Cover by Leo O'Mealia
'Sandman' (by Larry Dean): The Sandman takes on a narcotics gang on a ship, Under Siege style, while protecting a plucky girl reporter. The only thing that the Sandman really has going for him is a cool visual, but in this story he spends most of the time shirtless in a scuba mask. It doesn't quite have that same noir effect.
'Barry O'Neill' (by Ed Winiarski): With Barry missing and presumed dead, Inspector LeGrand and his French accent take centre stage. LeGrand is in Tunis, and the French fleet is about to arrive, so he investigates a suspicious salvage ship and finds an old enemy aboard. He's captured, and about to be thrown from a plane when the strip ends. I confess to not really following this strip; I've let my reading slide in the last couple of weeks, and I'm finding that I can't remember what was going on in previous installments. Even so, I felt that this story was lacking without Barry there to drive it.
'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and the Shuster Shop): Hmmm, it looks like Joe Shuster is getting busy enough that he needs to hire some flunkies to pencil his non-Superman strips. It still has a similar feel to Shuster's work, so that's okay. This one has a cracking start, as a whole city drops dead during a snowstorm. Steve Carson is sent to investigate, and discovers that the culprit is a religious fanatic using poison gas to scare people into following him and donating money. It's a shame that such a great opening led to a fairly boring conclusion.
'Jack Woods' (by Jim Chambers): In this story Jack stumbles across a gang of bank robbers. They have kidnapped the son of an old guy named Stomp, who is supposed to play the fiddle at the dance that night. The robbers want him to play a certain song while the sheriff is on the dance floor, so they know when the best time is to rob the bank. This one is to be continued next month, but short of the Infinity Gauntlet showing up I can't see this keeping my interest.
'Socko Strong' (by Joseph Sulman): Socko and Jerry joined an island tribe last month. In this story Socko beats up the toughest tribesman and wins the chief's daughter, but his refusal to marry her sees them condemned to death. They escape with the aid of a movie projector, and end up on the Flying Dutchman, the famous ghost ship. This isn't great, but I do enjoy the way it bounces from island tribesmen to spooky ghost ship without missing a beat. It is a bit ludicrous that Socko would rather die than be married to a hot island girl, though. Dude has issues.
'Don Coyote' (by Fred Schwab): Don Coyote's friend from the 20th century is still trying to invent modern technology in the middle ages.This month he's trying to make a radio. I'd been enjoying this series, but this story's lame punchline was less than impressive.
'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): Desmo is called in to investigate some attacks on British army bases in India. It turns out to be the work of the Thuggees, a fanatical religious cult who were in an awesome Indiana Jones movie. This one rollicks along nicely, with a fun pace and intriguing villains. It's not bad.
'Quest in India' (by Terry Keane): This prose story is about a professor and his buddies who go in search of a hidden temple in India. There is the usual shenanigans in which one of their servants is murdered by the forces trying to stop them from reaching the temple. This continues next month, and it uses the cliches entertainingly enough to pique my interest.
'Anchors Aweigh!' (by Bart Tumey): Wow. This strip starts as a standard tale of espionage, as Don Kerry and Red are kidnapped by master spy Sin Yen for the secrets to America's radio-controlled torpedo. My attention was slightly roused when Sin Yen unleashed his man-ape hybrid, and Don smashed a table over its head. Then shit gets real, as Sin Yen lets loose his BOA-SPIDER. Half snake, half spider. It's creepy, it's awesome, and it's so cool that when the vicious Octo-dile (half crocodile, half octopus) appears a page later it's kind of underwhelming. But this story is a hoot.
'Skip Schuyler' (by Tom Hickey): Skip is called to help an old friend, a farmer whose community is being targeted by cattle rustlers (oh no!). These rustlers are using a plane to herd the cattle to the highway, where a group waits to drive them into cages. It's a well-executed plan, but Skip puts a stop to it by blowing up their plane. Everyone acts like this has solved the problem, but seriously, this is a gang of cattle rustlers that shoot people with tommy guns. They're a serious outfit, and I've no doubt they can afford another plane.
