Daring New Adventures of Supergirl #13 (November, 1983)
“Echoes of Times Gone By”
Writer – Paul Kupperberg
Penciller – Carmine Infantino
Inker – Bob Oksner
Letterer – Ben Oda
Colorist – Tom Ziuko
Editor – Julius Schwartz
Cover Price: $0.60
Now here’s a book I’ve been a bit worried about covering. Not due to the (admittedly controversial) subject matter, but for the title of the book.
As you might see, this book bears the logo which simply reads Supergirl… however, if we were to flip past the cover… the indicia still refers to the volumes as The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl. So, how do I label it here on the humble blog?
Believe it or not, these are the things I worry about! This is the reason why I have been so hesitant to cover the Mike Grell volume of Green Arrow here. I mean, is it volume one… or is the four-issue miniseries volume one? Yes… these are the things that keep me awake at night. Perhaps some experts might chime in to help assuage my worry…
I decided today to just pick a lane… and the lane I picked was the one writ in the indicia. We’re going “Daring New” this time out… hope that works for everyone!
Our story opens with Superman returning to the Fortress of Solitude. Upon entry, he finds the entire joint has turned into a ramshakle mess. He wonders aloud who might be responsible… and is surprised to learn the culprit is none other than his cousin Kara… in her brand-spankin’ new costume! She explains the events of the past few issues which also explains why the Fortress is in such a state. She faced off with miniature clones… their battle wrecked the place, and Supergirl had to resort to using Gold Kryptonite to wipe out the super powers of the diminutive clone army.
Not only does Kara leave Superman with a mess to clean up, she also leaves him with the mess of clones. To be fair, she does offer to help Kal clean… and the clones are in a statis field. Superman says he’ll take care of everything… which tells me, he’s about to load these doll-sized Karas into a burlap sack, and toss it into the first river he sees.
We shift to Kara/Linda’s building in Chicago. The landlady Mrs. Berkowitz is speaking with a woman named Joanie about recent events. It turns out that a swastika had been spraypainted on her door… a crappy thing to happen to anyone, however, Mrs. B. reveals that she is a holocaust survivor to boot. She fears that the horrors she experienced growing up in Poland are about to resurface in the United States.
Speaking of which… we shift over to the offices for the Party For Social Reform, where a couple of hateful jerks discuss their tactics for recruiting new members to their cause. The fella, Byron seems to be a bit turned off by their spraypainting swastikas… reservations which may have been overheard by the (spooky) lady in charge.
Across the country, Supergirl visits her adoptive father Fred Danvers. He’s happy to see her, and notices that she’s changed her look a bit. This leads to a flashback wherein Linda explains that her costume was battle-damaged, and during a visit with her adoptive mother, designed her new duds.
She finishes her story, lights her Pop’s pipe with her heat vision, and retires to her old room with the idea to spend a few days relaxing off the grid. However, she soon learns that just isn’t in the cards for her. She sees on the television a report of rampant antisemitism, harassment and vandalism back in Chicago. After seeing her own building on the news, she decides to cut her vacation short.
Heading up to the building, she is a bit puzzled to see her neighbor Johnny O. (John Ostrander) camped out by the mailboxes. She asks him what’s up… and he tells her he’s standing guard in case the antisemites return… he plans to bust some heads. Linda suggests that perhaps isn’t the best course of action to take, and attempts to get a passing-by neighbor Cheryl to take her side. Cheryl, a black woman, ain’t havin’ it. She knows the score when it comes to blind hatred… she’s perfectly fine with Johnny the O. being proactive.
Now a bit peeved, Linda stomps up the steps to talk to Mrs. Berkowitz. She expresses her concern about Johnny and Cheryl “riding shotgun” in the lobby… and much to her surprise, learns that Mrs. B. is just fine with it. Berkowitz attempts to instill in Linda the need to learn from history. She is fearful that this small band of maniacs will grow in size and power… just like another band did during her youth. She shows Linda the front page of the newspaper, which shows that the Reformists will be holding a rally in the park. Linda’s visibly angry… though, it isn’t clear if it’s directed toward her landlady, the situation, or both. Prrrobably the situation.
