Kind of self-explanatory, isn't it?
The title really says it all, doesn’t it?
Oh, but it gets sooo much better, folks. Solson Publications is a now-out of business comics company in the ‘80s that had such stellar titles as Codename: Assassin, Reagan’s Raiders (a comic, of all things, featuring our former president as part of a commando superhero team), Daffy Qadaffi, other various titles, and of course the subject of today’s burning. And while certainly members of the team just for this book are worthy of scorn, the former President of Solson comics, Gary Brodsky, deserves the most.
He is scum.
He is John Norman level of scum. He is the-oppressive-laws-against-women-in-Saudi Arabia-level scum. While it would be one thing to simply approve of this book (cheesecake for the sake of cheesecake exists even in Marvel), but what is the good Mr. Brodsky up to these days? Here is a selection of book titles from his site: How to dominate women, The Castration of the American Male, Dogs are like men, Cats are like women, How to use Black Magic to get women, Get any Woman to do Anything... Are we seeing a pattern here? The man is a misogynistic pile of crap and I don’t feel any shame in calling him that. I’m not going to link to his site, since I sure as hell don’t want people to give this bastard any more attention than my spittle and rage.
There are tenets of feminist philosophy (I’m disassociating with feminism itself here, since the definition of feminism is simply thinking that men and women should be treated equally) that I do not agree with, but man-oh-man it’s comics and individuals like this and him that make me want to.
Moving on away from the scumbag, I’m sad to say I don’t know much about the other individuals involved in this tripe. From what I’ve read, much like Greg Land of today, artist and creator of Sultry Teenage Super Foxes (hereafter to be referred to as STSF) Rich Buckler has a history of tracing behind him, but it’s lesser-known than more recent ones and from what I can tell from the limited research I’ve done, it wasn’t an extensive and common practice for him. Currently he’s doing surreal paintings and selling them from his site. The credits say that the script was by David George, but I can find no proof of this person’s existence so I’ll have to assume it’s a pen name for one of the other individuals involved in this fine work.
The other artist I can find very little about either is Chuck Wojkiewicz, albeit it seems that he has worked for DC before. Scott Nickel is still around, though, and apparently once joked about making a modern version of STSF or even Reagan’s Raiders using the current Republican President.
As for Solson comics itself, it was born out of the late ‘80s in the desire to mimic the success that black-and-white publishers had been having in the recently-budding direct-sales market. As such, this will also be the site’s first black and white comic.
And here we have the cover to Supreme Power #6- erm, I mean to our subject today (although that issue has a strikingly similar cover to this...). Unsurprisingly for the title, we have our heroines all wearing bathing suits of some sort. The woman in blue’s outfit, while looking nice stylistically, is still swim-wear if ever I saw it and does have the problem of really, REALLY huge boots. To make matters more confusing, one heroine isn’t even looking out at us like a group shot should, instead waving towards a jet that is, for some reason, on the cover. The woman in yellow has a boob window, of course, and the woman in green is... hell, I don’t know WHAT to call that outfit. It’s not helping that I can see her nipples poking through, but needless to say I’m just shaking my head here.
And before anyone cries out that these kind of outfits, “distract the enemy,” allow me to point out the fact that any villain worth his money isn’t going to give a rat’s ass if they’re in body armor, much less these outfits – they’re going to be running like hell and shooting back at whoever’s pursuing them because they don’t want to get CAUGHT. They’ll shoot at a superhero whether she’s starkers or fully-covered because they know what’ll happen if they don’t.
We open our story to an Air Force base where four women are waving goodbye to a group of pilots in their jets. The narration captions begin: “July. It means summer heat and clear blue skies here at Rutgers Air Force Base.” Really? I thought it meant giving, not stealing. “To Jasmine, Sheena, Amelia and Candy it means vacation - away from boarding school... and here on base, where their fathers work year round for Uncle Sam. Oh! It also means pilot watching.” Wait, their fathers work as pilots and these girls watch them? If it’s in a ‘oh-my-god-they’re-hot’ fashion, then eew. If any other fashion... well, sorry but that just sounds boring as hell. At least Hal Jordan’s group has interesting crap happen, like the occasional spaceship crashing into them. The narrator continues: “July is spent gazing dreamily at the cream of American manhood.” Okay, don’t EVER say ‘cream’ or ‘manhood’ again, okay? Ugh, I can just feel the oily touch of Gary Brodsky on this crap even if he didn’t write it.
