Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Back Issue Review: Supergirl #8 (1972)

This week I re-watched the Supergirl show episode titled 'Medusa', the mid-season finale for the show. Thankfully, the show returns in a couple of weeks.

But the idea of Supergirl and Medusa in the episode reminded me of Supergirl #8, from way back in 1972. This is a story where Supergirl fought the literal Medusa, not a virus named after the Greek gorgon of myth. And it is such a ridiculous story, I felt that I needed to share.

And trust me, this is pure 1970's comic zaniness. The plot doesn't make 100% sense. It is moves at a rocket pace. More happens in this issue than two years worth of comics these days. We travel the world. And the action is insane. Sometimes you just need to sit back and immerse yourself in the crazy. If you do, you will love this issue.

At the very least, we get to see Hawkman, Batman, and Green Lantern turned into statues. I mean, how can you look at this beautiful Bob Oksner cover and not want to read this!

Get read ...

 "A Head-Full of Snakes" was written by Cary Bates with art by Art Saaf. Bates wrote 7 of the 10 issues of this brief volume one of the Girl of Steel so he had a decent understanding of what Supergirl was going through around this time. And Art Saaf was on art for 9 of 10 of these issues. I love Saaf's approach to the character as he brings a little bit of 'va va va voom' to the character. Saaf certainly delivers one of the more curvaceous Kara's in comics.

This splash page certainly is a great opener to the book. There is Supergirl with Medusa-like hair, flying over the Fortress of Solitude. And she is on the run from her friends and family. It is apparent that she has petrified Hawkman with her gaze. You can tell this is going to be a big story.

At this time, Linda Danvers was a student at Vandyre University studying drama.

We see Linda playing Medusa in a school production of the story of Perseus. She is flirting with the male lead Mitch who seems to be a bit too shy to ultimately make a move.

Walking back to the dorms, Linda and Mitch run into Professor Garth. The professor recently discovered the actual tomb of Medusa. The reason the school is doing this play is because there is a renewed interest in the myth of Medusa.

This is a time and a volume where Linda is very interested in landing a man. Almost every issue a new love interest is introduced.

And dig the bell bottoms and go-go boots. Groovy!

 Mitch finally decides to make a move at Linda's door. But Linda spies that Professor Garth is being mugged by a gang which has terrorized the campus. Before Mitch can land a kiss, Linda super-speeds away.

Supergirl dispatches the muggers with relative ease. But flying away, Supergirl realizes that her hair has somehow turned into a nest of snakes. And looking back, the muggers have been turned to stone. Supergirl has become a gorgon. The world declares Supergirl a menace.

That is a pretty major plot twist and it happens with almost no explanation.

 Not knowing why this has happened, Supergirl wraps her hair up in her cape and heads to the Fortress of Solitude hoping to find a cure. Unfortunately, the JLA also shows up to bring her in. Batman, Green Lantern, and Hawkman all show up and demand that Supergirl comes with them.

Supergirl realizes she needs to continue to search for a cure on her own. But the Leaguers won't drop it. In the battle, the cape comes loose and the snakes spring free. And just like that, three incredibly powerful heroes turn to stone.

Saaf shines here. The battle is brief but Supergirl is always in a very dynamic pose.

 Finally, Supergirl learns what is going on.

The real Medusa is alive and has placed a curse on Supergirl. And soon, Supergirl will die. And once she has been killed, Medusa will fully possess Supergirl's body and become a super-gorgon.

There is a lot to just roll with here. How did Medusa place the curse on Supergirl? Why now? How did it work?

It becomes clear to Kara that she needs to find Medusa's tomb and face off with her tormentor. She  puts her hair back into her cape-turban and heads back to Professor Garth to get the location.

 But things get even wackier.

Mitch, who was going to play Perseus in the play, gets possessed by the actual spirit of Perseus. The Greek hero's spirit was roused from his afterlife to come back to Earth and fight his ancient and immortal enemy.

