Monday, May 30, 2011

May 1939: Superman Daily Strips #55-90; Adventure Comics #39

I'll begin today by catching up with the Superman daily strips.  From this point on they'll be mixed in with the rotation of regular comic books whenever a storyline finishes.

SUPERMAN DAILY STRIP #55-66: 'Jewel Smugglers'

Okay, so now I see why Lois hates Clark Kent so much.  In this story, she's demoted from news reporter to lovelorn columnist and Clark is promoted in her place. Then, when she gets a fortunate lead on a gang of smugglers and drags Clark along with her, he sneaks in at the end and takes her story from her. Yes, Lois Lane is a bitch, but I can't help but feel that Clark Kent aka Superman is laughing behind her back. (Also in this story, Superman beats up some crooks.  Just in case you think this is all newspaper office shenanigans.)  This is a pretty standard Superman story, but the glimpse into the beginnings of Clark's relationship with Lois livens it up a little bit.

SUPERMAN DAILY STRIP #67-90: 'Skyscraper of Death'

In this adventure, Superman investigates the deaths of a number of construction workers. It turns out their deaths have been caused by a the owner of a rival company, which is pretty much what I suspected from the beginning. The guy responsible, Nat Grayson, must be the most paranoid man on Earth. When Superman comes to get him not only does he have a steel vault to hide in, but his house is rigged with explosives at every point, and sensors that allow him to detonate them remotely. I can't imagine the life experiences that lead him to design a home like that. Otherwise, this is pretty bog standard material. The daily strip is losing its lustre the further it gets away from Superman's origin.

Cover by John Richard Flanagan

'Barry O'Neill' (by Ed Winiarski): Having been captured by Count Guniff last issue and thrown in a pit full of rising water, Barry and LeGrand spend the whole strip escaping only to get captured again. This is the very definition of filler.

'Cotton Carver, World Adventurer' (by George Newman): When last we left Cotton Carver, he and his friend Volor had kidnapped the White Queen Kothe and taken her inside a strange temple. This story continues the weird pulp fantasy vibe of this strip, as Cotton fights a mace-wielding cat-man in the temple (who afterwards inexplicably joins his party), slides down a tunnel to a land full of archers, and gets involved in a bloody battle to stop them from sacrificing him to their golden god. As the story ends Volor and the cat-man have been shot with arrows, and Carver is about to fight the god Dagan. This is action-packed!

'Federal Men' (by Siegel and Shuster): When some crazy kids murder a gas station attendant, Steve Carson is called in to investigate. He's seemingly unenthused about looking into a murder, but there's one aspect of the case that gets his attention. "Marihuana! The drug that causes the smoker to lose all moral restraint!" Yep, it's gross misinformation time. The story, with Steve going to the local school and exposing the janitor as a dope peddler, is adequate enough. But the premise is based on a completely flawed view of the effects of "marihuana". They can't even spell it right.

'Jack Woods' (by Jim Chambers): Jack Woods? Seriously? This strip finished yonks ago, but he's back for reasons unknown and unwanted.  Jack saves a man from a Mexican bandit called (I kid you not) Scar Tortilla, but the man is none too pleased and chases him away with a shotgun. Later Jack rides into town and takes up a job with a crooked foreman, who tries to frame him for murder. It's at least better than the usual cowboy fare (i.e. those done by Homer Fleming) but I'm still carrying a grudge against cowboy comics as a whole.

'Steve Malone, District Attorney' (by Gardner Fox and Don Lynch): Steve investigates a murder committed by a spy who is also a toy store owner. Now this one misdirected me as to the killer's identity, mainly because I completely misread the story; I thought the killer was the one who had been murdered! Going back to the first page, I can see why, because it's written fairly ambiguously.

'Money Makers' (by Frank Thomas): This prose story is a reprint, because I distinctly remember reading it before. The premise is a little cleverer than most of these; a gang of counterfeiters has stolen the plates from the US mint, so that they can print real money and the government can only print fakes. I can see why they're reprinting it, because it's better than what usually passes for a short story in these comics.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): This strip begins a new story, as Desmo's friend Gabby is kidnapped and taken to work as a slave in a gold mine. This sets up the desperate situation pretty effectively, but I don't have my hopes up, because this strip has never gotten past the level of average.

'Tom Brent' (by Jim Chambers): While on a mission sailing up the Sang Po River, Tom is captured by the local warlord Hong, who forces him to fight in an arena for the right to join his army. Brent manages to take down Hong in a story so rapid-fire that it reads like a disjointed synopsis. I'm usually all for some breakneck speed, but this glossed over too many important scenes.  This is the last appearance of this strip, and good riddance.  It's been consistently terrible from the beginning.

'Skip Schuyler' (by Tom Hickey): Skip Schuyler takes a bizarre turn into the sport genre this issue. His army intelligence department's baseball team is taking on the New York Yankees in an exhibition match. Skip has been asked to pitch, but he can't because of an old football injury. But these stories never end there, and Skip risks further injury to play when he finds out that his buddy bet a whole month's pay on the result. What follows is a match that's full of references to classic baseball players, most of which I know very little about. Perhaps this would mean more to an American baseball fan, but to me it's just a generic sport comic.

'Rusty and His Pals' (by Bob Kane): Rusty and his friends escape from Long Sin, and manage to snag a machine gun in the bargain. Long Sin continues his streak of awesome villainy by sending his men to be gunned down, reasoning that they can capture their enemies once the bullets run out. This strip actually feels like it's moving somewhere now, which is more than I could say before, but it's still notably lacking.  Thank god for Long Sin and his outrageous racist villainy.

'Anchors Aweigh!' (by Fred Guardineer): While out hunting alligators, Don and Red encounter a crazy old man who plans to blow up the Panama Canal. This is reasonably entertaining, with a suitably horrible ending for the villain.

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