Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Supergirl #4, Part 2: The Gang's All Here

Well, when last we left literary pinball Supergirl (in Paul Kupperberg's 1983 Supergirl #4), she had recently been retconned to be a 19 year old psych major in Chicago.

Looks like Supergirl's not the only one who got retconned.
Apparently, 1983 Chicago's been attacked by the B13 virus. Or
Frank Gehry.

In Chicago, Supergirl, in her secret identity as Linda Danvers, lives with her wacky supporting cast, The Oppressively Square Parents (Mr. & Mrs. Danvers), The Ethnic Stereotype Landlady Who Seems to be Comic Relief But Who Suffers from Secret Poignant Sorrows (The Widow Berkowitz), and The Irresponsible But Lovably Trouble-Prone Actor-Neighbor (Real-Life Person John Ostrander).

It would all seem like some Young Women On Her Own sitcom, a "That Girl" for the '80s, were it not for pesky supervillains like...


Yes, they are really called "The Gang". What did you think the "G" stood for?

When I showed my friend Noah "The Gang" and told him what they were called, he slapped his forehead and said, "That's imbecilic. The only way a group like that-- or any group-- would call themselves 'The Gang' would be, I dunno, if they'd hung out together as kids in school."

Perceptive on Noah's part, then, since that is exactly their origin. Four kids from the Southside of Chicago wanted to avoid falling into a life of criminal desperation like their schoolmates, so they focus on sticking together, and working their tails off to become... supervillains. Well, that makes sense!

So, who do you think "The Gang" would work for, huh? Who...?

The Gang works for... "The Man". Yes, really. I'm not sure whether Kupperberg was actually trying to write a story, or whether he was just composing the first draft of the "TV Tropes" wiki while awaiting the eventual invention of the internet. The man was a visionary.

The Gang are classic "crime groupies", and true to form, each one is a uni-dimensional cut-out character. Specifically, the Goliath, the Bruiser, the Brains, and the Mentalist (two strong stupid guys with physical powers and two clever women with mental powers).

The "Goliath" guy pictured above is Kong. Yes, like the canine chew toy. If Superman were around he'd just stuff him full of peanut butter and throw him to Krypto. I'd buy that comic!

The "Brusier" guy is named Bulldozer. Why...?
Another satisfied graduate of the Benjamin Grimm School of Elocution.

Really, what kind of idiot power is being able to run at stuff and crash into it with your head? Maybe that makes you an
A-class villain in the Marvel Universe, but in the DCU it just makes you the head-butt of a lot of jokes.

People do not talk this way, nor should they. "The Name's" is another Sure Sign of Bad Comic Book Writing. If you are reading any piece of literature and you see a sentence that begins with "The name's...", put it down immediately. Preferably in the garbage can.

The "Brains" of the Gang is named "Brains". But you probably guessed that already.

Apparently, her power is speaking pretentiously, since that seems to be all she does. That, and hair-modelling like she's in a Wella Balsam commercial. No, really, her hair is this ... this thing in and of itself. At first, you think you're just perceiving it in mid-swoosh as she's moving, as in the panel above.

No crime in that. Why, '90s characters regularly relied on their swooshing ponytails to counterbalance the weight of, well, whatever was in those pouches on their thighs.

But that's not it at all. It actually just juts out from her head, stiffly. All the time. Like... like a giant glob of saltwater taffy.

Okay, I desperately want to see this woman fight Night Girl.
Dueling extensions at 20 paces!

Not only does she have amazing Gumby-hair,
but each of her breasts is a commissioned Army Captain.
Eat yer heart out, Power Girl.

And the "Mentalist" character is "Mesmer". Have you ever heard anything so painfully obvious...?

Flash Fact: you can hypnotize anyone if you connect a mini-fan with a color wheel!

"You want I should"? What native Chicagoan talks that way? Nu, what are you now, Mrs Berkowitz's daughter? By the way, Mrs Berkowitz's daughter is, in fact, a supervillain, but a different one (the cosmically powered Blackstarr); but that's another story entirely.

"Mesmer" is another example of Bad Comic Book Writing: "Painfully Obviously Codenames". If I were a supervillain with, say, super-bulldozing-with-my-head powers, I would codename myself something vague and obscure like "Doktor Planiermesserundeckmesser", or "Captain Jordan", or just plain deceptive like "Diaphanoso". While the hero was trying to puzzle out my high-fallutin' mystery powers, I'd sock him in the gut with my cranium. But super-head-butting-powers characters rarely go in for the element of surprise and this one is no exception...



