Sunday, July 24, 2011

August 1939: Adventure Comics #42; All-American Comics #7; Detective Comics #31; More Fun Comics #47

Cover possibly by Creig Flessel or Chad Grothkopf

'The Sandman' (by Bert Christman): Wesley Dodd gathers three of his old navy buddies together to stop the murder of another friend of theirs. With the addition of some friends and a past, Dodd suddenly feels like a real character. The aerial dogfight that climaxes the story is decent as well. I was also surprised that Dodd's friends are well aware that he is the Sandman, and that he allows them both to take on the Sandman identity for this adventure. This strip will improve greatly if it keeps on this direction. 

'Barry O'Neill' (by Ed Winiarski): Barry rescues Inspector LeGrand, then stop's Krull and his gang from blowing up the French fleet with mines. It's an adequate wrap-up to this story-line, with a good variety of action scenes.

'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and Wayne Boring): Steve Carson single-handedly arrests a gang of bank robbers, which isn't really interesting at all. This is the first credit for Wayne Boring, who is a major name in early DC history. At this point I can see that his story-telling is really solid, but his art lacks the character and energy of Joe Shuster.

'Jack Woods' (by Jim Chambers): Jack Woods guns down the bank robbing gang from last issue, and rescues the boy they had captive. The story ends when a mysterious stranger shows up to arrest Jack for murder. I love how Jack's friend leaps to his defense: "He just shot up one o' the worst mobs around here. He ain't no murderer!" Yep, the fact that he just killed a bunch of dudes is great evidence in his favour.

This appears to be the last we see of Jack Woods.  I can only assume that he is arrested for murder and hanged, which is an ignominious end for the character who starred on the cover of the first DC comic ever.

'Socko Strong' (by Joseph Sulman): When last we left Socko and Jerry, they were aboard the legendary ghost ship, the Flying Dutchman. In this issue it turns out not to be a ghost ship, but the ship of Charles Starwin, on his way to return a prehistoric man to his island home. Once they reach the island they are menaced by dinosaurs, and it's rather quaint the way the dinosaurs are depicted. I'm especially fond of the stegosaur with the poisonous bite. This strip never makes any sense, but it's always enjoyable.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): Gabby is captured by the Thuggees from last issue, and Desmo goes to his rescue. I appreciate the use of the Thuggees as villains, but otherwise this is a fairly standard adventure. And will we never learn why Desmo wears that damn helmet?

'Quest in India' (by Terry Keane): Continuing from last issue, a group of explorers find the hidden temple of the Lasbas in the Hindu Kush, only for a crazed priest to blow it up with dynamite so that they can't desecrate it. This turned out better than I was expecting.

'Anchors Aweigh!' (by Bart Tumey): Red and Don are still trying to find the culprit behind a submarine base that threatened the security of the Panama Canal. When they're captured they are taken to meet Cato, an Asian man who dresses like Napoleon, and is also the head of the Mayenese army. There's a little bit of humour with Cato, but it's still a below-average story.

'Skip Schuyler' (by Tom Hickey): Skip is in "The Orient", and rescues a young boy during a bombing raid. The boy leads him to a laundry, where a beautiful foreign correspondent is being held for ransom. This is okay, and I enjoyed Skip's relationship to the kid. I just feel like there's more story to tell here, even though it's obviously over.

'Rusty and His Pals' (by Bob Kane): Rusty and Steve are captured by Chen Fu, who wants revenge on them for killing his most trusted lieutenant. Chen Fu goes for the classics, putting Steve in a deathtrap with a spiked floor and a giant scything blade. This is just silly enough to be enjoyable.

'Cotton Carver in the Pit of Dagan' (by Gardner Fox and Ogden Whitney): Cotton is still trying to find his way to the surface. He rescues his friends from cultists, gets chased by dinosaurs, and finally finds refuge in the city of Marla. Fun stuff, especially when Cotton sets fire to a carnivorous brontosaurus.

Cover by Stan Aschmeier

'Red, White and Blue' (by William Smith): Red, Whitey and Blooey go up against a munitions manufacturer who is hiring people to cause trouble at the World's Fair, trying to make the countries involved go to war with each other. This is fun as usual, but the bad guy's plan does involve trying to get France and England to go to war over a stink bomb and a knocked over statue. He's not exactly the sharpest villain I've ever seen.

'Ben Webster' (by Edwin Alger): Last issue Ben's thought projector was stolen, and this issue he discovers the culprit - the maid did it! This storyline has taken a definite swerve into cliched territory.

'Bobby Thatcher' (by George Storm): After their boat was smashed in last issue's storm, Bobby and Elmer swim to shore, but they can't find Tubby. He is eventually found after a long search, and the whole town celebrates. It's a bit flimsy for a whole chapter of an adventure strip.

'Adventures in the Unknown: A Thousand Years a Minute' (by Carl H. Claudy and Stan Aschmeier): Ted and Alan arrive back on Earth, but when their mechanical man Elmer is rusted by salt water they are unable to prove that they went to Mars, and everyone thinks they're crazy. Except for Dr. Lazar, who's obviously a bit mental himself.  It's decent enough, but it certainly didn't live up to the awesome title (or the cover).

