Monday, September 8, 2014

Action Plus: ACTION COMICS #434

In the early 1970s, Green Arrow joined the "Action Plus" feature of Action Comics.  Black Canary made numerous guest appearances in her boyfriend's strip, sometimes in her costumed identity, and sometimes as civilian florist, Dinah Lance.

Action Comics #434 is cover dated April 1974 and hit the shelves on January 31, according to Mike's Amazing World of DC Comics.  The lead Superman story is written by Cary Bates with art by Curt Swan and Vince Colletta and a cover by Nick Cardy.

The Green Arrow strip entitled "Zatanna's Double-Identity" is written by Elliot S. Maggin with art by Dick Dillin and Frank McLaughlin.  The story opens with Green Arrow recounting the most recent frustration in his terribly burdensome life.

Dinah Lance is hella pissed that her Justice League teammate, Zatanna, is locking lips with Oliver Queen, Dinah's boyfriend.  But what pisses her off even more is how Zatanna acts like she is Ollie's lover and Dinah is a total stranger.  Dinah storms off letting Ollie sort out the situation.  Maggin makes a point of referencing Dinah's judo mastery; she leaves to maintain discipline over her mind and body.

Ollie assumes that Zatanna has been the victim of some kind of magic spell that screwed wit her memory and perceptions, but instead of concocting a practical way of solving that problem, he takes Zatanna with him to the public demonstration of a bank's new super security system.

There's some not-too-sublte jab at the anti-Communist witch hunts in Washington, D.C. before a pair of armed robbers bust in and try to rob the place.  Ollie changes into his Green Arrow costume and he and Zatanna spring into action.

Except, as Green Arrow notices, Zatanna isn't fighting the way she normally would.  She's fighting the way Black Canary does!

Zatanna slowly comes to her senses and remembers her own identity and powers.  She changes the robber from a wolf back into his human form.  That's lucky for him, because remaining in animal form for too long could be disastrous and permanent, as Zatanna explained to Black Canary in the Bloodspell graphic novel.

Back at Ollie's office, Zatanna reveals what happened to make her behave so strangely.

Ollie is relieved that Zatanna's attraction to him was all part of an accidental spell, or so he would think.  Zatanna doesn't want Ollie thinking it was entirely an accident and she pulls him in for another kiss before she leaves.

Green Arrow slumps into his chair to dwell on this latest revelation.  That's when Dinah--who had left to calm down, if you remember--comes back dressed as Black Canary and kicks Ollie's door down!

First, how awesome is Nick Cardy's cover to this issue!  Forget Kryptonite, Superman's real weakness is the threat of tooth decay!!!  As for this story, like oh-so many Silver and Bronze Age adventures, it was silly and somewhat nonsensical but so much damn fun.

Zatanna looks great in her classic stage magician costume, so much better than either of the costumes she would wear as a member of the Justice League of America in the late '70s and early '80s.  Dinah, too, looks sexy as always regardless of what outfit and hair she's sporting.  I'm not always a fan of Dick Dillin's work, but I have no real complaints about it in this story.

Even though Dinah is shunted off to the side for this story and only appears as Black Canary after the action is over, she does have an unexpectedly large role in this story.  It's flattering, as a fan of the character and her physical prowess, to see how highly Black Canary's martial arts skills are thought of by Zatanna and Green Arrow.  It's a nice validation of the character who hasn't had much to do in the Action Comics backups so far that Dinah is a master hand-to-hand combatant and that a real super-powered magic user would try to emulate that in battle.

The one lingering question I have, though: Why the hell did Zatanna turn one of the robbers into a wolf?  Wolves can still be freaking dangerous if scared or threatened; why not turn him into a rabbit or a guinea pig?

Come back next Monday for another tale of Green Arrow and Black Canary in Action Comics...


  1. Fun little story.
    The one thing I have learned from the Action Comics backups you have been covering is that the art is always ... always ... beautiful.

    Dillin is just a master. And he makes Zatanna and Dinah simply gorgeous.

  2. Between Dillin, Bronze Age era Giordano, and Mike Grell who would come aboard later, yeah, Green Arrow and Black Canary had some really great artists drawing them in these backups.

  3. I remember that story very well, it is just amazing fun. And yeah, that cover is a classic.

  4. She turned him into a wolf because Oliver called the guy "Eben Flow" knowing Zantana would say "Eb Flow" and the guy would turn into a wolf and she'd remember who she was. Hopefully. Now, why he didn't just write something down backwards and have her read it.... well... that wouldn't have been as much fun!

    I loved how Dinah not just kicked his door down, she busted it into three pieces. She was way beyond mad. And then there's the "I love you" stuff. Sigh...

  5. Gosh, I remember reading all of the GA back-up stories in Action Comics. Maggin is very underrated for his contributions to Green Arrow.