Spotlight Sunday 7.17.22

Thinking about an ending brings to mind a beginning, which means there are spoilers ahead for…

Screenshot of the database entry for THE SUPERMAN FAMILY #171 
Cleopatra, Queen of America / The Irresistible Lois Lane / Jimmy Olsen, Boy Wonder

Release: Jul 1975
Cover: Jul 1975

Action | Adventure | Super-Heroes
Bronze Age | Color | USA | English
Comic | 80 pages | $ 0.50
Cleopatra, Queen of America - The scepter of Cleopatra has been uncovered, and seems to have a mind of its own, compelling its owner to seek out a dominating leadership role. Only Batgirl and Supergirl seem to be immune, and they have their work cut out for them cleaning things up.

The Irresistible Lois Lane - Reprinted from Superman's Girl Friend Lois Lane #29

Jimmy Olsen, Boy Wonder - Reprinted from Superman's Pal, Jimmy Olsen #111

Writer	Cary Bates
Artist	Pete Costanza
Penciller	Curt Swan
Inker	George Klein | Vince Colletta
Cover Artist	Ernie Chan
Editor	Julius Schwartz | Murray Boltinoff | Boltinoff Murray
Elongated Man (Ralph Dibny)
Batgirl (Barbara Gordon)
Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
Flash (Barry Allen)
Supergirl (Kara / Linda Zor-El / Danvers)
Batman (Bruce Wayne)
Black Canary (Dinah Drake-Lance)
Superman (Kal-El / Clark Kent)
Cleopatra (Lilibet Winsor)
Shari Jones
The Superman Family #171
Writer: Elliot S! Maggin | Cary Bates
Artist: Pete Costanza
Penciller: Curt Swan
Inker: George Klein | Vince Colletta
Cover Artist: Ernie Chan
Editor: Julius Schwartz | Murray Boltinoff

You sure know how to fill up a girl’s lungs!

This will be the last Spotlight Sunday post, as I have decided to bring this feature to a close.

That does not mean, however, that I’m no longer going to – infrequently – write/talk about comics, just that I’m no longer going to do it here, in this format, with posts limited to a specific day of the week.

It also, potentially, means that I won’t be the only one doing the writing/talking.

We’ll get into the details of that a little later, but because Spotlight Sunday is ending, I thought it was fitting to go back to the very beginning to talk about the first comic book that captured my imagination and helped foster my love for the medium. At least, the first one I can recall. I’m certain I flipped through other comic books before this, but this one was so baffling and befuddling to me – in no small part because I did not yet know how to read – that I found it, and the medium, utterly captivating. It made me want to learn how to read, and in particular, it made me want to read comics.

Of course, it’s probably fitting that, all things considered, the actual comic itself really isn’t all that good, given that for most of the time during which I read comics as a kid there was one thing that could be said about my taste in comics: I didn’t have any. I happily read any comic I could get my grubby little hands on and loved each one in equal measure.

In any case, while I very distinctly recall looking at this comic, I don’t recall the exact circumstances. I would have been three years old when it was released, but as probably around four or five when I stumbled upon a coverless copy of it, either at home, in the pile of random comics we had around the house, or possibly at someone else’s house (I vaguely recall it happening at our neighbors’ house, though I’m not at all sure of that).

Flipping through it, I was unfamiliar with most everyone who appeared in it, other than Superman, since, well, he’s Superman, one of the most famous fictional characters in the world. Supergirl, the star of the story, was completely unknown to me, and because I couldn’t read, I began making up my own story in my head to explain what I was seeing on the page, and that story was based on my assumption that Supergirl must be Superman’s girlfriend.

(It’s worth noting that the comic features a story starring his actual girlfriend, but my memories of the comic don’t include that story. I only recall looking at the main Supergirl story.)

And it was that flawed assumption that made the story so confusing to me, so I suppose we should, finally, get into discussing the story.

Our story begins on the campus of the New Athens School in Florida, where an art class is touring the school’s museum, viewing an exhibit of Egyptian artifacts donated to the museum by none other than Carter “Hawkman” Hall. One object in particular catches the eye of one of the students, a scepter that is said to have belonged to Cleopatra.

Panels of the art students admiring the scepter as the guide explains that Cleopatra was said to have always had it in her hand whenever she made a proclamation.
Second panel shows Lilibet Winsor - an exchange student from London - thinking "Cor! That royal rod is lovely!"
That’s what she–ahh, forget it.

The scepter suddenly begins to quiver and glow, bursting out of its display case and flying into the awaiting hands of young Lilibet.

Before we can see what happens next, we move across campus where New Athens student Linda “Supergirl” Danvers is instructed to give a tour of the campus to Congresswoman Barbara “Batgirl” Gordon. The two young women bond as they tour the campus, as they find out that they have many things in common, though they have more in common than they realize, as neither is aware of the other’s secret identity.

Panel featuring Barbara talking about how difficult it is to live in her father's shadow, and Linda thinking the same about Superman. ""My cousin Superman has left me in the shade so long I'm getting frostbite!"
“Frostbite” is a weird way to describe the severe emotional trauma Superman has inflicted on you, Linda.