“Today, alas, the girls are watching the pilots leave base on a five day mission. Five days is a long time in July – with no pilots around especially!” Yeah, I can remember back when I was a kid and I just kicked myself in July because there were no pilots around to watch. I mean, what’s not to like, eh? Mid-air refueling, sonic booms that shatter your eardrums... On that subject, five days on a single mission DOES seem like an awful long time to be away. Are they planning on staying up there the whole time or will they actually be stopping at other air force bases?
And already we see the real flaw behind black and white books – while stylistically they can work for something like Maus or something with a hint of color like AntiBunny, in a superhero book (intended mostly for action), it can get really difficult to keep track of which characters are which judging primarily on the hair style.
In any case, Amelia sighs and proclaims she misses one of the guy’s already. Jasmine rolls her eyes at her and says, “That is so high school! And you look like someone just shot your poodle! Play hard to get – for a change.” Nothing like being independent and not requiring a relationship, eh? “I thought we were in high school, Jasmine.” Ah, yes, nothing says high school quite like women who look like they’re in their mid-twenties. Two of the women wave at some mechanics nearby and Jasmine is unimpressed. “And just look at you two! Waving at mere mechanics! My God, they’re enlisted men!” GASP! Oh my God, what’ll the girls in baking class think?!
Jasmine proclaims that she’ll settle for no less than “An officer! A pilot!” Much like the narrator of Thunderstrike, Jasmine seems to have a problem with sentence fragments. One of the mechanics leers at the women and asks how a guy is supposed to work when the women are so distracting. Oh, I don’t know, perhaps by focusing on the task at hand instead of thinking with your other head? An MP stops the women, proclaiming them to be in a restricted area. As they turn to leave, the women wave to the mechanics, one of whom stupidly smacks his buddy across the back of the head as he turns.
The women manage to sneak away from the MP into a hangar and Candy is surprised by a jet that’s covered in tarps (USELESS FORESHADOWING!). The others drag her back along so they can escape and Sheena leads them along like a general. Speaking of which, when they get out of the hangar, somehow her father (a General at the base), is suddenly standing right behind her in a car that anyone could’ve seen coming a mile away. The others remark ‘humorously’: “Yowsa! Yowsa!”[??] “Ha-Ha! Sheena, you sound just like your father!” “Yeah, Sheena, and umm... Speaking of your father...” The narrator informs us quite casually, “Oh, well. Looks like they’re out of the frying pan...” Oh, those crazy wimmins – what sorta trouble will they get into next! Hahahaha- someone please kill me.
Sheena’s father reads her the riot act while the other women snicker. When he’s finished, Sheena makes a ‘sad puppy-eyes’ face at him and says, “I’m awful sorry, daddy. I was just showing the girls around. I didn’t want to be any trouble...” Yes, ladies, when men aren’t lusting after you, you should use your soft, submissive faces to try to calm those raging guys down! What’s particularly stupid about this panel is that the word balloon she’s using is dripping down like she was saying something scary, so any effect for ‘cute’ they were trying to go for is lost. The General isn’t buying her sad face, but instead of rightfully carting the women down to a less-restricted zone and punished for trespassing, he instructs her to guide his new aide, Barry, around the base. Barry is a dorky guy with glasses whose first panel appearance has him bonking his head against a car roof. The women all think about what a nerd or geek he looks like, except for one who has the image of a number two pencil for the guy’s head, which I presume is the artist’s way of drawing ‘pencil-neck,’ even though it would’ve just been simpler to write the words out.
The narrator informs us in a new establishing shot that the unimpressive building before them is, “The Air Force Advanced Aerial Combat Training Center – the most advanced facility of its kind on Earth! “C.T.C.” for short.” Um... shouldn’t that be AFAACTC if that was really its full name? Barry says he’d better get used to living in the area since he’s working on Project Valkyrie. When they ask him about it, Barry informs them on what Project Valkyrie is: “It’s a plan to give women advanced aerial training – in case the country should ever need female pilots.” Well, that makes sense, I suppose, given that-
Wait, WHAT THE FUCK?! I have made it my deliberate goal to ensure I don’t swear a lot in these reviews, but seriously, that statement deserves a complete Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot. There already are female pilots, you jackasses! And what the hell is it about women that prevents them from being perfectly acceptable as pilots in cases other than emergencies?! I’m sure Grace Trout, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Lilya Litvyak, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton can rest easy knowing how much their work is appreciated today.
Admittedly (after doing a little research), while there were female air force pilots at the time this comic was made, female aviators were not allowed to fly in actual combat. They did anyway (and participated in Panama, Grenada, and Desert Storm), but combat records excluded them. In 1993, this law was repealed and women were rightfully allowed to fly combat missions. However, the wording of the dialogue above makes it sound like there aren’t any female pilots at all and that they’d only need them in an emergency!
