Saturday, March 21, 2009

Well, since you asked, Sally....

This past Friday over in Green Lantern Butt's Forever, SallyP reminisced about the first comic that she ever bought, which was Avengers#146 back in the 70's.

She concluded her post with this:

"Anyhoo...can you all remember the very first comic book that jumped out at you, and you had to...HAD to buy it right then and there, and hold it in your trembling hands?

Because, I imagine that you always remember your first."

Well, since you asked.....

The first comic I remember actually buying with my own money was Action Comics#441, back in 1974, when I child of about 8 or 9. The lead story was titled "Weather War Over Metropolis", written by Cary Bates and drawn by Curt Swan and Bob Oksner.

Back then, Clark Kent was working as a WGBS anchorman for Morgan Edge. This story is centered on WGBS weatherman Oscar Asherman, who probably received more panel time in this story than he received an all his other appearances combined. One morning, Oscar is delivering his newscast as normal when he suddenly blurts out that a blue tornado will strike downtown Metropolis later that day.

Upon hearing this forecast, Edge goes ballistic, telling Asherman that if a blue tornado doesn't hit Metropolis today, Oscar won't have a job tomorrow. Luckily for Oscar, the blue tornado does indeed hit. And luckily for Metropolis, their hero is Superman instead of, say, the Beefeater. Big Blue handles the big blue tornado easily, inhaling it into his super-lungs and exhaling it out in space.

Back at GBS, Edge is amazed that Asherman has accurately predicted the tornado, and he and Clark ask him how he did it. Asherman is just as confused as they are, saying the forecast just mysteriously popped into his head. Just then, he has another mystery prediction, this time that basketball-sized hailstones will strike the city. Sure enough, the hailstones appear later, and sure enough, Superman stops them from causing too much harm.

Once again, Clark meets with Asherman, this time without Edge. Clark asks Oscar what else he remembers about when the predictions popped into his head, and Asherman says he remembers hearing a name: Mark Mardon. Like a good superhero, Superman has kept up-to-date on all his villain files, and he remembers that Mark Mardon is the Flash's foe Weather Wizard. This leads to a visit to Flash in Central City. Flash confirms that Weather Wizard is locked up at the Central City prison farm. They decide to visit him there together.

Which is just what Weather Wizard had wanted them to do all along. You see, Mardon had recently read a book by Lois Lane about Superman's home world of Krypton in the Central City prison library, and the factoid that caught his eye was about black lightning (no, not Jefferson Pierce). As opposed to a regular lightning strike, which usually kills the victim, black lightning turns the victim into a killer. He then attempts to demonstrate this by pulling out a homemade weather wand that he had smuggled in his hair and zapping Supes with the aforementioned black lightning (in a cool visual effect by Swan and Oksner). While Superman appears to be overcome by the lightning, Weather Wizard goads him to kill Flash.

But instead of killing "Flash", "Supes" knocks Weather Wizard out with a karate chop to the back of the head. Next, the heroes reveal their plan: A World's Finest-style costume switch. Supes was actually disguised as Flash and vice-versa. The end.

Some observations:

1. Yes, Weather Wizard's plan to lure Flash and Supes to visit him together was executed in the most inefficient, Rube Goldberg way possible. Using long-distance suggestion to compel a Metropolis weatherman to make bizarre weather predictions and then staging that very weather conditions predicted, and then projecting your name into the weatherman's mind in the hope that somehow word would get to Superman and lure him into your trap? Lord, there had to be a better way. Then again, it's Cary Bates, just go with it.

2. I was amused how the heroes successfully pulled off the costume switch back then, something that would be impossible today. I mean, look at the Who's Who statistics on DC Heroes. Sure, Superman and Batman switching would still work because they have smilar heights and physiques, but the same couldn't be said for the 5'11" 179 lb. Barry Allen Flash's runner's body and the 6'3" 225 lb. Superman's linebacker build. Did you ever see the movie "Face Off", in which John Travolta's character was required to use Nicolas' Cage's character's actual face to impersonate Cage? The differences in the two actors' sizes were similarly ignored. Not only that, I was curious how Flash fit the latex Supes mask over those earpieces.

3. Looking back at Weather Wizard's plot objective, I can safely say this was the stupidest plan in the world.

You're the Weather Wizard. Your plan is to manipulate Superman and Flash into visiting you together and meeting alone in your prison's visiting room, where you'll turn Superman into a homicidal maniac so that he'll kill the Flash for you.

Let's review the flaws in this plan: Assuming he kills Flash first, what happens then? Suppose the black lightning doesn't wear off and Supes is still a killer? Who do you think he'll go after next? Who else is in the room alone with him?

That's right. You, Einstein.

Now suppose it does wear off immediately after he kills Flash. It'll take him one second to realize that he just killed Flash, one of his best friends, and that you just made him do it. What do you think his reaction will be?

Do you think he'll just shrug his shoulders, say "Wow, you really got me, Mark!", and then just fly off? Or is it more likely that he'll immediately kick your weather-manipulating ass? You may just be eating your prison meals through a straw for a while.

The backup story was a Green Arrow and Black Canary tale called "The Mystery of the Wandering Dog", written by Elliot S! Maggin and drawn by Mike Grell. The plot is simple: While Ollie and Dinah are contending with a new high-tech crime syndicate, they also take in a stray dog who turns out to be Krypto the Superdog with amnesia (no, I am not making this up).

Why was I drawn to this particular comic out of all the ones on the drugstore rack?

Here's why:

Because Nick Cardy, that's why.

And this particular scene never actually appeared in the story. Damn you, Cardy!


At 6:53 AM , Blogger Sea_of_Green said...

Ha! Good one. :-)

And what is it with Ollie and Dinah always taking in strays?

At 8:47 AM , Blogger SallyP said...

That IS a lovely cover, and doesn't it drive you nuts when the cover and the inside have nothing to do with each other? Silver Age books were notorious for that very thing.

I have to agree that Weather Wizard's plan was NOT well-thought-out. I can only assume that he was bored, and figured "what the heck?" Prison food will do that to a man.

At 12:12 PM , Blogger notintheface said...

Or maybe he wanted to do his Rogues "brothers" a solid by eliminating the man who's THEIR main obstacle, too.

But that also raises the point that killing Flash (Barry) would put the Rogues a lot higher on the radar of people like the Superman, Green Lantern, Wally, and the rest of the JLA and Titans. Look what happened with Bart.


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