Sunday, March 27, 2011

September-October 1938: New Adventure Comics #31; Action Comics #6; Adventure Comics #32

Cover by Creig Flessel

'Barry O'Neill' (by Leo O'Mealia): This strip last appeared in More Fun Comics #29, some seven months ago.  Barry is still trying to rescue Dr. Bonfils from Fang Gow, while the paralysed Fang Gow wants Bonfils to remove a bullet from his spine.  Fang Gow proves his villainy by torturing the good doctor, while Barry blacks up to pass as an Arab so he can infiltrate Fang Gow's lair.  It's a very solid adventure, and it's a testament to it that after all these months (or weeks, in my case) I could still remember what had happened.

'Tom Brent' (by Jim Chambers): Tom is delivering ammunition in Singapore when he gets captured by river pirates.  One is an old enemy of his, Barrows, and the others are primitive native tribesmen. Brent and his pals escape, as is expected, and this strip looks to be heading down the usual boring path. Then the natives go berserk, kill Barrows, and start waving his severed head about on a stick. To be continued! Okay Chambers, you've got my attention.

'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Steve Carson deals with the kidnapping of a wealthy manufacturer's son.  It's as vanilla as this strip can get.

'Dale Daring' (by Will Ely): Dale and her companions make their escape from the bandit hideout, gunning down their pursuers all the while. And remember how last time they had cut the bridge, ending with the cliffhanger of a whole bunch of bandits falling into the ravine?  Luckily for them they fell in the water!  It's the first instance of a hero reassuring the audience that nobody was hurt.

'Cal 'n' Alec' (by Stockton): Cal and Alec are following their treasure map. They find the location and start digging, only to be fired on by a mysterious figure.  This strip isn't even trying to be funny any more, and if it wasn't for the cartoony art style I wouldn't expect it to be.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): Desmo is still making his escape from Ben el Hassar and his men, but luckily there's an army of British soldiers around to help out. Desmo doesn't mess about when it comes to killing Hassar, either; he just hops into his plane and guns him down.  But even with that action-packed conclusion, this story is no great shakes.

'Ocean Flight by Mistake' (by Jack Anthony): This is a prose story about a pilot flying to California who accidentally ends up in Ireland. The punch-line is reached half-way through, but the damn thing just keeps going and going well after it should be finished.

'Don Coyote' (by Stockton): Don finds himself washed up on the shore of a desert island where he meets a vicious criminal intent on duelling with him.  Like Cal 'n' Alec, it's just not funny at all anymore, and it's certainly not dramatic.

'Tod Hunter, Jungle Master' (by Jim Chambers): Tod and his posse are leaving the temple with the rubies they stole. But Paul and Hawkins disappear with the rubies, and send their Arab cronies to capture everyone else. At least that's what I think happened, I found this one a little hard to follow.  And not terribly interesting.

'The Golden Dragon' (by Tom Hickey): This strip follows two stories in this issue.  The first belongs to Cockerill, who we last left being attacked by a giant snake.  It turns out he was hallucinating, possibly under the effect of hypnosis, and that he's been captured by the villainous mongol Torgadoff. Torgadoff's evil plan is to make him write a letter, but we don't see what's in it so I'll give his evil mastermind plan the benefit of the doubt for now.  In the other story, Ian and his band had just been attacked by skeletons and nearly wiped out.  In this issue they make their way to a mysterious temple and are about to meet the Abbot. This is the very definition of a filler strip.

'Rusty and His Pals' (by Bob Kane): Rusty and his friends had just last issue met a big dude with a sword on a tropical island. In this story the big dude leads them into a trap, and the revelation at the end is that there's a white man in charge of the natives.  Isn't there always?

'Anchors Aweigh' (by Fred Guardineer): Red is captured by El Diablo and tricked into leaving a message for Don that will lure him into a trap.  Honestly, I just want to find out the identity of El Diablo and get this over and done with.

Cover by Leo O'Mealia

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): This has a story with a surprising amount of prescience. A man arrives at the Daily Star claiming to be Superman's manager, and he has licensed all sorts of Superman merchandise. Of course Clark Kent knows he's a phony, and proceeds to expose him and the actor he has hired to play Superman. Lois gets involved, and once again she is a complete bitch; her method of stealing Clark's story this month is to drug him.  I honestly can't see how Superman can possibly fall in love with her, because she's just intolerable

The Superman merchandise is everywhere in this story, and it's weird to think that this story most probably existed in a world before all of this stuff was a reality. A radio show and a movie are mentioned, as is the Superman Streamline Special, America's Favorite Automobile (I don't think this one was ever made, but it wouldn't surprise me).

Oh, and a young kid wearing a bow tie appears in the Daily Star.  He's not named, but he has Jimmy Olsen written all over him.

 Chuck escapes from the bad guys, only to be captured by some other guys.  Seriously, people getting captured is the only plot twist Homer Fleming knows.

'Pep Morgan' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Pep goes hunting for bears and ends up rescuing a kidnapped boy from a hardened criminal. Then, just to prove what a swell guy he is, he uses the reward money to buy bats and balls for orphans.  It's probably wrong for me to hate such a good guy, but I hate him a lot.

'Pilferin' Pete' (by Russell Cole): This is yet another story where a cop chases a purse snatcher. Cole is just turning in the same story over and over again at this point.

'The Adventures of Marco Polo' (by Sven Elven): Marco Polo is still in the town of Kerman, where he witnesses a battle between two groups of bandits, and later saves a woman from being raped. There's a relatively graphic shot of the rapist's corpse with Marco's sword in it, gushing blood like a fountain. There's nothing like a good bit of unexpected gore to liven a story up.

