Thursday, June 23, 2011

June 1939: Action Comics #15

Cover by Fred Guardineer

'Superman' (by Siegel and Shuster): Clark is sent to write a story about Kidtown, a place where underprivileged boys can go to live in a wholesome environment. It turns out that the owner of Kidtown needs two million dollars, or he'll have to close. Clark still has a million bucks from that time he scammed the crooked oil stockbrokers, and he decides to raise the other million somehow. This leads him to hiring a boat to salvage a sunken galleon, while mobsters pose as his crew to get the gold for themselves. This is alright, but the most notable thing in it is that Superman displays absolutely no regard for his secret identity. I count at least three incidents where he displays obvious super-strength or invulnerability while dressed as Clark Kent. Some gangsters even stab him in the chest, only for the blade to snap off, and they know for a fact that he's Clark Kent. It's a miracle that he's not exposed after this.

Oh yeah, Superman fights about a dozen sharks at once in this story as well.

'Pep Morgan' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Pep is back in the USA, but he doesn't go back to being awesome at every sport ever like I thought he would. Instead he is hired by a warehouse owner to investigate a string of thefts, which turn out to be the work of a murderous gang of crooks. This strip gets ever more generic the further it gets away from its sport comic roots.

'The Adventures of Marco Polo' (by Sven Elven): Marco, his father and his uncle have just escaped from slavery. Everyone except Marco gets out of the castle, but Marco is trapped and spends the whole strip running from guards and punching people. Not bad for what it is.

'Clip Carson, Soldier of Fortune' (by Bill Finger and Bob Kane): Clip Carson and his friend Jim Blake are still looking for the pyramid of the pharaoh Kheoks, They fight through Arabs and sandstorms to reach it, only to be menaced by a mummy. The plot is an average one, but it's elevated by the radness that is Clip Carson. Check him out:

Clip Carson, I love you. Don't ever change.

'Tex Thomson' (by Bernard Baily): Tex is hired to track down a diamond thief, but that plot is a distant second to the introduction of Tex's new sidekick, Gargantua T. Potts. Gargantua is one of those egregious black caricatures you see a lot of from the 1930s, with jet black skin and gigantic red lips. If I try to look past this to the actual character, he is heroic and (speech patterns notwithstanding) he's not portrayed as being stupid. He's at least as smart as Bob Daley, Tex's other sidekick. But it's difficult to read when he's so terribly racist from a modern perspective, and it looks as though he'll be a recurring character. I'm interested to see how this progresses.

'Chuck Dawson' (by Homer Fleming): When Chuck rides into a small town he is mistaken for Killer Keefe, a vicious criminal, and has to flee from the law. He ends up taking on Keefe's gang, and once he's managed to catch up with them he deals with them all in four panels. Weak, as usual.

'Zatara the Master Magician and the Ice Menace' (by Fred Guardineer): Zatara goes up against a mad scientist who is melting icebergs in order to flood cities so that he can blackmail countries into giving him lots of money. The opening scenes of a flooded New York are quite effective, but it's hard to rate the story, because my scan of it is incomplete. What I read was decent, although a bit light on Zatara's usual mystical wackiness.

The incomplete scan didn't really impact my reading, aside from the cut off Zatara story above. Pretty much all I missed were the text pieces and various other single page features that I don't talk about here anyway.

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