eventually) of Supergirl being on the small screen.

I do my best to try to make the back issues I review relevant to current storylines or news ... so take this one with a grain of salt.

The Super-Switch to New York was the lead story in Superman Family #208, written by Jack C. Harris with art by Win Mortimer and Vince Colletta. This was the creative team for Supergirl on the book and honestly, there aren't many memorable stories in this run. Outside of the return of Lesla Lar, most of these Supergirl stories are pretty forgettable.

So this injection of a new location and a new supporting cast was welcomed.

It starts out with a nice little primer on the Supergirl character. This is a good splash page, showcasing Supergirl in the center, and then putting in key history moments around it. Argo City, Zor-El and Alura, showcasing her growth as Supergirl, and then covering the careers of Linda Danvers. She's been a cameraperson for the news, a student at an acting school, a guidance counselor ... and now?

The actual story starts out with Supergirl stopping a tornado which just happens to be right in the vicinity of the New Athens Experimental School where she is guidance counselor in her Linda Danvers identity.

This isn't particularly innovative of a sequence. She unwinds the twister and blocks the lightning it spawns. But this rescue mission keeps her from her office duties.

In fact, when she gets to her office, she finds her boss Mr. Pierce waiting for her. He has been keeping track of when she is in her office, when she is available, and what she does. Now why he would think the right thing to do when a tornado is about to strike the campus is wait to see if one of his workers is on time is beyond me. And couldn't Linda just say the impending natural disaster delayed her?

Instead of tap dancing around her tardy arrival, Linda attacks. Her contract says she can keep her own hours. She has done great work. And if her boss wants to fire her, he can go ahead!

Nice fire by Linda!

Incredibly, Peter Barton (one of the supporting cast in the book) is walking by Linda's office when he hears her read Mr. Pierce the riot act. He is an acting agent and is so struck by her passion that he thinks she should try out to take the place of Laura Larue, the star of the 'Secret Hearts' soap opera. Tough luck for the actual actors struggling out there!

I do like the little comment by Linda in the last panel. She had been trying to date him for most of this run. He ends up proposing to someone else. If only he had heard her passion earlier!

This was a simpler and, in many ways, better time.

Should she quit her job in education? Head to New York? Try out for an acting job on a soap opera?

She decides to bounce the idea of someone she trusts. She meets with her cousin. After a little back and forth, he tells her to go for it. He thinks she should go for it. And you can tell that Kara sort of needed to hear that. She can do something for herself for once.

Realizing that Supergirl and Linda Danvers shouldn't arrive in New York at the same time, Kara decides to act as Supergirl heroically in the Big Apple for some time, establishing herself there.

It is a rather mundane page of daring-do. She stops some muggers. She pulls someone off the train tracks. She starts to get some fans. Imagine that ... DC letting everyday people like their heroes. And she is as big a deal as Wonder Woman and the New Teen Titans!

But couldn't we get one shot of her punching out a super-villain?

Finally, we get something of bigger deal then petty theft.

As she flies by the UN building, a bomb goes off one of the middle floors, blowing out the windows and throwing out a delegate. Supergirl swoops by and grabs him mid-air.

His country isn't named but he is dressed as someone from the Middle East. He wants to work with the United States but terrorists have threatened him to break relations. This bomb was the first of many the terrorists have set up.

After dropping off the delegates with the police, Supergirl goes out and does her best to limit the damage from the other explosives. She can't stop the explosions at the Empire State Building or the Museum of Modern Art, but she significantly limits the damage. And she is able to defuse the one under the Atlas statue at Rockefeller Center.

People cheer for her! Supergirl is New York's Superman. Hurrah!

And then ... a plot twist.

The delegate who almost died in the initial explosion, being thrown out from an upper floor of the UN, is actually the terrorist.

Was the first explosion faulty? Did he plan to get thrown out of the building and get saved by Supergirl? Why tell her about the other bombs? Why?

I guess I shouldn't think too much about it. Because it makes no sense at all.

And that terrorist isn't going to escape. She tracks him by a unique smell at all the explosions.

