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Black Orchid meets the Super Friends, because why the hell not – The Super Friends #31

September 19, 2014

superfriends31

I’ve made no secret of my trepidation over the upcoming sequel to last year’s Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Indeed, it was the announcement of that bland, lame, focus-grouped-to-death title that spurred me to dash off a brief, frustrated post condemning the same — made me go public, as it were. I liked Man of Steel quite a bit, though I could see its flaws, and was very much looking forward to the follow-up. And then last year, when it was announced that the long-awaited Batman-Superman screen meeting would come in said sequel, I was as ecstatic as anyone else for whom World’s Finest was a comic of choice. But it’s been a never-ending string of underwhelming since then, so much so that the casting of Ben Affleck as the new Caped Crusader has to be considered a highlight. That title. Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor, in it’s-not-inspired-it’s-lazy casting as a Zuckerberg-by-proxy. A scrawny Wonder Woman.

And about that last one — worst of all, Warner Bros. is watering down the Batman/Superman doings by cramming in other characters, in a desperate rush job to catch up with Marvel’s Avengers films. Princess Diana. Cyborg. Aquaman. Flash, if you believe some rumor-monger sites. I fear, and I don’t think I’m out of bounds here, that our comic book bromance for the ages will be consumed with fitting in all these moving parts. Don’t take it out on us that you’ve botched your shared universe up until now, Warner — that’s all I’m saying. Though I’m saying it too late, as if they were ever listening.

Which is a long, drawn out way of getting to the comic before us today. Since we’re getting Super Friends Lite in a year and a half, we might as well sample some of the real thing. And with not just Jayna and Zan as our minor characters du jour, but the Black Orchid to boot. Because, in the spirit of the times, why the hell not?

For those unfamiliar, the Black Orchid in the 1970s was a bit like what Wolverine was a decade or so later — a character of mystery, with a past and origin a blank to the reading audience, rife with false alleyways and red herring clues as to her enigmatic beginnings. She didn’t have amnesia like Logan, though. She was the one keeping everyone guessing, from the kid plunking down his allowance money to the very heroes she occasionally teamed with, almost always disguising herself as a random background character whose true identity — but not the true-true identity — would be discovered at the end. She had a niche back in the day — a small one, but a niche nonetheless.

This tale finds her thrust into the kid-friendly milieu of the Super Friends for the very first time. And just how kid-friendly is it? Well, this issue opens with the grim Dark Knight taking Jayna and Zan, the insufferable Wonder Twins, out for a training run on city rooftops. Incongruous from the get-go. And when a crime is spotted, the Twins spring into action as only they can:

superfriends31a

Yes, a flying squirrel and smog. Someone give Squirrel Girl a call so she can come and straighten this chick out.

Anyway, the whole plot centers around a jewel heist concocted by a fiendish woman masquerading as the Black Orchid, both to further her greed and frame that heroine. We can yadda yadda yadda over most of that, and get right to the closing action, as the Friends, the schemer and the Black Orchid get involved and wind up at the end battling one another, with museum meteorites flying everywhere:

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And the Black Orchid? She’s laid low by a hunk of green kryptonite that’s also supposed to down Superman — and the Black Orchid! So she’s a Kryptonian! But wait — not so fast:

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So it wasn’t really harming her, and she’s not a Kryptonian. She put a force field around it, which somehow blocked the rays and prevented the deadly rays from reaching Superman. But encasing it in the force field somehow affected her. Or didn’t, because she was still spry enough to grab the villainess by the hair and deliver an uppercut to her jaw.

I have never known less about what isn’t going on in a comic book.

After all the shenanigans, Superman and Miss Orchid wind up in space — where they can talk in the cold vacuum, presaging some of the finer moments in Superman IV — where she tosses a little more confusion kindling on the mystery fire:

superfriends31d

A round of Advil for everyone.

It would be a long while before Neil Gaiman got his hands on Black Orchid character and made her a part of DC’s Green, along with figures as famous as Swamp Thing and as famously forgettable as the Floronic Man, and in the process bring some clarity to her long-shrouded past. (And other characters would later take up the mantle.) Here she’s just another cog in the Super Friends wheel, another denizen in an already overpopulated book. Which makes one think she’ll wind up in a certain overpopulated movie that’s coming out in the not too distant future. Because why not? They’re already emptying the rest of the warehouse, right?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 20, 2014 7:24 pm

    “I don’t know…But somehow, its killing Black Orchid.”

    Well…She looks like someone knocked her in the head with a rock… And Supe’s face has a very guilty expression!

  2. October 24, 2014 11:58 am

    Viewing the art from this issue that you’ve posted, I could tell that regular Super Friends artist Ramona Fradon was the penciler. But who did the inks? My guess was Vinnie “The Living Eraser” Colletta. Unfortunately you can pretty easily spot his fine feathery ink line applied with slapdash effort on nearly every job he ever did. So I looked this issue up on the Grand Comic Database and, yep, it’s Colletta…

    http://www.comics.org/issue/34268/

    The regular Super Friends inker Bob Smith was a much better fit for Fradon’s pencils, as well as a better inker in general!

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