Sunday, December 4, 2016

DC Comics Presents #31 (1981)


DC Comics Presents #31 (March, 1981)
"The Deadliest Show on Earth!"
"Whatever Happened to Robotman?"
Writers - Gerry Conway & Bob Rozakis
Pencillers - Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez & Alex Saviuk
Inkers - Dick Giordano & Vince Colletta
Letterer - Ben Oda
Colorists - Jerry Serpe & Phil Rachelson
Editor - Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.50

Random pick from the pile today... been getting a bit overwhelmed with school work (which is why this is going up late in the evening rather than first thing in the morning) as we ever so slowly trudge along toward Christmas break.  I have all these huge plans and reading projects I want to push through during those few weeks off... but knowing myself the way that I do, I will be so overwhelmed by my freedom that I will accomplish absolutely none of them!

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We open late at night with Robin paying a visit to the Sterling Circus.  He walks around a bit, relieved that he hasn't yet been jumped by a carny... when he gets jumped by a carny!  It is the Half-and-Half from the Freakshow.  Ya know, the person with half their face and body done up like a man, and the other done up like a woman.  This bugger is strong, but proves to be no match for the Teen Wonder.


When the dust clears, Dick recounts his first visit to Sterling's earlier this afternoon.  He walked the grounds with his "comely" date before settling in for the show where he ran into someone quite familiar... Waldo... ya know, Waldo the Clown!  Strangely, Waldo doesn't appear to recognize him...


Well, that's why he's come back for an after-hours visit.  He figures something's gotta give here.  Inside a tent he is led to, he sees that Waldo (the Clown) is being punished for nearly giving "their secret" away that afternoon.  His punishment?  Leaping through a flaming hoop... seriously now.  Lucky for Wally, just as he jumps, Robin pulls him before he can singe his fringe.  Unlucky for Robin, the brains of the operation uses this opportunity to use his mind control powers on the poor Teen Wonder.


As he struggles to fight it off he looks up to the Circus Strongman... who upon closer inspection (and removal of his phony mustache and beard)... is Superman!  Robin is in a state of shock and can no longer fight the mind control... and down he goes.


The following day the circus leaves Gotham City and travels to Metropolis where we see Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen taking in the show.  They watch as Robin performs a trapeze act and as Superman lifts an elephant over his head.


That night while Robin stand dazed in his cage, he is shaken... er, clapped out of his trance by the Man of Steel.  Superman tells Dick that he was never under the mind control but played along to try and get to the bottom of things.  They are almost immediately bathed in a spotlight, and the circus folk (and animals!) quickly pounce.  All but one are under mind control... but who is the one behind it all?


As Superman keeps the carnies at bay, Robin loads up an old-fashioned camera with some flash powder.  He snaps a pic, which causes only one of the carnies to recoil... clearly this is the one doing the hypnotizing!  Superman snags the baddie and flies off with him... and, well... that's it!


Our backup story has to do with Robotman... no, not that Robotman... this is the silver version... from the Golden Age!  This story basically retells his origin... he was once a professor named Robert Crane who was shot by some thugs.  After the baddies flee, his assistant, Chuck Grayson (probably no relation, right?) quickly... ahem, transports Crane's brain into the head of a robot.


And so, Robotman fought crime... until the day he was caught in a mine shaft cave-in.  He awoke twenty years later, and despite noticing how "futuristic" everything around him looks (and how much people he knew have aged), doesn't think all that much of it.  He throws on his Paul Dennis (a new name he yanked from his behind) latex mask and goes about his daily routine.


He comes across the folks he blames for the cave-in, and is finally brought up to speed on the fact that twenty years have passed since his disappearance.


After taking out the riff-raff, he learns that while he was "out" another Robotman (yeah, that Robotman) entered the superhero forum.  He then decides... get this... to have his brain removed from his robot head, and placed into the dome of the long-dead Chuck Grayson!  Wait, what?  Anyhoo, he decides to use this as a new lease on life, and a new beginning for both Robert Crane and Chuck Grayson.  Oof.


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Not a bad little issue.  Nothing Earth shaking or anything, but nothing offensively bad either.  It was a neat little romp with Superman and Robin, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Sure it definitely feels a bit rushed... and I think they could have filled the extra eight pages of this issue had they jettisoned the ridiculous Robotman tale.  Not a whole lot of closure here... Superman just flies off with the bad guy... okay.  Lois and Jimmy's appearance didn't feel terribly necessary... just a way to make the scene scream "Metropolis" I suppose.

Not much more to say about it.  The art (for both stories) is very nice.  Garcia-Lopez is always a treat... the characters he draws always look phenomenal, and Saviuk's no slouch either.

The Robotman backup... okey doke... not a whole lot that can be done with a retelling of an origin... silly as it may be.  I know things were done fast and loose in the Golden Age, but just picturing old Chuck composing himself long enough to yank the brain out of his dying pal and placing it into a robo-dome is really crazy to me.

Overall... not all that much to say about either of these stories.  Had I been collecting this title at release and waited a month to get this issue... I would have been disappointed.  Reading it now almost forty years later... ehh, I wouldn't tell ya to track it down, however, if you happened across it for two-bits, I wouldn't tell ya not to grab it either.

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