Monday, January 31, 2011

September 1937: Detective Comics #8

Cover by Creig Flessel
'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel): In this installment, Speed has an interesting moral dilemma.  After he chases down a criminal and is forced to spend time with him in a ship's crew, he finds that the guy is really not so bad, and is making a better life for himself as a seaman.  But it's his duty to arrest the dude, even though he doesn't want to.  However, as is the way with Golden Age stories, any internal conflict is done away with when it's discovered that the criminal is really innocent.  Moral dilemma averted!

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): Holy crap!  I don't know what happened, but this formerly mediocre strip just got good.  There's a very creepy story here about a mad scientist kidnapping celebrities to dissect them and create the perfect man.  Yes, it's a Frankenstein riff, but what's the entire comic book industry but riffing on other people's ideas?  It has one of the most effective splash pages I've seen in this era yet, and a decent cliffhanger.  Larry, you've got my attention.

'Cosmo' (by Sven Elven): Even this strip gets quite macabre this month, as Cosmo investigates the theft of corpses from a local morgue.  It turns out that the mortician is trying to bring them all back to life, and the whole thing is attributed to the catch-all motivation of insanity.  There's really no point to it, but I've gotten used to that with Cosmo.  Oh, and for a guy with Master of Disguise as his major gimmick, he uses no disguises in this story.

'Claws of the Red Dragon' (by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and Tom Hickey): Argh! The kidnapping story ends in this issue.  The final installment begins well enough, with the threat of Sigrid's dismemberment followed by an all-out brawl between some Chinese Tongs and Lu Gong's criminal band.  Then, after the fight is done and all of the main bad guys have escaped, it slips into a shit-ton of exposition about the Jade Dragon that Lu Gong was hunting for, and the treasure it provides directions to.  About this point I started to get a sinking feeling, then lo and behold, there's a trailer for the 'New Adventures of Bruce Nelson'.  So much for a satisfying conclusion!  I was looking forward to the end of this and the prospect of something more interesting coming along.

'The Laughing Mummy' (y Gardner Fox): This is a prose story about a detective investigating strange murders in a museum that are connected to the mummy of an Egyptian princess.  Of course the museum curator is responsible, because he's the only other character in this story, and his motivation makes no sense at all.  Like the 'Cosmo' story above, we can blame it all on insanity.

'Bloodhound Brown' (by Russell Cole): This story features a guy who masquerades as a detective and goes around telling fanciful stories.  It's mildly diverting in the way that all of Cole's strips are.  At least they always look good.

'Spy' (by Siegel and Shuster): Bart and Sally protect a French envoy, only to find out that his would-be killer is impersonating him.  Which is all well and good, but it's hard to invest in these things without some background.  We never find out why anyone would want this French envoy dead, or even who the killer was.  I realise that the creators only had a few pages to work with here, but I feel like these are major story elements to be left out.

'Buck Marshall' (by Homer Fleming): Buck solves a murder case involving a boundary dispute between ranch owners.  Ho hum.

'Slam Bradley' (by Siegel and Shuster): This story opens with Slam stopping a bank robbery in a single panel.   The man responsible soon escapes, and Slam and Shorty have to chase him to the mountains of Kentucky.  Enter the hillbillies!  There are the usual hi-jinks with feuding families, and I was starting to feel like this would be an average installment.  But when Shorty finds himself held at gunpoint by a teenage hillbilly girl, then proceeds to seduce her, things really picked up.  Siegel and Shuster never get credit for this, but they are great at comedy.  The next strip promises Shorty's villainous rival, and that will definitely be a hoot.

It should also be pointed out that Slam Bradley and Shorty sleep in the same bed, in matching pyjamas.

No comments:

Post a Comment