Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Back Issue Box: (Daring New) Supergirl #13

One of the decisions I made when I set up this site was that I didn't want it to be a sort of index show where I would review Supergirl's stories in order. Instead, I have tried my best to review older issues which somehow reference current comic or world events.

Once more in the United States, we are divided. Protests over racial inequalities have erupted around the country. And once more I simply worry about the future of this great nation. We just can't seem to get together over basic concepts as life, liberty, and equality.

With that in mind, I decided to look at 1983's Supergirl #13. With this 'anniversary' issue, the title sheds the 'Daring New Adventures Of ..." part of title. We get a new costume for Kara and this rather patriotic cover by Ed Hannigan.

And this is an interesting issue because it has two very different tones in these 22 pages. The front half of this issue is a sort of celebration of Supergirl, recently victorious from a near fatal battle, she is entering a new chapter of her life.

The back half is a solemn story about antisemitism and prejudice and how the fringes of hate can suddenly become mainstream. It is oddly prescient. This issue would be relevant today, 37 years after it was published. In fact, given the rise of white nationalism and the further divide in our country, this feels even more relevant today.

Kudos to writer Paul Kupperberg  (who autographed my copy, seen above). This issue shows us the pain of prejudice on a very individual level. This was a time when you could look at superheroes as pure role models. I learned the concepts of right and wrong from comics.  No big surprise, Supergirl hates Nazis.

Carmine Infantino and Bob Oksner bring their usual great art here. The villain of the piece has a sort of Gene Colan feel to her. And overall, as usual, there is a high polish to the Linda Danvers pages here.

On to the story.

In Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #12,  Kara was dying of radiation poisoning. She has fought several miniaturized super-powers clones of herself in the Fortress of Solitude. She is cured after being thrown in the Kryptonian Atomic Cauldron. And she has stopped the clones by exposing them to Gold K.

Unfortunately, you can't have 5 Kryptonians fighting in a confined space without the place getting trashed, even if 4 of the combatants are tiny.

When Superman arrives the his demolished private retreat, he sees Supergirl standing there in a brand new outfit. Supergirl has won. Everything is feeling bright. And so she sports a new look.

What is funny is Superman's sort of non-response. He says he doesn't know anything about Halston (warning, dated reference) so he can't comment. But if Supergirl is happy, he is too.

Hurrah super-family!

This is basically the pre-Crisis costume with the red shoulders and red dress. The head band is coming! My love of this costume has grown over time.

But this is a bright time. Look at how Kara is beaming!

Kara is downright sheepish about the mess she has made in the Fortress. She asks her cousin if she can help him with the cleanup. But he asks her not to because he has a particular way he likes things done.

I love these little family moments between the cousins. They are joking and caring. I like that little character moment that Kal wants to clean his own place up. Interesting.

And as for what happens to the mini-Supergirls? Read about that here!

But there is something unsavory happening in Supergirl's home town of Chicago. A swastika has been painted on her landlady's door. Mrs. Berkowitz is appropriately scared. She has survived the concentration camps. She can't imagine that hate like that could spring up again.

Linda's friend Joan is too young to remember WWII first hand. She, like many even today, can't imagine that such a terrible thing like Nazism could rise up again. Could it.

I do like Kupperberg bringing this story to Mrs. Berkowitz and the apartment building. Yes, the rising Nazi cause is a problem for the city and the country. But here we also see the threat on a personal level. Mrs. Berkowitz is too afraid to leave her apartment. This sort of problem impacts everyone.

But the one thing that really is hammered home is how people like Joan can't imagine such a thing taking root. Mrs. Berkowitz keeps reminding the young adults around her that things started small in Nazi Germany too. You cannot let these things happen ... ever .... or they will grow.

But the Nazi party is coming.

The 'Party for Social Reform' is led by a mysterious and quite creepy woman. And this group isn't afraid to use the swastika as their symbol.

Meanwhile we get a nice flashback of Linda Danvers visiting her adoptive parents Fred and Edna.

It was Edna, using her amateur fashion design skills, who thought up the new look. I like how both Edna and Linda talk about the puffy sleeve and tennis short outfit is 'old'. That might have been stylish in the early 70s. But the times they are a-changing.

I also liked this scene because we see a happy Supergirl interacting with her other family. She has some playful banter with her father and is almost giddy when making this new outfit with her mother.

Yes ... happy times for Supergirl!

So rare these days.

But the time for smiles is over.

Linda gets home and sees her friend Johnny O guarding the building. No one will be bothering Mrs. Berkowitz on their watch. Linda doesn't think that much can come of something like this graffiti but she gets a lesson in casual racism by her African-American neighbor Cheryl.

Linda goes in to talk to her landlady. Once more, Linda is almost naive in saying that Mrs. Berkowitz shouldn't let the acts of a few deranged people stop her from living a normal life. Again, someone young belittles the problem.

And once again, Mrs. Berkowitz has to remind them that small movements can become large if left unchecked.

