DC and its new publisher Jenette Kahn put a strong push behind her new Dollar Comics initiative as a way to change the standard format of comic books, providing more profit for individual outlets and thus hoping to get them better display in more places. And so, I found this copy of FIVE-STAR SUPER HERO SPECTACULAR in a supermarket that didn’t really otherwise carry comic books. I had seen the many ads for it in my regular books, and wanted it (primarily thanks to the inclusion of the Flash) but it never turned up at any of my regular outlets, a real problem with new DC titles in those days.
FIVE-STAR SUPER HERO SPECTACULAR turned out to be something of a mixed bag. And no wonder–it was a repository for unused inventory, stories that DC had commissioned and paid for, but whose original circumstances had changed either through a title’s cancellation or change of format. To be honest, I was a bit let down by the book, despite its huge size and the presence of so many favorite characters.
The opening FLASH tale, pretty clearly created for the regular FLASH series before the Green Lantern back-up strip was dropped, introduced Patty Spivot, Barry Allen’s lab partner. In the story, Patty experiences an electrochemical accident similar to that which granted the Flash his super-speed powers–and proves to have a similar effect on her. She adopts the costumed identity of Ms. Flash and sets out to become the Flash’s partner. but her speed is more destructive than his, causing chaos in her wake, and ultimately destroying Central City. The whole thing turns out to be a fantasy that Barry has in the split-second when the otherwise-uneventful accident takes place, a bit of a cop-out ending, really. Decades later, Geoff Johns would bring Patty back into the FLASH series as a romantic interest for the Scarlet Speedster–he’d clearly read this story.
The Green Lantern story that follows is notable for being Joe Staton’s first work on the character. Joe would go on to illustrate the Emerald Crusader’s adventures for close to a decade hereafter. At a dozen pages, I’m not certain what it might have originally been intended for–it seems too long to have been a FLASH back-up, though that’s possible. But it’s a straightforward cosmic adventure, set entirely in space, in which GL contests with a non-humanoid alien warrior who is continuing to fight a war that’s been over for centuries, putting the innocent inhabitants of a nearby planet at risk. In the end, the alien sacrifices himself to save the planet his actions imperiled.
Next up was an Aquaman story no doubt intended for ADVENTURE COMICS before the Sea King graduated into his own magazine. In it, the Sea King is targeted by an Iranian prince who has been transformed by an ancient Sun-Stone into a fiery super-being. But the crux of the story is Aquaman being stranded in the desert, far away from the water that sustains him, and him having to find a way to survive. he does, and defeats the self-proclaimed Sun-God. But it’s Aquaman’s fight for survival that makes this tale memorable.
Next up is a forgettable and inconsequential Atom story, possibly intended as a back-up in ACTION COMICS. In it, the Atom uses Professor Hyatt’s Time-Pool (a frequent running device in his series that he used to visit the past) to solve a mystery concerning Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone, and winds up saving his life as well. The art is just a little bit unpolished in this one, and I’m wondering if perhaps that’s why it was shelved in favor of other stories originally. Apparently, the Atom won a straw poll conducted through DC’s toll-free Hot-Line asking what other character fans would like to see included in this oversized issue, so it’s possible that this story was actually commissioned for the book.
Finally, the issue closes out with a full-length Batman story that’s actually a Kobra story–it was intended for the 8th issue of the cancelled KOBRA title, concerning a pair of Corsican-style brothers, one of whom was a criminal mastermind who ruled a snake-based cult. But because the brothers are linked, what is experienced by one is felt by the other–and so Jason Burr’s efforts to defeat his brother’s ambitions are always just as foiled. Here, though, the Batman becomes aware of Kobra’s intentions and intervenes–but in the end, Kobra is able to break the psychic link that he has with Jason Burr, and his brother is stabbed to death by his former girlfriend-turned-mindless-zombie. (The panel where she plunges the knife into his back freaked me out a little bit, honestly.) Kobra himself escapes, and Batman vows that the Justice League will hunt him to the ends of the Earth. The League never quite got around to doing that, but Kobra would become a regular villainous fixture throughout the DC Universe in the years to come–though, without his brother as a counter-balance, one of the most interesting things about him as a character had been discarded.