Don’t forget – SPOILERS!

I’ve whined lamented before about comic book covers that are drawn as a literal representation of the interior story’s plot. 9 out of 10 times I’ll buy it hoping that what appears on the cover actually happens inside, and find myself disappointed and frustrated.

For the most part Supergirl #4 doesn’t buck that trend. You won’t see Krypton’s daughter anywhere in the comic looking anything like she does on the cover.

However, this time it wasn’t the main picture on the cover that really got my interest piqued. Supergirl #4‘s front mentions one other item to be found inside, something which did actually meet my expectations.

The cover to my copy of SUPERGIRL #4 (1973)

The cover to my copy of SUPERGIRL #4 (1973)

So, let’s get this Supergirl story entitled “The Borrowed Brain!” out of the way.

Supergirl, as alter-ego Linda Danvers, is enjoying a pool party with her roommates. All the co-eds are wearing bikinis, so what the story lacks in implied metafeminine representation it does make up for in other ways.

While enjoying the pool Linda meets a man named David, and the two develop a deep friendship in only an hour or two. Their “easy talk” is interrupted by an earthquake, the cause of which Linda determines (via x-ray vision) to be “a major flare-up of the San Andreas Fault” ten miles away. She excuses herself from David and changes into her Supergirl outfit, flying off to deal with the source of the quake.

After she leaves David sneaks off to deliver blueprints to a couple goons whom he has employed to rob banks using his never-fail plans. In order to keep suspicion off of himself – even though he never goes on the actual heists so even if he was a fishmonger he wouldn’t be a suspect unless his buddies squealed on him – David poses as an all-American college graduate.

Because no college graduate had ever robbed anyone, even in the ’70s…

Anyway, after his goons leave David heads back to the party. There he sees Linda’s roommate Terry about to dive into the pool. What he sees – but she doesn’t – is that the earthquake has cracked the bottom of the pool and raised up a large chunk of cement. Thinking that saving the girl’s life will bolster his good-boy image David jumps in and deflects her from hitting the slab – but our criminal wunderkind cracks his head into it instead.

Of course why, during all this time, there hasn’t been any water rushing out of this giant hole at the bottom of the pool I couldn’t say.

Supergirl comes back from fixing the San Andreas Fault to discover David’s comatose body being pulled from the pool. She rushes him to the hospital, and the next morning she’s informed that his brain damage is so severe David will never recover and “waste away a mindless vegetable!”

Unwilling to accept that outcome for her new romantic interest Supergirl turns to Kandorian science, extracting her own braincells and implanting them in David’s brain in order to stimulate a repair. A day later David has recovered to the point that he has left the hospital and managed to get Linda to admit she has deep feelings for him.

David is playing her though, using her as yet another part of his totally necessary “legit student” cover, and midway through their outing abandons Linda to run off to an “appointment.” He’s actually going to change into his new super-villain outfit (somehow created between leaving the hospital and meeting up with Linda), dub himself “Super-Scavenger” (congrats, Paste-Pot Pete, there’s a guy with a worse villain name than yours), and go rob his own goons who have decided to start using his pre-existing plans without him (even though we know he only gave them one blueprint the last time he met up with them).

David beats the crap out of his former cohorts and then flies off with the money. Drawn to the robbery, Supergirl is at first bested by the new villain as they scuffle in the air. She then realizes that Super-Scavenger is David because he’s wearing the same watch.

God, is he dumb. I haven’t even bothered pointing out all the stupid parts of his plan. I mean, even if the robbers don’t know David is the one who beat them up, when captured what’s to stop them from turning him in to shave some jail time off their sentences? I mean, has any of this been thought through?

Sorry, I just needed to vent that.

Anyway, Supergirl also realizes his powers are only temporary, and on cue he plummets from the sky. Torn for a moment about saving him, Supergirl swoops in at the last second. David tries to convince Supergirl to fly away with him since he already has part of her inside him (yeah, it comes across about as creepy as that sounds), but she delivers him to the police despite his earnest proposal.

The next Friday night Linda’s roommates invite her to the local Go-Go Disco to check out “a lot of groovy guys” but Linda declines, saying she’s not ready to meet someone just yet.

And thus ends the story.

Strangely, the issue’s magic-based back-up story – Zatanna the Magician in “The Rock of Revenge!” – has more logic to it than the science-based Supergirl tale!

