Tuesday, October 18, 2011

January 1940: Adventure Comics #47, Flash Comics #3

Cover by Creig Flessel

'The Sandman and The Lady in Evening Clothes' (by Gardner Fox and Ogden Whitney): The Sandman teams up with Diana Ware, aka "The Lady in Evening Clothes", an expert safe-cracker who is searching for her parents. Together they solve the murder of banker Anson Port, and also discover that the D.A. is her father. This is solid stuff, and Diana Ware is a strong addition to the Sandman's supporting cast.

Trivia Time! Did you ever want to know where Wesley Dodd's money comes from? This story reveals that he's a steel magnate. File that one away, minutiae buffs!

'Barry O'Neill' (by Ed Winiarski): Barry is entrusted with the transport of important papers, but a spy disguised as Inspector Legrand lures him into a trap. Barry escapes and deals with the crooks in the usual display of Golden Age violence. This one could have been good if they'd played out the Legrand impersonation a little more, but as it is it's fairly bland.

'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and possibly Mart Bailey): Steve Carson goes up against "subversive elements" who are trying to assassinate the Commissioner of National Functions. The art on this story is very awkward and amateurish, and the absurdly convoluted method used in the assassination attempt isn't helping things either.  The site I usually consult for credits (http://www.comics.org/) suggests Mart Bailey as a possible artist for this strip, but he's usually much better than this, and his signature is nowhere to be found.  I'm wondering if Siegel drew this himself.  It certainly doesn't look like the work of a professional artist.

'Socko Strong' (by Al Sulman and Joseph Sulman): Socko is starring in a movie, and his jealous co-star Monte Swift tries to arrange his death at every opportunity. It ends with Socko trapped in a dungeon, up to his neck in rising water. (Yes, the movie director lives in a replica medieval castle. With working deathtraps.) This is absurd yet entertaining.

'The Walking Ghost' (by Rex Vance): In this prose story a madman is struck by lightning and believed dead, only to revive and go on a crime spree. Either I have read this before, or it's very similar to a story from the early days of DC.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): Continued from last issue, Desmo and Gabby rescue the prisoners of the villainous Vasili Gerke, and lead them in an attack on Gerke's forces. This is pretty uninspiring, and ends with the note that the natives who served Vasili will be tried by the British government. Let's hear it for colonialism!  It looks as though the next appearance of this strip will be in More Fun Comics #53, and I'm hoping that the switch to a different comic is a last-ditch effort to save this before it gets cancelled.  I'd love not to have to read it any more.

'Professor Doolittle' (by Bob Kane): This mostly silent comedy strip about an absent-minded professor makes its last appearance in this comic.  Kane made his start with humour strips, and this one wasn't bad.  Assuming he did it himself, it showed that he had an ability to tell stories with the art alone.

'Steve Conrad, Adventurer' (by Jack Lehti): Steve Conrad is back after a long absence (since New Adventure Comics #25), replacing 'Skip Schuyler'. In this story he goes up against a dope ring that is also kidnapping girls. The plot is okay, but Steve's Chinese manservant has to be seen to be believed.

He's like that the whole way through. The only other Chinese characters in this story are criminals or dope smokers, so it's not like they can balance things out.

'Rusty and His Pals' (by Bob Kane): Rusty and his pals are still in the old mansion, where the owner is dying and a mysterious someone is knocking on the door. Said door-knocker turns out to be a midget with a gun, but it's never really explained what he wants or why he runs away so suddenly. The dying old man also sends Rusty to find his nephew, who also ends up being a midget, albeit a Scottish one. This strip is setting up a lot of mysteries, but with no sense that they relate to each other at all. This is unfocused and unsatisfying.

'Anchors Aweigh!' (by Bart Tumey): Don is in Jamaica investigating a freighter that sank with a shipment of gold. It turns out that the captain is responsible, and has stolen the gold for himself. So far, so mediocre, but the story then takes a sudden swerve into voodoo territory when the captain tries to get a witch doctor to give Don drugs that will leave him a mindless zombie. That wraps up a little too neatly as well, but it did provide a glimmer of interest, as well as a somewhat ironic end for the villain.

'Cotton Carver and the First Ones' (by Gardner Fox and Ogden Whitney): Cotton Carver rescues Deela from the First Ones, who are pretty much just normal dudes. This strip has none of the intoxicating weirdness or charm that it usually presents.