She returns downstairs and finds that Johnny O. is reading her friend Phil Decker the riot act. He’s refusing to let him into the building, fearful that he is one of the radicals. Linda tells him to settle his tea kettle, and she and Phil head out… to the Rally!
At the park, Linda and Phil find that spooky lady from earlier holding court. She is fomenting paranoia and hate… like those kinda folks do. After hearing just a bit too much, Phil tells Linda that it’s time they leave… he can’t take it anymore. At that very moment, a Jewish man stands up and calls out to the creepy woman. He opens his shirt revealing a Star of David necklace… which causes a riot to begin! Linda sees the commotion, and decides this might just be a job for Supergirl!
The man with the Star of David chain gets restrained and pulled away. When they are out of sight, it is revealed that he is one of the Reformists, posing as a Jewish man to inspire more fear and hatred toward them. He undoes his necklace, drops it… and stomps on it.
On stage, Supergirl has arrived. She faces off with the spooky lady… who opens her coat, revealing herself to be the super villain Blackstarr! Which, I dunno… doesn’t really work for me. I’ll go in depth below. Anyhoo, she promises that the Universe will tremble before her might!
Lots to unpack here.
Let’s start with the lighter and breezier bits… Kara’s new costume. I’d really like to see what a more contemporary reader thinks about this… because, while I appreciate actual explanation and story-centric reasons for wardrobe changes, I’m not sure that kinda thing speaks to the fans of today. I think costumes and character “looks” are important, and so anytime there is an (substantial) alteration to either, it should be addressed and/or explained.
For example, it really bugged me when Carol Danvers became Captain Marvel and nobody seemed to know what her costume looked like or if she had long or short hair… I mean, that went on for years without any consistency. I’m not sure that bothered most fans, but it really did irritate me. It’s not like it’s rocket surgery or anything.
Anyhoo, guess what I’m trying to say is that I really appreciated the new costume being a story-beat rather than something that just “happened”. Admittedly, it may have went a page or two long, but I was still happy to see it.
With that out of the way… let’s discuss the heavier topic, antisemitism. That was something I certainly didn’t expect to see. I will say that I haven’t read anything from this volume yet… so I am unaware if this is a long percolating subplot. To see it here though, was really quite eye-opening… was really expecting this series to be a lighthearted rompy one.
With the unexpected seriousness comes… unexpected depth. Kupperberg does a great job as not making this as black and white as it could be. The disparate reactions of those affected did the story a great service. Kara’s attempts at reasoning versus her friend’s punch-first-ask-questions-later approach was great to see. It gives this plot added weight and ambiguity.
I mean, if I were among the affected, I cannot say for certain how I would react. I’ve been lucky enough to never have been in such a situation. Part of me would like to think I’d keep perspective and a level head like Kara… but I definitely see the potential for rage and paranoia to set in… and take over.
The rally scene toward the end was pretty interesting too. Fomenting antisemitism (or anti-anybody) by hiring thugs to pose as rioters seems like one of those tactics that will always work. I mean, they’re selling their brand of fear and hatred to those who are the most susceptible to fall for it. If they can see “the enemy” with their own eyes, acting the way in which they are being made to fear… then, that’s all the better for the cause.
My only real issue with this is… the leader of the antisemites is… a super villain. I mean, that’s where it kinda goes off the rails for me. If it had been an ordinary person, I feel it would have made a bigger impact. I mean, the whole point is that irrational fear and hatred can exist in anyone. It feels kind of reductivist to make it all a grand plot of a super villain. We already know super villains are bad, right?
For another (less important) complaint. I gotta say I was disappointed after seeing the wonderful Ed Hannigan cover… then seeing that Carmine Infantino did the interiors. It might be heresy, but I never really cottoned to Infantino’s 1980’s work. Never have a problem when I’m seeing his Silver Age stuff, but by the early 80’s… it just doesn’t look right to me.
Overall, despite my minor quibbles, I’d say this is definitely an issue worthy of being in your comics library. Recently, DC released a Daring New Adventures of Supergirl trade collection which features the first 12 issues. This issue in particular is available digitally, and gives me more vindication for me referring to this issue as “Daring New”, because DC Digital does as well! Worth your time… and shouldn’t break the bank.
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