Sunday, March 6, 2011

May 1938: Detective Comics #16, More Fun Comics #32, New Adventure Comics #27

Cover by Creig Flessel

'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel): Speed investigates a gang of opium dealers who have 1) killed an FBI agent; 2) hidden his corpse in the grave of Joseph Bannon, then 3) hidden Bannon in the sewers to be found by a telephone services company.  You know what, I can't make heads or tails of that plan either.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): Larry was nearly burned alive by gangsters last month, and in this continuation he has to go back to the warehouse where he left their leader tied up to find out the location of a stash of valuable Persian rugs.  Of course the bad guy escapes, and most of the strip involves him and Larry fighting in a burning warehouse.  The problem I have with the whole thing (and with basically all of the Golden Age adventure strips) is that the good guy always seems to have the upper hand.  The creators never even try to pretend that he's in jeopardy.  It goes against every instinct I have about how a story should work.

'Cosmo' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo is called into a museum to investigate the theft of some Indian jewels. At first it seems like a glowing mummy is haunting the museum, but it turns out to be a jewel thief in disguise, Scooby-Doo-style.  (The museum curator mentioned finding the jewels on an expedition to India with Cosmo, and I vaguely remember a story that could fit the description. Perhaps this is a sequel?)

'Bruce Nelson in Too Many Crooks' (by Tom Hickey): This is the concluding chapter of the latest Bruce Nelson story. It wraps up the whole affair with the Omar Diamond pretty neatly; Bruce captures the smugglers and gets the girl, naturally.  It's probably the least interesting chapter in this serial for some time, and it's not helped by the many pages of exposition at the beginning.

'The Tattoo Trap' (by Gardner Fox): This is a very rudimentary prose story about a detective who goes undercover to catch a group of counterfeiters.

'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Bart and Sally investigate a man who is selling secret FBI documents to the ambassador of Baralvia.  There's a bit more intrigue than is usual in this strip, a couple of decent twists, and some decent banter between Bart and Sally.  I wouldn't mind if it was this good all the time.  (I just noticed this, but every one of these stories ends with Bart and Sally making out while their boss watches from behind his desk with a grin on his face.  It's a bit weird.)

'Finger-Print Farson' (by Russell Cole): This is a little more than a chase sequence, with Farson after a criminal.  It's not quite as pointless as his strip from Action Comics #1, but it's close.

'Buck Marshall' (by Homer Fleming): Buck tackles some pretty clever bank robbers. One of them was a ranch owner who hid his horse and declared it stolen, used that horse in the bank robbery, then traded it to a stranger so that he'd get the blame for the robbery.  It's about the smartest plan I've seen in this series.  Still, it seems like you can't turn around in Sage City without someone being murdered, robbed or rustled.

'Slam Bradley' (by Siegel and Shuster): 'Slam Bradley' is back to something resembling its best.  Slam and Shorty go undercover (complete with tap-dancing lessons) in a Broadway show to find out who has been robbing the theaters.  Events are complicated by the presence of Joan Carter, an investigator who specialises in tailing Slam and swooping in at the last minute to solve his case and claim the reward money. It's very funny stuff, and I'm really happy to see my favourite series regain some of its mojo.

Cover by Vin Sullivan
I don't have a scan of More Fun Comics #32, so I can't write about it.  But what's this I see over at  Doctor Occult's next appearance is in All Star Squadron #49?  Egad, that isn't until the 1980s.  It seems as though I've read my last Doctor Occult story for some time, which is a shame.  It was one of the more consistent and enjoyable strips around.

Cover by Creig Flessel
Oh my god, is it really the last appearance of 'Captain Jim of the Texas Rangers' (by Homer Fleming)?  Seriously, it's about time, because that strip had descended into farce a long time ago.  Captain Jim has been chasing the same gang of cattle rustlers since issue #1, making exactly no progress at all.  All that ever happened in it was an endless series of escapes and captures.  Needless to say, Captain Jim still hasn't caught the rustlers when it ends.

On a similar note, we see the end of 'Sandor' (also by Homer Fleming).  Sandor was raised in the jungles of India by wolves, and he spent all his time fighting against the evil Rajah Maharajah.  This strip had the same problem as 'Captain Jim' above, in that it never went anywhere.  It's just been months and months of Sandor running around in the tunnels under the Rajah's palace and killing his guards. Still, it did have Sandor wrestle a panther one time, so it had a leg-up on the cowboys.  When we leave Sandor, he is still trapped in those tunnels, and I like to think he stayed there for years and years, becoming some sort of legend to the Rajah's guards, who refuse to go down there for fear of meeting him.

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