Tuesday, March 22, 2011

September 1938: Action Comics #5

Cover by Leo O'Mealia

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Superman has to save a town from a burst dam, which is mostly an excuse for him to show off his powers to the reader.  Of greater importance is the beginning of the Clark-Lois-Superman love triangle.  Lois is a complete bitch in this story, to the point where she sends Clark on a wild goose chase so that she can steal his story.  Despite the fact that Clark is basically a nice guy, she treats him like dirt.  But perhaps there's a cultural disconnect going on here for me, because all of the so-called admirable heroes of the Golden Age are aggressive men of action, and Clark is very passive.  I like him, but I'm gathering that not many people of this era would.  But this is where Lois starts falling hard for Superman, even going so far as to plant a kiss on him, and that's a lot more significant than seeing Superman outrace a flood. (Not that the latter isn't exciting, because in relation to the other stories in this issue it really is.)

'The Diddle Family' (by Paul Gustavson): This humour strip is about a boy and his grandfather who feign incompetence to get out of cleaning the house.  It's a policy I've lived my life by.

'Chuck Dawson' (by Homer Fleming): Chuck captures a sniper and is about to get him to spill everything he knows, but then gets himself captured by the sheriff. Fleming's last cowboy strip was nothing but an endless series of captures and escapes, so I'm hoping this is a one-time deal.

'Pep Morgan' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Pep wins a yacht race. There's absolutely nothing else to this story.

'Phil the Floater' (by Russell Cole): This is about a hobo who steals a chicken then gets caught by the police. Honestly, these stories are just getting simpler and simpler.

'The Adventures of Marco Polo' (by Sven Elven): Marco fights the giant snake from last issue, then spends the rest of the strip recuperating in a Persian town. I suppose that the whole point of this type of strip is the depiction of exotic locales and cultures, so I can forgive the leisurely pace here.

'Valley of the Past' (by Richard Martin): This is a prose story about two cowboys who are inexplicably attacked by a dinosaur.  This one registered more highly with me than most of the previous text stories simply because of its subject matter.  This sort of genre mash-up will become the bread-and-butter of the comics industry in years to come, but at this point it's still unusual.

'Tex Thomson' (by Bernard Baily): Tex is in the Middle Eastern country of "Nestralia", where he gets involved with revolutionaries trying to kill a girl who knows too much.  I was kind of bored by this, but it picks up when Tex has a sword fight with the leader of the revolutionaries. He even loses the fight, which isn't common for Golden Age heroes. (Don't worry kids, he gets rescued and the baddies are arrested.)

'Scoop Scanlon, Star Reporter' (by Will Ely): Scoop goes up against "Gentleman Jack", a bank robber who donates his stolen money to charity.  This one is continued next month.  It's good to see a villain with a relatively complex morality.

'Zatara' (by Fred Guardineer): Zatara faces an ancient Egyptian sorcerer named Amen-Hotep in a story that's a hell of a lot of fun. Again (to my disappointment) he doesn't do any backwards talking, but the magic he uses is clever and his duel with Amen-Hotep is really engaging.  The bad guy's name was familiar to me, so I thought he must have appeared again after this, but it just turns out that there are a few Egyptian pharaohs with the same name.

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