Tag Archives: Gerry Conway

Superman 304 – the Parasite’s prism

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The Parasite is back in Superman 304 (Oct. 76), spreading the hate around in a story by Conway, Swan and Oskner.

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This story marks the first appearance in these pages of Jon Ross, the son of Pete Ross, as well as an entirely new character, Jenet Klyburn, a scientist at STAR Labs.  She has been giving a tour to Superman and Jon when an experiment goes haywire.  Albert Michaels pops up, none too happy about this, and fires Klyburn.

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But the one responsible for the chaos is the Parasite.  He has acquired a prism, which he uses to control the energy he absorbs, to prevent the overloads that occurred the last couple of times he faced Superman.  But he is not aware that the prism also reflects the power he has taken into other people, along with his fanatical hatred of Superman.

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Both Jon and Jenet are affected by the prism, but only go into attack mode when the Parasite is around.  This is kind of an added benefit, rather than a drawback.

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Superman may not agree, but as he puts the situation together, he does realize that the Parasite must be close, if his friends are attacking him.

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Superman simply has to goad the Parasite into an attack, then dive down and pull the prism off of him.  And once again, the Parasite overloads.

Superman does not bother to retrieve the prism, a bad mistake which he will come to regret.

Superman 303 – Whirlcaine returns

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Whirlcaine, introduced a few months earlier in Action Comics, returns in Superman 303 (Sept. 76) with some partners, Lightning and Thunder, in a story by Conway, Swan and Oskner.

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Although Superman had put Whirlcaine in prison, he was released into the custody of STAR Labs to continue his research, under the director of lab, Albert Michaels.

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His new minions, Lightning and Thunder, work as a team, but only one appears at any given time.

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It’s not too much of a surprise to discover that they are one and the same person.

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But it does come as a shock, especially to Lightning, when he discovers that he is not human.  He is an artificial life form, created by Whirlcaine, with the help of STAR Labs.  Lightning is not at all happy about this, and destroys himself and Whirlcaine in an explosive blast.

Meanwhile, Lois Lane has decided that maybe she is being too hard on Clark, and invites him for a candlelight dinner for two.

Superman 302 – a big, dumb Superman

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Lex Luthor has big plans for Superman in issue 302 (Aug. 76).  As the cover implies, Superman wakes to find himself growing larger and larger in this tale by Maggin, Garcia-Lopez and Oskner.

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Superman turns to Ray Palmer for help, but though the Atom can warn him of the consequences of his uncontrolled growth – that the neural passages will grow too large, making Superman stupid – he is unable to do anything to counter it.

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Morgan Edge demands that Clark Kent get the story on Superman’s growth spurt, but Superman creates a giant set, and by moving at super-speed, gives the impression of both Superman and Clark being of normal height.

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As for Luthor, he simply bides his time until Superman is large enough, and then moves in for the kill, with a dangerous looking propeller strapped to his back.

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The Atom helps out in the end, as Superman brings Lex to the set built earlier, and cons him into thinking he is growing as well. Lex has the cure, which Superman takes away from him.

Nothing really special here, but a decent enough tale.

Superman 301 – Solomon Grundy comes to Metropolis

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A great cover for Superman 301 (July 1976), this was the issue that inspired Brad Roberts to write about Solomon Grundy in the Crash Test Dummies’ “Superman’s Song.”

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Gerry Conway and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez join Bob Oskner as the creative team on this issue.  It picks up Solomon Grundy from his last appearance, in a Justice League/Justice Society crossover from 1972, wondering if there is an Earth-1 version of himself.

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As Grundy traverses dimensions apparently through sheer force of will, Steve Lombard introduces Clark Kent to Terri Cross, a young woman with a huge crush on the newscaster, who will return in a number of stories in the next few years.

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Grundy makes it to Metropolis, and hunts for his counterpart.  Superman has a very hard time dealing with the monster. He observes that he can barely lift Grundy.  Very odd, and this sort of implies that some changes have happened to him while crossing dimensions.  As well, Grundy somehow causes the streets of Metropolis to fill with swamp water and plants.  All these changes to the character, even his ability to cross dimensions, lead me to believe that Grundy somehow absorbed some of the magic from Green Lantern’s power bubble prison.

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In the end, Superman disguises himself as another Grundy, the one he is hunting for, and lures him to the Moon, leaving him there.  The swamp waters begin to drain away – but that final panel proves to be more ominous than it seems.

Oh, almost forgot.  This story also sees the introduction of a new criminal group in Metropolis, Skull, although their nature and goals are not yet clear.

World’s Finest 275 – Gotham freezes and Metropolis fries, Dinah does the footwork, Zatanna vs the Shrieker, Hawkman vs Matter Master and Magificus as Captain Marvel

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Paul Kupperberg joins Buckler and McLaughlin for a bit of a mystery in World’s Finest 275 (Jan. 82).

