RETRO REVIEW: Adventure Comics #384 (September 1969)

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Or – “Sometimes, You Just Need A Goofy Silver Age Tale…”

When it comes to the Retro Review, there are times where I want to be topical, times where I want to be informative, times where I want to convince you of the awesome that nobody but me recognizes.  And sometimes, Supergirl uses the computer at the Fortress of Solitude as her personal matchmaker, which is such a perfectly goofy comic book moment that we all need to KNOW about it, dammit!

ADVENTURE COMICS #384
Writer: Cary Bates/Robert Kanigher
Penciler: Win Mortimer/Kurt Schaffenberger
Inker: Jack Abel/Kurt Schaffenberger
Colorist: Uncredited
Letterer: Uncredited
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Publisher: DC Comics
Cover Price: 15 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $70.00

Previously, in Adventure Comics:  Supergirl is Kara Zor-El of Krypton, rocketed to Earth and lost in a time warp or something, arriving years after her cousin Kal.  At this point in her history, Supergirl has been introduced to the world at large, no longer serving as Superman’s secret weapon, having been adopted by the Danvers family, completing high school and going off to college all the while engaging in official House of El jackassery on a monthly basis.  Case in point:  When all her pals find dates by using a new-fangled computer dating service, Linda “Supergirl” Danvers feels all left out.    Due to her secret identity, she can’t find love through punchcards and magnetic tape, so she capriciously flies off to the Fortress of Solitude in the Arctic Circle in search of her one, true love.

There are several signals that this is clearly a Silver Age tale:  Supergirl acts like a teenage girl (or at least the 1969 expectations of a teenage girl as channeled by a male writer in his 20s), while Superman does his condescending big brother schtick, acting in a manner that inspired a certain website.  With the computer-chosen man of her dreams identified, Supergirl impulsively flies off across the galaxy (after activating a robot to cover for her at school) to find the elusive Volar.  She encounters a disaster, but even her super-reflexes aren’t fast enough in this situation…

A relationship build on lies has two strikes against it already, Linda.  Don’t you read Cosmo?  Of course, Volar isn’t shy at all, immediately taking Supergirl home to meet the parents.  Volar’s people aren’t particularly kind either, cruelly laughing at Supergirl as she flies through their skies, a situation which Volar explains is more than just mocking her turquoise mini-dress of power…

And what is the mysterious X-Day that Volar’s father is so worried about?  Clearly, something huge and momentous is about to happen on Torma, so momentous that Volar’s father forgets that Supergirl has already demonstrated her superhumanly acute senses…

Supergirl and Volar make a great team against crime and calamity across Torma, using the expectation that she is a mere inferior female to great advantage in their battles.  Supergirl finds herself developing feelings for her computer-matched partner, but Volar never seems to notice or reciprocate those feelings.  Supergirl confronts Volar about what she believes to be a fatal disease, but Big V has a surprise for the Maid of Might…

It’s worth noting that Volar has much better taste in clothing for her normal form than for her highly-padded male body.  And, I like how the story starts as a Silver Age love story, then takes a turn somewhere along the line to become a stealth-feminist story, as if Cary Bates was trying to sneak in the moral of the story without DC editorial noticing.  What I find most interesting is that the computer in the Fortress knew Volar’s real name and home address, but didn’t have the little box where you choose ‘M’ or ‘F’.  Given that Superman programmed the beast, and Supergirl asked it specifically to help her find her romantic match, perhaps the computer knows something that Linda herself hadn’t yet come to terms with?  Either way, the loopiness of this tale is matched by the second half of the issue, a mystery during which someone threatens to reveal Supergirl’s secret identity!

The moral of Adventure Comics #384: Kryptonian computers are jerks.

I kind of wish that Kurt Schaffenberger had done both halves of this issue, if only because I dearly love his art on Kara, but Win Mortimer is more than just a Silver Medal…  I also like that this cover once again shows that Curt Swan models his Supergirl faces on Marilyn Monroe, a touch that I discovered when working a batch of Action Comics for our Ebay store.  All in all, this book represents an industry in transition, and given recent comic book events, Supergirl’s same-sex romance with Volar seems kind of quaint in comparison.  Still, it does make you wonder if there was any outcry against this book back in the day, doesn’t it?  Adventure Comics #384 is a fun, quick read, with a clever twist and a not-so-clever one (“Red Kryptonite must have landed on the red stripes!”) balancing out to a better-than-average whole thanks to some lovely art and an early attempt at 70′s-style relevance, earning 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.

Rating: ★★★½☆