Monday, August 8, 2011

September 1939: Action Comics #18

Cover by Fred Guardineer

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy): In this story Superman takes on a crooked newspaper publisher who is blackmailing a politician with fake photos. It's yet another story where Superman tackles some social ill that Jerry Siegel is upset with, and it's well told enough. But I'm starting to get weary of all the real-world stuff. I'm hoping the Superman stories get weird really soon now.

As far as I can tell, this is the first Superman story to be illustrated by someone other than Joe Shuster.  To Paul Cassidy's credit, I didn't even notice the difference.

Superman's secret message this month translates to : "Honesty at all times is absolutely necessary to strengthen one's character."

'Pep Morgan' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Not content with being irritatingly invincible in sport stories, it seems as though Pep has migrated over to the western genre, as he stops a crooked businessman from framing a guy for murder and stealing his land. I get enough of this nonsense as it is, I don't need Pep Morgan doing it as well.

'Chuck Dawson' (by Homer Fleming): Chuck is framed for the murder of the sheriff and another landowner by the obligatory villains who want more land. This ends weirdly, as Chuck just gets on his horse and rides out of town. Normally he would spend a lengthy amount of time trying to bring the bad guys to justice. It makes for a crap story, but nevertheless I approve of his new found prudence if it means his stories are shorter.

'Clip Carson, Soldier of Fortune' (by Bob Kane): Clip is still in India, where members of a tiger cult kill his friend Chunda. It turns out to be the work of Chunda's brother and cousin, who want his estates for themselves. It also turns out that Chunda isn't dead, and he leads a cavalry charge of elephants against the tiger temple. There's some decent action in this finale, but Clip himself is a bit subdued.

'Flying Fool' (by Terry Keane): A passenger plane goes down in the Atlantic Ocean, and then the passengers are rescued. It barely qualifies as a story, but at least it manages some mild tension at the beginning.

'Tex Thomson' (by Bernard Baily): Tex was captured last month by the cyclopean Gorrah, who in this story hypnotises him to do his bidding. Tex is of course is not really hypnotised, and does the Gorrah's bidding until he can capture him. The Gorrah kills himself with a poison tablet, but at least this time the story has the good sense to realise that he might come back some day. None of this is great, and there are some heavy racist overtones to the whole thing that make it a bit uncomfortable.

'Three Aces' (by Bert Christman): Fog Fortune, Gunner Bill and Whistler Will are three pilots who travel the world seeking adventure. In Baghdad they investigate the disappearance of several planes, and end up caught by the culprit, Professor Tussin, who plans to sell their planes to warring nations. Our so-called heroes are saved because one of them radioed the authorities for help, and as I've said before that's the type of climax that I hate because it reduces the protagonist's great heroic act to a telephone call. Plus, I want to punch Fog Fortune and his stupid accent every time he opens his mouth. I don't even know what accent he's supposed to have. "H'it's not h'a bit like bloomin' h'old London town" he says, but he doesn't sound like any Englishman I ever heard.

'Zatara the Master Magician and the Atlantis Mystery' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Zatara is found once more by Setap, the queen whose city he recently destroyed. She asks him to help her find Atlantis, and at this point I was sure she was setting him up. But no, she's on the level, and they do find Atlantis and the lost civilization therein. But an ancient evil octopus named Roor is awoken, and Zatara has to defeat it, which he does by making it eat sponges, salt, and so much water that it explodes. This is lots of fun, with some history (something I'm a sucker for) and a pretty creepy villain.

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