Friday, October 1, 2010

BAB Two-In-One: Clark Kent - Bumbling Superstar and Funky Drac

Doug: Throwin' more Distinguished Competition at ya today, friends. And, hopefully after this review, we won't be enemies!

Today I've chosen Superman #267 from September 1973. There are two stories in this book, as was typical of DCs of this era. The lead is "World Beneath the North Pole"; however, I've chosen to look at the back-up tale, "The Private Life of Clark Kent: The Man in the Public Eye!" It was created by Elliot S! Maggin, Curt Swan and Bob Oksner. I bought this early in the summer, and got a good deal on a batch of Bronze Age goodies -- just for you! Here we go --

Back in the day, Clark had moved from the Daily Planet to anchoring the WGBS News in Metropolis. He worked for media mogul Morgan Edge. Edge was sort of a Donald Trump character, maybe with a little Ted Turner tossed in for good measure. I say that, knowing that this saw the light of day years before either of those men became household names in the States. But anyway, Edge watches Kent's broadcast one night and decides that it's a bit dull. So, in an effort to spice up the ratings, Clark will move beyond the anchor chair and become somewhat of a George Plimpton. For those who don't know, Plimpton was an everyman author who experienced several professional sports and wrote about it in first-person stories. He was often featured in Sports Illustrated. This is the assignment on which Clark is forced to embark.

His first foray into the pro athlete arena is a sparring session against Jim Fawcett, the reigning heavyweight champion. This is really funny, as the entire time I was reading this I just saw Christopher Reeve bumbling about as Clark, all serious at the same time he was the super-klutz. Curt Swan just did a great job here, varying the camera angle and really showcasing the "Clark" personality of Superman. Of course, at the end of the session, the champ tries to get a publicity shot with Kent and unwittingly knocks himself out!

Clark goes on to hit the furthest home run ever at Metropolis Stadium, to beat an Olympic-caliber swimmer, and skydive. It's in the latter experience that he gets to save a life -- 'cause that's what Supermen do! Clark notices (with his telescopic vision -- the only superpower that he uses in this tale) that the cameraman filming the dive is wearing an improperly-packed parachute. Maneuvering himself away from his dive partner, Clark bumbles his way up to the cameraman and lurches fo rthe guy's chute -- of course this terrorizes the cameraman, but Clark is able to rip the chute out, saving the man's life. However, in one last bit of comedy, Clark's chute doesn't deploy until he's only 120 feet from the ground! Of course he's unscathed, but Morgan Edge demands bed rest for his new media darling -- and Clark is put under the care of a home healthcare nurse!

This was a really fun story and FAR exceeded my expectations! I'll be frank -- I stayed away from the first story. You take a look at that cover, and no matter how finely rendered it is by Nick Cardy, it still looks stupid. So I opted for the back-up tale and am mighty glad I did!!

Karen: It's October, with Halloween looming ahead, and so this month I am going to focus my solo reviews on Marvel's monsters. Although I had a few issues of Tomb of Dracula back in the day, I never really got into the series. In the years that have passed, I've heard so much praise for the Wolfman/Colan stories that I've really wanted to read them. But the back issues are expensive, and so was the Omnibus. And I can't read the Essentials - just can't handle the black and white. Finally, Marvel has put out a TPB of the first 12 issues. It was pretty reasonably priced, so I purchased it. Now I'm hoping they'll hurry up and put out more, because I enjoyed what I read.

Karen: The first six issues were written by a number of bronze age mainstays, and to be honest, were not all that interesting. As you can imagine, with all those different writers, it was hard to get a solid direction going for the book. That would change when Marv Wolfman came aboard as writer with issue 7. Artist Gene Colan was with the book f
rom the beginning, and brought a suitably dark and dramatic look to the title. I decided that issue 10 (July 1973 ) would be a good place to start with my reviews. "His Name is Blade!" has the feel of a 70s horror/blaxploitation film right from the very start. We are thrown into the action as some of Dracula's vampire minions go toe to toe with Blade, in his first appearance.

Karen: If you're only
familiar with Blade from the movies, you'll be surprised at his look. Here, Blade has more of a resemblance to Shaft or Jim Kelly than to Wesley Snipes! With his big afro and bright green coat, he is one fly dude! Unlike the cinematic Blade, this one carries wooden knives, which makes a whole lot of sense when you think about it. He pretty easily dispatches the vampire goons, and then runs into Quincy Harker, who has a bit of a Professor X vibe, as he is a mastermind in a wheelchair. Harker has been fighting Dracula all his life. He is frustrated because Blade has killed all of the Count's minions - apparently he had planned to use them to locate the head honcho himself. Blade couldn't care less -he says Harker hasn't managed to stop Dracula in 60 years. He'll do things his way -"dig"?

Karen: Meanwhile, we switch our attentions to an ocean liner filled with hedonistic movie stars and the filthy rich. Dracula appears before them and gains their sympathy by telling them vampirism is just a disease. He's not ancient, he's not a killer- just an afflicted ma
n. They eat this up. Drac's plan, it seems, is to put them under his control and use their influence to gain greater power. But of course, he also plans to bite a few of them, starting with the young, ditzy starlet he met earlier in the evening.

Karen: After his little snack, Dracula proceeds to take over the captain and the ship, and demands "tri
bute" from the passengers. Unknown to the Count however, our pal Blade has put on some scuba gear and infiltrated the vessel. The two go at it, although with Dracula's vast abilities, including the power to turn into a mist, Blade seems definitely out-classed.

Karen: But who should come to the rescue, but the starlet Dracula had bitten? She wanders in, glassy-eyed, momentarily disrupting the fight.
The sun is beginning to rise, so Dracula makes his exit -but not before informing Blade and the passengers that the boat is filled with explosives! Transforming into a large bat, the Count wings off to safety, as Blade and the rest jump into the ocean, only moments before the ship is destroyed.

Karen: It's a fun story, but of the last three issues in the book (10-12), this story is probably the weakest of the three. But it is our introduction to Blade, and has a strong 70s feel. I don't think Jack Abel is a suitable inker for Colan; his lines are too thin, and Colan's gift for shadows and lighting is diminished by the inking. However, with issue 12 Tom Palmer comes on board, and boy does that look sweet!

1 comment:

Fred W. Hill said...

Hi, Doug & Karen,

Amusing Clark Kent tale and another example of the sharp contrast between Supes and Spidey in the Silver & Bronze ages. At least in this era, the thought of two seperate stories in an issue of Spider-Man, one focusing solely on Spidey, the other on Peter Parker, would have seemed ridiculous and contrary to the successful mix of Spider-Man's superheroics and Peter's soap operatics created by Lee & Ditko.

As for the Tomb of Dracula, Blade's intro was the very first issue of that mag I ever bought, back when it was "still only 20 cents". I didn't start collecting Dracula regularly until much later, and even later got most of the back issues, excepting the pre-Wolfman's. Particularly with Palmer onboard, Wolfman & Colan crafted one of the great long runs in comics history and brought it to one of the few satisfying series conclusions. I wouldn't think you'd miss the color too much in the Essentials versions, Karen, given that much of the color in those Drac stories was fairly muted anyhow. At least it wouldn't be nearly as painful as b&w versions of Ditko or Brunner Dr. Strange or Starlin's Captain Marvel & Warlock!

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