As Barry is shown around the building (and I must ask why civilians are showing him around), one of the women reveals for no explicable reason that Jasmine’s got a photographic memory (USEFUL FORESHADOWING!). The women play around with him, taking his I.D. badge and clip it to the back of his jacket. They get away by proclaiming, “Oh, gee! Look at the time! We gotta go and, uh... do our homework!” Barry protests that it’s July and Candy responds, “Well, we’re sorta(sic) slow. We need a real heard-start!” Tee-hee! It’s like they’re smart but they’re not! Tee-hee! ...somebody PLEASE KILL ME. Barry takes off his glasses and, shockingly, he’s a dead ringer for the recently-deceased Maxwell Lord from DC comics.
Cut to “New Orleans, Louisiana. July 14.” My name’s Friday – I’m a cop. The narrator pipes in about the sweltering heat of the city and that some sections have less tourist attractions than others, showing a street that features signs like, “Topless & Bottomless,” (A rather fitting description of this comic...) “French Style Entertainment,” (Jerry Lewis? This IS a backwater place...) and “Discoteque(sic) Upstairs.” Wow, who knew Discotheques were such a hotbed of drugs and prostitution? We switch to a sign that reads “Madame Rotunda (oh, that’s subtle)” and inside there’s a woman with the standard trappings of a palm reader’s house – crystal balls, candles on skulls, and incense. Madame Rotunda herself is practicing magic while wearing a ridiculous skull helmet on her head.
And it seems my sentiments are the same as her’s, because as we flip the page she thinks, “This ridiculous headdress is about to kill me! And the heat! None of this is working... I should- No! I mustn’t! I must not give up! For the sake of my baby, my sweet Audrey, I must not give up!” The narrator exposits that Rotunda’s daughter died two years ago and now she’s seeking a way to summon the dead. She finally managed to “pierce the veil” and her spirit rises to... well, I’m really not sure. Another problem of black and white comics is that it’s hard to tell what it is we’re looking at in more detailed settings. What I can see is a weird building with a cross-symbol at its top and a bonfire going on in a lake. Rotunda realizes that something has gone wrong and something explodes out of the building. It appears in the visage of a flaming skull as the narrator explains, “The freed thing bridges the intervening gulfs of inner and outer space[??], following the silver thread of Madame’s Spirit... to New Orleans. To Madame (is her first name Madame or something?). Home.” And for some reason that just baffles the mind, the narrator then asks, “Mommy, it followed me home. Can I keep it? [?!?!]”
As Rotunda tries to fight the demon in her head, the demon proclaims that it can give her anything she wants, including vengeance. After she agrees to this, Rotunda transforms into a skinny, hawt version of herself with odd barbed boots, arm warmers, bra, and panties. Oh, and the panties have a cape running down the backside ala the Princess Leia gold bikini. Since she had to take off her robes in order to reveal this ensemble, I can only presume she was wearing this outfit before she was attacked by the demon, so eeewww on so many levels. To add to this wonderful imagery of turning a woman into a sex object is this wonderfully subtle dialogue from the narrator: “The invader wins dominance. Free at last, after so long. Let the universe tremble again.”
Cut back to the Air Force base. The narrator informs us that this is the lab of Dr. Francis Hobble and where the General and Barry are now wanting to see a demonstration of his work. The sample that they’re using is- ugh. It’s four ounces of dog feces. Folks, I don’t know what is more disgusting – the sexism or the attempts at humor. The doctor gives them goggles (“The goggles, they do nothing!” joke in 5...4...3...) and the narrator informs us, “Switches are thrown... and beams of dazzling brilliance lance down onto the sample...” I was unaware that dazzling brilliance had been harnessed into an energy form. “...Bathing it in Eldritch fire[??]... Altering it at the fundamental level!”
Barry is shocked to discover that the dog feces have become gold[!!!]! Barry speculates that it must require lots of power, to which Dr. Hobble affirms, “When we operate the device, every light is dimmed by the power drain[!!!]!” WHAT?! An alchemy device, something that alters dog turds into friggin’ gold, something that changes the atomic structure of one completely different item into another only drains enough power to dim some lights?!?! It gets better, folks.
We get a cost breakdown for the machine, that the apparatus itself cost “millions” and that converting the sample cost around $65,000. “It’s not a cost-effective source for gold, of course, but the theoretical ramifications are enormous!” Not cost-effective?! Once you HAVE the machine, getting the back pay for it is simple once you make gold of equal value! And where does the cost of actually converting the material come from?! Is it the power drain?! Now, I’m not a scientist, but it seems to me that if you hooked it up something that produced an awful lot of energy, say a nuclear power planet or a geothermal plant, the power cost would be minimal at best! Now, there is an economics problem of making more gold and thereby flooding the market with it, but a device of this power has other uses.
