Tuesday, June 14, 2011

June 1939: All-American Comics #5

Cover by Walter Galli

'Red, White and Blue' (by Jerry Siegel and William Smith): I don't know if Siegel wrote the previous strips here, but I didn't notice a change for this story.  It opens with Blooey winning a turkey in a raffle, and at this point I was wondering where the hell it is going. He sells the turkey and uses the money to invest in a gold mine. You'd think that the guy taking his money being called "Mr. Shill" would tip him off. The shares are bogus, and it turns out that Mr. Shill is involved with the Yellow Army, a crackpot militia group trying to take over America. Again I found myself enjoying this mostly because of the interplay between the characters. But wouldn't you know it, last issue I praised this strip for having female agent Doris West be the brains of the outfit; this issue she isn't even there.

'Ben Webster' (by Edwin Alger): Ben and his inventor friend Pat Ented (yes, I know) create a thought recording machine and go around using it on people. They expose a crooked landlord, a man trying to marry a woman for her money, and a politician pretending to be poor. I'm actually enjoying this, but a lot of that rests on me waiting for the situation to go pear-shaped, which it hasn't yet.

'Wiley of West Point' (by Lieut. Richard Rick): Last issue Wiley wrote a scathing letter to one of his superiors, Baxter. This month they're practicing baseball together, and Baxter pitches the ball right on Wiley's head. I'm struggling to see the point of this whole series, but at least it's taking up fewer pages this issue.

'Adventures in the Unknown - The Mystery Men of Mars' (by Carl H. Claudy): In this installment Alan and Ted spend the whole time running away from martians as they try to escape the planet. This strip really needs to introduce a new story element, because I'm getting pretty tired of it at the moment.

'The American Way' (by John Wentworth and Walter Galli): This is an adaptation of the stage play by George Kaufman and Moss Hart. It's about a family of German immigrants who move to Ohio. Most of the story is the father extolling the virtues of America, and it does get tiresome after a while. It ends with a political rally that turns into a riot, so perhaps it won't be as blindly patriotic as it seems.

'Hop Harrigan' (by Jon Elby): While out flying Hop spots a house on fire and goes to help. He ends up having to fight off a crazy caretaker who lit the fire, and does so with the help of a young kid named Gerry. But what's this? Gerry's a girl?!? What hijinks may ensue from this startling development!

'Bobby Thatcher' (by George Storm): Bobby and Tubby were locked in a cellar by the crazy old man last issue. In this chapter Elmer rescues them and they race to get to their boat before the old geezer. This is another strip falling into the boring captures and escapes routine.

'Spot Savage' (by Herry Lampert): Spot and Foto escape from the insane asylum and go to confront the Duchess, international master thief. This one looks like it's heading for a conclusion (god I hope so).

'Lesson in Blood' (by Loring Dowst): Last month Jimmy Stone tried to steer some young crooks onto the straight and narrow, and got beaten up for his trouble. This month he keeps at it, watching as they rob a deli under the supervision of their mentor "The Weasel". One of the crooks has an improbable change of heart, the baddies are arrested, and everything turns out great. It's an uncharacteristically upbeat ending for what has been a grim, bleak series. All in all I prefer the ones where the main characters get brutally beaten.

'Scribbly' (by Sheldon Mayer): Scribbly is on summer holidays, and wants to get his old job as a newspaper office boy back. Gus Hunkel gets an idea, calling all the local papers and asking after "Scribbly Jibbet, the famous midget cartoonist". Of course this leads to Scribbly being mistaken for said famous cartoonist. This is by far the best humour strip going around at the time.

'Popsicle Pete' (possibly by Sheldon Mayer): In this strip, a kid wins a "typical American boy" contest and gets flown to New York to represent a popsicle company. This continues next month, but to me it feels like very thinly disguised advertising.

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