Adventure Comics #416 cover, Bob Oksner

Adventure Comics #416, March 1972 (Click Cover for Enlarged Version)

A rather lovely collection of some of the adventures of DC’s famed super-heroines—or “super-females” as the strap-line would have it. This was one of DC’s early forays into the 100-page Super Spectacular format and so retains the regular numbering of Adventure Comics. Later, the series would briefly switch to its own numbering system before once again being published as special issues.

The wrap-around cover is by Bob Oksner, and he did a sterling job illustrating many of the best-known super-women then appearing in DC’s comics. Can you name them all? At the time Oksner was regularly pencilling and/or inking the Supergirl feature in Adventure Comics. He was probably most well-known, though, for drawing many of DC’s humour features, such as Doby Gillis and Jerry Lewis, that were coming to an end. He was also, of course, the artist on the fabulous Angel and the Ape series during the dying days of the Silver Age.

obedience to lovein authority, Wonder Woman

The issue itself has a fabulous selection of reprinted tales chosen by editor E Nelson Bridwell. Supergirl gets a couple of stories, including her origins in Argo City. Wonder Woman has a “three-part novel” from the late-1940s, written and drawn by her creators William Moulton Marston and HG Peter. As a Golden Age WW tale, this naturally features a lot of bondage scenes. At one point some bad girl types are forced to wear a golden girdle that “compels complete obedience to loving authority”! I doubt they’d get away with that today. Black Canary’s very first story, from when she was a guest character in Johnny Thunder’s feature, gets an airing; as does a 1943 Phantom Lady tale with art by Frank Borth. From this evidence, Borth was a poor artist who relied heavily on photographic reference. He did do a lovely splash page though. Finally, there’s also a very rare appearance by Merry, Girl of a Thousand Gimmicks. All the stories are great fun.

Phantom Lady, 1943, Frank Borth

Back to the cover: Oksner has included Big Barda and Beautiful Dreamer from Kirby’s Mister Miracle and Forever People respectively. Barda first appeared in Mister Miracle #4 (October 1971), so, as this issue of Adventure Comics has a March 1972 cover date, it would appear that Oksner was probably the first artist, other than Kirby, to draw the former Female Fury, at a time when the character had barely been established. I think it’s interesting that Oksner has clearly tried to ape Kirby’s idiosyncratic depiction of the female form. Quite rightly too: whereas later artists have tended to make her into a svelte super-model type, I reckon Kirby always intended her to be rather more… buxom.

Adventure COmics #416, Big Barda, Bob Oksner

Well worth tracking down a copy of this. Given the reprint frenzy these days, perhaps DC will get around to re-issuing all the 100-Page Super Spectaculars. We can but hope.

Images ©2012 DC Comics