Sunday, August 28, 2011

October 1939: More Fun Comics #49, Daring Mystery Comics #1, Marvel Mystery Comics #2

Cover by Creig Flessel

'Wing Brady' (by Tom Hickey): In the last story Wing captured the Arab chieftain Ali Pascha behind enemy lines. After beating Pascha up, he single-handedly takes on his army and opens the gates of his city for the Foreign Legion. It's a decently entertaining action story.

'Biff Bronson' (by Joseph Sulman): Biff and Dan accidentally receive an invitation to a secret meeting, where they find a group of hooded criminals who want to kill the scientist Tnopud and take his formulas. The gang is eventually arrested, but their leader escapes. There's a bit of interest when a disguised Biff and Dan are tasked with killing Tnopud, but I've already seen that plot done better just a few days ago.

'King Carter' (by Paul J. Lauretta): New strip!  King Carter is a wealthy oilfield owner, jewel hunter, and adventurer. He and his friend Red Rogers photograph some top secret Chinese installations, and spend the rest of the story running away and beating up Chinese soldiers. I think that this is supposed to be a good-humoured adventure strip, but the relentless racism is too hard to ignore.

'The Buccaneer' (by Bernard Baily): After Prince Natria helps Dennis win his ship back from Dr. Killmen, Dennis decides to help him win his country back from its usurper. He infiltrates the pretender's palace, only to find... Regina? To be honest, I have as much idea who she is as you do. The rest of this story was okay, but the cliffhanger was meaningless to me. Whether that's my own fault or the writer's I'm not sure about.

'Radio Squad' (by Jerry Siegel and Mart Bailey): A rowdy young man kills a bar owner by accident and hides out with his criminal brother, and Sandy and Larry must chase him down. It's decent enough.

'Unexpected Exercise' (by Jack Anthony): A man training for football sees some people swimming away from a burning ship and dives into the ocean to rescue them. And remember kids, you too could save someone's life if you exercise enough!

'Lieut. Bob Neal of Sub 662 in the Flaming Inferno' (by B. Hirsch and R. Lehman): In Honolulu, Bob saves a scientist from an exploding volcano. Take how exciting that story sounds, invert it, and that's exactly how boring it is.

'The Magic Crystal of History' (by Homer Fleming): This strip finally gets away from English and French history to tell the story of Ivan the Great and the rise of the Russian monarchy. The new setting livens things up considerably, and it doesn't hurt that this story is more concerned with battles than politics.

'The Flying Fox' (by Terry Gilkison): Rex Darrell and Buzz deal with a group of air pirates who are stealing jewel shipments. This is predictable and dull.

'Detective Sergeant Carey and the Voodoo Vengeance' (by Joe Donohoe): Carey and Sleepy investigate a mysterious murder in a voodoo nightclub. The mystery here was intriguing, but the conclusion was unimpressive. Still with dialogue like this, who can complain: "You're a fool Congi! All your voodoo can't save you from the law!"

'Sergeant O'Malley of the Red Coat Patrol' (by Jack Lehti): A recently fired lumberjack named Pierre tries to steal his former boss's payroll. I normally hate this strip, but Pierre is the greatest villain ever.

This guy needs his own spin-off, BY GAR!

'Bulldog Martin' (by Bart Tumey): Martin is helping at an Egyptian archaeological dig that is being menaced by a masked phantom. From the very unfunny "wacky" Englishman to the complete lack of motivation for the villain, this is terrible.

Cover by Alex Schomburg

'The Fiery Mask' (by Joe Simon): Doctor Jack Castle is called in to investigate a strange case, and ends up fighting against a gigantic blue mad scientist and his army of hypnotised zombies. Jack ends up captured and subjected to the scientist's hypnotism ray, but his resistance causes the ray to explode and gives him all the powers of wind, rain, storm and sunlight. His face even glows when he's angry, and so he takes on the identity of the Fiery Mask to fight evil.

This is nuts. This story never stops to explain anything, it just barrels on from one crazy thing to the next with no regard for logic. Why is the mad scientist a giant? Where do the huge subterranean vultures come from? Who knows. The plot is terrible, but it gets by on sheer energy and manic enthusiasm.  I'd be happy if the Golden Age was full of more stuff like this.

'John Steele, Soldier of Fortune' (by Larry Antonette): Steele is an Allied soldier fighting against the Nazis. In this story he must help a female spy get a message to a general, and in doing so kill as many Nazis as is humanly possibly in the span of 9 pages. I swear he kills or punches a Nazi in almost every panel. The plot is nonexistent, but it certainly does pack in the action.  I believe that this is the only appearance of this character in the Golden Age, but he was revived recently by Ed Brubaker in Secret Avengers and The Marvels Project.  On the strength of this I'm not sure why, but recycling old, obscure characters is something I approve of.

