Thursday, December 10, 2020

Back Issue Box: Adventure Comics #394

Every so often I need a little bit of a breather from reviewing critically modern comics. Every so often I need to slip back into the silliness of the Silver Age.

I wanted to cover a Supergirl this issue to keep the focus of the site intact. I was going to delve back into the world of the Earth Angel Supergirl. But as I was thumbing through the Supergirl collection I realized I hadn't covered an Adventure Comics story in quite some time. And boy, I could use a little bit of the insanity that was in these books.

I thought for sure I would review the cover story, 'Heartbreak Prison'. I mean, who can resist the girl prison cover by Curt Swan. 

But then I read the other story in this issue which is so insane that I needed to cover it.

If I was looking for a simple and fun diversion, this was it.

"The Mysterious Motr of Doov" was written by E. Nelson Bridwell with art by Win Mortimer. 

Readers surely picked up the gist of the story just based on this opening panel but there is an even bigger clue there if you look for it.

But Supergirl walking with a metal humanoid, an anthropomorphic beast, and an electric man? All while following the Crimson Trail? Yeah, this all looks familiar.

The story starts with Supergirl and Streaky flying patrol when they see a tornado about to demolish some farms.

Flying at superspeed in the opposite direction around the tornado our hero and her feline friend blow it away.

But their speed must have been too great. When they settle themselves, they find they are in a weird dimension. It looks like some sort of Wonka-land with giant lollipops and candy canes. And trapped in the hook of the candy cane is a tin man.

The Bridwell decides to up the crazy factor. 

In this place, Supergirl doesn't have her usual stable of powers. But she does stumble across some new powers including a sonic cry.

The scream shatters the candy cane freeing the robot.

Amazingly, he speaks English. He is Cresa. 

Kara just wants to go home. But without her powers, she'll need to find someone who can help her. Cresa knows that the Motr of Doov knows all. His green sky pyramid lies at the end of the Crimson Path, a streak of red that is in the sky.

Hmmm, a tornado teleports her to a strange land and she meets a metal man who tells her someone all knowing can send her home. Hmmm ... 

Next she comes across a creature named Chalom who is so scared of a tiny egg-shaped creature that he is paralyzed with fear. Supergirl grabs the egg but a new power kicks in. Her touch makes the egg-creature grow. But now, covered in eyes, the creature is frightened of Supergirl. Great panel by Mortimer showing how the beast views our hero.

So know, Supergirl, a man made of tin, and a cowardly creature all follow the Crimson Path to the Motr of Doov.

Along the way, the run into one more odd creature. Made of neon tubing, the being is inert until Supergirl's next power kicks in. Her hands imbue energy awakening Poxar.

But Poxar has no memory of how he got to Doov. So he joins the group. 

The whole time something dak and menacing seems to be following them all.

Kudos to Mortimer. While the robot is pretty standard stuff, Chalom and Poxar are definitely weird. Chalom looks like a gorilla from the waist down and a werewolf from the waist up.

Finally they reach the emerald-colored Sky Pyramid. They welcomed inside by the Motr.

The Motr says he specifically picked Chalom, Poxar, and Supergirl to aid him in his quest to defeat the Wicked Thing from the West. He made Cresa to lead them to the Sky Pyramid. There is little explanation of why he needs those three specifically. 

And then, another wrinkle. The real Motr died. He has been replaced by a man from Illinois from 1898. The Motr needed an assistant to help him and chose this man.

The group heads to a dimensional geyser which will return them all home. But the fake Motr knew he would need them to defeat the Wicked Thing from the West, an odd fire-breathing crow-like giant beast.

But there isn't a fight. Supergirl has now powers but still jumps into the fray. 

Accidentally, luckily, crazily, the Wicked Thing pushes her into the geyser. Suddenly Supergirl is home.

Was the Wicked thing defeated? Did the others get home? Did Cresa stay in Doov? Who knows.

But back at home, Kara realizes she has walked through a demented version of the Wizard of Oz. And most likely the fake Motr told the tale to Frank Baum who turned it into the Wizard of Oz.

And yes, if you had sharp eyes, you picked up on that in the first panel's caption box.

But this wasn't a mystery. From the start, there was an Oz feeling to this.

This book came out in 1970. CBS was running The Wizard of Oz as an annual event since 1959. It's not like Oz was an unknown. So I don't think figuring out the basis of this story was the big mystery. Instead, I think the fun was seeing how topsy-turvy Bridwell was going to go to get us there.

The story itself is ridiculous. It isn't even a Supergirl story per se. She doesn't use her usual powers. She doesn't defeat the main bad guy. There is nothing that makes this have to be a Kara story. This could as easily be a Wonder Girl story.

But it is crazy and fun. And as a fan of The Wizard of Oz, I like that Supergirl had a part in its creation, at least on Earth 1.


Anonymous said...

Ah, those were the good times. I have Adv#395&6 from back then.

Martin Gray said...

It’s a bit cheeky of ENB to basically say that Baum didn’t come up with the Oz material from his own imagination. I bet someone from Earth One told this to Bridwell.

Professor Feetlebaum said...

E. Nelson Bridwell must have had fun writing this story.

I suspect that "MOTR" is "MORT" with the last 2 letters reversed. Most likely Weisinger, but it could be Win MORTimer.

With that, I couldn't help but wonder if the other names, Cresa, Chalom and Poxar are also jumbled up names of real people. In the movie, the characters Dorothy meets in Oz (the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, the Wicked Witch and The Wizard) all had "real life" counterparts back in Kansas-the 3 farmhands, Mrs. Gulch and Professor Marvel.

Poxar somewhat resembles Electro (not the Spider-Man villain) seen on the cover of Action Comics #286.

Anonymous said...

I love the equanimity with which the Silver Age Supergirl meets every daffy situation, "I'm Dorothy Gail, Check!" "I've got weird new random super powers Check!" "Have to take Everyone to the Flying Pyramid, Copy That!" Its no triumph of self liberation but Kara does what she does best, confront every goofy turn of events fearlessly sans camp.
I think, I am not sure but this may be Streaky the Supercat's final canonical appearance in the DCU. He almost makes a featured cameo appearance in Adventure Comics #400, but its an evil robot duplicate...


H said...

Bridwell is definitely an Oz fan, considering he also did The Oz-Wonderland War storyline with Captain Carrot. As to the 'adapting a story someone else told him into the Oz books' things, the Earth Two stories were (at least early on in the Silver Age) the dreams of comic book writers from Earth One tuned into events from Earth Two.

Martin Gray said...

Nice one H, I’d forgotten that connection!