Monday, March 7, 2011

June 1938: Action Comics #2

Cover by Leo O'Mealia
'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): This story continues from last month, as our hero jumps off an eighty storey building just to torture information out of a thug.  He finds out that a munitions manufacturer has been fomenting war in San Monte, and threatens him into taking a boat to that country.  Once there, Superman forces him into enlisting in one of the armies, so that he can see the war firsthand (and later repent of weapons manufacturing).  While this old-fashioned bout of psychological torture is going on, Superman finds time to save Lois Lane from execution as a spy, and to get the two rival army leaders into the same room to settle their differences face-to-face.  He's not quite as busy as he was last issue, but it has to be said that the guy gets results.

The most notable thing about this story is that the character of Superman is very different than the modern iteration.  He's basically a bully, getting his way through physical threats and strong arm tactics.  This is a version of the character that can threaten to rip a man's heart out, and it's believable that he might do so.  He actually does pick up a man and throw him several miles; we don't see the end result, but it's a safe bet that he's at least seriously injured.  He's also very willing to get involved in humanity's affairs and solve their problems, a stance that the modern Superman has specifically spoken out against. Yes, his solutions are simplistic, and their applicability to real life is dubious at best, but this is the world of Siegel and Shuster, social crusaders.  It's evident from their work that they really do believe that one man can make a difference, so I guess that a Superman can make a really big difference.

'Scoop Scanlon' (by Will Ely): Scoop is sent on an assignment to cover the story of a millionaire's yacht, caught in a storm off the coast of Connecticut.  He endears himself to me instantly by declaring this risk to human life as a great opportunity for his career, but by the end he's diving into the water to rescue a girl.  Then at the end he's happy that his partner got good pictures, so it's hard to see this guy as a hero with no ulterior motives.

'Pep Morgan' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Pep is on his way to being a great baseball player, but he has a 'glass arm' from an old injury, meaning that he can't throw for beans.  Of course he overcomes his handicap with grit and determination by the end, but I'm just puzzled as to what this guy's career is.  Last month he was a boxing light heavyweight champion, and now he's a major league baseballer?  This guy must be the greatest sportsman in the history of the DC universe.

'Elmer the Eel' (by Russel Cole): This is yet another story where a cop chases a crook through various scenes and set pieces.  This must be Cole's new thing, and as pointless as these stories are, I enjoy them for how quick they are to read.  It's a relief to get to something like this, as opposed to the strips with large amounts of dialogue and captions.

'The Adventures of Marco Polo' (by Sven Elven): Marco's band deals with some bandits, and holds their leader hostage to get safe passage to Iran.  Like most of Elven's work, I find myself losing interest in this one.  When do we get to the bit where he meets Doctor Who?

'South Sea Strategy' (by Captain Frank Thomas): This is the continuation of last issue's prose story.  In this installment, Bret Coleman and his buddies rescue a white girl from cannibals.  The end.  It's as basic as it gets.  I was expecting a little more from a two-parter, to be honest.

'Tex Thomson' (by Bernard Baily): Tex and his pal Bob are in search of a lost city. They find it, as well as its leader, the Gorrah.  The story cleverly sets him up as the usual yellow peril Chinese villain, only to reveal that he's a yellow-skinned cyclops. There's not much else going on here, but I thought that reveal was well done. To be continued!

'Inspector Donald and Bobby' (by Leo O'Mealia): In this story an ex-cop goes missing, and his son gets enough help to find him and arrest the dope smugglers who captured him.  Rudimentary stuff.

'Chuck Dawson' (by Homer Fleming): Dawson is still trying to get revenge on the guys who stole his father's ranch.  If Fleming's other strips are anything to go by, he'll be at it for years to come.

'Zatara' (by Fred Guardineer): Zatara deals with a crook who killed his brother to get the family farm.  There's some Scooby-Doo nonsense with a fake ghost, and the murder victim is called Jim Hendrix, but otherwise there's not much else to this one.  Zatara's sidekick Tong is another racial stereotype, but being Indian he's at least one we haven't seen before.

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