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!