Bizarro Back Issues: The Black Magic Of Supergirl! (1965)
It's finally October, friends and neighbors, and that means that it's the spookiest time of year: Halloween Season! That frightfully fun time of year when we turn our attention to stories about Draculas, Frankensteins, and the various other haints that perplex our favorite heroes --- and believe it or not, that's actually a little more difficult than it sounds. The same years that produced the comics I often focus on for Bizarro Back Issues --- the height of the Silver Age --- were also the years when the Comics Code Authority put a stranglehold on supernatural content, giving us two solid decades without a single wolfman to speak of.
The story comes from Leo Dorfman and Jim Mooney, although Curt Swan was the one who drew that cover where Supergirl is depicted as being so evil that she's stirring her witch's cauldron with a red pitchfork. Say what you will about the Silver Age, but they never did things by half measures.
After an extremely relatable splash panel about locked doors and the urge to do evil, our story begins in a marketplace in a stereotypical land where the primary product is apparently outdated stereotypes. Supergirl's flying by when she sees Abdul, a magician, pulling off strange tricks like causing a rope to climb into the air and laying on a bed of nails while a large gentleman stands on top of him. It's pretty impressive stuff, even for Supergirl --- who, you know, can literally see through walls and throw a battleship into the sun.
Unfortunately, Abdul's still got a few kinks to work out in his finale.
Once he's bitten by a venomous cobra, Supergirl --- who regularly flies through the time barrier under her own power --- is helpless to stop him from dying. Before he does, though, he reveals that he has bright red devil horns sprouting from his forehead, and confesses that he is, in fact... a demon.
Well. Sort of a demon. It's complicated, but he's actually pretty forthcoming with an explanation.
And with that, Abdul dies, and - unless we're to believe that Supergirl just hangs out in the bazaar until all of his funeral arrangements are made --- is immediately thrown onto a funeral pyre, with Supergirl explaining that in this crazy mixed-up foreign land, "they cremate their dead instead of burying them!" Reading this for the first time, I thought that this description was unnecessary at best and weirdly patronizing to other cultures at worst, but like so many incredibly specific answers to questions nobody was asking that show up in Silver Age comics, it's actually going to be important later.
So! What was in the box? Well, once Supergirl gets home, she discovers that it contains... The Satan Ring.
But she, of course, could never possibly have need to use such a diabolical artifact even once, let alone three times, right? She's Supergirl! She already has phenomenal powers! So it's probably best to just toss this thing into the sun and rid the planet of another source of boundless evil.
Hm? What's that? She's actually just going to put it in a hidden pocket on her cape instead? Sure, why not. That seems like the sensible course of action that will most definitely not turn you into a Lucifer.
But it's a good thing she does. The very next day, she's summoned to help Superman, who's been trapped by a Kryptonite meteorite that looks to be about the size of a bowling ball. Obviously, she's in just as much danger from this stuff as he is, and since there's no lead handy to wrap that thing up and also punt it into the sun, she's forced to call on the power... of Satan!
Ah well. No big loss there. I mean, if you've got a ring that will only turn you into The Author Of All Lies if you use it three times, it's silly to not just use it once. Thus, Superman is saved, and all it cost Supergirl was a shameful secret that she will carry to her grave and subsequently to a burning lake of fire in Hell.
Or so it seems. The next day, she runs into another problem, and like the last time, it also involves saving someone else from dying. In this case, it's an innocent man scheduled to be executed at midnight, and while the governor --- who introduces himself by saying "I'm the governor of this state," a thing human beings definitely say about themselves --- is on his way to stop the execution himself, a collapsed bridge and a set of downed phone lines have made it impossible. The only chance is for Supergirl to get there herself, but there's a catch: The bridge still needs to be repaired, and she only has thirty seconds.
Personally, I would question why the Governor waited until 11:59:30 PM to make this half-hearted attempt at a pardon, but Supergirl just leaves it up to the Devil to solve all of her problems with still more skeleton hands:
But hey, that's fine! I mean, she only used it twice, so as long as she never uses it again, she'll be---
Yes, an explosion at the lab sends Supergirl's Earth Dad, Fred Danvers, to the hospital with a horrible brain injury. It's so bad that the doctors just straight up tap out of surgery because there's too much damage... but you know who isn't giving up on the operation? I'll give you a hint: It's Satan.
And with that, young Kara Zor-El has called upon the powers diabolical three times --- in a single day, no less --- and her transformation into a Satan has begun.
But even though she has the uncontrollable desire to do evil (been there), and even though the captions in the story are branding her as "She-Devil," she's not actually that into it. Instead, Supergirl is both reluctant and ashamed of her new direction, and feels the need to hide her horns even as she's attempting to raise Beelzebub and Belphegor to do her bidding:
Again, I cannot get over stirring the cauldron with a pitchfork. The only way it could be better is if the cauldron itself was a skull, or possibly a Jack O'Lantern.
After conjuring yet another pair of skeletal hands --- and really, this is all very impressive but I'm not quite sure why the power of Satan is limited entirely to bony fingers messing around with stuff --- to blind Superman and keep him from seeing her horns, Supergirl finally decides that enough is enough. She returns to the bazaar in search of answers and then, shockingly, she finds Abdul, claiming that he has no memory of being anything but a simple merchant. But what's this?!
Ah, of course! All she has to do to rid herself of this curse is to scourge her body with purifying flame.
So with that, Supergirl starts tossing herself into volcanos and flying to the sun, but unfortunately, her invulnerability makes her immune, until she of course just stumbles on a completely intact piece of Krypton that happens to feature radioactive Fire-Falls. She dives in, and Bob's your uncle, everything's sorted out.
At this point, the usual tactic in the Silver Age --- owing to the CCA and its provisions against the supernatural --- would be for Superman to step in and explain that the Satan Ring was actually some strange form of non-demonic Red Kryptonite or whatever, but that doesn't happen. Not only is the Satan Ring just a for-real piece of Hell that clawed its way up to Earth, but Superman --- Superman! --- ends this story by just casually mentioning that this is the perfectly logical and reasonable explanation for witch-burning.
Holy cats, dude! I think the real horror of this story might be Superman telling you that it's okay to burn witches at the stake!