Eyes wide, fanboy; this is what it's like to "boff" Supergirl. For me, it's the sound effect and the expression on her face that really make this panel. Ordinarily, this is the place where I'd offer some kind of crack... but it looks like Supergirl's already got that covered. At least, I hope she has it covered; hard to tell with hotpants.

So, anyway, the incredibly generic foursome of stock figs from the crime groupie box manage to defeat Supergirl, with her god-like Kryptonian powers, twice in the same story, courtesy of Mesmer's mind-whammy.

Not that Supergirl can believe it. Frankly, neither can I.

Wow, Supergirl's nearly infallible, just like her cousin. And just as modest.

Oh, and just in case you were thinking ill of me for my corny title for this post...


Honi soit qui mal y pense!


CobraMisfit said...

I think "Mesmer's" power comes from the fact that a color wheel is attached to a fan that is attached to her, um, attributes. Some guys would already have trouble not staring and now she's adding color and motion?


And "boff"-ing Supergirl?


Scipio said...

Yet she manages to hypnotize Supergirl quite easily. Makes ya wonder, doesn't it...?

Bryan L said...

So is that a horn on Bulldozer's hat or is he just glad to see Supergirl? And if it is a horn, why? Shouldn't it be a ... blade or scoop or something? Or am I just over thinking this?

Scipio said...

My attitude is the less thinking that goes into this story the better.

Apparently, it was Kupperberg's attitude, too.

SallyP said...

But...but I thought that the big "G" on their chests stood for "Groovy!"

And yes, Captain Jordan WOULD be a perfect name for someone using their a battering ram! Haw!

And Evil to him, who evil thinks, is a perfect title.

Imitorar said...

See, comics written like this are what the Crisis should have been trying to fix, not the Multiverse.

Scipio said...

Ah, you don't need a Crisis for that, Lmitorar; just an editor.

Odkin said...

Other "Sure Signs of Bad Comic Book Writing" besides "the name is..."
-"This ends now!"
-Any sentence that uses extraneous periods for emphasis. "You. must. understand."

Ideas for others?

Anonymous said...

>>>"You want I should"? What native Chicagoan talks that way?

Uh, one whose parents were from Brooklyn and/or Mrs. Berkowitz-style Jewish?

>>>Any sentence that uses extraneous periods for emphasis. "You. must. understand."

"Worst. Generalization. Ever." Or not.

Anonymous said...

"Ah, you don't need a Crisis for that, Lmitorar; just an editor."

A good editor, anyway. DC had plenty of them in the Bronze Age, but few of them seemed to understand tone or motivation or quality. Consider the last couple pages of the JLA/JSA crossover where Mr. Terrific was killed: after the bad guy has escaped to Earth-2 in Jay Garrick's body, Jay Garrick is seen getting into the dimension travel gizmo a second time, Superman declares that the day was a victory, and there is a stupid "Superfriends" style joke about how they forgot to take down the energy barriers blocking the transporters. Even at the age of 12, I was wondering why they'd let a 10-year-old do their writing.

Barry Allen's biggest problem was that Cary Bates had written him for a dozen years, often without an editor.

Citizen Scribbler said...

I've been thoroughly enjoying your analytical pieces. Entertaining and thought-provoking as always. This site is the only place I can read in-depth pieces of such quality.

This exploration of Kupperberg's work is of particular interest because I'm very familiar with several of his comics. In particular, his Power Girl mini, his run the Doom Patrol and the Peacemaker mini (which was sort of like his Watchmen, containing supplementary material like psych reports and such). Your description of the supporting cast in your last post really put me in mind of the Power Girl mini, which had a very similar bad sitcom vibe to it. His work just comes off as super hackish- am I being unfair?

-Citizen Scribbler

Anonymous said...

Citizen Scribbler: for whatever it's worth, when I was 12-ish, I tried to keep track of who were the good writers and who were the hacks. I distinctly remember thinking of Paul Kupperberg as "the crappy Paul" (while Paul Levitz was "the good Paul"). So I can say from experience that even a kid could be underwhelmed with Kupperberg.

TotalToyz said...

Scipio, are you sure you want to devote so much Absorbaspace to the Gang? Look what I did when you introduced us to the Wind Pirate...

TotalToyz said...

Other "Sure Signs of Bad Comic Book Writing" besides "the name is..."
-"This ends now!"
-Any sentence that uses extraneous periods for emphasis. "You. must. understand."

Ideas for others?

Credits that say "Story by Judd Winick".