Thursday, October 13, 2011

January 1940: Detective Comics #36

Cover by Bob Kane

'Batman' (by Bill Finger and Bob Kane): Batman goes up against Hugo Strange, a "scientist, philosopher and criminal genius".  Strange has built a machine with which he can blanket the city in fog, and under the cover of that fog his army of crooks loot everything in sight. Batman tracks them down, and beats the lot of them in a pretty well done multi-page fight scene. Kane is still the only guy doing fight scenes like this, and here it works to good effect. There's a particularly impressive panel of Batman bowling over some crooks, that shows a level of dynamism not often seen in this era.

I liked this one.  It had an interesting villain, great atmosphere with the fog-drenched city-scapes, and a really good fight scene.

'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Maurice Kashuba): I don't have the first page of this story, but from what I gather Bart must protect a US freighter from foreign spies. It does have a scene where he fights a spy who has dynamite strapped to his back, but otherwise this is an average story.

'Buck Marshall, Range Detective' (by Homer Fleming): Buck Marshall must clear the name of a man who has been framed for murder, and is scheduled to be hanged. This is actually a pretty solid story, even though it ends on an anticlimax when the final confrontation with the real culprits lasts for a single panel.

'Steve Malone, District Attorney' (by Don Lynch): Steve is on the trail of Rocky Roman, a wanted murderer. He tracks him down, and the story climaxes with a rooftop shootout and fist-fight. This isn't the most interesting story, but at least it makes an effort to liven up the action sequences.

'Speed Saunders Ace Investigator and the Spider' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Speed is on the trail of the Spider, a renowned jewel thief. It turns out that the Spider is actually a woman masquerading as a man, in a fairly implausible plot twist.

'Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise' (by Sven Elven): How do you make Cosmo even more boring than usual? Send him out west to tackle a gang of cattle rustlers! It was a neat touch when Cosmo admitted he would make a crappy cowboy, because Golden Age heroes are usually super-competent at everything, but other than that this was a snoozer.

'A Climax in Opera' (by Richard Martin): An jewel thief steals a whole bunch of gems, and a detective tracks him down in the theatre because he knows that he is obsessed with the opera. I was all set to dismiss this one, until the final line, where the jewel thief's only regret is that the detective didn't allow him to see the third act of "Carmen". Class.

'Bruce Nelson' (by Tom Hickey): Bruce Nelson investigates a murder at a wealthy socialite's ski party. This was shaping up well, with a few legitimate suspects, until the end when Bruce just bluffed his way into finding the culprit then dumped a whole load of exposition explaining what happened. I think this would have worked better as a two-parter.

'Slam Bradley' (by Jerry Siegel and Mart Bailey): Slam and Shorty go to China, where they are hired by the Lan Chee Tong to retrieve a sacred idol. This one is uncharacteristically humourless, but it's still not bad as a straight action story.

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