And once again ... she is welcomed by the city, this time by the mayor!

Imagine that, a city welcoming a superhero with open arms! And people are smiling!!!!

I love it!

And with Supergirl established, Linda can arrive in New York City and sign the acting contract. Supergirl ... that is Linda Danvers ... is now a television star.

It's a whole new chapter in the life of Supergirl.

This is a nice little story showing how established Supergirl is, welcomed by as tough a city as NYC, and working to stop crimes both big and small. The art is classic Mortimer, smooth and clean. I like how Linda looks in this issue.

Now I don't know if this is a huge issue in Supergirl history but it does mark a shift. As such, it should be held as being of moderate importance to a Supergirl collection, akin to Superman #376. You can probably find it for $1-3 at conventions and it is worth buying.

Overall grade: B


Martin Gray said...

It's interesting that the splash page ignored Kara's first costume, wonder why.

And wasn't Secret Hearts the name of an actual DC romance title?

Anonymous said...

Yes "Secret Hearts" was an old DC Romance title ...Win Mortimer did the pencils for a good chunk of this particular SG run, he had a very rushed somewhat crude style go getting the costume wrong on the splash page shouldn't surprise anyone.
There isn't anything wrong with this period in Kara's publication history that couldn't have been strongly improved by better artwork. I used to beg an unforgiving fate to assign Joe Staton to the feature and if he wasn't available then Jose Delbo. There is an irony here in that for years I've insisted that DC's Female Pantheon (owing to some regrettable sexism in the filmgoing public) were poor film franchise candidates. TV however IS very very very much Supergirl, Batgirl Wonder Woman's Natural that notion is about to be tested. Worth remembering that Batgirl and Wonder Woman both had good experiences on why not Kousin Kara?


Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

I never put the Secret Hearts connection together! Wild!!

I do wish they had put in a blue skirt shot in the opening page. Would have been a better 'history' page.

And I am optimistic for the show!

William Ashley Vaughan said...

This issue also contains a delightful tale of the golden age Superman and Lois Lane vs. Mr. Mxyzptlk from the undeservedly little known Mr. and Mrs. Superman series by comic book legends E. Nelson Bridwell and Kurt Schaffenburger. Even if the rest of the book had completely stunk, which it didn't, this gem would still make it worth buying.

Anonymous said...

Oh "Mister and Mrs Superman" was a great feature in ye olde SMF, at times a hilarious counterfactual Superman-Lois Lane storyline. DC really ought to reprint those stories in a trade paperback or something. Supergirl and "Mister & Mrs" were really the only reasons to buy the book back in the day, couldn't begin to recall what was going on in the Jimmy Olsen/Lois Lane features.


Craig said...

I loved reading the later letter page where it had been brought up by concerned NYC citizens that the depiction of Supergirl fighting crime would deter people from wanting to move to New York City since it gave it a bad impression. The mayor actually responded saying something like, "if Supergirl is in New York City, it really must be the greatest city in the world!" Ahh, the days when Supergirl was commanding of respect and known as just as big as Wonder Woman in and out of the comic books. She was always on par with the "Trinity" and the other Justice League heroes - even if they wouldn't let her be a member. Anyway, I'm hoping that this show will be a success and will give back to Kara the respect she deserves. :)

Craig said...

Also, while the stories may not be all that memorable, it never bothered me as a child or now as an adult. They feature Kara, and that's enough. Her personality has always shone out to me, and I love that at this time she had been depicted as grown up - she was a strong woman. She was even seen as a sex symbol in story, although whether that was a good thing or not is debatable considering her cousin probably didn't have as many provocative poses as she did of her in lingerie at the same time. But, at least she was old enough to be depicted in such. (I find it kinda scary that you have fanboys talk about Kara's sexiness when she's generally now only depicted as a 16 year old.)

Anj said...

I loved the Mr/Mrs stories and the Private Life of Clark Kent ones too!

Supergirl is treated well in these stories. But the plots are thin. And you are right about her being a sex symbol in here at times. Even in this story, there is a fan service shot of her as Linda sitting in her apartment in her underwear.