Bizarro Back Issues: Supergirl Cheats Her Way To The Fake Olympics! (1970)
Over the past week or so, my thoughts have been primarily consumed with two things: Comet the Super-Horse and the Summer Olympics. For the former, I was mostly able to get all of my thoughts down on paper in the form of last week's Ask Chris column, but when I was doing the reading to talk about Supergirl's equestrian pal and/or boyfriend, I discovered that there's one story where, at least for a page, those two things are kinda-sorta tied together in a really strange way.
It happened in "The Super-Cheat," in which Supergirl, with the help of Comet, screws over all of her classmates at Stanhope College so that she, and not them, can compete in the not-quite-Olympic games of the International Athletic Competition. So if you've ever wanted to see Linda Danvers just straight up shatter some dreams, this is your chance.
The story originally ran courtesy of Cary Bates and Kurt Schaffenberger in Adventure Comics #392, and according to a chronology I found online, Comet's one-page cameo actually marks his final appearance. I'm not actually sure if that's true --- 1970 seems awfully early to get rid of Super-Horse, even if it was the start of DC trying desperately to move away from the goofiness of the Silver Age. Still, from what I can tell, it holds up. Comet doesn't even appear in "Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow," and that story had Vartox and Lana Lang's magic hot tub.
Sadly, neither of those appear in this story. Instead, we begin at Stanhope, where Supergirl's classmates, Betty, Gretchen, and Sue, are hard at work preparing for their qualifying rounds for the Fauxlympics. And while young Linda Danvers (aka Supergirl) is secretly plotting to destroy them at their chosen sports, I have to admit that there's a level where that's pretty understandable. I mean, they are kind of being jerks about it.
Really, though, using one's Kryptonian super-powers to utterly destroy one's classmates in sporting competitions seems like The Wrong Thing To Do. And yet, as the games begin the next day, that's exactly what Linda does, ruthlessly crushing her classmates despite the fact that they've been working their entire lives for this moment.
Yeah --- not only is Linda demolishing her classmates, but three classmates who have been training for years. Gretchen's mom is a champion equestrian, Sue's been trained by "the greatest swim-coach in America" since she was a baby, and Betty's been coached by her father, who is an Olympic sprinter who's obviously pinning an awful lot of hopes on his daughter's athletic performance.
So shout out to Supergirl, who's crushing the dreams of two generations at once.
Betty gets knocked out first thanks to Linda's super-speed, being reduced to tears at the finish line. Next up, show jumping, where she dominates once again thanks to two deciding factors. The first is that her opponent, Gretchen, misses one jump, clipping the bar in a moment that will unquestionably haunt her dreams for decades. The other, and perhaps more important factor, is that Supergirl is no longer alone in her cheating.
And that, friends and neighbors, is the final appearance of Comet the Super-Horse. So long, Bronco Bill! Have fun in Limbo!
For the final qualifier, Linda crushes Sue in the 100-meter freestyle, leaving her sobbing at the side of the pool. The good news, though, is that the three girls will be brought along as alternates in case Linda can't compete, and their long flight out to California finally gives us the time to find out why Linda has decided to grind her friends' dreams into tear-stained dust. And needless to say, it's not entirely about cruelty.
It turns out that when she happened upon an airplane that was having a little trouble, she overheard its occupants discussing a sinister plot. It turns out that they're from the vaguely communist and semi-fictional nation of Ionia, who plan to ensure Ionian dominance of the IAC by eliminating their American competition by any means necessary. Clearly, that needs to be prevented, and while you might think it would be pretty easy for her to just, you know, keep an eye on things, she has opted instead to make herself a target for the would-be assassins.
So really, she's just destroying their dreams to keep them safe!
Sure enough, when Linda starts competing, she quickly finds herself the subject of a few mishaps --- although not the deadly sort that you might've expected.
In the race, her shoes mysteriously explode, and then in the show-jumping competition --- in which she has to compete without the aid of Super-Horse --- her bridle snaps, leaving her to let the horse chomp down on her invulnerable finger so that she can carry it over the obstacles with her powers.
It's in the swimming competition, though, that the Ionians finally get serious about eliminating her. No sooner has she hit the water for the freestyle sprint than an unseen assailant zaps her with an electric charge.
All right, look. I don't expect a whole lot of hard science from comic books, and in fact, I tend to be pretty firmly against it. But even I, someone whose knowledge of science is mostly based almost entirely on comic books, am pretty sure that if you're shooting a swimming pool with enough electricity to knock somebody out, then the people who are swimming within one foot of her on either side are probably also going to notice that something's up.
Needless to say, Ionia takes the gold in swimming, but since two outta three officially ain't bad, it's still Linda Danvers who gets to take the podium at the end of the competition --- which, it seems, is just the world's most high-profile triathlon.
When she does get up there, though, her would-be Ionian killers decide that since they couldn't prevent an American victory, they might as well just go ahead and kill her. Which is exactly what Supergirl's been waiting for!
With that, the assassination plot --- which could've probably been circumvented entirely if Supergirl has just, you know, landed at the airport in advance of the plane carrying the assassins and told somebody that there were a couple of international killers packing murder lightning on their way to the Fake Olympics --- is foiled at last. And just to cover things up, she tells everyone that she was the one competing in the events, giving them the opportunity for a do-over the next day.
What's not really clear, though, is whether she tells them that she was masquerading as Linda Danvers (which is technically true) the entire time. Even if she does, though, well, Supergirl still serves as a living reminder that all human achievement pales in comparison to that of our Kryptonian overlords. So really, the big twist here is that Betty, Gretchen, and Sue somehow did not become supervillains.