This is a great end panel. Linda, seeing how distraught her landlady and friend is, realizes the depth of this problem. And she isn't happy. In fact, she feels an anger she hasn't felt before. That is the power of seeing a personal impact rather than thinking of things in the abstract.

But moreover it shows a trait in Supergirl I love. When facing injustice, she is fierce.

Interested in seeing what this is all about, Linda heads to the rally with her odious love interest Phil.

And there, the movement's leader is preaching straight hate.

Even a dullard like Phil has something to teach Linda.

When people are scared they need a scapegoat. And if you have a charismatic person who has a decent delivery of a 'line of bull', people will follow.

Linda replies 'It's hard to believe in this day and age.'

Yes Linda.

It is hard to believe in *this* day and age that it can happen. And yet, here we are.

At the rally, a Jewish man steps up to the dais and challenges this group.

This man's speech ignites the hate in the crowd. The followers of this woman head straight into rioting.

It turns out this man was an actor who said all those things to fan the flames.

It reminds me of all the current riots.

Supergirl has heard enough.

She can't abide by what she is hearing even if the person has the right to say it. But she certainly can't have riots and violence flood the streets.

She confronts the woman leader, asking for peace.

It won't be easy.

The leader reveals herself as Blackstarr and she has immense power, enough power to hurt Supergirl in battle.

Great image here by Infantino. It feels like a Gene Colan villain.

It's a super throwdown in the midst of a social unrest.

This is a very solid issue for me, one of my favorite of this run. Part of that is you see how easily thing;s can change. We go from Linda having a great day with family to being confronted with inequality and hatred. The message is powerful. How can a hate group thrive ... then or now? Are we really still talking about this?

It is hard for me to believe it. But this book from 1983 is sadly still relevant.

Overall grade: A


Anonymous said...

Hello from a french fan of supergirl,

Mother and daughter working together on a new costume ... why didn't we get it in rebirth ? it was an opportunity to talk about the differences in clothing between Earth and Krypton.

"It is hard for me to believe it. But this book from 1983 is sadly still relevant." I saw i don't know where, an poster of 1950's where superman said a message against racim to a group of children.

Martin Gray said...

Thanks for covering this issue Anj, yes, sadly, it’s still relevant. Kupperberg did a great job negotiating the different tones of the tale, and Infantino and Oksner’s art was as brilliant as ever.

It’s interesting that the credits say ‘beginning the second year of daring new adventures...’ They must not have known the title was changing.

While the skirt was a tad too floaty, I still like that costume - the stylish chest symbol-cape connection apparently influenced the Tyler Hoechlin Superman look on TV. (If I’m wrong, I’m sure KET will tell me otherwise!)

That’s some great narration from Kupperberg, sadly, this is a lost art.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

The cover seems to have been inspired by the opening sequence of the 1950s Superman TV show, where Superman (George Reeves) is shown, standing hands on hips in front of an American flag. "Truth, Justice and the American Way".

I believe the genesis of this story was the then recent (late 1970s) events in Skokie Illinois when a Neo-Nazi group wanted to hold a march there. Skokie had a number of Holocaust survivors living there at the time. There were lawsuits, and in the end, the march didn't happen. Instead, according to what I read, about 20 Nazis held a rally in a park in Chicago, but were drowned out by a counter demonstration of around 2,000.

"I saw, I don't know where, a poster of 1950's where Superman said a message against racism to a group of children."

I remember those "Public Service Pages" that ran in DC comics from the early 1940s to the mid 1960s. Subjects covered included racism, equality, and personal responsibility. Superman appeared in a number of them, as did Superboy. There were even ones with characters like Binky and Peter Porkchops. Even Bob Hope appeared in one. I think Jack Schiff wrote all or a number of them. They probably stopped appearing when he retired.

I think I like this costume better without the headband. And was this the first Supergirl costume with the V-Belt that has become something of a trademark for Kara?

Anonymous said...

Is this Edna Danvers last appearance in Continuity? I think so, but its a good one Mother and Foster Daughter peacefully collaborating on a new costume is a good image on which to go out.
Yeah Supergirl hates racism but then, despite her beauty and superpowers she can easily project herself into the role of the victim here, since she is, per the laws of the USA an immigrant and depending on who is doing the writing pretty much an illegal immigrant at that.
And anyway her cousin "beat the Sh*t" out of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940's on radio, so its sort of a family preoccupation by now.
After 12 or so issues dedicated to building up a personal rogue's gallery for Supergirl, Kupperberg finally goes all out with Black Star and generates a villainess who may well be stronger than the Girl of Steel. He deserves kudos for that...but to me all this is the lengthening shadows of a gorgeous Twilight of the Goddess, Helen Slater is in England working 24-7 to "Get Supergirl Right" and Marv Wolfman is whispering in Jeanette Kahn's ear about "barnacles on Superman's hull".


Anj said...

Thanks for comments!

This is the first V-belt I believe.

Yes, Blackstarr has some serious power.

And sadly, still relevant.