Monday, July 11, 2011

July 1939: Detective Comics #30

Cover by Fred Guardineer

'The Batman' (by Bob Kane): After Batman witnessed his death in a fire last issue, Doctor Death returns with a scheme to steal some diamonds. It's kind of a low rent plan for a master criminal, but nevertheless I found myself enjoying Batman's investigation. Bob Kane has really figured out how to depict the character at this point, and the story is littered with iconic images. It's too bad that the story falls down a little bit at the end, with some out-of-left-field nonsense about Doctor Death being disguised as a jewellery fence. Still, not even that weak ending can ruin a story where Batman kicks a dude so hard his neck breaks.

'Buck Marshall, Range Detective' (by Homer Fleming); This month Buck investigates two ranch owners, Morgan and Vail, who are feuding because Vail is stealing Morgan's cattle. It turns out that neither is to blame, and that the local gambling den owner is setting it up so that he can kill Vail and take his ranch. This is standard Buck Marshall material, but what makes it extra shitty is that the whole thing hinges on Slade trying to frame Morgan for shooting Vail.  Slade forgets that Morgan has no trigger finger on his right hand, EXCEPT THAT MORGAN IS POINTING AT VAIL WITH THAT FINGER IN THE VERY FIRST PANEL HE APPEARS IN. That is some amateur-hour bullshit right there.

'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Mart Bailey): Bart takes on a mad scientist who is using a mind control machine to manipulate politicians so that he can become the despotic ruler of the USA. This is a fairly dull story with none of the charm that this strip used to have. I don't care about the mad scientist's plot, I just want to know where Sally has gone. You know, Bart's fiancee, who he made out with on the last panel of every story? She's gone, completely, and it's lame that they did it with no explanation at all.

'Larry Steele, Private Detective' (by Will Ely): Larry gets shot by a pair of bank robbers, who go on to commit a bunch more robberies until Larry finally catches them. It's as boring as it sounds.

'Shadowed' (by Frank Thomas): This prose story is about a detective who is investigating a gang of counterfeiters. He is captured, but manages to escape and arrest them. The villains in this story have got to be the most stupidly over-confident dummies that I've read in this blog so far. I understand that it's the whole point of the story, but there's only so far you can go before it becomes irritating.

'Speed Saunders, Ace Investigator and the Crossbow Mystery' (by Fred Guardineer): Speed investigates the murder of a writer. This guy was also a collector of old weapons, and was killed by a crossbow. It turns out the maid did it, as she'd just been named in the will, and thought that the weapons would be worth thousands of dollars. Speed arrests her and claims that she killed for nothing, because the whole collection was worthless. Sure thing Speed, a 13th century crossbow and an ancient Aztec sacrificial dagger is of no monetary value whatsoever.

'Bruce Nelson and the Racketeers' (by Tom Hickey): Bruce takes on a gang of Chinese tea racketeers, and leads their rivals as they hijack the latest shipment and throw it in the ocean in a reenactment of the Boston Tea Party. This is alright, but let down at the end when it completely glosses over the climactic action scenes in a single caption.

'Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo gets involved with a guy who is being sent threatening notes if he doesn't send his blackmailers $200,000. It turns out that the guy is faking the notes and trying to escape with his insurance money. It's a bit more cleverly told than the average Cosmo story.

'Slam Bradley' (by Siegel and Shuster): After the classic Slam Bradley opening of him punching some random crooks, Slam and Shorty see a woman being dragged off to an insane asylum. Slam decides to investigate, and he goes back to another old standby when he decides that Shorty will have to act crazy until he gets thrown into the looney bin. It's very funny stuff, even if it does slip into cliche when we learn that the owner of the asylum wants the girl to die so that he can inherit her fortune. There's even a little bit of Siegel and Shuster's patented social crusading, when we're shown the way the patients are mistreated. It's played for laughs, but there's no doubting what the creators feel about the situation.

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