This short tale starts with Zatanna walking through a park and finding a magical prank has been played on a picnicking family. Undoing the prank she moves on to search for the spell’s caster, and comes across a large stone with what looks to be Excalibur stuck in it. Acknowledging that her curiosity has gotten the better of her caution, Zatanna reaches out and grabs the sword.

In a flash the young sorceress finds herself encased in the stone up to her hips!

Trying to pry herself loose, Zatanna is approached by villain Merba the Sorcerer! As a descendant of Merlin the Magician, Merba was able to bring the Bewitching Rock to the park and lay it as a trap for Zatanna (he wasn’t a fan of her disrupting his pranks). He explains that Merlin’s magic is more powerful than any other on the planet, and that Zatanna will be stuck in the stone as a “living sword” forever. He then teleports away.

Zatanna makes a few attempts to free herself from the stone, but none are successful. After thinking a bit about what Merba said she makes a realization, and sends her “astral spirit-form” out to find the last living descendant of King Arthur – who would be able to pull her free as his ancestor freed the sword.

It is revealed that the last living descendant is a small boy that Zatanna literally abducts. Her spirit-form holds up the boy while he pulls her out of the stone by her hair. She then returns the child and celebrates his birthday with the family, figuring her revenge against Merba can wait.

Metafeminine/Transformation moments;

  • Cover – Supergirl’s face and upper torso is split, one side being her womanly self and the other a silver metal form. Up from the side of the page appears a caveman-like hand with scraggly fingernails which is implied to be hers. While “Super-Scavenger” wears a similar helmet inside, Supergirl herself never transforms, and I have no idea what the hand refers to.
  • Page 26 – Zatanna becomes stuck in the Bewitching Stone. She’s wearing her classic stage-magician outfit, and the stone has engulfed her just up to the hips. Her hands are free, and she makes various attempts to get herself out. She’s visible stuck in the stone on Pages 26 (panels 1, 4, 5), 27 (p 1, 3, 4), 29 (p 1, 3), 30 (p 2), and is pulled from the stone in panel 3 of Page 30.
  • Page 29 – Zatanna separates her “astral spirit-form” from herself and sends it out in search of help. This ghost-like doppelganger of Z is visible on Pages 29 (panels 3, 4, 5), 30 (p 2, 3) and merges back with her freed fleshy form in Panel 4 of Page 30.

THE FINAL VERDICT: While I was disappointed by the Supergirl story, Supergirl #4‘s Zatanna back-up is quite entertaining and fairly smart. Stuck and/or Encasement fans should get a kick out of our sexy magician’s story, but unless you really want to see Supergirl and her roommates running around in bikinis there’s not much else redeeming about the cover story.

Something I found interesting in both stories is that there are panels which stop the action and ask the reader if they can guess why a character is acting different, or if they know the plan that has been concocted. It’s a very PBS-kids feeling sort of thing that I wasn’t expecting in a 1970s comic book. It caught me completely off guard, but in a good way.

Anyway, getting back to the actual stories, there’s not much attempt at logic in “The Borrowed Brain! – it really feels like someone came up with the idea of “make Linda Danvers fall in love with a secret criminal and accidentally give him her powers” and then worked backwards from that to come up with the cockamamie series of events that led to it. Sadly, the idea itself could have lead to an interesting story if so many pages hadn’t been used up getting David his powers.

I won’t lie, when I first read Supergirl’s story the only problem of logic I found was why the pool hadn’t been losing water or gotten muddy. It was only when I reread everything for the review that I realized David’s whole “all-American student” plan was pretty dumb – no matter how innocent you look, if three thieves all accuse you of masterminding their plans and turn over evidence the cops aren’t going to just laugh it off!

Seriously, and I mean this in the most respectful way possible, the only good thing about “The Borrowed Brain!” is how often the artists put women in bikinis. On top of that, Supergirl’s outfit amounts to little more than a shirt and panties, and almost every opportunity to face her ass towards the reader has been used to its full potential. I’m not sure whether to consider the artists or at the Comics Code Authority more of the horn-dog in this situation.

The Zatanna back-up is really what made this purchase worth it for me, but you’ll have to judge how much a 6 page short is worth to you. Zatanna is portrayed as smart and brave, never letting herself give up despite what looks to be a losing hand. The fact that she can’t punch her way through everything and she is a superhero because she has to rely on her brain to think up the spells makes made her one of my favorite DC heroes, one who I think would have been a great role model. Beyond the whole stuck-in-a-rock thing, Zatanna’s brilliance is what really makes me love this story.

Now if only Supergirl used her braincells instead of plucking them out of her head maybe we would have had a better story…