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Gotham has started freezing, and Metropolis is boiling hot. It’s clearly not natural, but Superman and Batman are puzzled as to who is behind it.

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The solution is so obvious to any reader nowadays, but Mr. Freeze is not even one of those suspected in this tale.  He was a minor Batman villain at best during this time, and had last appeared about four years earlier.  It’s not a bad story, so much as a reminder that Freeze was not a big name for a very long time.

It would be over a year before Mr. Freeze would return, and then in a cameo along with many other Batman villains.

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Green Arrow sits in jail while Black Canary takes care of business in this story by Barr, Von Eeden and Mahlstedt.  One of Oliver Queen’s cellmates is a man that Green Arrow caught during a robbery.  Oliver now learns that the man was desperate for money, that his wife and child, all illegal immigrants, were in danger of being turned over to the police by a mob connected slumlord.

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Oliver explains all this to Dinah when she comes to visit, and she goes into action as Black Canary, setting up and taking down the slumlord, and also giving the wife a job in her flower shop, beginning her legal process to become a citizen.

Very nice that, rather than move on directly with the story of Oliver being in jail for not revealing his sources, a different tale plays out during the middle of it.

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Zatanna concludes her battle with the Shrieker in this story by Conway and Dan Spiegle.  The source of the critic’s new powers is never fully explained, but that’s not such a big problem.

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Zatanna finds her enemy more difficult to deal with then one would expect.  But this is the period when her powers had been significantly reduced, and she was only able to manipulate natural forces.  She succeeds, of course, but it’s a shame that her series is running when her powers are in decline.

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Rozakis, Saviuk and Rodriguez continue with Hawkman’s world of troubles in this story.  He tries to complain about his marital problems to the Flash, who points out that at least Hawkwoman is alive, unlike his wife.  Oops.

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The Matter Master thefts have been more clever and complex than it seemed at first.  He would use his matter transforming wand to alter objects, wait until they were removed to an easier location, for examination, and then steal and replace them with copies.  Hawkman does figure out the plan, and capture the thief, but things get worse when Matter Master implicates Shiera Hall as his partner in crime.

Matter Master is next seen in Crisis on Infinite Earths.

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The blackmailing of Billy Batson’s secretary continues in this Bridwell, Newton and Adkins story, as Billy gets kidnapped, and the kidnappers demand that Captain Marvel act as their agent, as ransom.

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The secretary, Joan Jameson, turns to Captain Marvel Jr for help.  He goes to Sivana’s son Magnificus, and with Beautia’s help, they make him resemble Captain Marvel.  Junior covers the powers, while Magnificus tries dealing with the kidnappers, but the hoax gets revealed.

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Fortunately, by that point, Freddy is able to break Billy out of his cage, and he becomes the real Captain Marvel, who the bad guys are none too happy to see at this point.

World’s Finest 274 – Batman gains super-powers, Green Arrow heads to jail, Zatanna begins, Hawkwoman leaves, and Captain Marvel in silence

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Burkett, Gonzales and Breeding conclude the Weapons Master storyline in World’s Finest 273 (Dec. 81).

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It’s not any better than the first two parts.  Batman gets all super-powered up, but also starts burning out, with only four hours to live.  He bursts into the Weapons Master’s ship and frees Superman.

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While they do not actually defeat the Weapons Master, they do succeed at driving him away.  With minutes to spare, Superman alters the chamber that gave Batman his powers, drawing them back to save his life.

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Mike W Barr takes over the scripting on the Green Arrow series, joining Von Eeden and Mahlstedt.  Much of the story is told in flashback, as Dinah listens to a tape Oliver left her, explaining why he has taken off.

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Through information gained by a stoolie, Green Arrow busts a drug ring, and writes about it as Oliver Queen.  The police want to know his source.  George Taylor tries to cover for him, but Queen gets arraigned anyway.  He runs off to Star Island to hide, but Black Canary tracks him pretty easily.  She knows him too well.

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Together, they decide that Oliver should stand up for his principles and accept the consequences, even if that means heading to jail.

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Zatanna begins a series in this issue, by Gerry Conway, Gene Colan and Robert Smith.  She is performing on a cruise ship, and has her manager/boyfriend Jeff Sloane along with her.  While Zatanna has been appearing regularly as a member of the Justice League, Jeff has not appeared since the end of her series in Adventure Comics, back in the mid-70s.

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There is a professional newspaper critic on board, a nasty, bitter man who gets empowered by some nebulous mystic force, which gives him a sonic cry, not unlike Black Canary’s.

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One of the nice touches in this story is that Zatanna differentiates between her stage garb, the classic fishnets costume, and her hero garb, his Justice League outfit, rationalizing that she does not want to capitalize on her crime fighting.

