Given Jim Starlin once took his name off a Legion story because it wasn’t published as a Super Spectacular, I started wondering if regular writer Gerry Conway just did the plot for this issue—letting J.M. DeMatteis handle the script—because there’s a Radio Shack advertisement posing as a Superman comic accompanying. With pencils by none other than Jim Starlin.
I mean, I doubt it, but it’s a question.
The Legion story wraps up the Tyroc arc, which Conway’s been cooking for a couple issues. Tyroc—the only Black Legionnaire–ran off when they needed his help, causing team shithead Wildfire to go on a very pointed rant about Tyroc’s audacity and whatnot. Last issue, we found out it’s because his island homeland dimension hops every three hundred years or something. This issue finishes up that story and gets rid of the Legion’s only Black person, about four years after his first appearance. He doesn’t die; he just doesn’t escape with Shadow Lass and Dawnstar. The optics outweigh the spoilers—it’s not a particularly compelling tale, anyway.
Not the modern-day part, at least. Tyroc’s having a panic attack and ignoring all Shadow Lass and Dawnstar’s questions about being locked away from their own dimension for the rest of their lives. Eventually, he tells them the origin story of the island. A group of captive Africans, being transported in the slave trade, defeated their captors and found the island somewhere in the Atlantic. Soon after landing there, the island disappeared into another dimension. Then a few hundred years later, after they’d settled in, the island went back to Earth. And repeat. So they’re isolated both by being an island and also because they’re not permanently part of Earth’s history.
Tyroc’s a mutant (they don’t call him a mutant, of course), and he’s worried the use of his sonic powers has accelerated the window the island spends in Earth dimension.
There’s a lot of iffy and worse art from Jim Janes and Dave Hunt. It wasn’t worth the build-up, but it’s not absent good ideas.
Is The Computers That Saved Metropolis!, brought to you by DC Comics and Radio Shack, also not absent good ideas? It’s an almost thirty-page combination advertisement for Tandy Computers, a middle school computer history lesson, and Superman versus… Oh, wow. I thought writer Cary Bates created villain “Major Disaster” just for this comic (a giveaway at Radio Shack, reprinted in a number of DC comics), but he’s a Green Lantern villain. I thought for some reason they didn’t want to use a good villain like they’d need Radio Shack’s permission to use him; presumably, school teacher Ms. Wilson (Margaret to Superman) doesn’t appear again.
Starlin pencils, Dick Giordano inks. It’s funny how the “backup” has so much better art than the lead story here. Starlin’s always okay, sometimes better. There are some particularly good Superman action panels, as there should be, given Bates refers to him as the “Action Ace” a couple times.
Now, I must’ve had this comic at some point. I can’t imagine it wasn’t everywhere in the early eighties, either for free or close to it, but I’ve got no memory of the story. Major Disaster gets Superman to breathe in Kryptonite dust, then sets about showing off how Superman’s lost his super-smarts, which he uses to calculate all his action acing. The issue’s revelation Superman’s constantly doing math to figure out how not to kill everyone with his derring-do is… cool. Like, Superman as super-smart was always a neat bit.
Good thing Superman just gave Margaret’s class a couple Tandy TRS-80 microcomputers, which can do the math for him. Of course, he and the kids have worldwide micro-radio communication, but the best computers for crunching numbers aren’t in the Justice League Satellite; they’re available at your local Radio Shack®.
Major Disaster’s a lousy villain, and it’s too long—not to mention Bates (and Superman) contribute to erasing Hidden Figures’s NASA Black ladies (wait, is that erasure the connection with the first story?)—but it could be a lot worse. Like, Starlin’s heat vision panel’s fantastic.
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