Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Wyatt Wingfoot and Supergirl kick butt in the Silver Age

I don’t think anyone reading this really needs me to recommend Fantastic Four #51. The debut of the Black Panther is a dynamic story, introduces a landmark character and I can even forgive that it’s yet another hero vs. hero yarn (“I must test myself before I attack Klaw — why not pick a fight with the Fantastic Four? Yes, that makes sense.”). But I did want to highlight one detail, how Stan Lee and Jack Kirby bring Wyatt Wingfoot into the FF’s adventures.

As I mentioned in a previous Rereading the Silver Age post,  Johnny meets Wyatt when he starts attending college. Wyatt is the son of a legendary athlete and built big enough to be an entire offensive line by himself; however he has zero interest in sports. While the plotline of the college football coach forcing Wyatt to play never went anywhere, Lee and Kirby must have liked Wyatt as a supporting character. This issue has nothing to do with college life but he’s along anyway, accompanying the Fantastic Four on a trip to some African country called Wakanda. What looks like a stereotypical African setting — lots of jungle, villages of simple huts — turns out to be cover for a high-tech base. It’s there that the Black Panther reveals his reason for the visit —To ensure he can take the Fantastic Four down, the base is riddled with traps. Ben’s immediate response is to start smashing his way out, at which point Wyatt steps in.Other than the cliche about his ancestry, I like that scene. It establishes Wyatt has both the brains and the nerve to hang with the team but without making him look more awesome than the established cast. He turns the tide but it’s not because he’s tougher or more awesome than the FF, simply that T’Challa didn’t plan for a fifth wheel, let alone one who’d fight using stealth rather than raw power. A small thing, but it adds to the story.

Action Comics #338’s backup story, “The Villain Who Married Supergirl” (Jerry Siegel script, Jim Mooney art) demonstrates Supergirl can play hardball when the occasion calls for it. It shouldn’t work because Supergirl’s stories consistently show her as a nice girl, someone who doesn’t get ruthless even against the worst of the worst. But when it’s the man who destroyed Krypton it seems the rules change.

(Oh, and if you’re curious about the cover story, it’s reprinted here).

While performing at a charity event, Supergirl meets the alien Raspor. He is, to put it mildy, an arrogant jerk.Not only that, he’s responsible for the destruction of Krypton!I will pause here and note that editor Mort Weisinger, as you may know, tracked sales assiduously; if a cover gimmick or a plot twist seemed to boost sales, he’d reuse it regularly, assuming the readership constantly turned over. The Legion of Superheroes becoming babies was one example. I can think of at least one other super-villain Supergirl almost married in the Silver Age, plus two cases where Superman confronted someone who claimed personal responsibility for Krypton going boom (in Superman #205 it was a retcon, though one subsequent writers and editors tossed out).

That said, let’s return to the story: despite overhearing this confession, Supergirl confesses to Raspor he’s so charismatic, so much more handsome and charming than any man she’s ever met, that she can’t resist him — let’s get married (I think even as a kid I might have smelled a rat)! They do, but much to Raspor’s outrage Supergirl insists on flying off on patrol over his objections. Then he learns being a stay-at-home husband is the least of his problems.It gets twistier from there.It’s an atypical Supergirl tale for the era but I really enjoyed it.

#SFWApro. Marvel art by Kirby, Action cover by Curt Swan, interior art by Jim Mooney.

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