Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Back Issue Box: Superman Family #201

Last week I reviewed Superman Family #197 in which Supergirl finds herself smitten with Peter Barton. 

So what became of Peter Barton? Just recall that Supergirl has never had much success with romance in the present. And in this story, you see that Barton isn't someone that Supergirl should be so enamored of. His views on women isn't exactly woke, even if this is a story from 1980. 

But she is, as seen on this beautiful cover by Ross Andru showing Supergirl gazing into the clouds and thinking of Barton while she also almost crashes into a plane. Lovesick Kara ... a classic trope for the character.

Let's jump right into the story!

"The Face on Cloud 9" was written by Jack C. Harris with art by Win Mortimer and Vince Colletta.

And the story matches the cover art! That doesn't always happen!

Sure enough, Supergirl is flying in the clouds and just thinking about Peter Barton. She can't shake him from her thoughts. But I love how Mortimer has her flight be a series of pirouettes. She is literally twirling in the clouds as she thinks of him. It shows how this is really more of a crush-like, almost adolescent infatuation more that a deep romance.

She is so caught up in her thoughts that she doesn't see the small airplane whose flight lane she has flown into. She has to actual rescue plane who has to swerve out of her way and nearly crashes. These invasive thoughts about Peter are almost dangerous.

Meanwhile, at the New Athens Experimental School, Val Myles continues to bring a curriculum around ESP to the school. Here she has invited the famous hypnotist Dr. Somnus to give a lecture. Somnus believes hypnosis to be a powerful tool for real medicine and not a sideshow event.

Meanwhile, Peter Barton is there and hoping to lure Somnus to do a show at the Theater he owns. Upset that Barton thinks hypnosis is a form of entertainment, Somnus storms off.

The plot thickens when Peter again states that he thinks Valerie is Supergirl, a ruse promoted by Linda Danvers to throw suspicion of herself. Expectedly, Val denies being Supergirl.

 And then we see just what a creep Barton is.

He loves Val but he can't deal with the fact she is Supergirl. Not because he worries about what Supergirl does. He doesn't like being outshined by Supergirl. It is his male ego! He feels he needs to get Val to abandon her Supergirl identity.

Of course, had he turned around, he'd see she isn't Supergirl. But there we are.

He's a loser.

Supergirl is there to take part in the Somnus lecture. Val is trying to see how and why hypnosis works.

Is it the internal strength of the subject or the will of the hypnotist.

Somnus hypnotizes a studentnamed Barbara, putting her deeply into a trance. He then shows that she can hold her arm out so stiff that someone can use it like gymnastic equipment without showing any strain or struggle. Somnus says how this shows why people under stress can lift cars, etc. The power is inside.

The Supergirl is asked to hypnotize someone to see if her will makes the trance deeper. The boys in the school trip over themselves to volunteer.

But while sending out super-hypnotism, Supergirl gets distracted by thinking about Barton again. She uses her other visions to seek him out in the city. But she doesn't turn off her hypnotic suggestions.

However, with Kara's mind having wandered, the hypnosis exhibition is called to an end. 

Supergirl is so enraptured with Barton that she can't even keep on task.

Of course, looking at Barton while sending out these hypnotic beams has a downside.

Suddenly, a new super persona arrives in New Athens.

Dynamic arrives, claiming that he is 'a man', the greatest amongst the people.

Dynamic says outright that his mission is to get rid of Supergirl. So why not make Supergirl do some work!

Dynamic attacks the plane Supergirl almost crashed into earlier! By concentrating, Dynamic is able to use super-strength to bend the wing. Thankfully, Supergirl is there to fix the plane and calm the pilot.

But Dynamic isn't done. He sincerely wants to kill Supergirl, remove her from the picture. Using his strength, he collapses a building on top of Kara, proclaiming her dead. 

In case you haven't guessed, Dynamic is Peter Barton. He was thinking about how he wished Val wouldn't be Supergirl when he was hypnotized. In his Dynamic state, he has access to all the abilities of a hypnotized person, the unlocked potential of the human body. So he is able to leap buildings and bend steel!

Well, you can imagine Supergirl's shock when she sees it is Barton. 

 And then Supergirl figures it out. She unleashed Barton's potential with her hypnosis. And now he wants to eliminate Supergirl because he wants to be with Val alone. He doesn't want to be with Supergirl or Linda.

So what is Kara to do? If Barton sees her as Supergirl, he'll most likely become Dynamic again and fight the Girl of Steel. Should she retire the Supergirl identity? Work unseen?

Should  a powerful woman dey herself to assuage the male ego? 

Seriously, why is this even a question for Kara. She knows she needs to continue being Supergirl.

But I still don't know. Does Barton have powers like Marvel's Starfox? Or is he just that charming that Supergirl is head over heels? 

I don't think this is an important Supergirl issue for a collection other than to show that for quite some time she had lousy taste in men. Mortimer does a solid job on art as he always does.

Overall grade: C


Anonymous said...

Supergirl in her core feature from about the time of the first solo book in 1972 basically thru TDNAOS was always depicted very schizophrenically, on the one hand she was a brave and bold sometimes feisty and headstrong as a super hero, but in the romance department she was often depicted with the emotional development of a 13 year old. Never moreso than in these Peter Barton stories, possibly the blandest man in Kara Zor El's "first life" (1959 thru 1985). That having been said was a there a way to depict her having an interesting relationship with an earth man? Yes...and if that earth man developed super powers and starting competing with her, sure, Marvel does that sh*t all the time....but this is not the way to do it at all.


Martin Gray said...

Thanks for giving us more on the oily Peter Barton. I want Dick Malverne to turn up and punch him!

Surely Kara is being influenced by Phantom Zone criminals, or Lesla-Lar... anybody! It’s Val I feel sorry for, manipulated by Linda and lusted after by a nut.

H said...

And there's still more to the story! The storyline continues in a couple more issues. With all this drama, it's no surprise Linda's next career move was soap opera actress.

Anonymous said...

It's clear that Super-Bad Romance was one of Kara's powers. At least, Peter Barton was "only" a stupid creep rather than a scheming villain's minion. But after Peter Barton would come Greg Gilbert and later Phil Decker, who were even dumber.

It's like DC didn't know what to do with Supergirl other than terrible romance and fighting one-issue-and-done poorly-thought villains. And then they wondered why her popularity had declined.

I praise Jack Harris for making nods to Kara Zor-El's history and bring Lesla Lar and Lena Thorul back, but often his plots read as a nutty Silver Age issue written twenty years later and lacking the "So crazy, it's fun" factor.

Looking back, moving Kara away from Midvale, the Danvers, Streaky, Dick Malverne... was a mistake. She was stripped from her own place and a solid supporting cast which was never adequately replaced.