Meanwhile, we learn what happened next with Lilibet and the scepter. She tells her friend Danny that everyone froze when the scepter flew into her hand, and that they all acted strange – referring to her as “majesty” and telling her that her wish is their command – and so, being a bit freaked out, she dropped the scepter, and then everyone acted like nothing had happened and moved on.

As they finish their discussion, a strange windstorm springs up, separating Linda and Babs, who take that opportunity to change into their working clothes and investigate. (Supergirl does not think anything of Batgirl’s coincidental appearance.) The wind was the result of the scepter flying back to Lilibet, based on Danny’s suggestion that she make it come to her, as Cleopatra allegedly could. Danny is a big Cleopatra buff, apparently, and thinks about how Cleopatra could supposedly exercise a hypnotic power over anyone when the scepter was in her hand.

Lilibet decides that’s too much power for anyone to wield and gives it to Supergirl to bring back to the museum.

Sometime later, however, in her guise as Linda Danvers, Supergirl learns that Lilibet has had a change of heart and declared herself to be a descendant of Cleopatra and the Queen of America. Thanks to the power of the scepter, the US government is going along with it.

Supergirl flies to Washington to find out what in Rao’s name is going on and finds that everyone present is following the new Cleopatra’s commands, with the exception of Babs (who Supergirl has to pretend she’s never met). Like Babs, Supergirl seems to be immune to the hypnotic power of the scepter, but she also finds that she’s unable to take the scepter away, as it keeps fighting to return to Lilibet’s hand, and its nearly as strong as the Maid of Might.

Before she can make her next move, her cousin Superman shows up and yoinks the scepter out of her hand and tosses it back to his new queen, as Lilibet has also taken control of the Justice League of America, all of whom then proceed to pound the stuffing out of poor Supergirl, leaving her in a weakened state with her powers reduced.

As part of the procession for Lilibet’s coronation, the heroes carry an unconscious Supergirl and toss her into the Potomac.

This was the part of the story that young Jon couldn’t make sense out of. Why were the heroes trying to kill Supergirl?

Fortunately, Batgirl witnesses the whole thing, and dives into the water to rescue Supergirl, giving her mouth-to-tire resuscitation.

Page on which Batgirl rescues Supergirl from the water and then, in lieu of mouth to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, uses a car tire to fill Supergirl's lungs with air.
Seeing this sequence on another blog was what helped me figure out what comic I remembered looking at as a kid. Also, I don’t think that’s how any of it works.

Once Supergirl has recovered, the two heroines figure out why they – and Barbara Gordon *wink* – aren’t affected by Lilibet’s hypnotic abilities, and devise a plan to trick her into restoring Supergirl to full power.

I won’t spoil the ending but suffice to say that the new Queen of America is soon defeated and deposed, and things return to what passes for normal, and Supergirl gets to spend some quality (“quality”) time with her cousin, albeit in their civilian guises.

Get bent, Kent. You’ve never managed to teach Linda a damn thing, other than how to be neurotic and insecure.

Like I said, it’s not a great story, but it captured my imagination, making me want to learn to read and learn more about the characters involves so that I could better understand just what the hell I was even looking at.

And it was put out by creator’s whose names and styles I would go on to become very familiar with, such as Curt Swan, who was for decades THE artist for almost all things Superman, and Elliot S! Maggin, who in addition to writing many of the Superman comics I loved over the years, gave us Miracle Monday.

Sadly, by the time I learned to read, which happened not long after and as a direct result of looking at this inscrutable comic, for whatever reason – either it got tossed or it did belong to someone else – I never saw this comic again, nor did I even know what comic it was.

I often tried to figure out what comic it was over the years, but the best I could come up with was that, since it featured Supergirl (who by that time, of course, I had come to realize was not Superman’s girlfriend), it most likely had to be either Adventure Comics or Superman Family.

Sometime in the late 2000s I stumbled on a post on the now-defunct blog of politescott that featured the tire scene, and it clicked that this was the issue I was thinking of.

Sometime after that, I received a copy of the comic for my birthday. It now hangs on my wall in a place of honor.

Photo of The Superman Family #171 in a display case mounted on a wall.
(Or dishonor, maybe, since it’s in my bedroom.)

I have a full run of The Superman Family. Even though I didn’t know just how important the title was to me, years later, when I was actually reading comics regularly, the series was one of my favorites, and it’s largely responsible for my love for a certain beautiful investigative reporter.

Superman Family was an anthology book that generally featured a main story starring Supergirl, but also had stories about other members of the family, such as Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen. In fact, Superman Family took the place of Superman’s Girl Friend Lois Lane and Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen after DC decided to end those two long-running books. It even took over Jimmy’s numbering, which is why this is #171, even though it’s only the eighth issue.

I won’t get into them here, as, like I said, I don’t even remember seeing them, but this issue was rounded out by stories reprinted from issues of Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen.

