TONY'S ONLINE TIPS for Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Let's continue looking at the spiffy comic books sent to me by friend of the column William Ashley Vaughan...
The special 80-page Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #77 [September-October, 1967] collected several of "Lois' greatest shockers" from 1954's "The Six Lives of Lois Lane" to 1961's "The Mad Woman of Metropolis." All but two of the stories were drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger, a terrific storyteller who could handle drama and comedy with equal excellence. He could draw wholesomely cute women, exotic glamor girls, older women, and even a decidedly plus-size Lois.
Otto Binder wrote two stories with the most striking physical transformations for Lois. In "The Witch of Metropolis," a mishap in a lab turns Lois into a were-hag who believes she gains magical powers at night. In "The Fattest Girl in Metropolis," Superman is the culprit. He arranges for Lois to be exposed to a growth ray so a hitman won't recognize her. The latter isn't as insensitive as one might think and has a honestly funny ending:
Bill Finger's "Lois Lane -- Convict" is the kind of Lois story I prefer. She's part of a plan to bring a criminal to justice and plays her role smartly.
An accident causes Lois to believe she is several famous women in Bill Woolfolk's "The Six Lives of Lois Lane." As drawn by Wayne Boring and Stan Kaye, it's great fun to see our heroine as Florence Nightingale, Annie Oakley, and others.
"The Mad Woman of Metropolis" is one of three stories in this issue tentatively identified as being written by Robert Bernstein. However, aside from the stunning Schaffenberger splash, it's a weak effort in which Lois comes close to being driven mad by a criminal. She's a far cry from the gutsy heroine of "Lois Lane -- Criminal." Indeed, in Bernstein blackmail story, "Lois Lane's Darkest Secret," he concentrates more on the reporter's foolish confidence than her competence and courage.
Bernstein's third tale - "Lois Lane's X-Ray Vision" - clumsily segues into a threat to Superman's secret identity. Even as a kid, I hated those stories.
Jerry Coleman's "The Ghost of Lois Lane" is more of a Superman tale. The Man of Steel thinks his careless use of his x-ray vision has killed Lois and that he's being haunted by her ghost. Boring and Kaye provide appropriately emotional, spooky visuals, but what make the story work is the cleverness with which Lois figures out what's happening to Supes and why, and how he can extract her from her predicament.
The issue also features "Letters to Lois and Lana," two pages of the best letters sent to the title. The letters are so-so, but many of the answers have the dismissive smugness that marked editor Mort Weisinger's letters columns. As a teenager, I never cared for his tone, so I wrote to the more friendly DC editors.
Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane #77 is a nice sample of what the title offered in the 1960s. Its historical value bumps it up to four out of five Tonys.
At 68 pages for a mere quarter, Archie's Pals 'n' Gals #63  was an excellent buy for fans of ol' Waffle-Scar Andrews and his Riverdale crew. What I don't know about drag racing is, well, everything, but some quick online research revealed that, in 1971, the National Hot Rod Association, the governing body of the sport, added the "Pro Stock" class to its Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Whatever that means.
Inside this issue are amusing short stories starring Archie, Reggie, Big Ethel, and Mr. Weatherbee, surrounded by a variety of even shorter fillers. There's even a page wherein Midge and Moose present a recipe for finger cookies.
Reggie and the "Bee" are the standout players. Reggie is the butt of the joke in three out of the four stories in which he has a prominent role, but comes out on top in the fourth. As always, Principal Weatherbee suffers from Archie's bumbling and the lad's good intentions. Also worth noting is a tale in which a robot from outer space contracts dance fever.
There are no people of color in Riverdale shown in this issue, but that would eventually change to a small extent. Archie Comics has always been quicker to react to pop culture fads than to major societal trends.
Archie's Pals 'n' Gals #63 picks up three out of five Tonys. Which, as you know, is a perfectly acceptable score.
Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow to conclude this three-part series on the comics Billy Ash sent me for my birthday and Christmas.
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.
ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.
TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?
THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.
FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?
FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.
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