One of the benefits of being associated with Captain Comics all these years, and from writing my Deck Log column, is that I've gained a modest on-line reputation as a Silver-Age expert, and for being knowledgeable about pre-1980's comics, in general. I'll tell you right now---I'm no Craig Shutt or Bob Rozakis. But I do O.K. Enough to get frequent requests from webmasters to reference my material on their own sites. And on the two or three other comics-related message boards I look in on, I will come across a post with a link to something I have written, cited as the final word on whatever is being debated at the moment.
That's kind of neat. It's also invites certain obligations. Another thing is I often receive questions in my e-mail, from people asking for certain details or clarifications about some Silver-Age matter. Now, I don't mind that at all---I'm flattered, actually---so I try to provide as accurate and thorough an answer as I can. And sometimes, that means spending many hours going through my long boxes until I find the correct reference. I'm glad to do that, too. And it's not just me dedicating effort. Many times, Cap or Craig Shutt or some other subject-matter expert has donated time and trouble helping me find an answer that eludes my expertise.
And that's what brings me to this particular Deck Log entry.
Those of you who were youthful fans of the Three Investigator juvenile-fiction series will recall that whenever Jupe and Pete and Bob needed information that they couldn't obtain directly, they employed a method called "the ghost-to-ghost hookup". Each of the Investigators would call five friends and ask about what they needed to know. In turn, each of those contacted would call five of his friends and pass the request on. This created a fast-spreading network of inquiry---sort of a live-action version of a search engine---with the goal of finding that individual who had the knowledge the trio needed. That person would be instructed to call the Investigators directly and usually received a modest reward for his trouble.
Well, gang: ring, ring.
Recently, while reviewing the threads on a Superman-related comics board, I came across a post by a woman who was stepping into the, to her, unfamiliar territory of comic fandom with a request. During her college years, Elliot Maggin was her classmate and a good friend. Sometime in the early 1970's, in one of his Superman scripts, Mr. Maggin based a walk-on character on her. She was trying to identify and locate the issue with that particular story in which "she" appeared, mainly to impress her disbelieving kids that their mom actually appeared in a comic book.
The only information she could provide was her description at the time---slender, with long blonde hair---and that the character's name had been "Sandi". And that she believed that the story saw print in the fall of 1973.
My Silver-Age emergency signal started clicking in overdrive. This was the sort of person who really needed my help. Most of the time, when I answer a Silver-Age question, it's from a comics fan with sufficient knowledge to know where to find the answer himself, if he had to do so. But this was a woman who knew little of the inner mechanisms of fandom.
The first thing I did was go to the on-line resources that provide such details as character appearances. The ones I use are pretty detailed and pretty reliable. But I came up Maggie's drawers. That left me with only one thing to do---I own complete runs of Superman and Action Comics for the entire decade of the '70's, and I would just have to sit down and go through every Superman story written by Elliot Maggin until I found "Sandi".
I made a quick review of every Maggin-written Superman story from late 1972 to mid-1974. Again, no joy. By e-mail, I contacted the woman, whose name, unsurprisingly, is Sandi, and I asked her if there were any details she could recall from the story in which she appeared as a character. Any morsel of information would probably be just enough for me to identify the right comic.
The matter was starting to nag at me too, since I had a vague recollexion of just such a character named Sandi. Something rattling in the back of my brain was telling me that she was probably one of the women who appeared in those scenes when Steve Lombard pulled a practical joke on Clark Kent. You know the ones---where Lombard tries to impress a girl by making Kent look foolish, and thanks to his super-powers, Clark always turned the tables on the muscle-brained lunkhead. I mentioned this to the flesh-and-blood Sandi in my e-mail.
While I waited for her reply, I went through my Superman comics again, this time, extending my search to 1976. There, I found something. In "Seven-Foot-Two, and Still Growing", from Superman # 302 (Aug., 1976), there was a character named Sandi. She was, indeed, part of a scene with Steve Lombard. But, there was a hitch. The real-life Sandi had stated that the character was slender with long, blonde hair. The Sandi in this story was slender, yes, but she had short, dark hair.
I heard back from Sandi. Since she had made her post, she had been able to contact Elliot Maggin himself. As to be expected, after writing so many Superman stories, he could not recall the exact tale, but he agreed that it was probably part of a Steve Lombard scene. He also believed that "Sandi" appeared in a story that came out later than the fall of '73. He did some searching of his own and also came up with Superman # 302.
As a bonus, Sandi also discovered that Mr. Maggin had based another character on her, one that appeared in a story he wrote for the revived Plastic Man series of the 1970's.
The only way Sandi would know for sure if the character from Superman # 302 was the one she remembered was to read it herself. How, she asked me, could she obtain a copy of that issue? That was the easiest part of all. She provided me with her mailing address, and I sent her my copies of both Superman # 302 and Plastic Man # 14, with my compliments.
So, Sandi gets to impress the heck out of her kids by proving that she is, indeed, a cool mom, appearing in a comic book and everything. Meanwhile, I get to sit back and enjoy the satisfaction of, for once, my comic-book knowledge actually resulting in something meaningful. Another successful mission for Commander Benson, right?
If that were so, I'd still be stuck for a column idea for this week.
Shortly thereafter, I received an e-mail from a grateful and appreciative Sandi, reluctantly informing me that the story in Superman # 302 was not the story she remembered seeing "herself" in, back in the early '70's. She was 99% sure of that. Truth to tell, I kind of agreed with her; the vestigial memory lingering in my brain was that the Sandi character had been drawn by Curt Swan. (The story in Superman # 302 had been drawn by José Luis Garcia-Lopez.)
So I dug out the long boxes, again. I spent a morning going through every Elliot Maggin story to appear in Superman and Action Comics from 1972 to 1977, page by page. Still no "Sandi". I reported that back and told her I was pretty much out of ideas. She's not ready to toss in the towel, yet. She asked if "there any place/site/location where I might be able to view those particular issues, e.g., a 'Library of Congress' and/or superstore for Superman comics?".
That's where you folks come in.
I can't think of any better "ghost-to-ghost hookup" than you, my fellow Legionnaires. If the information Sandi needs is out there, undoubtedly one of you knows, or knows of somebody, who has it. I asked her if she would consent to have me put her quest out on this board---informing her, of course, of what a learned, multi-talented bunch you are---and she gladly gave her O.K.
Bear in mind, I'm not asking if any of you recognise the character of "Sandi" and can name story title and issue number. (Though, I would scarcely be surprised if one of you did.) If, by some stroke of fortune, one of you does, you just went to the top of my Christmas list.
What I am really asking about is her last question. That's the one I have no real knowledge about. I don't keep up with the newest, neatest things. Is there some source that she could access, even if it costs a fee, and read those DC comics on-line? Beyond that, is there any resource that I have overlooked that could be used to help her?
It's not beyond possibility that I just plain missed it. I may have misfiled an issue and never checked it. And poring through those stories, one after the other, is tedious; I might have just glossed right over "Sandi's" appearance.
I'll send Sandi a link to this page so she'll be able to read your responses directly.
Much obliged, my friends. Unlike with the Three Investigators, there's no reward for the one who has the answer, except for bragging rights, Sandi's and my gratitude, and, well, maybe I can finally get rid of that fruitcake Aunt Ruthie gave me for Christmas last year.