Wednesday, March 9, 2011

June 1938: Detective Comics #17, More Fun Comics #33

Cover by Creig Flessel
'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): This strip has a new artist in Fred Guardineer.  It doesn't make a lot of difference; the up-side of so many Golden Age heroes having bland personalities and appearance is that there's no huge shift when strips change creators.  In this story, goons kidnap the daughter of an inventor and hold her to ransom for his plans.  Speed rescues her in a fairly rudimentary fashion, and a big deal is made of his knowledge that snakes won't cross a rope made of hair.  It sounds so dubious that it just has to be true.

'Oscar the Gumshoe' (by Bob Kane): This is a one-page filler strip, in which Oscar is tricked into calling out a police squad by a gang of kids.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): Larry is asked by a Hollywood buddy of his to go with him to look at an abandoned castle.  They stumble across some thugs holding a girl for ransom, get captured, escape, and by the end of the strip they have fallen into a trap door.  Again, this is very standard material, with little to liven it up beyond the setting.

'Cosmo' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo is caught up in the world of international intrigue.  An old friend of his (naturally) has invented a Very Big Cannon, only for the plans to be stolen by foreign agents.  Cosmo does his thing at a Russian ball, chatting up the duchess who also happens to be the one with the plans.  It's about as good as Cosmo ever is, but at least by dabbling in the spy genre it generates some interest.

'Fu Manchu' (by Sax Rohmer and Leo O'Mealia): An adaptation of the 'Fu Manchu' stories by Sax Rohmer begins in this issue (I believe that this is an adaptation of The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu).  It's weird for me seeing Fu Manchu in a DC comic, as I usually associate him with Marvel's Master of Kung Fu.  Even so, this is actually quite absorbing, as detectives Petrie and Nayland Smith investigate a murder connected to the evil Fu Manchu, "the Yellow Peril incarnate in one man!"

'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Bart and Sally infiltrate the Hooded Horde, an organisation bent on taking over the USA.  With some colourful villains and some decent dialogue between Sally and Bart it's quite entertaining. This is definitely a strip on the upswing.

'Disaster on the Diamond' (by Gardner Fox): This prose story is about a betting syndicate that assassinates a baseball player to protect its winnings.  There's really very little that can be done with these two-pagers.

'Bruce Nelson and the Coolie Smugglers' (by Tom Hickey): On holiday after the Omar Diamond affair, Bruce finds himself in South Africa being asked to track down some smugglers.  At first he refuses, but pretty soon he's been implicated in the whole thing, and is on the run.  Most of the strip involves a desperate plan to get gas for his plane, which a is a surprising diversion from the main thrust of finding the real smugglers.  This story plays against expectations quite well throughout.

'Buck Marshall' (by Homer Fleming): Cattle rustlers.  Nothing to see here.

'Slam Bradley' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Slam is investigating the murders of radio singers, who are being killed with exploding microphones.  The culprit for this one is bleeding obvious.  There's a little bit of comedy when Shorty becomes a radio singer.  There's also the introduction of his twin brother Sporty, but that quickly goes nowhere.  A fairly average installment.

Cover by Vin Sullivan
'Buccaneer' (by Bernard Baily) is a new strip about pirates (one of the big genres of the day, it seems).  It involves a guy who kills his captain for harassing a woman, and then takes over the captain's position.  It's hard to muster up any enthusiasm for this one.

'Cap'n Jerry' (by R.A. Burley) is yet another pirate strip.  In this one, Jerry meets another captain who is mistreating some natives.  This one at least has a suitably reprehensible villain, but it's still quite average.

There's one more new strip called 'Marg'ry Daw' (by Stan Aschmeier), which is about a little girl who gets involved in the plots of some crooks led by her professor uncle.  Little girl adventure strips are also fairly common at this time, probably spurred on by the popularity of Shirley Temple.  But once again, this is uninteresting.

The real star of this issue is the latest installment of 'Wing Brady' (by Tom Hickey).  Wing's sidekick Frenchy has "like all Latins" a weakness for drink and girls.  So of course, Frenchy gets drunk, sexually harasses Wing's girlfriend, and gets in a big punch-up with Our Hero.  It's completely irrelevant to anything, but entertaining nonetheless to watch Frenchy go off the rails.

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