Saturday, May 14, 2011

Supergirl #4, Part 1: The Actor-Neighbor et al.


If you want to understand why I stopped reading comic books in the 1980s, you need look no farther than Supergirl #4 (for which we have Paul Kupperberg to blame).

This is 1983, and Supergirl/Linda Lee Danvers was a 19-year-old psychology college student in Chicago.

This, of course, was after she'd already graduated from the stateless Stanhope College with a bachelor's degree in nothing apparent, worked as a television camera operator in San Francisco, went to grad school at Vandyre University for drama, became a Florida high school guidance counselor (for nowhere is an understanding of drama so essential as in a high school guidance counselor's office), then became a soap opera star. Then, while she was on the way to super-aerobics class, a bad guy killed her, probably for her headband. After which, her story gets REALLY weird.

None of this makes any sense, but that what we've learned to expect from Supergirl, one of the DCU's least stable characters and the symbol of powerlessness against the vicissitudes of fate. Supergirl is a kite in a tornado, a ragdoll in a tsunami, a pinball in the arcade of life.




I imagine that being Supergirl is kind of like living in a "Quantum Leap" episode,

Oh boy.

...except you don't bother trying to understand the situation or assume that you're where you are for a purpose. You just hunker down, beat up any obvious bad guys, and try to make it through the day (or, as my friend Benari would call it, "deployment").

Anyway, in Supergirl #4, Supergirl finds herself living, well... here:


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1537 West Fargo Avenue, Chicago IL Hey, she's metro-accessible! Groovy.


Anyway, her supporting cast includes her stereotype Jewish-mother landlady, Mrs Berkowitz:

Who's a great waltzer, by the way.


her stultifyingly boring parents, the Danvers'z's

What could please a college student more than to find her parents, unannounced, hiding in her apartment?

and her wacky irresponsible actor-neighbor...

wait for it...





Yes, John "Suicide Squad" Ostrander, a former Chicago actor, started writing for DC Comics in 1986... three years after he became one of Supergirl's neighbors. There really aren't a lot of occasions where the multiversal barriers get holes punched in them large enough to suck someone out of the DCU and into our ("the real") world, but clearly that's exactly what happened to John Ostrander. This, of course, makes no sense at all; so I blame Supergirl.


Here Ostrander - the original Ostrander the comic book character not the later Ostrander the comic book writer - is seen using the phrase "hello dere", the catchphrase of a comedian whose floruit had been 10 - 20 years in the past by time this story was published. In comic book writing, this is called "hip". It's also one of comics' Sure Signs of Bad Writing ("Outdated Comedy Catchphrases"). You'll be seeing more of those signs as we read the rest of this story.

By the way, did I mention that Ostrander was an actor?



And did I tell you that Ostrander was an actor?

Oh, and, in case you forgot:

Ostrander was an actor.


I can never figure out whether stories like these were written this way
  • just in case the reader's mind is drug-addled,

  • counting on the fact that the reader's mind is drug-addled,

  • or because the writer's mind is drug-addled.

Anyway, actor-neighbor Ostrander has run afoul of a crayola set of "crime groupies" that Supergirl already tangled with earlier in the story.


I can't wait to introduce you to these guys in my next post.


17 comments:

TotalToyz said...

See, The Gang's big problem was being almost 30 years ahead of the curve. In 1983, they were "Crayola crime-groupies". Today they'd be part of the War of Light, representing Hope, Will, Fear, and Rage. (Sounds like a law firm.)

Ostrakos said...

Carmine Infantino's art doesn't help. I realize the man is a legend, but I have always found his figures to be way too stiff to be engaging, and stiff doesn't really work when you're drawing the Flash.

Hal Shipman said...

I wanted to like that series so much, but there was so, so much wrong with it.

But I didn't realize that we were practically neighbors. Okay, separated by 20 years, but still...

And an insanely good location for the El, yes. (We call it that or "the CTA." The Metra, which is what someone would think you're referring to if you said "Metro" is just a bit west of that).

But a pretty dodgy neighborhood. I live a bit south of there in genteel Andersonville, but my yoga studio is on next block from her apt. I missed a knife fight at the market there by 5 minutes just last month.

Now you've got me curious to see how the rest of that series dealt with Chicago. It certainly can't be half as bad as "Happy Endings" does.

Mark said...

I've always thought Grant Morrison should kill off Supergirl's neighbour John Ostrander - mostly because the thought of such a silly turnabout would amuse me.

Anonymous said...

You made it to issue 4? You are made of sterner stuff than I.

As bad as the Supergirl lead stories were, the Lois Lane backups were what made it feel like the writers were trying to punch me in the balls. To this day I am haunted by their depiction of fans of "cult films" such as "Casablanca", who stand around and quote lines at random.

SallyP said...

I have never read Supergirl. I am glad!

And I thought that the X-Men were convoluted!

Wayne Allen Sallee said...

I lived near Potowatamie Park (as seen on the map) while this series was running, Fargo is about two blocks south of the city limits. There was a communal garden in the 1600 block and cops found a dead body there, turned out it was a fight between a homeless couple gone bad. Too bad Supergirl was busy fighting the Rainbow Raider's family.

Bryan L said...

I'm sorry -- I didn't follow that. Was Supergirl's neighbor an actor?

Scipio said...

It's okay, Bryan; they mention it again in the next issue...

Brad H. said...

I currently live next door to John Ostrander.

"Yes, John we know - you're a writer. Go mow your lawn."

Scipio said...

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

Tell him that if he doesn't, you'll complain to Mrs Berkowitz and see whether he gets it...

Martin Gray said...

Fun piece. While it doesn't hold up today, I enjoyed Supergirl's 'daring' series. I always liked Pauk Kupperberg, and it felt as if Kara was getting her due in having an artistic legend such as Carmine Infantino drawing her. The de-aging was odd, but at least DC admitted, in the lettercol, that they were doing it for creative reasons (they felt a younger Supergirl worker better) rather than leave us to scratch our collective brow.

What with Supergirl getting younger, and Johnny O, an actor, crossing over from Earth Prime, the book was obviously an early herald of the Crisis on Infinite Earths. Yeah, that's it ...

Mrs Berkowitz is now on Earth 51B, running a Jewish/Japanese restaurant, Oy! Sushi.

Scipio said...

You know, Martin, it's funny you should mention the Supergirl letter columns. More on that later....

Redforce said...

Ostrakos,
I kinda liked Infantino's earlier art on the Flash and such. But I agree, by this point in his career his art was really suffering- too static and stilted. He drew a few Marvel comics about this time too.

Redforce said...

Their costumes are the same colors as the traditional colors associated with the four classical elements, and there are two guys and two girls...
Hmmm... wonder what their powers are...

Jason Langlois said...

To be fair, I think there was still an assumption in the early 80s that every issue of the comic might be someone's first issue, so you had to basically reintroduce the characters. One reason we continually were told that Wolverine was the best there is at what he does, and what he does isn't very pretty. If you were picking up Supergirl #4 at the corner 7-11 for the first time, you'd need to know Ostrander was an actor for things to make sense, right.

Hal Shipman said...

To be fair, Jason, I don't that policy extended to "every PAGE of a comic might be someone's first page." Which is what Scipio is describing here.