Monday, March 21, 2016

Play That Funky Music... Secret Society of Super-Villains 8


Secret Society of Super-Villains #8 (July/August 1977)
"Let the Villain Fit the Crime"
Gerry Conway-Rich Buckler/Bob Layton

Doug: I don't know -- maybe Grodd could just drop his left arm really hard and break his own way out of Kid Flash's whirlwind trap? It has been many a moon since we looked in on DC's version of the Masters of Evil (and that might be a stretch); in fact, it was almost six full years ago that I reviewed SSoSV #7! And since that was the first issue of that mag that I owned, all this time later (and now in possession of both hardcover volumes of the collected issues) I've decided to review the next installment. Secret Society of Super-Villains would have been on my "pull list", had we known of such things in the Bronze Age. In the summer of '77 DC had the attention of 11-year old me with the Teen Titans revival, this mag, the Legion of Super-Heroes, the Batman mags (including Batman Family), Green Lantern/Green Arrow, and the All-Star Comics revival. It was a great time to have a foot in the universes of the Big Two! And today's fare is a fun little romp that probably leaves me feeling like I've had a snack as opposed to a full meal. As I did with my review of Silver Surfer: Judgment Day two weeks ago, I'll lead with a 100-word review of the plot and then go right into my now-typical format of The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Onward, then...

Captain Comet, thinking he’s found the Secret Society’s HQ, attacks. Apparently Luthor had lied about the location, and the Society plots elsewhere. There’s a crystal meteorite of some power that they want. Funky Flashman is driving this train, to the resentment of the villains. Kid Flash gets involved when a local tough steals the prism from a museum, which in turn gets the Society involved. Captain Comet comes to the rescue, but in the fracas Star Sapphire wrests the bauble from our heroes. The good guys make another play, but in the end lose the meteorite a second time!

The Good: This was a fun comic, really holding up well over the decades. Now, you must understand that part of that stems from what it is -- it's designed to be a romp. C-list bad guys and second-rate heroes? You really weren't expecting the Galactus trilogy, were you? Well neither was I and that's why I had a great time re-reading this after all these years. Gerry Conway's script wasn't overly complex, but I want to stop short of saying it was "written for a 10-year old" as we often have said about DC Comics through the years. I'll stop short, because after all I was 11 when this saw the light of the spinner racks! It's just a neat little chase story, with the bad guys -- dubious collection of fiends that they are (the Wizard, Copperhead, Gorilla Grodd, the Trickster, Star Sapphire, and Funky Flashman) -- a step ahead of our heroes, Captain Comet and Kid Flash. Longtime readers know I'm in the Kid Flash fan club -- in fact, I'm on record as stating that this character design is among the best of the Silver Age, and certainly up there with the best costumes of any derivative hero/heroine. So when I saw "my guy" on the cover of this mag, well.. "this cover made me buy this comic book", so to speak. In the end I got what I expected -- no more, no less -- and I think that's why it was a somewhat satisfying read.

The art team of Rich Buckler and Bob Layton also turns in some solid work. The book is well-paced, and the fight choreography is action-packed. The guys do a nice job of changing the camera angle often, and the facial expressions throughout the book are noticeable -- two of my favorites in the book appear in the scans toward the bottom of this post. The story is laid out in a variety of panel grids in between pages with angular panels. There are no splash pages other than the first, and there is only one extra-large panel, provided for effect at the climax of the story (see bottom of post). The artists also provide some nice panels of Kid Flash using various aspects of his super speed -- in the sample attached to this text you'll see Layton emulate Vinnie Colletta as Kid Flash vibrates through a wall. I especially liked the way Grodd is drawn -- although a "gorilla", he looks more like what Joe Kubert drew as an "ape" in his Tarzan strip. I think this comes through in the panels I provided at the top of the post. Works for me.

The Bad: I got nuthin'. There really isn't anything for me to say in this category. However...


