Sunday, March 20, 2011

August 1938: Detective Comics #19; More Fun Comics #35

Cover by Creig Flessel

'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): This is a fairly average story about counterfeiters, but in its defense I didn't pick who the ringleader was.  Looking back there was only one suspect, but it still surprised me when he was revealed.

'Inspector Kent of Scotland Yard' (by George Newman): This is a new strip.  Kent goes up against the super-criminal known as The Raven, who steals a top-secret invisibility formula.  This is pretty decent, but I suspect that my opinion is coloured by a weakness for the trappings of super-hero fiction.  Throw in a colourfully named villain and an invisibility formula and I'm bound to mark a story up.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): This has an unusual opening for the era.  This is the first time I've seen a strip open with an extensive back story.  It explains how a group of convicts came to be marooned on a desert island some twenty years earlier. A plane crashed on the island some years later, and the convicts killed all of the crew except for 14-year-old Dolores, who the convict leader planned to marry when she became old enough.  The story hits the present when Larry Steele lands there, but there's really not much to it from there.  The convicts convince him to fly them back to the USA, he starts to bond with Dolores, and then it's "to be continued".

'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): This strip has its best installment yet.  Since the last story Bart and Sally have quit the spy game and are getting married.  But as is the way of things, they're summoned urgently half-way through their ceremony to deal with female saboteur Rosa Rinaldo.  This gives the story a bit of an edge in the dialogue, with Sally constantly making snide remarks about the interrupted marriage.  The majority of the story as they chase Rosa Rinaldo isn't out of the ordinary, but the finale really is something else.  Rosa has a mirror that can fire destructive rays, and, well... I'll let the picture speak for itself.

That there is my favourite panel yet.

'Fu Manchu' (by Sax Rohmer and Leo O'Mealia): Nayland Smith explains the ways in which Fu Manchu kills his victims as he and Petrie make their way home under the constant threat of death.  The suspense is really building effectively here, and Fu Manchu manages to be a compelling figure without yet having made an appearance.

'A Dead Case' (by Gardner Fox): This prose story is about a detective investigating the theft of corpses from the morgue. The culprit is a scientist who is trying to bring them back to life.  The subject matter is more in my wheelhouse than most of these prose stories, but this is still not very good.

'Bruce Nelson and the Coolie Smugglers' (by Tom Hickey): This installment is quite basic, being mostly made up of an aerial dogfight followed by Bruce exposing the leader of the smuggling ring. Usually this is one of my favourite strips in the issue, but this one didn't excite me.

'Cosmo' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo saves a gold shipment from some bandits. The only notable thing about this story is that there's a character who specifically hasn't met Cosmo before. Trust me, for this strip it's unusual.

'Steve Malone, District Attorney' (by Gardner Fox and Artist Unknown): Steve deals with a gang of bank robbers, with the help of his Russian friend Big Jim.  Big Jim turns out to be a fun character, and the action scenes are better than average. This isn't too bad.

'Slam Bradley' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Slam and Shorty head to a city of ape-men in Africa to rescue a museum curator.  This is fun stuff, and just reinforces that Slam Bradley is probably still the most consistently good strip I'm reading now.  And to top it off, Shorty finally gets the girl at the end.  Hooray!

Cover by Creig Flessel

'Radio Squad' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): This story gives us a healthy dose of cross-dressing humour as Sandy and Larry go undercover to catch the robber of Lover's Lane.  Siegel and Shuster have proved that they can do very good comedy before, and they've produced another amusing story here.  (Also, the chief gives a big speech about how obedient Sandy and Larry are, forgetting how last issue they stole another cop's squad car.)

'Bloodhound Brown' (by Russell Cole): This is another of Cole's tiresome chase sequence strips. It's just panel after panel of dudes following each other.

'Buccaneer' (by Bernard Baily): This continues its story, in which Captain Dennis Stone just informed his crew that he doesn't want to trade in slaves any more.  His crew backs him up, but he has made an enemy of the villainous Captain Klaugh. It's a reasonably effective piece of set-up for future stories.

'High Stakes' (by Richard Martin): This is the second part of a prose story in which two foreign correspondents are trying to get important documents over the border in some sort of German-like country. With a bit of extra space to develop, it turns out much better than the usual fare for these stories.

'Johnnie Law' (by Will Ely): Johnnie Law is trying to capture some ammunition smugglers, but they get in their boat and sail away as a fog rolls in.  To be continued!  It's all set-up, and dull set-up at that.

'Magic Crystal of History' (by Homer Fleming): This is a strip in which two kids look into a crystal that shows them historical events. This time it details the reign of Henry VII, and the two guys who pretend to be the Earl of Warwick to drum up support and overthrow him. It's more interesting for the events it depicts, rather than the actual execution as a story.

'Red Logan' (by Ed Winiarski): Red is sent overseas as a foreign correspondent, but runs into trouble on the ship with some agents who are trying to kill a foreign secretary and take his top secret documents.  It's average stuff, but the cliffhanger has Red being menaced by a shark, and sharks make everything better.

'Detective Sergeant Carey of the Chinatown Squad' (by Joe Donohoe): Carey deals with a crazy murderer on a plane, which is at least a relief from his usual racist antics in Chinatown.  This strip has shifted over from New Adventure Comics.

The Fun Stamp Club: There is an article in here about stamps.  WHAT THE HELL, DC.  I thought we were past this nonsense.

'The Three Musketeers' (by Sven Elven): D'Artagnan and his companions are tasked to deliver a secret letter from the Queen to the Duke of Buckingham in London. The evil Cardinal's forces dog them at every turn, and it's a relatively tense read as the musketeers fall one by one.  Elven's work is much better when he's adapting other people's stories.

'Jack Woods' (by Jim Chambers): Jack is on the trail of cattle rustlers, and after a confrontation with them he's badly wounded. To be continued!  Honestly, it's like these cowboy strip have exactly one plot.  And to top it off, the strip doesn't appear again until Adventure Comics #39.  I'll have forgotten everything that's happened by then.

'Marg'ry Daw' (by Stan Aschmeier): This wraps up its kidnapping plot in a pretty poor fashion. Ace reporter Jack Kane is introduced and does all the work of exposing the kidnappers, leaving Marg'ry to make a one-panel cameo at the end.  It's bad form when the main character has absolutely nothing to do with resolving her own story.

'Wing Brady' (by Tom Hickey): Wing and his buddy Frenchy are still trying to get revenge on the men who sent them to prison for three years. Wing pretends that he has gone crazy so that he'll be allowed some leeway, and proceeds to stalk one of his enemies.  This is pretty good stuff, with some tense build-up.

'Sandra of the Secret Service' (by Will Ely): Sandra is trailing some thugs who have kidnapped an ex-crook to force him to give them his money. But the ex-crook tricks them and makes his escape. Sandra, being a girl, does nothing but summon the police.  And apparently this is the end of the series, and I'll never find out if Sandra catches that dude.  I'm going to assume that he's caught by a man, because even in their own strips the female characters are pretty ineffectual.

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