The story continues in the next issue.

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Hawkman wakes up to find that Shayera has left him in this story, by Rozakis, Saviuk and Rodriguez.  She has gone off to find and rescue the Thanagarian fleet that he trapped in hyperspace.

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Hawkman heads to the Justice League satellite, and asks Superman and Green Lantern to help him find her.  They have no idea where to even begin looking, and though it’s awkward, they also indicate that they aren’t sure that helping him is really the right thing to do.  Hawkwoman is their friend as well.

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Miserable, Katar returns to his job at the Midway City Museum.  A number of exhibits have been stolen and replaced by duplicates, and he begins to investigate.  Mavis Trent hears about his marital troubles, and immediately puts the moves on him.  The reader, but not Hawkman, sees that the Matter Master is the thief.  He had last appeared a year or so earlier in DC Comics Presents, and returns next issue as this story continues.

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There has been a subplot building over the last few Shazam stories, dealing with Billy Batson’s secretary getting blackmailed, and that begins to move to the foreground with this issue, by Bridwell, Newton and Mahlstedt.

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The main story pits Captain Marvel against a thief who has the ability to suppress sound, meaning that Billy cannot use his magic word when the man is around.  He has the secretary play a tape of him saying Shazam when the villain appears, which calls down the magic lightning, and allows him to triumph.

 

World’s Finest 272 – Superman tries to give Batman a break, Green Arrow heads to Vlatava, Hawkgirl becomes Hawkwoman, Red Tornado ends and Chain Lightning debuts

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Horrible cover for World’s Finest 272 (Oct. 81), and the Superman/Batman story inside, by Burkett, Buckler and Giella, is not the best either.

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Superman gets worried because Batman is all intense and gritty.  As weird as that sounds, it shows how neutered the character had become in this book.  He pretty much kidnaps him and brings him to the Fortress of Solitude to hang out, have fun and relax.

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That doesn’t work too well.  When Superman heads out to help some explorers in trouble, robots invade the Fortress, and Batman has to hold them off.  They are equipped with kryptonite, so even when Superman gets back, it’s still up to Batman to take them out.  He does, but the two are left wondering who was behind this.  They will find out in the next issue.

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Haney, Von Eeden and Breeding have a pretty shocking opening to the Green Arrow story, as the hero finds the dead body of Count Vertigo.  He claims to have been poisoned by gas from the crown, and blames the US government.  His dying request is to be brought back to Vlatava for burial, and asks Green Arrow to do so.

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Arrow does accompany the body back to the Eastern European nation, under Soviet occupation.  This is the first time we see Vlatava, and it look relatively poor, and also fairly dangerous.  Once there, Vertigo revives.  He had never actually died, and there was no gas in the crown, instead it amplified his powers to an even greater degree.  He and Green Arrow start to fight, which draws the attention of the Soviet troops.

The story continues in the next issue.

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Hawkman has problems with the Thanagarians, and with his wife, in this story by Rozakis, Saviuk and Rodriguez.  The Hawks engage in aerial battle with the Thanagarian fleet, but though they are skilled, the numbers are simply against them.  The fleet is not really after them, they are leading an invasion of Earth.  Hawkman manages to divert them into hyperspace and trap them there.

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Shayera is less than pleased.  In her eyes, she has just condemned them to a living death, for simply following the orders of Hyathis.  Hyathis may be a warmonger and maniac, but most of the fleet is peopled by average Thanagarians. It is also in this story that she decides she no longer wants to be called Hawkgirl, and insists upon Hawkwoman.

The story continues in the next issue.

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Red Tornado’s series comes to an end with this Conway, Delbo and Breeding story that concludes his fight with the Robot Killer.

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The Statue of Liberty does get nicely used as a battleground, but there is little else commendable here.  The Robot Killer injures Tornado, but then gets trapped, and needs to repair the android so that they can both be saved.

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On the whole, the Red Tornado series was nothing to crow about.  Sad.  Reddy continues to appear in Justice League of America.

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Bridwell, Newton and Mitchell introduce Chain Lightning, the only new villain added to the Shazam series that would continue to appear in years to come.

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Chain Lightning has the ability to both draw lightning to her, and also emit it.  The magic lightning that Mary Marvel calls down simply gets absorbed by Chain Lightning, powering her up.  Chain Lightning is also the very first Mary Marvel villain who is able to notice that Mary’s secret identity looks exactly like her, only the clothing changes.  It stuns me that no other characters are able to spot this.

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We even get an origin for her, albeit a brief one.  A sorceress, she studied alchemy and magic until she learned to control magic lightning.  What Chain Lightning does not realize is that a second Shazam bolt will not double her power, but remove it.  Mary Marvel counts on this, and takes her out.