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Author Topic: I (HEART) Cary Bates!  (Read 4374 times)
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Council of Wisdom
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« on: November 28, 2006, 08:25:28 PM »

My favorite thing about Cary Bates's ACTION COMICS #441 (1974) is that on the cover, it has Superman - grinning from ear to ear, when he does this, mind you - punching the Flash in the face, while the Sultan of Speed comes up pleasantly saying "Hey Superman, how's it goi - OWWW!"

This Superman story is one of the greatest that Cary Bates ever penned, combining everything that is best about Superman in the period: Morgan Edge as a hilarious, Shatner-esque windbag, an unexplained and bizarre mystery, a Supervillain with a fabulous plan which takes into account the hero, which causes them to appear to win...until the hero reveals at the last moment he took precautions by thinking a step ahead, and the villain's "victory" was revealed to just be a charade the hero participated in all along!

Cary Bates had Superman be an astonishing figure with godlike power that just can take your breath away. In this VERY issue, for instance, Superman defeats a tornado by swallowing it! Superman then flies out into space, with thousands of cubic feet of violent, swirling air in his lungs and exhales the entire tornado out. WOW!

In another part of this story, Cary Bates has Superman defeat a flight of hailstones the size of swooping up before they fall, and kicking only certain stones and calculating their trajectory in such a way that they all crach and smash into each other, breaking into tiny fragments that won't hurt anybody!

Cary Bates has a marvelous sense of humor in this story. Morgan Edge was always best to me how Bates wrote him: Pasko made him sympathetic, almost heroic, Kirby made him a sinister snake in the grass...but Bates made Morgan Edge a self-interested windbag and egomaniac, the presidential equivalent of Shatner. He ignores hints that a villain attack may be planned to go to a library that's been named after him, beginning his speech with a posture like a Rennaissance statue of Copernicus, saying "Ah yes, how well I remember my wintry boyhood in Vermont..."

This story shows the strength of a shared universe: what if the Weather Wizard attempted to duplicate Black Lightning, a phenomenon that only occurs on Krypton and changes Kryptonians into killers with a murderous rage? It is Weather Wizard that all along planned to get Superman and the Flash to investigate him - his defeats were to get Superman on his trail, NOT incompetence! His plan was to strike Superman with the lightning, and have him destroy the Flash, who would be right beside him! Intriguingly, Weather Wizard only learned of "Black Lightning" from Lois Lane's work, THE FABULOUS WORLD OF KRYPTON - a very cool mention that shows Bates's very tight sense of continuity.

Meanwhile the Flash and Superman trick the Weather Wizard by donning each other's costumes. Superman and Batman do this trick all the time, but they have pretty much the exact same body: a powerhouse weightlifter's build that could give Charles Atlas a run for his money. I wonder...has Superman ever appeared on the cover of any muscle magazines or weightlifting journals? But anyway, that's very different from the gazele-like body of the Flash. Put Superman in the Flash's outfit and you should be able to tell the difference! That's my one complaint about this story.

Curt Swan drew the Weather Wizard as an absolutely frightening, animal character. He was normal everywhere except for his EYES. They showed how evil and rotten to the core the Wizard really was.

Another Cary Bates story I love is ACTION COMICS #416 (1972) which has absolutely incredible Curt Swan/Anderson art.

It also has an awesomely triumphant moment: Superman is struck RIGHT IN THE FACE by pirates with a missile. Superman, hovering in midair, points to his chest symbol angrily and says:

"SEE THIS? You know what it stands for? It means I can mop up the floor with saltwater scum like you...and there isn't a THING you can do to STOP me!"

Awesomest. Superman. Moment. EVER. I wonder if the panel moved off of him JUST as Superman was about to laugh maniacally. I bought the comic just based on that panel alone and when I get to a scanner I'm going to scan it. Perhaps this is the continued legacy of the whimsical Christopher Reeve, but Superman doesn't have that kind of swagger as much as he used to.

Anyway, this story has Clark Kent perform a secret mission on his plane, with the rationale being that nobody would ever guess a mouse like Kent would be entrusted with such a mission! Ahhh, see, that's the kind of ironic humor you can only get when Clark Kent is a meek wuss. Anyway Clark Kent gets a stowaway, a girl in a wheelchair, who is terrified of Superman because she believes that as a young girl in Smallville, Superman crippled her!

This gets really weird, though: she had a psychosomatic relationship with her doll. If the doll was pricked, she'd feel the pain. When Superboy saves her from a fire, a stray beam crushes the doll...and now the doctor believes

Meanwhile, the two are beamed onto a lost island, which is guarded by a robot.

One thing I like best about Cary Bates's Superman is that Superman's greatest power of all is his MIND - his experience and intelligence. Superman figures out that the robot space warrior's head that can detach is still controlling his body by remote control, and uses his heat-vision like a surgeon to flash-fry the circuits.

This story has some more incredible Super-Feats that are Cary Bates's trademark: for instance, Superman stops a plane he's in from falling by punching his arms out and whooshing the plane to a stop, and he defeats some pirates by grabbing their boat by the prow and spinning it like a basketball around his palm! There's another scene where Superman protects his plane from pirate fire by covering it with his stretchable, indestructible cape!

Also, for those of you tired of Clark Kent's blue suits, get a load of his snazzy turtleneck single breasted combo here!

Both of these stories have a distinct Bates trademark: it's a story, as opposed to an adventure. Instead of a supervillain attacking, it usually has a strong mystery, or unexplained event, and the hero beats the villain through a charade and some clever trick at the last minute.

"Wait, a startling new development, Black Goliath has ripped Stilt-Man's leg off, and appears to be beating him with it!"
       - Reporter, Champions #15 (1978)
Council of Wisdom
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Silver Age Surfer

« Reply #1 on: November 29, 2006, 12:16:57 AM »

Ah, "Weather War Over Metropolis!"

Well, I suppose if you like all the WGBS stuff, you got a nice weaving of Oscar Asherman into the tale.  But it has the problems of Superman and The Flash plausibly switching identities as you point out, and one of my usual pet peeves of crossover stories for the sake of crossovers is why such a convoluted plot where everything has to go right and at the same time take on not only the Flash but the most powerful being on Earth?  I never bought that.
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