Wednesday, June 29, 2011

June 1939: Smash Comics #1

Cover by Ed Cronin

'Espionage' (by Will Eisner): This strip has migrated over from Feature Comics. The lead character has been renamed from the Black X to the Black Ace, but otherwise this is the same spy comic. You know a story means business when on the opening page a Hitler look-a-like dictator conquers the entirety of South America and sets his sights on the USA. After a few more pages of all-out war, the Black Ace is dispatched to deliver a message to the rebels living under the dictator's yoke. The Black Ace is pursued by a female agent named Mara Hani and her goons, giving us some decent chase sequences through cities and jungles, and culminating in a shoot-out that also involves a jaguar. This is pretty gripping stuff.

'Philpot Veep, Master Detective' (by John Devlin): This is a humour strip about two detectives, Philpot and his sidekick Waldo. Waldo buys a radio, and gets ripped off by a man trying to raise money to help feed starving actors. The main plot isn't the interesting part, though. There's a panel of Philpot sitting in his couch, and right next to him is a dirty big syringe on top of a tub clearly marked "cocaine". There's no reason for it to be there, other than the obvious inference that Philpot's shooting up for recreational purposes. Yep, it's definitely a different era.

'Chic Carter, Ace Reporter' (by Vernon Henkel): Chic Carter lives up to his name, as he spends most of the strip hanging around in swanky nightclubs. In this story he investigates the murder of a nightclub owner by a guy who wants the club for himself. It's basically the same plot that I'm sick of in the cowboy strips, but here it's livened up by some well defined characters and a novel setting. Chic Carter is off to a promising start.

'Simple Simon' (by Ed Cronin): Simon is a not-particularly-bright small town guy who gets mixed up in the kidnapping of King Julius of Slobodka. This is really funny, especially the rude note that the Slobodkans send to the kidnappers in reply to their ransom demands.  Apparently this strip never appears again, but at least I got a laugh out of it.

'Wings Wendall of the Military Intelligence' (by Vernon Henkel): Well, I'd never have guessed that this comic would have a strip about a heroic aviator. When a US major is kidnapped by some evil guys and taken to their island, Wings Wendall flies to his rescue. This one is fairly generic.

'Archie O'Toole' (by Bud Thomas, who may or may not be Will Eisner): This strip has come over from Feature Comics. Archie's country has been taken over by the evil Gil O. Teen, and Archis is thrown in the dungeon. He escapes by eating an apple that turns him invisible, then uses some ventriloquism to get the bad guys fighting each other. This is mildly amusing.

'Hooded Justice' (by Art Pinajian): This strip stars the Invisible Hood, arch-enemy of crime! His real name is Kent Thurston, but we don't learn anything else about him; I assume that he's a millionaire playboy like the other masked heroes, but there's no indication one way or the other. In this story he investigates the theft of some jewels belonging to the Maharajah of Raas. The story is nothing to write home about, and the Invisible Hood has one of the worst costumes I've ever seen. It looks like he's wrapped himself up in a red sleeping bag.

'Clip Chance at Cliffside' (by George Brenner): Clip Chance is a college student who is invited by a friend to spend some time in the country. There's baseball game coming up, and Clip's buddy gets kidnapped by crooks who want to fix the match. Because this is the 1930s, Clip tracks down the crooks, beats the hell out of them and gets back in time to win the game off his own bat. I think I've discovered a new character that I can hate as much as I once hated Pep Morgan.

'Captain Cook of Scotland Yard' (by Will Arthur): It's another strip from Feature Comics. When some trains are wrecked by a mysterious "ghost train" Captain Cook is called in to investigate. It turns out that the culprit is a rival train company trying to secure a contract to carry oil, and the "ghost train" was actually a plane with a headlight. The wrap up for this was average, but at least the mystery at the beginning was original. And I have no idea what the deal was with Cook's sidekick constantly eating peanuts.

'Mystery at Catalina' (by Jeffrey Spain): This prose story is about a young abalone fisherman named Tony, who saves his old Chinese friend from a giant abalone then gets in a fight with some crooks who are new in town. This is to be continued next month. It's not bad.

'Abdul the Arab' (by Vernon Henkel): Abdul is a stereotypical Arab tribesman. He witnesses the attempted kidnapping of a British colonel's daughter and rescues her, but then gets framed by the same outlaws he just thwarted. By the end his name has been cleared and the outlaws arrested. Again this is average. I spent more time wondering why Abdul's skin is grey than I did thinking about the story.

'Hugh Hazzard and his Iron Man' (by George Brenner): Holy cow, the first ever robotic protagonist! Except that in this story it's an antagonist, as this is the origin. The robot is on a rampage, robbing, killing and stealing babies, under the control of a mad scientist. Hugh Hazzard is called in to stop it, and does so by hiding inside the robot while it takes him back to its headquarters. After the mad scientist is dealt with, Hazzard saves the robot from destruction and decides to use it to help him fight crime. The main problem with this story is that we never really see the robot on its rampages. We hear a lot about it in newspaper headlines, but I would have liked to see a bit of that baby-snatching first hand. Still, I like the set-up, and I'm interested to see where this goes.

1 comment:

  1. Philpot Veep shooting up is a direct reference to Sherlock Holmes, who did the same.