Wednesday, August 24, 2011

October 1939: Adventure Comics #44, All-American Comics #6

Cover by Creig Flessel

'The Sandman' (by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel): The Sandman goes up against a criminal mastermind called The Face, who has murdered one of the Sandman's childhood friends in order to claim his oil wells. It's good to see the Sandman getting back to his roots, fighting street level crimes in New York. The story is decent enough, and the ending features a brutal Sandman just crashing his car into the Face as he's riding a train-track handcar over a bridge. He does not mess about.

'Barry O'Neill' (by Ed Winiarski): My concerns about the brevity of Fang Gow's return last issue may have been unfounded, because he's back in this issue to cause more trouble. This time he's concocted a formula that can temporarily turn people into wax statues, and he's using it to ship all the crooks of Paris to the USA. Once again his plan is dealt with in a single story, which I feel is a gross disservice to the character. But it's a solid enough adventure yarn in its own right.

'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and Mart Bailey): Steve Carson stops a jewel smuggler who is bringing his goods into the USA without paying a duty tax to customs. It's a boring story, and I can't help but sympathise with the crooks. Why the hell should you have to pay money to the government just to bring jewelry into the country? (Looks like I can kiss goodbye any hope I had of joining the Junior Federal Men Club!)

'Socko Strong' (by Joseph Sulman): Socko and Jerry expose a crook who has disguised himself as the heir to a million dollar fortune in order to claim the money. It's a big step down from his adventures with the man-eating stegosaurus, that's for sure.

'Mystery in London' (by Gardner Fox): A detective investigates a murder and the theft of a priceless diamond, which was done by a fanatical Indian religious cult. This is a terrible story with the most cardboard of villains.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): Desmo and Gabby are still on Skull Island, being hunted like game by the evil Count Ogreoff. The premise had me interested, but the execution was about as boring as possible.

'Skip Schuyler' (by Tom Hickey): Skip heads to the "Arctic Waste" to search for a comrade who went missing in a plane crash. Suspicion is immediately thrown on a local crazy Eskimo, but during Skip's search he falls through some ice and into the water. To be continued! It's a solid set-up.

'Rusty and His Pals' (by Bob Kane): Steve and Rusty escape in a boat from Chen Fu's lair, while behind them a boat full of their pursuers is crushed by an ocean liner. Kane finds room for another entertaining multi-panel fight scene.

'Anchors Aweigh!' (by Bart Tumey): Two rival ships are operating as gambling dens, floating outside the three-mile limit in neutral waters. Don and Red set them against each other, and arrest the ringleaders in the confusion. It's a novel premise that results in a fairly average story.

'Cotton Carver and the Magnetic Peril' (by Gardner Fox and Ogden Whitney): Cotton Carver helps King Marl fend off another rebellion by Jagar. This one put me to sleep (in the story's defense, it was 2 am).

Cover by Walter Galli, Jon L. Blummer and William Smith

This issue opens with a very interesting editorial about the war in Europe, urging Americans to think of their own country and support the President's Neutrality Proclamations. In other words, let Europe deal with its own problems, we don't want to get involved. It's not a side of US history that you hear about too often.

'Gary Concord the Ultra-Man' (by Jon L. Blummer): The history of Gary Concord Sr. continues. He has just woken up after a 200 year sleep, to find the USA menaced by the warlord Rebborizan. Gary wages war for years until Rebborizan is defeated, and eventually uses the same foam that put him to sleep to knock out the warlord's forces. In the future, Gary Jr., the new High Moderator of the USA, is also menaced by war-mongering forces. This story never lets up.  The war is inventive and action-packed, and there's enough of a hook in the framing sequence to get me interested in Gary Jr.'s story.

'Red, White and Blue' (by William Smith): When a new island is raised by volcanic activity in the Pacific, Red, Whitey and Blooey must rush to claim it before the Japanese. This story is lacking the usual humour of this strip, and has replaced it with some definite anti-Japanese sentiments. I'm starting to get the feeling that I'm not going to enjoy a lot of war-time comics.

'Hop Harrigan' (by Jon L. Blummer): Man, I don't know what's gotten into Hop Harrigan. He and Gerry go to the aid of a ship stuck in some ice. There's a poet there who starts sweet-talking Gerry. There's also a sick guy who Gerry tries to help, only to make him worse and necessitate his going to hospital. Hop is just enraged through the whole thing. The dude is seriously on the edge, which is weird, because he's never displayed a temper at all before. It's probably girl trouble, which at least makes him seem like an actual human being. A little bit of character drama goes a long way in the Golden Age, and I enjoyed this quite a bit.

'Wiley of West Point' (by Lieut. Richard Rick): While Wiley is being court-martialled, his old sweetheart decides to come to his aid. I don't know why I'm suddenly enjoying this strip. I think the crapness of it has somehow become endearing.

'Adventures in the Unknown' (by Carl H. Claudy and Stan Aschmeier): Ted and Alan travel back in time a million years, to a time when cavemen, pterodactyls, sabre-tooth tigers and the brontosaurus all co-existed. (Hey, science, stop arguing - it's in the story, so it must be true.) The story is oddly fixated on the logistics of survival, as opposed to the radness of dinosaurs and cavemen. The premise is all set here for some craziness, but this strip always ends up being more restrained than I want it to be.

'Syndicate of Schemes Part II' (by George Shute): In the last chapter Phil and Jimmy were trailing smugglers, and found a murdered maid. They continue the investigation, Jimmy gets captured by the smugglers, and is forced to lead Phil into a trap. This one is just going through the motions.

'Scribbly' (by Sheldon Mayer): Scribbly inspires his principal to become a cartoonist, and drives his teacher crazy enough that she becomes one as well. It's a cut above the usual humour strip fare, but below the usual standard for Scribbly.

'Ben Webster' (by Edwin Alger): Ben and Professor Mattix are still trying to make civilised boys out of six reform school hooligans. Ben does so by fighting their leader and getting him to "organise" the others. Interesting that the only way these kids can be won over is through the application of violence.

'The American Way' (by John B. Wentworth and Walter Galli): The Depression hits, and people start to freak out. This is a pretty compelling portrayal of what can happen to normal people when their way of life is threatened.

'The Adventures of Popsicle Pete' (by Sheldon Mayer): Trying to raise money to start a radio station, Pete and his friends start a band and play in a restaurant. A little of Mayer's humour is starting to creep into this strip.


  1. I'm a huge fan of the Scribbly stories I've read and can't help but wonder if you're selling these ones short...?

  2. I should make it clear that Scribbly is far and away the best humour strip in the comics I'm reading, and I like it quite a bit. It's just that the installment I blogged about here wasn't quite as funny as it has been previously.

    (Also, thanks for being my only semi-regular commenter. It's nice to know I'm not just pissing in the wind here.)