Wednesday, June 15, 2011

June 1939: Detective Comics #39

Cover by Bob Kane

'The Bat-Man meets Doctor Death' (by Bob Kane): Now this is a bit more like it. In this story, as you may have guessed from the title, the Bat-Man goes up against Doctor Death. Doctor Death has a plan to poison any millionaire who doesn't pay him lots of money, but he needs to get rid of the Bat-Man first. A series of traps and attempts to kill the Bat-Man ensue, until the Bat-Man tracks down his opponent.  Doctor Death is killed in a fire, and the Bat-Man utters the immortal line: "Death... To Doctor Death!" This is the first Bat-Man story that really effectively captures his mystery and eeriness, and also his hard-as-nails attitude.
We also see the first real use of Bat-Man's utility belt: he stores some smoke bombs in it.

Mind you, he's not too protective of his secret identity.  When Doctor Death puts an ad in the paper addressed to Bat-Man telling him to pick up a parcel from the post office, Bat-Man goes there as Bruce Wayne to collect it.  I expect that other people, possibly the police, would have noticed that ad as well.  And it's not like Bruce Wayne, millionaire playboy, wouldn't be recognised.

'Larry Steele, Private Detective' (by Will Ely): While Larry is looking out of his apartment window he sees a man in the building across the street being murdered for not paying a debt. Larry decides that the best way to get across there is to climb on the girders of a half-finished building, and the crooks also decide that that is the best way to escape. What follows is a shoot-out high above ground level. The novel setting made this one more interesting than its banal plot would suggest.

'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Mart Bailey): What? No Shuster? I suppose he's got too much Superman to worry about his other strips right now. In this story Bart Regan and a guy named Jack Steele go up against a foreign spy who plans to kill a bunch of military officers with bombs during an aerial demonstration. It lacks a lot of the charm that it had during Shuster's run, most notably because Bart's fiancee Sally has been replaced by some random new guy. The heart of this strip was not the intrigue or the plotting, but the interplay between Bart and Sally. Without that, and without Shuster, you have just another generic comic about spies.

'The Crimson Avenger' (by Jim Chambers): The Crimson Avenger tackles some kidnappers in what is about the most generic story ever devised by man.

'A Game for Two' (by Paul Dean): In this prose story a man named Baxter buys some priceless pearls, only for a master thief to send him a letter explaining that he is going to steal them. Baxter notifies the police, who then proceed to disguise themselves and capture the thief as he's stealing the pearls. I enjoyed the cocky attitude of the thief early on, but after that things go far too smoothly for the police to entertain me.

'Speed Saunders, Ace Investigator and the Perfect Crime' (by Fred Guardineer): Scientist Doctor Oldbourne kills his partner by blowing tobacco in his face, then substituting the chemicals he was working on with explosives. It's supposedly the perfect crime, but Speed Saunders keeps on keeping on until Doctor Oldbourne is under arrest. This isn't a great story, but I love the way it plays up Speed using a dictaphone to record Oldbourne's confession; it's made out to be the most ingenious idea ever, when really it should be tactic #1 for every detective.

'Bruce Nelson' (by Tom Hickey): Bruce is still investigating the murder of Lily Gravet, and to be honest I remember nothing of what went before. It turns out that The Butler Did It, which is about par for the course. It's too bad, because this was once a great strip, but now it seems a bit lacking.

'Cosmo, The Phantom of Disguise' (by Sven Elven): This one certainly got my attention, as a mystery man destroys a church and kills thousands of people. He later does the same thing with a battleship and a dam. Eventually Cosmo tracks him down, and discovers a mad scientist with a disintegrator ray. A freak accident causes the ray to destroy itself, and the madman dies in the ensuing explosion. This was relatively epic, and is easily one of the best Cosmo stories to date.

'Slam Bradley' (by Siegel and Shuster): This is another one with an intriguing start, as Slam receives a mysterious letter telling him to stay out of Hawaii. Of course this just fuels his desire to go. The pay-off to this is much less interesting than the set-up, as it turns out that the letter was sent by a woman whose father has been kidnapped, and she decided to use reverse psychology to get Slam to come to Hawaii and help her. After that it's a fairly straightforward action/adventure rescue mission. The only bit of originality comes when Slam is menaced by a leper. But despite the opening, this is one of the weaker Slam Bradley stories.

No comments:

Post a Comment