'Tex Thomson' (by Bernard Baily): Tex is flying over Europe when he is forced down by a mysterious plane and captured by the evil Captain Diablo, who is running his own private army. In an effective plot twist, Diablo and Thomson just happen to look identical, and the usual shenanigans ensue; Thomson escapes by impersonating Diablo, but is then arrested by authorities who think he is their enemy.  This one is to be continued, and has some decent potential.

'Scoop Scanlon' (by Will Ely): Scoop takes on a gang of murderers with the help of some hillbillies. It's a fairly average story, but the addition of hillbillies is always welcome.

'Zatara' (by Fred Guardineer): Zatara is awesome. In this story the Tigress is at it again, trying to steal the emerald of Egyptian pharaoh Cheops. At first things are going like the average Zatara story, but then the Tigress gets captured by an evil sheik, Zatara meets the mummy of Cheops, and then he leads the pharaoh's undead legions to rescue the Tigress. By the end it seems as though Zatara and the Tigress are best buds, so I'll be interested to see where that relationship goes.  But this story was really good, with some rad scenes and an epic scale.

Cover by Creig Flessel

'Barry O'Neill' (by Leo O'Mealia): The newly revived Fang Gow captures Jean LeGrand and her father, while Barry and Dr. Bonfils try to survive a water-filled cavern set as a trap.  Again this is solid, and I'm impressed by O'Mealia's willingness to shut up and let the art tell the story. It's almost marred by the appearance of some very awful Chinese dialect, but that character starts talking normally when he reveals that he's a secret agent, so it's all good.

'Tom Brent' (by Jim Chambers): I have no idea what happened in this. Our heroes are being menaced by natives, until the pirate leader shows up and guns them down in his plane.  The pirate leader then tries to kill Brent, but Brent escapes and flies off in the plane.  Then he's attacked by a cobra that was in the cockpit.  Then the authorities show up to arrest the pirate leader. What happened to the snake? What happened to the natives that were still there?  It's supposed to be a conclusion, but it's like there's a huge part of the story that's missing.

'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Steve Carson leads an attack on a racketeer who is holed up with a tommy gun in an abandoned house. After the house catches fire, Steve tries to rescue the criminal, only for the whole structure to fall on him.  It's a good cliffhanger to an otherwise average story.

'Dale Daring' (by Will Ely): This starts a new story, in which Dale and her father return to their South American rubber plantation only to find that it's being run by unsavoury natives who are ready for an uprising. It's not great, but at least I can say that I don't really know where it's going.

'Cal 'n' Alec' (by Stockton): This finally delivers the punchline to the buried treasure storyline, and it turns out that the map was given to them by some guy they know who has never appeared in the strip before. A very poor conclusion.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): Desmo also starts a new adventure, in which he agrees to help a British army colonel who has been framed for treason.  Of more interest than the plot, though, is that Desmo's sidekick Gabby asks Desmo why he wears his flight goggles at all times (even to bed). He doesn't get an answer, but I get the feeling there will be one eventually.  Cool!

'Don Coyote' (by Stockton): Don spends this strip fighting the guy he annoyed last time, and survives through dumb luck. It's not bad, but I miss Hash and Hamburger, Coyote's old sidekicks.

'Dot & Danny' (by Romer): This is about two kids who presumably get up to shenanigans and annoy their parents. Their mother tries to pretend she's out when a friend calls, but Dot accidentally gives her away. At least, I think that's the joke, because I'm not sure I get it.  This feature never appears again.

'Ol' Oz Bopp' (by Russell Cole): Oz spends most of this strip talking about what awesome lives the American Indians have, and how he wishes he lived the same way.  I'm still waiting for the punchline.  And it seems I'll be waiting forever, because this is the last appearance of the strip.  It was about an old man doing old man stuff, but mildly amusing. You know what, I'll kind of miss him.

'Professor Doolittle' (by Bob Kane): This sets up a gag where Doolittle keeps going into manholes and coming up with money. It turns out he's playing cards with the workmen down there, which is at least a joke I can understand.

'Hot Money' (by Whitney Ellsworth): This starts strongly with a bank robbery gone wrong, but peters out once it starts to focus on the FBI tracking the robbers down. It continues next issue.

'Tod Hunter, Jungle Master' (by Jim Chambers): Tod is still a captive of the arab Hassim. I was having trouble following this strip last time, but I think I've caught up here. Tod's buddy Paul has turned traitor and is trying to flee with the rubies, while Hassim wants them for himself. That doesn't mean it's good, it just means I understand the plot now.

'The Golden Dragon' (by Tom Hickey): Our hero Ian meets the abbot, who rattles off a few pages of cryptic prophecies and mumbo jumbo.  I'm a sucker for that sort of thing, so I enjoyed this quite a bit. Then we get into some plotting from the evil Torgadoff, and it looks to me as though this strip is heading to a conclusion pretty soon.

'Rusty and His Pals' (by Bob Kane): Rusty and his pals find themselves as the guest of Ichabod Slade, a white man in charge of the natives on the island. After his intriguing introduction, it turns out that he is just another dull villain creating counterfeit money. And whatever happened to the Chinese dude and his pirates from a few strips ago?  They've vanished from the story completely after a huge build-up..

'Anchors Aweigh' (by Fred Guardineer): Don succeeds in rescuing Red, but El Diablo escapes.  My prime suspect for being El Diablo, Marshall, then goes to great lengths to prove his innocence by showing up as El Diablo's captive. I'm still not convinced!  Also, I love El Diablo.  He's just a guy in a suit with a sack on his head.

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