This Mitch/Perseus being heads into a museum and steals Perseus armor and weapons. Magically armed, he flies off to face Supergirl who he believes is Supergirl.

Once again, there is a nice action sequence with the two swirling and fighting in mid-air. Finally, Supergirl demands that Mitch look at her. We don't see what happens but we assume Supergirl turns him to stone to end the threat.

Love Saaf's work here.

But are you keeping track of all that has happened? And we aren't done yet!

 Supergirl heads to Medusa's tomb carrying the petrified Perseus.

It turns out that Medusa had totally planned all this out. She knew that her curse on Supergirl would bring back Perseus. And Medusa hoped that Perseus would kill Supergirl, leaving Kara's body open to be possessed.

But what will happen now? Will Medusa rise from the tomb?

 Alone in the tomb, Supergirl becomes wrapped up in a magical web. The web begins to strangle Kara. She'll die this way once again leaving her body warm and ready for Medusa's spirit.

It turns out that Perseus is not truly petrified. Supergirl had looked at Perseus but had rehidden her hair which showed him that she meant no harm. So to trick Medusa, Kara covered him with stone dust.

Seeing Supergirl in danger, he sheds his disguise and frees her.

With no other choice, Medusa opens her tomb, ready to turn them both to stone. But before she can, the roof above the gorgon collapses, killing the evil legend.

It is an unfortunately quick and convenient end to the threat. We later learned that the roof collapsed because of a 'super-clap' that Kara aimed above the casket.

After all that, an off-panel clap kills Medusa? Kind of a let down.

With Medusa dead, the curse ends and Kara's hair returns to normal. Supergirl knows that everyone she turned to stone will revert to flesh. All is well.

But Kara knows that the snakes of Medusa's hair must also be caught or some other Medusa may form. (I don't know if I follow the logic. I thought the snakes were attached.) Below the crypt is a snake pit. The petrifying serpents escape. Maybe Bates had a sequel in mind?

With the threat over, Perseus' hold over Mitch ends. Suddenly Mitch is back to normal and Supergirl flies him back to Vandyre.

Whew ... what a ride. I can imagine each scene would be one issue in today's world. The fight with the muggers and the reveal of Medusa. The battle at the Fortress. The information obtained with Professor Garth. The return of Perseus and that battle. The crypt fight would be stretched over 2 issues. Suddenly we have a trade!

This whole issue is just crazy wild fun. I don't know if I quite understand how it all happens. But who cares. It is so zany and super-entertaining. And the art is just luscious.

So if you see this in the cheap bins, you must buy it. You won't regret.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Hi Anj

I don't know exactly which comics you follow, but I wanted to let you know that Suicide Squad vs Justice Leave #4 just foreshadowed a Supergirl issue featuring both Supergirl, Superman and Saturn Girl.

Good news to finally not only see Superman and Supergirl together, but also a connection with the legion. Emerald Empress also foreshadowed that the future isn't the best right now. Maybe we will see them both go to the future and fix something.

Really hoping for that

Anonymous said...

Back in the day, comic-books were weird and naive, but the plots were zanny, entertaining, non-serious and everybody had fun. The stories were child-like because they were intended for children.

Now, comics have to be super-serious, super-realistic, super-mature (Hah!), overly angsty and dramatic and the pacing is slow as molasses.

Okay, I've already had my "Get off my lawn!" minute.

Now, seriously. The plot is crazy but entertaining, which perfectly describes that period of the adventures of Supergirl. Kara's first solo book was not bad, but it was cut short by DC's implosion in the early 70's, which gave rise to the "Supergirl's solo books sold horribly" myth, spread by people who myopically focus on the length of both books and assume what they flopped.

Unfortunately the stories were weighed down by a lack of stable supporting characters and villains, as well as dumb romance. Seriously, Kara needed a new boyfriend every issue? It's hard to care about those characters when it's clear they'll be gone the next issue, never to be seen again.