Cover by Sheldon Moldoff

'The Flash' (by Gardner Fox and Everett E. Hibbard): Joan's father has been framed by a newspaper with foreign interests that wants his plans for a new energy source. The Flash clears his name by running around a lot and going undercover. The plot of this story is mediocre at best, but Fox understands that a story about a man with super-speed needs to be pacy.  And once again he's using non-powered folks to good effect, shwing their stunned reactions to the Flash to make him seem more impressive.  I was also surprised that everybody knows that Jay Garrick is the Flash already.  He doesn't wear a mask, so I guess it makes sense.  And I suppose that at this point it's too early for the common tropes of the super-hero genre to be in place.  The strip also has a new artist in Everett Hibbard, who doesn't have the same fluidity of style that previous artist Harry Lampert gave the strip.

'Cliff Cornwall, Special Agent' (by Gardner Fox and Sheldon Moldoff): A female spy tries to seduce Cliff to obtain plans for a new type of ship, but Cliff tricks her and gives her plans that sabotage her country's whole fleet. It was obvious where this story was going from about panel two.

'The Hawk-Man' (by Gardner Fox and Dennis Neville): Hawk-Man goes up against Una Cathay, a madwoman who has kidnapped a number of scientists so that she can learn the secret of eternal life. The scientists all seemed to die before Una took them, and there's a lot of talk about keeping their hearts and brains alive with chemicals, but then it turns out that they were never really dead in the first place.  The details here never quite add up.

'Johnny Thunderbolt' (by John B. Wentworth and Stan Aschmeier): Johnny is scheduled to fight the world heavyweight champion, Gunpowder Glantz. This story sets up a novel situation, in which Glantz wants to throw the match to clean up on betting, and Johnny is asked to throw the match so that he can marry his girlfriend. Johnny's power backfires on him and he wins the match, setting up further hijinks. This was just enough of a twist on the formula to work.

'Rod Rian of the Sky Police' (by Paul H. Jepsen): Rod Rian is captured by the evil Mephisians, and sent to the Land of the Living Dead, where he is menaced by a strange beast. This feels very old-fashioned, more like the kinds of strips I was reading from 1935, with cramped art and an over-reliance on captions. It's very stilted and stiff compared to everything else in this comic.

'King Standish' (by Gardner Fox and William Smith): King Standish is a crime-fighter who uses lots of disguises. In this story he goes up against a dope peddler called Boss Barton. This story rises above its pedestrian plot by starting from the perspective of Barton's secretary, who has no idea who King is, and no idea that her boss is crooked. It works well to give King a greater sense of mystery, even though we know pretty much everything we need to know about him by the end. The art is clean and attractive as well, with some good storytelling.

'Adventure in a Time Warp' (by Gardner Fox): Two astronauts are caught in a time warp and return to Earth 1,000 years after they left. They find the remnants of humanity in the city of "Kikago", being menaced by an army of green men from the moon. There's some pretty clever time loop stuff here: the future people know the astronauts will save them, because it's in their history books, and it's in their history books because the astronauts returned to their own time after doing it and told everybody. This is far better than the prose stories usually are.

'The Scarlet Scarab' (by Ed Wheelan): A wealthy banker's lucky scarab is stolen by his daughter, who holds it to ransom for a million dollars. The story goes a long way to set this up as a mystery, and even introduces all five of the banker's servants as potential suspects, but then on the very next page his daughter appears and admits to the crime. Other than that misstep it's not bad, but I did try very hard to memorise those suspects just before they were made irrelevant.

'The Whip' (by John B. Wentworth and George Storm): The Whip takes on crooked businessmen who are paying their workers in coupons instead of money. I'm still having fun with this strip, mostly due to the outrageously over-the-top character of the Whip. Still, I'm not sure why the surprise reveal at the end of this is the Whip's secret identity of Rod Gaynor. That was established two issues ago!


  1. The trivia about Sandman is going to be useful to me; I run an online campaign with Sandman in it. King Standish, along with one of DC's earliest recurring villainesses, the Witch, always sounds interesting to me. I wish they'd reprint this stuff, even if just in a black and white trade paperback like they did with Kirby's Fourth World books a few years back.

  2. Que pena hablo español, pero quiero saber si puedo encontrar estos comic del volumen 1, es que los quiero todos almenos en ingles