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:

View Larger Map

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.