Sunday, April 10, 2011

December 1938: Detective Comics #23

Cover by Fred Guardineer

'Speed Saunders' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Speed goes skiing, and gets involved with a murderer who kills people by throwing ski poles at them (as evidenced in the cover above, in which the seemingly outmatched murderer has brought a ski pole to a gunfight). The plot itself is pretty straightforward, but I'm amused enough by the murder weapon to get some fun out of it.

'Larry Steele' (by Will Ely): Larry is framed for murder by some thieves, and has cleared his name by the end of the story.  Average.

'Buck Marshall' (by Homer Fleming): Buck investigates a series of murders made to look like suicides, committed by a guy who wants the victims' land for its gold deposits. It's a little more original than the usual Buck Marshall stuff, but just by a smidgen.

'The Crimson Avenger' (by Jim Chambers): The Crimson Avenger goes up against a mad scientist who is using zombified slaves to kill the local crime lords so that he can take over.  This is yet another story in which the hero wins by calling the police, which I'm getting heartily sick of.

'Bruce Nelson' (by Tom Hickey): Bruce is invited back to his alma mater to help his old football coach stop a betting ring that is trying to fix the next game by rubbing out his star player.  I was with this one until the actual football started, and then it was like the strip was written in a different language.  I did enjoy seeing something of Nelson's past, but the football stuff sailed right over my head.

'Railroad Riddle' (by Gardner Fox): This is a prose story about a train robbery that is foiled by an FBI agent. It's impossible to care about anything that happens in this story. It spends a good page describing the train and the gold inside, but it doesn't introduce any of the characters until the story is almost over.  Such a banal plot needs some interesting people in it, but these are the most underdeveloped ciphers possible.

In 'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Celebrities are dying of mysterious heart attacks, and Bart and Sally investigate. As is the way with such things, an evil scientist is responsible, using radio waves to stop the hearts of his victims. The signal is sent to a button placed on the victim's clothes, which leads to a pretty funny scene of Bart calling Sally on the phone and frantically telling her to undress.  Also, Crossover Alert: Bart contacts the Daily Star, which is the newspaper that Clark Kent works at.

'Fu Manchu' (by Sax Rohmer and Leo O'Mealia): This strip has a really short installment this month, as our heroes investigate a Chinese barber shop which they believe is Fu Manchu's hideout. Pretty much nothing happens here, but at least it happens atmospherically.

'Cosmo, Phantom of Disguise' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo deals with two killers who are trying to off the heir of a gold mine so that they can claim it themselves. The opening's quite moody, but otherwise it's the same old same old for Cosmo.

'Slam Bradley' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): I got a rush of nostalgia from this story, as it opened with Slam punching a guy in the face. That's where any resemblance to previous Slam Bradley stories ends, because this one is just insane. Slam and Shorty make the acquaintance of a scientist with his own time machine, and together they travel to the year 2,000,000,000 AD. There's a strange city guarded by death rays, and Slam and Shorty are taken inside to meet a plant man, a bird man and a regular dude, all of whom are slated to be executed for gambling on the anniversary of the removal of the Prince's tonsils.  Some guards show up, there's a lot of chasing, the plant man kills some people with deadly flowers, and Slam and Shorty are captured by the guards. To be continued!  It's all very surreal, and the motives of the future characters are hazy. It's easily the weirdest thing I've read in this project so far, and that has me intrigued.  A lot of the Golden Age stories I've read have this sort of stream-of-consciousness, fever dream quality to them, but this is the first time that I have encountered it in this project.


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