Even if garbage itself is not a big issue in the United States thanks to the fact that landfills are plowed over and converted into methane power plants, wasteful material like feces, polluted water, or chemical byproducts of other industrial manufacturing could be converted into whatever materials you need at any moment and subsequently sold to anyone who needed them! And what does Barry have to say about such possibilities? “No way they’ll fund it this year[!!]. It’s just too theoretical[!!!].” Too theoretical?! They made friggin’ dog poop into GOLD!
Jasmine comes in, apparently the daughter of Dr. Hobble. He vents that his grant for the alchemy machine won’t get renewed. He talks about the possibilities of such a machine: “I mean, consider the transmutation of living tissue! Men into supermen! The power of creation could be in our grasp!” We could even turn a manwich into a meal! Oh, and by the way, that “power of creation” doesn’t make you sound megalomaniacal. Nope. Not one bit. Jasmine tries to reassure him that everything will work out while at the same time thinking, “This gives me an idea!” Why do I get the feeling this idea involves costumes that make no sense and sultry looks at readers?
Back in New Orleans, we have a full page of narration talking about homeless people that Rotunda (“Or whatever is now calling herself by that name” as the narrator says) is picking up the homeless and prostitutes to be possessed by other demons. Naturally, these new women are also wearing ‘80s bikerwear and supervillain outfits as Rotunda teaches them to read. One of them has a Bizarro moment as she proclaims, “It are simple! I are figure in wordglyphs already! Me is ready to go out!” Woman = dumb, apparently, otherwise why wouldn’t these demons already have knowledge of speech and reading like the spirit who possessed Madame Rotunda?
Rotunda sells all of her possessions in order to obtain all the materials she needs, including a computer (and making me sigh in nostalgia for the old days of Vic 20s and Commodore 64s. Ah, the good old days...) which she uses to gain access to Project Valkyrie. The password for project Valkyrie? Valhalla. You know, that ‘military intelligence’ oxymoron is looking more bleak every day...
Back at the Air Force base again, the women are sneaking around and go into a storage closet using Jasmine’s father’s I.D. card. Barry tries to follow them, but the door shuts and locks before he can reach it. Jasmine explains to the others about the transmutation device, and now I can only recognize three of the women because they’ve changed their hair styles. And the only one I can recognize is because she’s the only one with black hair. They identify themselves through their dialogue to one another and Amelia expresses concern about the prospect of using the device to transmute themselves into superbeings. Jasmine replies, “Oh, Amelia, don’t be such a wet blanket! This is my big chance to become a superior being, and you are not going to ruin it for me!” Jeez, I can’t tell if this is unintentional misogyny for implying that women need devices to make them into equals/superior to men or just Nazism for implying a superior being at all.
Sheena pipes up with this gem of wisdom: “It occurs to me, ladies, that a superior being would stand an awfully good chance of getting a date with a pilot!” Yes, because God forbid these unnamed pilots might want to date you for your personalities. Oh, wait, you don’t have any. You’re just dolls meant for the enjoyment of men who only care about scoring dates with me. I remember now. I’m serious, someone knock me out or something. Outside, Barry struggles to get the control panel for the door off so he can break in, rewiring it.
Jasmine explains that “Jack” (whoever the hell that might be) showed her how to use the device (FORESHADOWING JUSTIFIED!). Okay, that might explain how it’ll turn you into gold, but how in the heck do you know how to turn yourself into a superpowered being? The others pressure Amelia into getting onto the platform with them and one of them gives this bit of sage advice: “Come on, Amelia! Do you want to sleep alone for the rest of your life?” AGH, THE SEXISM! The goggles, they do nothing! See? Told you it was coming up.
Amelia thinks for a moment that it’s likely to toast them, but since they’re her friends, she’s got to stick by them (yeah, because it’s okay to give into peer pressure when it’s your friends). “Okay, I’m coming... but if this kills us, Jasmine, so help me, I’ll kill you!” Hahahaha, oh, my sides are splitting! Oh, wait, that’s actually my wrist. I’m trying to cut myself on the pages.
Barry manages to get in, but it’s too late. The device activates and all the electronic devices in the area start to short out and explode. The roof explodes and the four women ascend as Barry beholds a woman standing over them with yin-yang symbols all over her. Barry looks up in shock and thinks, “What was that thing I saw standing over it all? It looked like a woman, but... fifty feet tall!?” Quick, someone call Allison Hayes!