Dick Malverne had potential for being one of the main canon love interests of Supergirl... And DC ditched it, replacing it with bad romance.

(Ironically, I don't care for pairings in the show either. Kara has been paired up with Jimmy Olsen and Mon-El, and some fans ship Kara/Cat or Kara/Lena, but neither of those pairings make me feel emotionally invested. Maybe if/when the Legion turns up and she meets Brainy...)

Good review and good issue. Just out of curiosity, have you already reviewed the full first volume or some issues remain uncovered?

Anonymous said...

Second anonymous here. I'm sorry for the double post, but I wanted to add...

"I don't know exactly which comics you follow, but I wanted to let you know that Suicide Squad vs Justice Leave #4 just foreshadowed a Supergirl issue featuring both Supergirl, Superman and Saturn Girl.

Good news to finally not only see Superman and Supergirl together, but also a connection with the legion. Emerald Empress also foreshadowed that the future isn't the best right now. Maybe we will see them both go to the future and fix something."

Seriously? Cool! I can't wait!

Come on, DC! Give your fans a classic -or at least good- Legion era!

Anonymous said...

The first solo Supergirl book had wonderful artwork from Art Saaf et al (Art could inject great human content into every panel and still do dynamic action meagre combination of talents), but the writing is berserk even by the standards of DC comics in 1973. Which is sad because as her series wound down in Adventure Comics then writer Steve Skeates distinguished himself by making Kara over as a mature thoughtful heroine in every way. All that went out the window once the solo book hit the spinner racks with LindaD/Supergirl chasing boys like a lovelorn 15 year old....not sure any of the editors were even reading the scripts as submitted quite frankly.


Anonymous said...

Looking back, the first time you mention this issue and the possibility of reviewing it was... eight years and two months! Wow. It's incredible thinking of how long you have been blogging.

Anj said...

Thanks for all the comments!
This issue is a wild ride with crazy twists. But I love it, especially the actual Medusa making a mummified appearance.

As for mentioning it before, I didn't recall that. Glad I hadn't reviewed it before! That would have been awkward.

Anonymous said...

"As for mentioning it before, I didn't recall that. Glad I hadn't reviewed it before! That would have been awkward."

May I suggest the creation of a new tag? Something like "Supergirl Volume 1", "Volume 2" and "Volume 4"? So it would be easier to keep track of -and search- your reviews of Bates, Kupperberg and David issues.

Off topic, do you remember Batgirl Annual 1 solicitation? "But what they discover—and who they discover—in Arkham will lead to a much, much bigger story!" I think we now know who they discover in Arkham.

My own prediction: Kara and Babs break into Arkham and Supergirl accidentally runs into Saturn Girl. Maybe she recognizes Imra, maybe not. But Imra will definitely recognize Supergirl (and maybe her telepathy will unblock Supergirl's Post-Crisis memories). Supergirl will take Imra home with her. Shortly later Superman will meet both girls (and both cousins will meet at last), and Clark and Kara will team up to help Saturn Girl out with saving/finding/reuniting the Legion.

Superman's son will possibly be designated honorary Legionnaire.

And there will be Supergirl/Brainiac 5 ship-tease.

Superman, Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes. Please, DC. Gives us this.

Anonymous said...

Now that you mention it, it is so obvious. We already know Saturn Girl is locked up in Arkham from an earlier issue (I think it was the Batman issue when he fetches his team in Arkham to go find the Psych Pirate). The clues have been there all along. I just never made the connection.

Anonymous said...

It is Batman #9 where we see Saturn Girl in Arkham. She is registered as a Jane Doe but draws the Legion symbol on the glass of her cell when Batman passes her. Batman doesn't acknowledge her though.

Rose said...

I am back to reviewing Supergirl!And you have ONE person to thank for itand that's Connor from Canadawho at the beginning of the holiday weekendcreated.