The Ugly: Funky Flashman. I wrote this on February 14 (no, I was not slighting my bride to spend time with you folks -- she was out of town most of the day!), and shortly after reading the story I tweeted at Gerry Conway and asked him about the general reception of Funky Flashman. I remarked that it seemed mean, and particularly when viewed through the lens of all these decades of Stan Lee vs. Jack Kirby. Conway stated,


Yet Conway wrote Flashman as Kirby intended the character to be "heard". I didn't press the issue in that regard -- I wouldn't denigrate Gerry Conway for staying faithful to a Jack Kirby creation, regardless of axes ground elsewhere. In some way had he changed Flashman's "voice" that might have been worse. What I'd encourage you to do, though, is to go sift through Conway's Twitter feed (@gerryconway) from Sunday, 2/14/16, as a lengthy conversation blew up that came to involve several fans as well as pros Kurt Busiek and Scott Edelman. It was fascinating to sit and watch as my original query took on a life of its own, with Martin Goodman, the Marvel Method, and office and corporate politics all coming under scrutiny. And I should remark that there wasn't any overt Stan-bashing in this particular story; I raised the issue with Conway simply because of the very existence of the character.

How'd you like to be cruising down the highway and look over and see that van??

Doug: Hey, if you're a SSoSV fan, I'd really encourage you to get yer mitts on the trades or hardcovers (two volumes) that collect the entire series and periphery titles. You can usually snag them on the cheap, and as I've said, these stories are fun little diversions. I liked this then, and I've found that I can like them now -- we cannot always say that about our Bronze Age memories!


13 comments:

Colin Jones said...

Congratulations on the new-look BAB masthead. I'm not sure but I think the John Buscema picture was given away as a free poster in Marvel UK's 'The Titans' #1 in October 1975. Unfortunately I missed #1 - drat, that would have been a fine poster !

Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, so now you're all charitably disposed toward SSOV after dissing the excellent team-up titles over the weekend?! :P
I kid, obviously, and in fact I had a smattering of SSOV way back when and rather liked them: a few were bought off of the spinner rack, and then some more on the cheap a few years later when I discovered my first comic book shop.
I definitely agree that this was not a title to set anyone's world on fire, but more often than not it provided some solid entertainment, which was pretty good since - as you said - it mainly featured C-list villains (with a few exceptions, as besides Grodd I also recall Professor Zoom and Darkseid making appearances) and B-list heroes.

As for Funky Flashman, the first time I ever saw the character was in SSOV, and as a kid I recall being puzzled by the similarity with Stan Lee. Before I ever read the original issues of Mr. Miracle where he first appeared, I didn't know he was created by Kirby and just thought it was a general DC dig at the public face of Marvel.

Redartz said...

Looks like a fun read, Doug; "comics" with a capital "C"! I've never read an issue of SSoV (followed very little DC at the time), but it does look like (as you say) a romp.

Interesting conversation you referenced with Gerry Conway. Nice to hear some pretty even-handed comments regarding the Stan/Jack relationship. I should follow Twitter more closely...

J.A. Morris said...

This is a good story, I re-read it recently in the reprint book and I agree that it "holds up" nicely as an entertaining little tale. I always loved all the double, triple and quadruple-crosses the villains threw at each other in SSoSV.

As for Funky Flashman, I didn't realize he was a dig at Stan Lee until many years later. I wonder what percentage of comic readers during the 1970s got the connection. There was of course no internet and the comics press was limited to fanzines and the Comics Journal. I'm guessing most readers had no knowledge of the Lee-Kirby dynamic.

Doug said...

Thanks, Colin! The masthead, and some others you may see from time-to-time in the future, was created by our pal Osvaldo Oyola (that's Dr. Oyola to all of you). He does good work, huh?

To all: You may also notice that we've very slightly altered the language on the masthead from "...with Karen and Doug" to "hosted by Karen and Doug". If you've not also noticed, I'd direct your attention the the sidebar where you'll find "contributors" listed. That list no longer includes just Karen and I, but has expanded by two. We have welcomed Martinex1 and Redartz into the fold based on their shared history as faithful and reliable guest writers. Henceforth, you'll no longer find the "guest writer" artwork accompanying their posts. They've helped us out and I know they've added to the quality of this space over the past year. Others who have oft-contributed under the Guest Writer banner may also appear on that list soon. So a welcome to these gentlemen, and a "thanks!" to Osvaldo would certainly be in order.

What's that mean for Karen and I? Nothing, other than we won't be filling out every day of every week. I still have reviews slotted on Mondays each week. It looks like our next partner review will be a Civil War tie-in and will drop the date the film releases (May 6). We also have a guest review from a reader who wanted to give his thoughts on Peter Parker #1. Look for that soon, too. The Star Trek reviews will continue, as I see Karen has several coming in the queue.

As to the comic at hand today, it was fun! And thanks, Edo, for calling me out in a playful way. My own post of this past Saturday has encouraged me to read a few more Bronze Age team-ups. If you missed it, I left a comment very late in the day Saturday that expanded my thoughts from earlier.

