Wednesday, April 6, 2011

December 1938: Action Comics #8

Cover by Fred Guardineer

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Superman is just crazy in this issue.  The story starts normally enough, with Clark Kent witnessing a delinquent being sent to jail, and Superman helping the kid's friends stop their lives of thievery.  That's when some of Siegel and Shuster's simplistic political views come forward, as Superman blames all this juvenile delinquency on the slums where these kids live.  His solution to everything at this point is to hit things, so he just demolishes the entire suburb in the hope that the government will rebuild it with nicer apartments.  Never mind the poor folks that he just made homeless for a few weeks.  Never mind the likelihood that a nice house is pretty unlikely to solve their problems.

Still, there's something visceral and cathartic in how Superman deals with things.  I can't deny that I loved watching him outrace a bullet, and destroy entire city blocks with his bare hands.  Siegel and Shuster have a very effective method of setting up some social injustices, and getting a satisfying story out of Superman bludgeoning them into submission.

I was surprised to see Superman being fired on by the US army in this story.  It makes sense perfect sense given his destructive rampage, but Superman being pursued by the military isn't something I'm used to seeing. I'm hoping they continue with it for a little while.

I also love the way Superman gets around by running along power lines.  It looks ridiculous, but it has a lot more character than flying.  Oh, and New Power Watch: he uses super-hearing for the first time.

'Chuck Dawson' (by Homer Fleming): Chuck spends most of this installment running from his enemies, with a couple of gunfights thrown in for good measure.  The cliffhanger sees a lady friend of his kidnapped. A kidnapping in a Homer Fleming story?  Say it ain't so!

'Pep Morgan' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Pep is skiing this month.  The guy he's in competition with has a sister who is constantly rude and dismissive to Pep, which endears her to me no end.  But because this is a Pep Morgan story, and he cannot fail at anything, by the end of the story he has saved his opponent from falling into a chasm and looks to be getting romantic with the formerly hateful sister.  To be honest, I'm just glad to see a Pep Morgan story with some plot elements beyond the sporting contest.

'The Adventures of Marco Polo' (by Sven Elven): Marco is rushing for help, as his friends and the girl Shela fight off a horde of bandits.  He returns with Shela's father and an army to disperse the bandits, and there's really not much else to it.

'Frozen Hazard' (by Richard Martin): This is a prose story about a pilot in Canada who is forced down by a snowstorm. It didn't particularly hold my interest, and very little has happened in it so far. It continues in the next issue, so perhaps it will get better then.

'Tex Thomson' (by Bernard Baily): Tex tackles an Asian mad scientist this month, and this guy's scheme is one of the classics: he's transplanting human brains into apes!  This one is really entertaining, but I'm a sucker for any story where a man puts an ape into a lethal headlock. This one continues next issue. (Plus, what's with all the jodhpurs in this story?  They're everywhere.)

World of Stamps: According to this article, the Post Office Department has "many plans to cultivate stamp-mindedness among the young".  I just wanted to be the first person to use the phrase stamp-mindedness in the 21st century.

'Scoop Scanlon, Five Star Reporter' (by Will Ely): Scoop helps some federal agents deal with a group growing crops of marijuana. Despite gun battles and a burning house this is still pretty dull. It seems as though Will Ely has a knack for sucking the drama out of any situation.

'Zatara' (by Fred Guardineer): Zatara is in India this month, where he tackles a rebel army that has kidnapped the prince. Again, the plot is simple, and the fun comes from Zatara's absurd powers. At one point he transforms himself and his sidekick Tong into a pair of hawks, and we see one wearing a top hat and another with a turban.  He even summons a hail of bullets to scatter the rebel army. I think I'm actually enjoying this strip a little more than Superman.

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