'The American Way' (by John Wentworth and Walter Galli): This chapter starts out light-heartedly, with Martin Gunther's daughter Lisa about to be married, but it takes a grim turn when World War I begins, and his son Karl must decide whether or not to go to war. With the over-patriotic nonsense out of the way, this is becoming a decent family drama.

'Hop Harrigan' (by Jon Elby): Hop is giving Geraldine flying lessons. The first goes badly when she brings her dogs along, and Hop has to knock her out with a fire extinguisher. But she learns her lesson, and later rescues Hop and her father from a flood. This is sort of charming, and the courtship of Hop and Gerry is a strange one. "Oh mother, Hop's adorable! He hit me with the fire extinguisher today!"

'Wiley of West Point' (by Lieut. Richard Rick): Oh no! There's an inspection from the Lubanian Embassy, and WILEY HAS A LOOSE BUTTON ON HIS DRESS COAT!!!!!

'Criminal's End' (by George Shute): Jimmy stops some foreign agents from sabotaging a US ship. This was adequate until the nauseating exchange at the end of the story. Phil: "You can't win when right is not on your side, Jimmy. Always remember that." Jimmy: "I won't forget, Phil. An American just can't forget that!" I realise that I am reading All-American Comics, so I should expect this stuff. Doesn't mean I have to like it.

'Scribbly' (by Sheldon Mayer): Scribbly does his best to get a picture of an elusive writer who has never been photographed or sketched. Amusing as always.

'Popsicle Pete' (possibly by Sheldon Mayer): Pete is interviewed, and after saying in the interview that he thinks girls are silly he is inundated with hate mail. Average.

Cover by Bob Kane
'The Batman' (by Bob Kane): Batman's fiancee Julie is hypnotised and abducted by a mysterious hooded monk, and he must pursue them to the monk's castle in Hungary. This is the first great Batman story. Not only does it really hammer home that weird creature of the night vibe, but it has his first really good adversary in the Monk, who looks cool and has every trick in the super-villain book. The batarang makes its first appearance here, as does the bat-plane (which is more of a helicopter, but never mind). The introduction of Julie Madison as Bruce Wayne's fiancee humanises him a little, though I do wonder whether he plans to tell her about Batman even after they're married. My only misgiving about this story is that Batman runs away from a giant ape instead of fighting it, but there's always next issue, because this is to be continued.

'Buck Marshall, Range Detective' (by Homer Fleming): Buck goes up against a gang of bank robbers, and gets a confession out of them by going undercover. This is a solid story by Buck Marshall standards.

'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Mart Bailey): Bart investigates the theft of America's new "mystery plane", and it turns out the man assigned to guard it is the leader of the thieves. This was decent enough until Bart just pulls a machine gun out of nowhere to capture the crooks. As he says to his boss, "we're pretty busy protecting our country from its enemies who bore from within!" Make sure to get the comics that bore from within as well, Bart.

'Larry Steele, Private Detective' (by Ken Ernst): This one gets off to a good start, with businessman Amos Velvet telling Larry about the death threats his wife has been receiving, just before getting a phone call telling them that she has committed suicide. It turns out that Amos himself was the murderer, as he'd been forcing his wife to funnel money from her charity work into his business. Larry, you should have slapped the cuffs on this guy the second you saw his little Hitler moustache. This is a pretty good mystery story, with solid motivations and a couple of neat misdirections.

'Newspaper Nightmare' (by Gardner Fox): In this prose story two newspapermen are murdered by their publisher, who placed a poisoned needle in their typewriters. This is a murder mystery in which there is exactly one suspect, and all of the relevant information that could help the reader solve the crime is withheld until the end. I've always believed that a mystery story should be solvable by the reader, so this one gets a fail.

'Speed Saunders, Ace Investigator and the Mammoth Mystery' (by Fred Guardineer): This one has a cracking start, as Speed investigates the murder of an explorer who was killed with a gigantic elephant tusk. The investigation leads to a circus and a jealous animal trainer. The clues are all there, but the murderer's motivation is virtually non-existent.

'Bruce Nelson' (by Tom Hickey): Bruce is lured out to a party at an old friend's house, while the man who set that up raids Bruce's safe for evidence that would convict him of murder. Bruce gets wise and stops him. It's an adequate story, but a long way down from the height of this strip.

'Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise' (by Sven Elven): This is pretty good for a Cosmo story, as he investigates a doctor who is stealing the brainpower of other brilliant men, adding it to his own and leaving them as vegetables. It does, however, feature the most amazing panel of exposition I have ever seen in my life.

Sven Elven: paid by the word

'Slam Bradley' (by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster): Slam and Shorty go up against a zoo keeper who is murdering the people who torment his animals. It's a lacklustre installment for the usually great Slam Bradley.

Cover by Fred Guardineer

I don't have a copy of this issue.  The only thing that I seem to be missing is the final installment of Cal 'n' Alec.  To be honest, that strip has been on life support for ages, so I won't be sad to see it go.

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