It’s funny that I don’t remember the story featuring my beloved Lois, given that it’s a story about how irresistible she is. (Though there is, of course, a goofy, convoluted Silver Age story that explains why she’s irresistible, even though the fact that she’s Lois freakin’ Lane should be enough.)

Cover of Superman's Girl Friend #29.
I also have this in my collection. Also, in answer to your question, Lana – though I don’t know why you’re blonde here – she has EVERYTHING. She’s Lois freakin’ Lane.

The Jimmy story features the young photographer/reporter masquerading as Robin in an effort to prove his worthiness to join a mystery-solving club.

The issues I was most familiar with growing up contained new stories rather than reprints, and besides Lois and Jimmy, focused on topics like The Private Life of Clark Kent, and Mr. and Mrs. Superman, which were stories set in the past featuring the Lois and Clark of Earth-Two.

In any case, given that this site and the Spotlight posts are about sharing my love for comics, it seemed fitting to select this comic to be the last one to shine a light on. Is it the best comic ever? No, but it’s a fun little Bronze Age relic featuring the always competent art of Swan and the just a bit out there writing of Maggin and it’s one that has meant a lot to me for a very long time. If it hadn’t been for this comic, this site, and the previous entries in this series of posts, might never have happened.

I’ll leave it up to you, reader, to decide whether that’s something that worth celebrating….

But wait! You want to know why I’m ending Spotlight Sunday and what the future holds for–oh, you didn’t want to know? Well…tough, I’m telling you anyway.

The why is simply that I never intended to use the main OpenDoor Comics site and its official blog for this purpose. The purpose of the site is simply to be a landing page and launch point for learning about the mission, vision, and values of OpenDoor Comics, and why it’s here, what it’s for, and how it (theoretically) works.

The blog was intended to be like the old DC Publishorial or Stan’s Soapbox at Marvel, providing news, information, and general musings about the state of things here at OpenDoor Comics. (With a smattering of “Whatever the hell I feel like talking about.”)

I created the Spotlight just for the sake of generating some content and giving people – at least a small number of them, anyway – a reason to occasionally stop by and take a look around.

But now it just feels like it’s time to go back to the original plan, and turn the main page and blog back into what they were supposed to be.

The thing is, though, while it may not seem like it, given the irregularity of the posts, I do like writing about comics I’ve read, and especially comics I like, to give them at least a little bit of attention, in a way that, I think is kind of unique. These posts aren’t really reviews, and nothing I’ve done here really counts as any kind of comics journalism, but I think they fill a particular niche – or can fill it – in comic fandom.

It’s all about having a conversation about comics, sharing some details about what made you like or even love a particular comic and tying them to your relationship with comics and your own personal history. That, at least, has been the idea for me. It’s why there are so many asides about things like when and where I bought a comic, what was going on in my life that made the comic resonate for me, and just some general personal flavor that you might not find in a regular review.

(Which is not in any way intended to diminish the importance of proper reviews and comics journalism. It’s all important! It’s just that I’m not trying to fill that particular role.)

What’s next, then, is simply creating a dedicated space for having those conversations.

I will provide more details about what I have in mind in a follow-up post – a post that is exactly the kind of thing for which this blog is intended – but I just wanted to put it out there that a new site is coming, and to note that the plan, somewhere along the line, is to open that site up to other contributors who want to join the conversation.

There’s a lot of stuff I need to figure out on that front, given that I can’t even afford to pay potential contributors in exposure, but we’ll get there, as I’m not looking for free labor.

Well, not a lot of free labor, as I’m going to ask you to provide a bit. See, the reason I haven’t just launched the site and started filling it up with my own monologues about comics is that I haven’t been able to come up with a name for it, one that evokes the fact that it’s a site that’s focused on conversations about comics.

Also, I want a name that does not come with the limitation of alliteration, thereby allowing me to freely blather on about comics on any day of the week.

So I’m inviting a bunch of spam by leaving the comments open and asking you – pretend that I’m holding Cleopatra’s scepter while I do so – to drop some suggestions below.

And while I’ve got that scepter in my hand, I’ll ask you to remember that you can support OpenDoor Comics on Patreon – and by the way, a huge thank you to the loyal subjects…er, very kind people who are already doing so – by whitelisting this site in your ad-blocker and taking a look at things like the Spotlight Sunday posts that that have come before, and by sharing this (and other) posts.

And thank you to everyone who has stopped by to see what’s in the Spotlight over the years. We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know we’ll meet again on some other blog…


2 thoughts on “Spotlight Sunday 7.17.22

  1. I’m sad to see Spotlight Sunday go, but I’m looking forward to the new stuff. As for a catchy new name…I’m no good at that kind of thing. I’ll take a stab at it, though. Some variation of “Unboxed,” “Unboarded,” or “Unbagged,” to hint that the intention is to have open, inclusive discussions. I guess you could do all three, “Comics Unboxed Unboarded Unbagged.” Bit of a mouthful, but it would have a trendy abbreviation like, “Comics Un³,” “Comics Uncubed,” or, “C3 Unbeed.” Yeah, like I said, not my strong point.

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