Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Classics - Adventure Comics #467

Despite having a great title, DC's Adventure Comics has gone through all kinds of peaks and valleys over the decades since it first appeared.

By the time I started paying attention to it, the comic was home to the Legion of Super-Heroes. When that series ran out of gas (temporarily - it came back eventually in Superboy's comic and went on to bigger and better things), Adventure was turned over to Supergirl for a few years. Then it was home to a variety of characters, including the grisly version of the Spectre and the mysterious Black Orchid.

Then it became a dollar comic and was loaded down with characters, including the Flash, Aquaman, the Justice Society and Deadman.

In 1980 the title took another surprising turn, as it reverted to a normal size (40 cents in those days) and it became a "split" book, with two completely different characters sharing the space.

The first half of the comic was given over to Plastic Man, the Jack Cole comical creation. Written by Len Wein, it was a lighthearted tale, with Plas working for the feds and outwitting a number of henchmen. The art by Joe Staton is wonderful - a perfect match of artist and character.

Unfortunately, the story didn't really succeed as adventure or comedy. It's kinda cute, and the art is great, but that's about all there is to recommend it.

Plas has never really clicked with the modern audience - his short-lived membership in the Justice League is about the best use of the character in a long, long time.

The second half of the book is the real forgotten gem. It features a brand-new version of Starman (having no evident connection to the Golden Age character in the JSA).

As written by Paul Levitz and drawn by the legendary Steve Ditko, this Starman is more Silver Surfer than superhero. He's able to live in space with no protective gear, and he's made a name for himself as a hero who protects the weak and fights the wicked.

The story is pretty lightweight - they only have nine pages to work with, after all - but it's a fun story about a fight with a space pirate and the rescue of a new ally.

Starman didn't last long, although his story was eventually tied up in later, more earthbound versions of the character - but it was fun while it lasted.

Ditko did some vastly-underrated work for DC around this time, including one of my favorites, Shade the Changing Man.

That was the real fun of Adventure Comics - you never quite knew what to expect, but sometimes, you hit gold.

Grade: Plastic Man: B- / Starman: A-


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