The devil you say.

§ July 3rd, 2024 § Filed under byrne reboot, superman § 13 Comments

Time to continue my look at the next-to-last issues of the Superman books…of course, after Action #582 and Superman #422, the final issues before Alan Moore’s conclusions those series. After the main ongoings, there’s not a whole lot left, but there is the team-up title DC Comics Presents.

Written by Blue Devil’s cocreators Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn, and illustrated by an art team I’ve never seen in the combinatinon before: Joe Staton on pencils, Kurt Schaffenberger inking. The results do look nice:

.Also a nice touch is Superman just calling Blue Devil by his real name, Dan, which he does a couple of times through the book. It’s a friendly expression of the position the two hold in relation to each other, with Superman as the experienced pro and Blue Devil as the starry-eyed newbie.

The villain of the piece is Terra-Man:

…one of Superman’s somewhat…sillier members of his rogues gallery, who…well, I’ll let the comic explain:

I mean, I suppose when you get right down to it, “Space Cowboy” is no goofier than “Evil Toymaker” or “Magical Imp” as adversaries. But with his flying horse and his ray-gun six shooters and other Old West-themed sci-fi tech, he at least makes for a visially interesting bad guy.

And this is his last appearance, at least in this form. “Space Cowboy” doesn’t make the transition into the post-Byrne reboot milieu, with the new Terra-Man being a businessman using magical abilities with the goal of protecting the environment. Which sounds noble an’ all, but of course his methods run afoul of Supes and, well, it’s not quite as fun and silly as the classic version. Especially since the new Terra-Man is just straight up murdered by Black Adam, which isn’t fun at all and let’s get back to this story.

Anyway, Terra-Man has some scheme to divert a space train (which looks just like a regular terrestrial train, but it flies, because why not) to Earth to rob it, and there are lots of robots and space menaces and such that divide Blue Devil and Superman’s attention, and it’s all colorful and entertaining. Of note is this particular shot, when Blue Devil is on Terra-Man’s horse right behind him:

That’s a good pic, I think.

Everything works out in the end, natch, with Superman slightly uncharacteristically holding Terra-Man up so that ol’ BD can deliver a punch to his puss:

Now this was just an entertaining team-up, bringing together one of DC’s primary heroes with one of the publisher’s newest characters. There’s no real sense of…well, “import” isn’t quite the word I’m looking for, and “foreboding” carries a connotation that’s not really appropriate. Like the previous two stories I’ve discussed, there’s no sense of “well, this it is, this is the last time you’ll see Superman and his supporting cast in this form,” even though it is.

However, the last panel does end on this note:

“Riding off into the sunset” of course plays into the Old West-iness of it all given Terra-Man’s involvement, but in retrospect it’s hard to not read that as the Very Idea of What Superman Is at This Moment riding off as well.

The next, and last, issue is Steve Gerber and Rick Veitch’s conclusion to one specific section of the Superman legend, as they address the Phantom Zone in a sequel to Gerber and Gene Colan’s Phantom Zone mini from a few years prior. It’s a much more grim and nightmarish scenario than the wacky Blue Devil adventure, and seems to be the forgotten “Final Pre-Byrne Superman Story” as the focus is usually entirely on the Alan Moore/Curt Swan “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” two-parter.

It’s a good comic, but very dark in tone, so it’s probably only proper that Superman had that one last wild team-up with Blue Devil before closing the doors and putting up the chairs and making room for the new regime.

13 Responses to “The devil you say.”

  • RAR says:

    DC seemed to really WANT Terra-Man to be considered a major villain. In his debut, SUPERMAN #249, he was featured in two stories–the initial battle with Superman, and a separate origin story. The origin was inked by Neal Adams, no less, at a time when his comics work (apart from covers) was becoming increasingly infrequent, and generally was reserved for things regarded as a big deal–though I suppose this could simply have been a case of him needing some quick cash.

  • Jon H says:

    The world cries out for a Terra-Man / Turner D Century supervillain team-up.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I think Schaffenberger inking Staton is a nice combo; it takes a bit of the cartoony edge off of Staton’s pencils and makes me think that a Staton/Schaffenberger team could have been a good choice to illustrate Captain Marvel/Shazam stories.

  • Snark Shark says:

    ““Space Cowboy” is no goofier than “Evil Toymaker” or “Magical Imp” as adversaries.”

    Some people call ME a Space Cowboy.

    “a space train”.

    Even more popular than the Peace Train!

    BUT SERIOUSLY Terra Man was lame.
    That is some VERY nice art, though.

  • Aaron says:

    Terra-Man! So inherently goofy that the LSH animated redesign looked significantly better to me than both the original and the post-Crisis versions.

  • Chris K says:

    I believe that Blue Devil’s own book was also winding down at this point, so this issue is kind of an end-of-an-era in that way as well.

    Blue Devil isn’t much discussed today, but at the time it kind of embodied DC’s “we’ll try anything!” spirit in the 2-3 years up until Crisis. (See also: Amethyst, Mazing Man… even Spanner’s Galaxy… which I enjoyed)

    DC’s celebrated post-Crisis successes were largely good, but always seemed to me like they were trying to replicate Marvel.

    Reportedly, DC was planning to revamp Blue Devil into a “darker, more serious” direction, but decided to just pull the plug on it instead. For the best, IMO.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    I enjoyed reading the Blue Devil comic back in the day. Paris Cullin’s art was dynamic and Mishkin and Cohn’s scripts were fun.

  • Thom H. says:

    I remember liking Blue Devil back in the day. I bought his book for a little while, but it never really delivered on the promise of figuring out how to get that suit off him. Maybe I wanted more of a back-and-forth transformation like The Thing?

    It seems like BD’s place in the DC universe has been taken by Booster Gold at this point. Slightly goofy B-list hero with low-level tech powers is more a Booster Gold/Blue Beetle schtick these days.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    Booster Gold –DC’s cheesiest superhero…

  • Snark Shark says:

    “Spanner’s Galaxy”

    I LOVE Spanner’s Galaxy!

  • Thom H. says:

    I’m not very familiar with this era of Superman since I jumped on with the Byrne reboot and retroactively filled in some gaps. So I thought *Vartox* was called “Terra-Man” and didn’t realize this space cowboy guy existed until I read this blog post.

    Just as an aside: I couldn’t think of Vartox’s name, and man is it difficult to find him online any other way. That took a lot longer than I expected.

    Anyway, how cool would it have been if Blue Devil had been a member of the Giffen/DeMatteis Justice League?

  • Pedro de Pacas says:

    I always thought Blue Devil was a decent name and design, but once you realize he’s just a stuntman trapped in a costume, I think any intrigue goes out the window. Seems like a rather incongruous mish-mash of concepts.

  • Sean Mageean says:

    We need a Blue Devil/Daredevil/Hot Stuff the Little Devil crossover story…”Crisis on Earth Harvey.” It could also feature Phantom Lady/Ghost Rider/Casper the Friendly Ghost; Enchantress/Scarlet Witch/Wendy the Good Witch; Bruce Wayne/Tony Stark/Richie Rich; Atom Smasher/Giant-Man/Stumbo the Giant; Polka Dot Man/The Spot/Little Dot; Woozy Winks/Foggy Nelson/Little Lotta; The Joker/The Jester/Jackie Jokers; and Hawkman/Howard the Duck/Baby Huey.

    Written by Steve Englehart and drawn by Jerry Ordway.

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