Tuesday, September 13, 2011

November 1939: All-American Comics #10, Double Action Comics #2

Cover by Sheldon Mayer

'Red, White and Blue' (by Jerry Siegel and William A. Smith): With the aid of machinery that can create lightning anywhere in the city, a mysterious figure known as the Master takes over New York, and places it under the rule of fascists and Nazis. Red has to infiltrate the city, and together with Doris capture the Master.

This strip is quickly becoming a vehicle for Red to be the action hero, with the others just hanging around while he does everything. There's also an incredibly chauvinistic attitude running through the whole thing, as Red dismisses everything that Doris says. Admittedly she says some stupid things, but it's weird that such a formerly cool and competent character is suddenly wanting to look at hats in the middle of a war zone. The story almost redeems itself at the end when she defeats the Master, but then undercuts it when she claims she'd have been helpless without Red.  I was enjoying this for its apocalyptic atmosphere, but the sexual politics going on here are pretty awful.

'Wiley of West Point' (by Lieut. Richard Rick): Wiley is exonerated of his court-martial, and then goes on to fight Baxter in a boxing championship. I can't quite figure out why I don't hate this strip anymore.

'Hop Harrigan' (by Jon Elby): Last issue Hop had to fly a sick sailor to hospital, leaving Gerry behind on the ship with a poet. Hop my young man, here's a nugget of wisdom for you: never trust a poet with your girl.  He succeeds in his mission and returns for her, only to find that he has to take the poet back with him as well. Again, Hop is angry, and all the more interesting for it. It's a sad state of affairs when I'm more interested in the romances than the action.

'Ben Webster' (by Edwin Alger): Ben and Professor Mattix are still trying to teach reform school kids to be good, and Ben's latest idea is to give them classes in boxing, wrestling and baseball taught by world champions. The idea works, and everything is going well until the neighbours decide they don't want young crooks in the neighbourhood. It's alright, but I don't buy that the kids would use their free time to study reading and maths.

'Popsicle Pete' (by Sheldon Mayer): Pete and his friends draw in lots of business playing music in an Italian restaurant, and the owner offers to buy them the radio broadcasting license they want. I was amused by the owner continually jacking up the price of his spaghetti as more people came in, but that's about it.

'Adventures in the Unknown: A Thousand Years a Minute' (by Carl H. Claudy and Stan Aschmeier): Ted and Alan are still in prehistoric times, where they help a caveman recover from a leg wound, shoot a triceratops in the eye, and throw a poisoned piglet into a giant snake's mouth. There's not a lot of cohesion to what's going on, but I'm still enjoying it well enough.

'Scribbly' (by Sheldon Mayer): Scribbly's editor sends him to a farm for his Christmas vacation, and his brother follows by air mail. Again, this is just mildly amusing.

'Death's Playground' (by George Shute): Phil and Jimmy go undercover in a factory to root out a saboteur. This is fairly uneventful, and the gripping cliffhanger is a description of how a lie detector works.

'The American Way' (by John Wentworth and Walter Galli): As Martin Gunther and his wife celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary, their grandson decides to join a Nazi youth movement. When Martin goes to stop him, one of the young Nazis hits him on the head and kills him. I was all set to compliment this tragic ending, until the last panel ended with a rendition of 'The Star Spangled Banner'.  Too much cheese and patriotism for my tastes.

'Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man' (by Jon L. Blummer): Gary Concord is trying to find the secret of his father's formula for peace, but his enemies are after it as well. He's outfoxed by a very sexy lady named Stella Tor, and when he goes to retrieve the formula she attacks with poison gas. This was slow to get going, but the cliffhanger is a good one.

 Cover by John Richard Flanagan, reprinted from
Adventure Comics #37

Double Action Comics #2 is something of a curiosity.   First off, I have no idea where the numbering continues from.  DC did a good bit of retitling of books in their early days, but their line was very stable by 1939.  I don't have a copy of this comic, but a bit of research tells me that it's a reprint book featuring some strips that were cancelled a fair while ago.  I'm talking about things like 'Sandra of the Secret Service', 'Dr. Occult', and the interminable cowboy strip 'Jack Woods'.  There are things in here that I can barely remember, and I was only reading this stuff six months ago.  And given the intensely serial nature of early DC comics, I have no idea what the audience for this one-off reprint book would be.  What do you do with a single part of Sven Elven's adaptation of 'The Three Musketeers'?  It's baffling.

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