Sunday, March 13, 2011

June-July 1938: New Adventure Comics #28, Action Comics #3

Cover by Creig Flessel

'Anchors Aweigh' (by Fred Guardineer) is a new strip.  It features members of the US Navy getting involved in the business of South American crime lord El Diablo, and right off the bat it endears itself to me by including something resembling a super-villain.  The action is adequate, but at least the Navy setting hasn't been tapped out yet.

'Tom Brent and the Dope Ring' is a new strip by Jim Chambers.  Tom Brent is a seaman, whose friend is killed by a ring of dope smugglers.  He manages to get the ring arrested, despite their attempts to frame him.  It's the standard stuff, but it does have one startling observation to make: apparently, waterfront cafes are the "root of all evil".

In 'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster) Steve Carson is still investigating a kidnapping perpetrated by master criminal The Cobra.  It's gratifying to see Steve back to his old self, as he strangles a cobra with what appears to be his tie.

Cover by Leo O'Mealia

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Superman rescues some trapped miners, then goes after their boss for not keeping his mine up to safety standards.  This is where Superman-as-social-crusader really comes to the fore.  Whereas modern Superman might be more concerned with global threats, this is a guy who just wants to make sure a single mine is safe for its workers.  His plan involves getting the boss down into the mine to see the conditions his workers face every day.  It's not as thrilling as the previous two installments, but there is still a certain visceral satisfaction in seeing the wealthy mine owner brought down.  It's pretty easy to imagine a lot of adult readers back in the day having the same reaction.

'Scoop Scanlon' (by Will Ely): Scoop investigates a murder at a dance palace, and finds a girl who is getting men to take her driving so that her pals can rob them.  When Scoop's sidekick Rusty says "good story, eh Scoop?" at the end, even he doesn't sound convinced.

'Pep Morgan' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Middleweight boxing champion, major league baseballer, now automobile racer.  Pep earns the ire of some thugs when he refuses to throw a race.  Despite sabotage, another racer trying to knock him off the track, and some dudes just cold shooting at him, Pep wins, and also manages to catch the crooks afterwards. This is exactly the sort of guy I would have hated in high school.

'Shifty Simpson' (by Russell Cole): This is a humour strip, in which Shifty steals a purse and has a very hard time finding a private place to look inside it. When he finally does get a look inside, he finds a note from the police.  It's fairly amusing.

'The Adventures of Marco Polo' (by Sven Elven): Marco fights a tiger with a spear, then cuts its head in half with a sword.  Note to Sven: more of this please.

'Sports at Sea' (by Dick Lawlor): This is a prose story in which a ship is caught in a storm.  To be honest, the author's insistence on describing the sun as a "fiery planet" was distracting me the whole way through.  Truly, our science powers have come a long way since 1938.

'Tex Thomson' (by Bernard Baily): When last we left Tex, he and Bob were in the secret Sealed City as guests of the one-eyed Gorrah.  As could be expected the Gorrah's a bad guy, and tries to have them killed.  But Tex escapes, finds the real Gorrah, and together they defeat the impostor.  Only he's beaten when he falls into one of his own traps, a pit filled with water. And might I add that it was shallow enough that a man could touch the bottom?  Come on you guys, he's totally not dead, never mind what the caption says!

'Chuck Dawson' (by Homer Fleming): Chuck, last seen being held at gun-point, escapes and spends most of the strip running from, punching and shooting his pursuers. But: oh no! They're planning to use his horse for something crooked!  Wake me if a robot shows up.

'Zatara, Master Magician' (by Fred Guardineer): This strip is pulling out all the stops. Wealthy men have been getting murdered by a gang called Death From Above, who gun them down from their airplanes (extra awesome points for the skull and crossbones on their plane).  Their leader is The Tigress, who we met last month, and she's been using her feminine wiles to get herself written into the wills of the victims before they're murdered.  Zatara manages to defeat them, although he can't capture the Tigress. I honestly don't know why, because the guy can do anything.  If he can teleport people, turn them to stone, and summon a plane out of thin air, I don't see why he can't stop this woman from running away (unless it's because she's a sexy lady, in which case fair play).  Nevertheless, this is diverting enough.  At the very least I enjoy seeing what ludicrous trick Zatara is going to pull next.

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