Everyone have a great Monday!

Doug

Doug said...

Oh, Colin, I forgot to say -- I have a print of that Buscema artwork hanging downstairs in the comic room. I bought it from an art website. The copy I have is a facsimile of the poster that advertised the 1975 Marvel Comicon, which is the source of the artwork.

Doug

Garett said...

I always liked this cover! I haven't read much of this series so I'll have to check it out--thanks!

Ward Hill Terry said...

I'm right there with you, Doug, regarding Kid Flash! And the next issue also had The Creeper! This book was a lot of fun, and it hit my sweet spot by featuring heroes who had little to no exposure elsewhere. Conway established some good plots here, with the Wizard especially. Like Edo, this was my introduction to Funky Flashman, but I knew right away that it was a satire of Stan Lee! That dialogue is unmistakable! I relly wish this series could have continued. It ended with the Super-Villains on Earth-2, picking off JSA members one at a time. Since DC wasn't going to publish the next story, I tried to create one. Mr. Terrific, along with a protege of Wildcat, would have saved the day!

pfgavigan said...

Hiya,

I think the cover is quite dynamic but can't help but giggle a bit in regards to Captain Comet's costume. The positioning of those two thunderbolt on his trunks seem to imply the message of; "To defeat hero, kick here!!"

I think I enjoy comics like this the most. The simple good reads that simply entertain. Many of what I consider the best of the Seventies, (( Howard the Duck, Warlock, the Original Swamp Thing )) were best appreciated during the Seventies. Makes sense really, reflect the times and make everything topical. Fine and well, but comics don't age as well as wine.

Maybe that's why I'm coming to appreciate Kirby's DC stay more and more. There is a timelessness about his work there that simply didn't translate well during his last stint at Marvel. The Marvelverse was such a unified environment that I felt that Graham Chapman would sooner or later appear in The Eternals and chastise the book as being 'too silly'!

As for the questions about whether or not the fans 'got' the meaning of what was going on behind the appearance of Funky Flashman and Houseroy; oh yeah, we got it. Didn't make me feel anymore charitable towards Kirby at least. Created more of a feeling of "Put up or shut up"!

As for any hard feelings on Lee's part, well, he rehired Kirby pretty much on Kirby's terms.

Seeya,

pfgavigan

Karen said...

Another terrific review, partner! I've had the SSOSV TPB in my read pile for some time, but I never seem to get around to it. I need to rectify that. It looks like a lot of goofy fun. And it has Grodd in it -you can never go wrong with apes!!

I wanted to second Doug's remarks about our new masthead -many thanks to Osvaldo, who has provided us with a bunch of wonderful mastheads over the years! I really like this role of "hosts" we have taken on; it's sort of like being editors/publishers now, and it's perfect. I enjoy seeing what new ideas our contributors bring to the blog. They've opened up all sorts of new topics and great conversations, keeping the BAB growing and alive. I still enjoy "teaming up" with Doug and writing my own posts but there's pride in seeing the blog expand and take on new life too. Thanks to everyone for keeping it going!

Anonymous said...

Now we're cooking with gas! - old Trinidadian proverb.

Well, first off, it's great to see SSOV reviewed here once again. I have a smattering of issues, I think beginning with the issue right after this one where Copperhead gets busted out. Personally, I think we need something like this again. A good super-villain teamup is one thing which seems to be missing from modern comicbooks.

One reason is that it gives us a sense of character development which of course is lacking in the superhero's title, and the juicy interplay between each villain. I mean, I would love to see Lex Luthor and Brainiac quarreling over how best to defeat Superman, or Doc Ock and Loki planning to take down Thor or Spidey. It would be great to see the world from the super-villain's point of view for a change.


- Mike 'bring on the bad guys!' from Trinidad & Tobago.

JJ said...

Just another voice in the din saying how sharp the new look is. The color bronze and Buscema art all in one masthead?! Gadzooks! Keep on keepin' on, Babies!

William said...

I actually owned this comic. (I think it was the only issue of SSOSV I ever bought). I really liked Kid Flash back then, and I was a regular reader of the Teen Titans, so that cover really caught my eye. Don't know whatever happened to it though.

Looking through the images you posted, I find it really funny that Captain Comet had white trunks. Now, that really does look like he's wearing his tighty whities on the outside. LOL

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