Sunday, February 6, 2011

October-November 1937: Detective Comics #9-10, More Fun Comics #26-27

Cover by Creig Flessel
'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel): Speed captures a racketeer with the help of a hobo who is actually an undercover cop.  Despite my amusement over one panel of Saunders hiding in a rubbish bin, there's not much of interest here.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): The current storyline seems to have finished, but it never was explained just why the mad scientist's wife wanted her husband to dissect all those people to create the perfect man (although I guess the more pruriently minded can come up with a reason without too much thought).  It's a major plot point, and was even flagged up as something to be explained later, but it never was.

'Cosmo' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo stops a murderer who is killing radio stars in order to extort money from the broadcast station.  It's yet another dull Cosmo story, despite the awesome opening with the grim reaper in the first panel.  And once again, despite being billed as the Phantom of Disguise, Cosmo doesn't use his gimmick to solve the crime at all.

'Bruce Nelson' (by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and Tom Hickey): Bruce Nelson's adventures continue in a storyline called 'The Blood of the Lotus'. To be honest, it might as well be a totally different character.  There's no sign of Sigrid, who Bruce had hooked up with in his last adventure.  Instead, he now lives with a Chinese assistant called Sing Lee.  This is actually quite good.  Bruce  is hired to investigate the disappearance of a girl who has joined the Lotus cult.  The strip is still written by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and drawn by Tom Hickey, but it feels very different.  There's some nuance to the characters that's well in excess of most other strips I'm reading.  Even Sing Lee manages to be funny without being offensively stereotyped.

'Death at Latitude 30' (by Whitney Ellsworth): This prose story is about treasure hunters who find a whole lot of sunken treasure, only for the head of the expedition to start murdering everyone.

'The Johnson Mystery' (by Russell Cole): A detective investigates some missing pearls. It being by Russell Cole I expected it to be a comedy, but it's more of a straight mystery story.

'Spy' (by Siegel and Shuster): Bart and Sally rescue a fellow agent from a foreign embassy.

'Buck Marshall' (by Homer Fleming): Buck deals with a string of murders committed by guys trying to get control of a ranch.  In the early days Buck was dealing with rustlers, and now it's murderers.  It's like Homer Fleming gets one idea and rides it into the ground multiple times before moving on to something else.  Also, Racism Watch: one of the victims has a black horse called Nig.

'Slam Bradley' (by Siegel and Shuster): I was kind of underwhelmed by this month's installment, in which Slam comes up against the Human Fly, a burglar who can scale buildings.  Slam seems kind of subdued, not at all his belligerent self, and the humour falls a bit flat.  I was expecting to love Shorty's rival Snoop, who wants to replace him as Slam's assistant, but he didn't amount to much.  I suppose the long run of top-notch quality couldn't last.

Cover by Creig Flessel

'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel): Speed  is now billed as an 'Ace Detective', so I'm wondering if he's dropped the waterfront gimmick entirely.  In this story, Madge Allen inherits an estate and is menaced by a banker.  Suspicion is thrown on a mysterious Hindu who follows her throughout the story, but he's actually a good guy who owes her a favour.  Oh yeah, Speed Saunders is in this as well.  We learn that he apparently still lives with his mother.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): Holy shit, Larry Steele lives with his mother as well!  He also gets involved with a millionaire who owes a heap of money to a gangster.

'Cosmo' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo is in India this time, helping excavate a tomb.  There are shenanigans with a curse and an evil high priest, and it's much more interesting than the usual fare for this strip.

'Bruce Nelson' (by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and Tom Hickey): This isn't quite as good as last issue's installment, but it does come to a satisfying conclusion as Bruce Nelson demolishes the Lotus, rescues the girl, and exposes her uncle as the mastermind behind the whole mess.  I should note here how much of a difference it makes for a character to have some back story.  Bruce Nelson's history gets a good fleshing out here, and all of a sudden he feels like a proper character, as opposed to the ciphers that populate most of the other strips.

'Green Death' (by Vin Sullivan): This is a prose story about a detective investigating the murder of a man who was killed by Indian cultists for a valuable gem.

'Handcuff Harry' (by Russell Cole): In which the titular detective solves the mystery of an employee leaking info to robbers about large cash transfers.  As usual, the info that the detective uses to solve the crime is in no way evident to the reader.

'Spy' (by Siegel and Shuster): Bart and Sally foil an anarchist who is trying to blow up a cruise ship.

'Buck Marshall' (by Homer Fleming): Buck is after bank robbers this time, and at least this strip has a few gun fights to liven things up. It also has a mystery which plays fair, even if it is super-obvious.

'Slam Bradley' (by Siegel and Shuster): This is another subdued installment, as Slam tackles a boxing manager who is killing fighters in the ring with a death ray.  I'm surprised to see that Snoop (from last issue) is still hanging around. I would have thought that this would result in the strip getting funnier, but in fact the opposite has happened.  It's starting to feel just a little more generic.  It's still better than everything else, but the gap is getting smaller.

Covers by Vin Sullivan

I don't have a scan of More Fun Comics #26, so I can't talk about it.  My scan of issue #27 was also super-blurry, so I skipped the text pieces and gamely soldiered through the rest.

'Doctor Occult' (by Siegel and Shuster) tackles the cult of a snake-god in this issue, but of more interest is the supernatural powers he seems to have developed.  All of a sudden he's willing himself onto the supernatural plane, and increasing his size with a thought.  I don't remember him ever displaying powers like this, except for that one awesome story where he had a cape and a magic belt.  Despite it coming out of left field, it makes him more interesting, so I'm all for it.

'Wing Brady' (by Tom Hickey) takes a weird turn this month.  Having dealt with a bunch of arms smugglers last month, Wing has a lot of spare time on his hands, so we get a detour into romance comics territory, with a focus on the relationship between Wing and his girl Lynn from the first story arc.  It's unexpected, but it's like watching the medium grow up bit by bit.

The 'Ivanhoe' adaptation (by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson and Raymond Perry) finally comes to an end, but the climactic joust between Ivanhoe and Brian is strange.  Brian just drops dead for no reason, without Ivanhoe ever touching him, and the only explanation is that he was 'a victim of his own passions'.  I have no idea what that means.

1 comment:

  1. "the only explanation is that he was 'a victim of his own passions'. I have no idea what that means."

    He died of syphilis? Wait, no, I looked it up. Evidently he just stroked out or had a heart attack. Hmp.