Scott's Classic Comics Corner: DC Super-Starsgazing Pt. 1

During the 1970s, DC launched countless numbers of re-print titles. As a young reader and then collector, I shunned these for the most part. As I’ve grown older and wiser, I now seek them out as they often contain hidden gems. Here’s the first part of my look at DC Super-Stars.

DC Super-Stars #1 isn’t a particularly noteworthy debut. We’ve got a couple of so-so Teen Titans reprints from the 60s wrapped up in a so-so Nick Cardy cover. I remember buying this one off the 10 cent rack at my LCS circa 1980 and thinking “Who the hell is Lilith?” The first story is from Teen Titans #11 and it’s a pretty standard Bob Haney/Nick Cardy collaboration. The second story “Skis of Death” has always struck me as a particularly ridiculous tale and it features sub-par Gil Kane art. I’ve never understood why it would be chosen as a showcase reprint for the Titans. It was also reprinted 5 years later in a Best of DC digest. I’m fairly sure that the idea here was to send up a trial balloon to measure the appetite for the Teen Titans in the mid-70s. It must have been somewhat successful, as the Teen Titans series was re-launched 6 months later.

DC Super-Stars #2 was the first of the “Super-Stars of Space” installments. I’m not sure why DC thought that the comic book world was in need of some old sci-fi reprints, but in hindsight, I’m quite happy they did. This one leads off with the famous “Planets in Peril” story from Mystery in Space #90 from 1964, teaming up Adam Strange and Hawkman. Truth be told, I find this to be one of the most convoluted stories Gardner Fox has ever written (and that’s saying quite a lot). Much more interesting is the “Origin of the Atomic Knights” from the team of John Broome and Murphy Anderson. It’s a terrific concept and I’m actually quite surprised that one of today’s writers hasn’t done a revisionist version of it. For me, the real highlight of this issue is the “Knight of the Galaxy” store from Mystery in Space #7. This was a fun strip that ran as the lead in the early issues of Mystery in Space in 1951 and 1952. The story is written by Robert Kanigher and the artwork is Carmine Infantino. I really love this era of Infantino’s pencils – it’s still Caniff influenced and there’s just a touch of Toth. It’s one of those great ‘girls can do anything boys do’ stories. It is lots of fun and a real rarity. If memory serves, the letters page include a rather long and very lame letter ‘written’ by Adam Strange. I guess you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do for a letters page in a second issue, but it’s sooo bad.

In issue #2, Editor E. Nelson Bridwell announced that the previously advertised Plop! Issue slated for DC Super-Stars #3 was shelved in favour of a very special issue featuring the Adult Legion. Personally, I dig the Adult Legion stories and I think they represent some of Jim Shooter’s best work on the series. I’m not entirely sure why DC chose Legion as a filler issue, as they already had a series and I would have thought floating another trial balloon a la Teen Titans would have made more sense. I don’t think much of this particular Ernie Chan cover, but it’s a cheap way to pick up some Silver Age Legion.

With DC Super-Stars #4, we get another ‘…of Space’ issue. I like this multi-paneled Ernie Chan cover – it’s nothing groundbreaking, but sets the stage for the issue. We lead off with a decent Adam Strange story (I wish they went with some of the earlier ones). Space Ranger was always just a mediocre strip, but this one has some nice Jim Mooney creatures. It’s always a treat to see a Captain Comet story – and DC obviously thought this was a good time to re-introduce him to the DCU. What I really love about this issue is the one-page on the astronomer Frederick Bessel drawn by Mort Drucker. It’s early 50s rarities like this that make these purchases worthwhile.

DC Super-Stars #5 is a real change of pace, collecting 3 Flash-related stories. I really dig this Dick Giordano cover, and it’s a nice change of pace from all of the Chan covers. Again I don’t fully understand the rationale behind this issue, but I’m a sucker for 60s Flash stories. There are solid Flash and Kid Flash reprints here, but the really interesting story is the Jay Garrick story. In a rare ‘shot for shot remake’, Rico Rival has redrawn a 1946 story from All-Flash Comics. It’s an interesting little experiment that didn’t really take off. Apparently the original stuff was too substandard. This trick was also done with a story from Four Star Spectacular #1 from earlier that same year.

Were back in space with DC Super-Stars #6 (in fact, Bridwell notes that every even numbered issue will be ‘… of Space’. There’s a solid, if unspectacular Adam Strange story, a Captain Comet tale with a rather gruesome ending as creatures are turned into statues for the town square. There’s also a really fun Tommy Tomorrow story with superb Jim Mooney artwork. This one is great, as Tommy travels to the past and is assisted by his younger self. The gem of this issue is the Space Cabby story from 1958. I love Space Cabby and wish to hell someone would reprints those stories.

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