'Rusty and His Pals' (by Bob Kane): Rusty and his pals, having just escaped from an exploding island, spend a few days at sea before being rescued and taken to London. They get a brief interlude before the opium ring leader Chen Fu decides to get revenge on them for killing Long Sin. This isn't terrible, but it's a bit disheartening when one villain dies and another who is exactly the same steps in.
'Cotton Carver and the Land of Thule' (by Gardner Fox and George Newman): Carver is still trying to find his way to the surface of Earth. In this chapter he finds himself in the city of Thule, where he must slay the evil Scarlet Seeress with the magic sword Malar. It's standard 'chosen one' fantasy stuff, but they're the kinds of stories I grew up on. This one cracks along at a good pace, and I enjoyed it.
Cover by Sheldon Mayer
'Red, White and Blue' (by William Smith): Red, Whitey and Blooey spend this strip trying to stop some Japanese spies from sabotaging a dam. Normally this strip is a fun romp, and for the most part this story lives up to that, but it almost falls down by hinging on a staggering coincidence when Doris West just happens to say exactly the password the spies were looking for. It's not enough to completely ruin the story, but it's exactly the sort of lazy convenience that irritates me.
'Ben Webster' (by Edwin Alger): Ben and Pat Ented are still going around town using their thought recorder to stir up trouble. This was a lot of fun last time, but at this point the law of diminishing returns has set in. Things pick up later when the projector's plans are stolen, but it does seem like a fairly tired place for the plot to go.
'Wiley of West Point' (by Lieut. Richard Rick): Wiley thwarts some guys trying to fix his baseball match, and also hangs out with the girlfriend of his rival Baxter. If there's a point to this strip I'm completely missing it.
'Adventures in the Unknown: The Mystery Men of Mars' (by Carl Claudy): Ted, Alan and their robot helper Elmer all escape from Mars, and most of this story is about their trip back to Earth. There's a spot of drama with their re-entry, but by the end they've landed in the ocean and a boat is there to pick them up. This is all fairly dull after the bizarre goings-on in previous installments.
'The American Way' (by John B. Wentworth and Walter Galli): Martin Gunther, German immigrant in America, through honesty and hard work builds his cabinet-making store into the largest factory in the county. The whole purpose of this strip is to show how great the ideals of America are, and I'm utterly allergic to this sort of patriotism (not just American patriotism, either; I hate it here in Australia as well). This just isn't the kind of story that I'm ever going to like.
'Hop Harrigan' (by Jon Elby): Last month Hop rescued a girl named Geraldine from a forest fire. This month she's kidnapped by goons who want to blackmail her rich father. Hop rescues her in some weird helicopter/plane/car thing. This is boring, and made even boringer by the promise that Hop will be baby-sitting Geraldine next month as well. Yay?
'Bobby Thatcher' (by George Storm): Bobby and his friends escape in a boat from the old man trying to get their map, but in the fog they are hit by a steamboat. That's what those kids get for starring in a crappy comic.
'Spot Savage, the All-American Newshound' (by Harry Lampert): The Duchess, international master thief, is beaten when a fat guy faints and falls on him. The end.
'Criminal's End' (George Shute): In this prose story Phil and Jimmy are investigating saboteurs who are trying to destroy a US naval ship. This one pours the pro-American, pro-Democracy stuff on really heavily. Before I found Jimmy's uber-patriotism kind of charming, but it's really getting to me here. This one continues next month, and I hope that there's more plot and less flag-waving.
'Scribbly' (by Sheldon Mayer): Scribbly has been mistaken for a famous midget cartoonist by the local newspaper editor, but ends up coming clean and becomes the first famous kid cartoonist. It was a lot funnier with the midget angle, to be honest.
'Popsicle Pete, the Typical American Boy' (by Art Helfant): Pete, who last issue won a contest, spends this story touring around New York and meeting the famous boxer Jack Dempsey. Then he goes home. Wake me if an actual story shows up.