On the next page, we reveal the women in all of their new outfits (two of which sport huge boob windows, one a glorified bathing suit (as mentioned above), and the other with multiple holes going down the center). The narrator explains that, “The warm night breeze breathes its approval over them. They are gifted with a bond that reaches in and grasps their hearts. Tonight, they have been made into earth’s avatars.” Jeez, and now I want Aang to show up and slap the writers around for this trash...
The narrator continues: “The planet, from its core to the ozone – is alive, and it smiles on them, for it is theirs and they belong to it!” So, wait, the women belong to the Earth, or the Earth to the women? I’m confused. And hungry. The narrator explains the new powers of each of the women:
“Sheena is gifted with incredible strength, drawn from contact with the mother planet. While she touches the Earth, her blood and body sing with power!” As long as she’s not singing like Yani, I’ll be happy.
“Amelia is joined to the water. Joyfully, it comes to her call – eager to caress – or to strike!” Ah, sexy, sexy violence. Joy. “The waters of the world are hers to shape as she will. They cry out for her touch.” And I’m crying out for an end to this crap.
“Jasmine is now the bride of fire.” Because, you know, women can’t be independent, they have to be brides of something. “Her body is a channel for the power and heat locked inside the Earth. Sweltering, locked away from the light...it seeks release through her!” Jeez, how many double entendres can they fit into a single comic?
“Candy rides the winds tonight. They wrap around her soaring form, at once like silks, like a powerful steed, like a lover’s touch (THREE sexual images in one sentence. I don’t drink, but man do I need a beer). From the frigid winds that whip around mountain peaks, to the slow smoke-laden air that roils through dimly lit city hollows to the air scirocco that rides the desert dunes... She knows them all now. They call to her: “Come. Ride. Soar.” She nods and smiles and promises: “Later.” Then she hastens back to the scene and her friends.” You know, suddenly a walking stick that turns a guy into Thor isn’t such a bad idea, after all.
Barry makes himself scarce as the women practice their new abilities, setting down to talk for a minute. And what do the ladies want to do with their newfound abilities, powers, and responsibilities the likes of which no person on Earth has ever seen before? Why, get men, of course. “I say we meet those hotshots tomorrow right as they land – then wham! Show our stuff!” You could’ve done that just by NOT getting superpowers and lifting your tops.
The next day, the General is understandably peeved about all the damage to the lab. And what does Barry have to say on the matter? “I had no idea that what we are doing would be of interest to saboteurs.” Guys, it’s a machine that can turn anything into something else. Did you really think that this wouldn’t be the least bit enticing to thieves, spies, terrorists, etc.?! The eponymous Jack mentioned earlier says that most of the damage was superficial and that nothing was wrecked permanently. Dr. Hobble worries that they won’t be able to repair any of the damage without funding, but Barry states that now that the Russians are interested in it, that they’ll get more funding. He does say that it’s unlikely that the Russians themselves did it (but that doesn’t prevent you from lying about it...) because they would’ve taken information and destroyed the lab more efficiently. Because Soviet operations in the late ‘80s were going soooo well.
Barry requests to be in charge of investigating and informs the General that Project Valkyrie will be landing shortly. Wait, I thought we only gave them womenfolk jobs in an emergency! The STSF wait outside as the pilots land, ready to reveal their new abilities, but then Project Valkyrie lands and the female pilots all leave the plane and, of course, immediately hook up with the male pilots, much to the chagrin of the STSF. The ladies all grumble about this development as Major Burns, the female commander of Project Valkyrie, reports for duty to the General. And had this been a porn comic, I’m sure we’d see a bulge coming from the General’s pants right now as he grins stupidly and says to her, “Welcome to Rutgers. And please, call me “Hal”!”
Ha-ha! Oh, men ogling women is funny! And women only talk about men when they’re in groups! Yeah, part of me is laughing – the part of me that likes to blow stuff up in first-person shooters. Anyway, that’s the end of the comic, with a blurb for next issue that raises these thought-provoking questions: “What are the sinister plans of Madame Rotunda? Who are the Vampires of Venus[??]? How can I join[???]? What will Candy, Jasmine, Amelia, and Sheena do?” And who are the Overlords of the UFO?!
And just to cap off the stupidity, there’s an ad on the next page for this very comic, with a picture of the jackass Gary Brodsky proclaiming, “From the comics company that dares to have a personality!” Yeah, and that personality is one that thinks women are objects to be owned and dominated and that their only thoughts are for getting dates.
If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go watch some Buffy.