Sunday, February 20, 2011

February 1938: Detective Comics #13, More Fun Comics #30, New Adventure Comics #24

Cover by Creig Flessel
'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel): This story  is total nonsense.  It starts well enough, with Speed on the hunt for the only witness who can testify in a murder case.  After that Speed is shot by the murder suspect's goons, but survives due to his bullet-proof vest.  So far so good, but once it gets into the courtroom all story logic goes out the window.  The murder case at the start of the story is completely abandoned in favour of Speed accusing the man who shot him, and then out of nowhere he's exposing the judge as a corrupt official. None of this flows logically, and it's undoubtedly the worst Speed Saunders strip so far.  Gardner Fox goes on to become a significant figure in DC history as the creator of the Golden Age Flash, Hawkman, the Justice Society, the Justice League, and the whole Earth-1/Earth-2 multiverse thing.  But that's in the future, and here he's just turning out a crap Speed Saunders story.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): When we last left Larry, he'd crashed his bullet-riddled car into a tree. Of course he's unscathed, and he spends the rest of the strip trying to catch the kidnappers in another car chase.  He even survives yet another crash, and I'd say that two car crashes in the space of four pages has got to be some sort of record.

'Cosmo' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo goes undercover in a circus to figure out who is sabotaging the trapeze act.  It turns out to be a love-sick clown, who gets his comeuppance when he is ripped to shreds by a tiger.  Cosmo actually uses his disguise gimmick in this story, which he hasn't done for ages.  And of course, the circus owner is an old friend of his, because Cosmo is old friends with everybody on planet Earth.

'Bruce Nelson in Murder in the Clouds' (by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and Tom Hickey): Bruce is still investigating the mystery of the exploding planes.  He solves it pretty handily, and the culprit is of course the guy who was just a little too late to catch the plane last issue.  You can generally pinpoint any murder suspect in these comics by finding the first character that the author clears of suspicion.

'Dental Detective' (by Gardner Fox): This is a prose story about a diamond thief who hides his stolen booty inside his false teeth.  It's not very good, but I'm stoked that it's only two pages long.  I can't wait until these text pages are dead and buried (or at least replaced with letters pages).

'Spy' (by Siegel and Shuster): Bart and Sally are tasked with dissuading a politician's son from his gambling habit.  Which they do by robbing him at gunpoint, after Bart offers this immortal phrase: "He won't listen to reason. And so now for violence!"

'The Pine Road Mystery' (by Russel Cole): This is less of a who-dunnit and more of a how-dunnit.   The culprit is obvious from the beginning, but the mystery of how he could kill a man at a time when four other people saw him sleeping is the main focus (answer: he used a wax dummy).  I've mentioned before that I have trouble following Cole's mysteries, and with this one the reason is easily apparent: this strip has over a dozen characters featured, all introduced in rapid succession.  It served to muddy the mystery somewhat, but it muddied the storytelling as well.

'Buck Marshall' (by Homer Fleming): Buck Marshall started off dealing with rustlers, and now he constantly investigates murders.  In this strip, his adversary is a murdering rustler.  I suppose it was inevitable.

'Slam Bradley' (by Siegel and Shuster): Slam and Shorty foil the hijacking of a ship.  Not only is the strip losing its potency, but Slam himself gets knocked out twice in the course of this story.  As the stories get blander, so the hero loses his awesomeness.

Cover by Creig Flessel
'Dr Occult' (by Siegel and Shuster) investigates a fortune teller, who is possessed by a demon while holding a seance. It's actually quite tense and gripping, with some creepy art.  This has been one of the most consistently good strips for some time.

'Hooves of the Tartar Horde' (by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and Alexander Nikitin) is a new strip depicting the Mongol conquest of Otrar in Persia.  It's set up as a continuing story, but as far as I can tell it doesn't continue after this.

It also looks like 'Spike Spalding' (by Vin Sullivan) has come to an end.  Which is fine, because the main plot involving Spike's resemblance to the king of a foreign country, and the political machinations that ensued, was wrapped up last issue.  This installment sees Spike back in the USA and unhappy about having to go back to school, and there are some plot threads being set up for the future, but it's not a bad place to end.

'Buzz Brown' (by Creig Flessel) is a new strip.  Buzz is a half-eskimo kid who gets picked up in the ocean by a tough sailor.  Both of them get blown out to sea in a storm and picked up by a ship that is headed to Singapore.  There's not much here to interest me.

It's cancellations all around here, as it also seems that 'Little Linda' (by Whitney Ellsworth) is done.  It started off with Linda as an orphan girl having various adventures, until she eventually got adopted by a rich dude.  In the current storyline she has run away to live with lumberjacks, and there is a film crew making a movie there.  Of course Linda looks exactly like the star, and has been performing as her stunt double, and the whole thing ends with Linda about to be taken to Hollywood to become a star herself.  Which is nice, because she's quite a sweet and likable character, and this has been a fairly enjoyable strip.

'Pirate Gold' (by Sven Elven) is also finished.  It ends with the heroes rescuing their lady friend from the Chinese villains, which I guess is as much closure as I need.  To be honest, I could never remember what was going on in this strip from one issue to the next.

'Hope Hazard' is a one-off strip by Alex Lovy.  Hope, the daughter of a secret agent, inherits a mansion and gets involved in the mystery of a stolen diamond.  It's not bad, and the mystery is clever enough that I'll probably nick it for my D&D game.

Cover by Creig Flessel
This is the first issue that I've noticed Whitney Ellsworth is no longer listed as an associate editor.  He's been there from the beginning.  That leaves Vin Sullivan as the remaining associate editor, with Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson still the man in charge.

'Federal Men' (by Siegel and Shuster) starts promisingly with Steve Carson on an adventure, and no damn kids in sight.  Then it ends with a kid rescuing him and joining the Junior Federal Men Club.  I think I've reached the point where I actively hate this strip.

'Boomerang Jones' (by Stan Babcock) is a new strip.   Jones is an adventurer who gets hired by an explorer to accompany him into the jungles of Borneo.  They get mixed up with a gang which has kidnapped the daughter of a rubber plantation owner, and the whole thing is wrapped up in this story.  Apparently, we never see Boomerang Jones again.

'Steve Conrad' (by Creig Flessel) goes from being attacked by giant turtles to falling into a pool full of crocodiles.  The last panel asks the dramatic question, "Can Steve be saved?!?", but given the way he's bearhugging the fuck out of a crocodile, I'm more worried for their safety.

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