'The Texas Kid, Robin Hood of the Range' (by Ben Thompson): The Texas Kid is a generic cowboy do-gooder. In this story he deals with a gang that has been raiding local ranchers, and the banker who is in on it. This is exactly the same sort of crap I've been dealing with in DC's

'Monako, Prince of Magic' (by Larry Antonette): Monako is a heroic magician, basically a knock-off of Zatara from Action Comics (who is probably a knock-off of Mandrake, to be honest). Monako's old foe Muro is after the formula to a new explosive, and kidnaps its inventor. Monako goes to his rescue, using his inventive magic tricks. It's not awful, but it lacks a lot of the charm of Zatara.

'The Thundering Terror of Gold Creek' (by Ray Gill): This prose story certainly doesn't muck about: it opens with a herd of crazed horses demolishing a mining town in the Old West. It turns out that a rival town has inserted pieces of metal into the horses' brains and is controlling them with radio waves. That's pretty much cooler than every single prose story in any of the DC comics so far.

'Flash Foster at Midwestern' (by Bob Wood): Aah, a football strip! And in the grand tradition of all sport strips, the first plot is about match fixing, as gangsters kidnap Flash's girl to try and get him to throw the game. It's all territory we've seen before, though it should be said that Flash determines to play at his best regardless of what might happen to his girlfriend. Wotta jerk!  Luckily he's a one-off, and I'll never have to see him again.

'Phantom of the Underworld' (by Maurice Gutwirth): Detective Denton, also a master surgeon, infiltrates a gang of crooks and becomes their doctor. I couldn't find much to like or hate about this one, and we never see Denton again.

'Barney Mullen, Sea Rover' (by Chas Pearson): Barney must carry a cargo of gold filigree to Rotterdam, as both sides in World War 2 try to blow him up and his own crew tries to mutiny. There are no shortage of threats in this story, which raises an otherwise crap story to an average level.  Again, Barney Mullen is a one-off, which makes five such strips in this comic book.

Cover by Charles J. Mazoujian

'The Human Torch' (by Carl Burgos): The Torch tackles a crook who is fixing motor races by firing incendiary bullets into the cars from his plane. The bad guy, Ross, is certainly resourceful - in the course of this story he manages to frame the Torch for his own crime, bury him in boiling lime, and encase him in molten metal. It doesn't work, but he's got one up on most Golden Age villains. With a decent villain and a breakneck pace I enjoyed this despite its crudeness. I'm still amazed just how much more energy than everything else the Marvel comics have.

'The Angel' (by Paul Gustavson): The Angel goes to Hong Kong to protect a girl from people who want the treasure map she's carrying. It's not bad, but the Angel is pretty generic. It's hard to stand out when you're sandwiched between the Human Torch and Sub-Mariner.

'The Sub-Mariner' (by Bill Everett): Sub-Mariner continues his war against humanity, this time in New York. There's absolutely no plot to this whatsoever; it's just a string of events, with Namor following his every whim and impulse while trying to avoid the authorities. But in saying that, Namor is a compelling character. He's almost the flip-side of Superman. Both characters can be seen freaking out and destroying public property, but Superman does so to help the downtrodden, while Namor just does it because he wants to. He's probably the most interesting character of the Golden Age so far.

'The Masked Raider' (by Al Anders): The Masked Raider goes undercover to take on a gang of outlaws. Being terribly uninteresting, it's firmly within the law of averages for Golden Age westerns.

'American Ace' (by Paul J. Auretta): Perry Wade is an American who gets caught up in the war between the fake countries of Castile D'or and Attainia. This thing has more explosions than a Michael Bay movie, and ends about as satisfyingly. Perry survives a bombing raid, and that's pretty much the whole story.

'Death-Bird Squadron' (by David C. Cooke): Speaking of bombing raids, this prose story sees the Angel caught in the middle of one in Poland. His solution: jump up into the plane, throw the pilot out, then shoot down the other planes. As a scene, it's not bad. As a story, it's woeful.

'Adventures of Ka-Zar the Great' (by Ben Thompson): Ka-Zar fights an ape-man over a mirror and wins, but spares his life. Later, that same ape-man returns for vengeance, kidnapping a cub of the lions that Ka-Zar now lives with. Ka-Zar tracks him down and kills him. The moral of the story? Always kill your enemies, no matter what.

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