Friday, July 01, 2005

Dynasty II: The Colbys (or, Who's That Brother-in-Law?)

SPOILER WARNING: do not read this post until you've read The 1978 2017 DC Calendar of Super-Spectacular Disasters: July Jabbing! Also, until you've read this month's issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. Because that's a really good comic.

Okay! Back in 2017 I challenged you to guess the identity of the double-secret super mystery Guest Villain of DC's 1978 calendar, and the July clue was:

I'mma gonna tell you the truth here: although I've pretty much known since clue one in January that the mystery bad guy is SPOILER WARNING Lex Luthor, I never knew he had a brother-in-law! Sure, everybody knows that Luthor's sister, Lena Thorul (and what a clever anagram that is) is a supporting character of the pre-Crisis DC Universe, but had she actually ever been married?

Turns out...yes! Yes, Lena Thorul did get married. And you didn't send her a toaster. Shame on you.

Splash panel from "The Great Supergirl Double-Cross!" in Action Comics (1938 series) #317 (October 1964), script by Leo Dorfman, pencils and inks by Jim Mooney, letters by the aptly named Joe Letterese

Oh man oh man oh man, it's another kooky but compelling Silver Age setup to a story of Super-family shenanigans, also including the subsection of super-jerkery. Also: entry #2,420 in my extensive catalogue of characters thinking the word "choke!". Apparently Lena Hurt-Lo had a boyfriend and Supergirl (breathy insert voice: in her secret identity as Linda Danvers, orphan-at-large) stole him away? You jerk, Supergirl! And speaking of jerks, here's Lena's big bad bald brother Lex, rotting away the rest of his six hundred and six consecutive life sentences at supermax jail Metropolis prison, where because of his dangerous nature, he's held motionless in a special capsule designed by Superman to keep Luthor from moving or OH FOR PETE'S SAKE THEY GAVE HIM A TELEVISION SET. Doncha know that Luthor can construct an atom bomb out of a television set, an ordinary pack of playing cards, beef bravy, and that sharpened toothbrush he was shivved with in the prison shower? Luthor tries to get a look at the photograph of Jeff Colby, Lena's boyfriend, but his magic idiot box isn't able to change angles even though he's looking at her without cameras. (Shrugs) The Silver Age!

La la la la la la la la la la (humming The Donna Reed Theme) The next day, Linda/Kara and her boyfriend..."Dick" to go on a double date picnic. As far as I can tell..."Dick"...has no lines in this story and apparently only serves to set things on fire. he thus becomes one of several beards to deceive the world at large that Supergirl actually truly only loves Bill "Biron" Starr, her ancient Grecian boyfriend who is also a centaur. Kara was always a little too into My Little Pony and Superman worried quite a bit about that. As would you.

Anyway, Lena's Thorul-sense is tingling, her ESP warning her wait did we mention she had ESP? Lena has ESP. As the caption (one in every panel!) helpfully reminds us, "Due to a necessarily impurity, Lena has extra-sensory perception of the color yellow." Oh yeah? then who bought that dress? Supergirl spies a crashing plane with the pilot bailing out and immediately jumps to the circumstantial evidence that this must be the same guy Lena's dating. Because comics.

Because Superman has mandated that Supergirl remain under cover and hidden from the human race in her red and blue uniform with a miniskirt, Kara blows Jeff NO NOW STOP IT. YOU'VE GOT A VERY DIRTY MIND. Kara uses her super-breath to land Jeff near to the site of the picnic. But Jeff seems to be hiding something and is acting quite mysterious, hmmmm! HE'S A BIGAMIST! HE'S A MURDERER! and other random guesses.

Spying on Jeff, Linda/Kara/Supergirl learns that he has a mysterious spy car! And that he's transmitting mysterious spy signals! To a mysterious spy base! Mysteriously!

Thus is set up the dilemma of the story, so soap-operaish it's washing my mouth out: Linda knows that Jeff Colby is a super secret agent spy guy with guns and boats and tanks! But she dare not let Lena know that she may be marrying a dirty low-down enemy agent spyyyyyy. (Draw that last word out as long and with as much disdain as you can manage.) Also, here's one time Lena's ESP doesn't warn her of danger! And Linda pronounces the word "choke." This one's got it all!

Even Luthor, finally recognizing Lena's fiance, is aghast at the circumstances.'s somebody Lex knows, huh? Could it be...Otis?

With all the subtlety of a script from Three's Company and not even the Chrissie years, Supergirl vows to break up Jeff and Lena! She vows that once she's done, Lena will totally hate Jeff! So, her plan is obvious: Supergirl is going to show Lena Jeff's Gamergate posts on 4chan.

Yadda yadda yadda much misadventure and misunderstanding later, Supergirl finally finds out that Jeff Colby is a spy like us for us: the FBI agent who put Luthor behind bars! Yes, Kara, there can be good spies too! And hey wait, there was one time when it wasn't Superman who put Luthor behind bars? What's up with that?


All's well that ends well and Lena married Jeff to become Lena Thorul-Colby, an ancient Kryptonian name which means "brother-in-law to Lex Luthor." Say, readers, who the heck do you think the perfect husband for Supergirl will be?


Before we move onto the next appearance of Jeff Colby, Husband to the Sister of the World's Most Dangerous Man, let's peek a couple problematic moments in Action #317, such as this explanation of where Supergirl hides her costume. "The Super-Lipstick: What It Is and How It Came to Be!" Man, that's barely one step different that Batgirl's major weapon being her purse.

Say, did I mention the word "problematic?" SUPERMAN NO

Panels from "Superman's Rainbow Face!" in Action Comics (1938 series) #317 (October 1964), script by Otto Binder, pencils and inks by Al Plastino

Anyway, let's take a look at Jeff Colby's next appearance in comics, shall we? Ooh, this looks exciting! I bet accomplished senior FBI agent Jeff is going to aid Supergirl in hunting down the Man with the Explosive Mind! Or maybe he is the Man with the Explosive Mind! Wow, it's so exciting my mind is exploding!

Cover of The Superman Family #211 (October 1981), pencils by Ross Andru, inks by Dick Giordano

So! (clapping my hands together, leaning forward in excitement) Let's see what super-energized action-thribbled escapades Jeff Colby, The Sensational Character Find of 1964, is diving daringly head-first into!

Oh man. He's dead.

He died after his first appearance and before his only other mention.

The 1978 Calendar's clue refers to a character who only appeared once in a Supergirl backup story and then died.

You suck, Jeff Colby.

Happy Birthday to Bull!

Today is my birthday! I am six years old today. Which is a very good age to be.

Happy birthday to me, and I hope you celebrate it today as well by reading a fun comic and having a piece of cake. If you do not enjoy cake, of course, please email it to me.