Saturday, January 22, 2011

June-July 1937: New Adventure Comics #17, Detective Comics #6

Cover by Creig Flessel
As I was reading the latest installment of 'Captain Bill of the Texas Rangers' (by Homer Fleming), it occurred to me that he has been trying to arrest the same damn gang of rustlers since the beginning of time.  The guy needs to hire Buck Marshall over from Detective Comics, because that guy goes through a different rustling outfit every four pages.

'Nadir, Master of Magic' (by Bill Ely) is a new strip about a magician detective.  His origin mentions the tragic death of his parents which inspired him to fight crime, so I guess he's a sort of Indian Wizard Batman.  His first adventure sees him trying to solve a pearl theft, and surviving a murder attempt on his own person.  Despite the premise, Nadir doesn't use any magic so far, and the whole thing ends in fairly limp fashion, to be continued next issue.  Still, I love Nadir's business suit and turban outfit.

Ever since the strip a few months ago where the Devachan went murderously nuts, 'Steve Conrad' (by Creig Flessel) has been a lot more interesting.  This month Steve breaks a giant vulture's neck with his bare hands, and he's taking over from Steve Carson of 'Federal Men' as the raddest action hero of New Adventure Comics.

Speaking of 'Federal Man', the Junior Federal Men Club is now in full swing, with instructions being issued to its members.  I didn't think this was so bad last time, but now it comes across as a little creepy, like someone trying to construct their own personal child militia.  But then I've never been sold on patriotism or any of that sort of thing.  The good intentions of the 1930s can look a little odd when viewed from a modern perspective.

The actual 'Federal Men' strip (by Siegel and Shuster) is a fairly bog standard story about a jewel thief.  It feels like a really long time since this strip was the best thing around.

Checking in quickly with the resident novel adaptations, I'm getting quite absorbed by H. Rider Haggard's 'She' (adapted by Sven Elven).  On the other hand, I honestly can't keep track of 'A Tale of Two Cities' by Charles Dickens (by Merna Gamble).  It bores me to tears, and seems to gain nothing from being adapted into a visual medium.

Cover by Creig Flessel
'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel): This strip has gone crazy this month, with what might be the very first intelligent ape story in DC history.  Anything with apes and mad scientists usually piques my interest, and this one had the right sort of manic energy to pull it off.  One thing to note, though, is that Speed is now seemingly back with the Harbour Patrol; I suppose he was rehired rather quickly after getting fired a couple of months ago.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): This strip sees Larry's plane being shot down while he's on his way to Hollywood to investigate the celebrity disappearances.  Unremarkable stuff.

'Cosmo, Phantom of Disguise' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo foils some diamond smugglers.  Man, there are jewel thieves all over comics in the 1930s.

'The Claws of the Red Dragon' (by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and Tom Hickey): In this extra-long installment, Bruce Nelson is recaptured and about to meet the guy in charge of all the Chinese villains in this strip.  I fully expect some outrageous stereotyping next month.

'Tropical Trouble' (by Gardner Fox): This is a prose story about a secret agent sent to rescue another agent in Honduras.  It sets up a mystery about why the hero, a desk clerk, is even sent on the mission, then doesn't bother to answer it.

'Gumshoe Gus' (by Bill Patrick): Gus goes undercover as a crazy hobo to find a criminal hiding in the nut-house, and by the end of the strip he's in his own padded cell.  I'm not sure if this is a punchline or the set-up for a continuing story.

'Spy' (by Siegel and Shuster): The new status quo begins, with Bart Regan and his fiancee Sally both working as spies.  And magically all of the romantic tension from the previous strips has gone, and they're working together in perfect harmony.  It's a waste of a promising set-up.

'Mr. Chang' (by Ed Winiarski): Our resident Chinese sleuth deals with a mad scientist who is creating giant slaves by injecting people with chemicals.  It seems to me like the mad scientists in these strips are all starting to get a little crazier, and I heartily approve.  This is the final appearance of Mr. Chang, and he goes out as the least racist portrayal of a Chinese character in these comics so far.

'Slam Bradley' (by Siegel and Shuster): 'Slam Bradley' is once again very good, as Slam and Shorty go to Mexico to stop a bandit gang.  There is a definite formula to these strips, and it's followed every month.  Shorty always goes undercover, Slam always wins by punching a guy super-hard, and there's always a gag at the end with Slam getting the girl and Shorty missing out.  I also love the standard opening page, usually a full page shot of Slam Bradley just brutally wrecking some random villains.  So far the formula is working, and I anticipate this strip more than any others.

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