Monday, May 16, 2011

April 1939: Feature Comics #21

Cover by Ed Cronin

Momentous occasion time!  This is the first comic in this project that isn't somehow associated with National/DC.  Feature Comics #21 is the first comic published by Quality, who will go on to create a bunch of characters like the Blackhawks, Uncle Sam, and Plastic Man.  Obviously those characters are subsumed by DC much later, but at this point in time they're completely separate.

This begs the question, why is it issue #21 if this is the first Quality comic?  That's because this title existed at a different publisher, Eastern Color Press, under the title Feature Funnies.  A lot of the strips are continued from there, so I'm joining them mid-stream.

'Espionage' (by Will Erwin): The first non-humour feature in this mag is a spy strip starring The Black X, an American spy with an awesome monocle. The Black X has stolen documents that will expose a foreign spy, but he has to make it to Washington with the evidence before enemy agents catch up with him. What follows is a pretty tense cross-country chase sequence, with an effective twist ending. This is alright, and it ough to be, because Will Erwin is actually a pseudonym for legendary creator Will Eisner.

'Jane Arden' (by Monte Barrett and Russell E. Ross): I've come into the middle of this serial, in which a girl reporter is present at the murder of a judge who was about to read a will. The will has disappeared; who is the culprit?!?!?! It pains me greatly to see that this insidious plot device is in use outside of DC.  Wills, you guys.  I'm sick of them.

'Gallant Knight' (by Vernon Henkel): It's another strip I've joined mid-stream. A knight named Sir Neville and his princess companion have washed up near a fisherman's hut. The fisherman sells them out to a guy named Chopak who holds her to ransom, planning to raise an army and usurp the crown of France. This sort of medieval knight genre has fallen out of favour over at DC, so it's refreshing to see one here. And it's better than any of the ones I read over there, as well.

'Big Top' (by Ed Wheelan): Hey, it's Ed Wheelan, perpetrator of 'Secrets of the Tomb' over in Movie Comics. This story is about a circus that gets robbed for ten grand.  While the investigation goes on, a banker promises to invest money in the circus so long as they let him work as a clown. It's better than his Movie Comics work, but that is saying very, very little.

'Captain Cook of Scotland Yard' (by Stan Asch): This murder mystery story claims that there are clues in the first three panels that will help the reader to solve the case before Captain Cook. Unless I'm completely blind, there are none. (For the record, the butler and the chauffeur did it. Because they were left out of the will!)

'The Clock Strikes' (by George Brenner): The Clock, aka Brian O'Brien, is a masked crimefighter of sorts (although he only wears a mask in the opening title panel, not the story itself). In this story he visits the New York World's Fair (I can't escape this damned place) where he foils a robbery. I couldn't be more bored.

Apparently the Clock is the first masked crimefighter in comic books, having appeared in a whole lot of stuff before this issue.

'Lala Palooza' (by Rube Goldberg): This is a strip about two people who take over a hotel, and it's not particularly interesting. But some of you might recognise the name of the creator, who inspired the name of the Rube Goldberg device. You know how Wile E. Coyote would rig up some ridiculous contraption to capture the Road Runner? That's a Rube Goldberg device. And the top of every page here has a one-panel gag involving a different one each time.  They're quite amusing.

'Richard Manners, The Super Sleuth' (by Fran Frollo): Richard Manners and his buddy Mitch stop a robber who has been making his escapes in an airplane.  It's yet another detective strip where the principal characters are completely devoid of personality.

'Ned Brant' (by Bob Zuppke and R.W. Depew): This is a teenage humour strip, I guess. Brant wins a baseball game, gets in the school play and screws it up, and picks a fight with a guy who is talking about his girl. I've read one Ned Brant strip, and I already want him to die.

'The Mystery of Echo Island' (by John A. Thorne): This is a prose story about two kids who have been kidnapped, along with their inventor father.  They escape, rescue their dad, and beat the crooks using a robot. It's not nearly as exciting as it sounds.

'Reynolds of the Mounted' (by Art Pinajian): Oh no, mounties! In this story, Reynolds and his partners take on an eskimo witch doctor.  This is fairly average, which makes it the friggin Citizen Kane of mountie comics.

No comments:

Post a Comment