Wednesday, October 12, 2011

January 1940: More Fun Comics #52

Cover by Bernard Baily

'The Spectre' (by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily): Jim Corrigan is a policeman, and also engaged to socialite Clarice Winston. After Jim single-handedly stops a gang of crooks from robbing a warehouse, gangster Gat Benson decides to bump him off. Which he successfully does, by putting him in a barrel, filling it with cement, and dropping into a river. Corrigan dies, but before he can enter Heaven a booming voice tells him that it is his mission to return to Earth and eradicate crime. Corrigan awakens at the bottom of the river, finding that he is a ghostly apparition with the ability to fly and turn invisible. The story ends with him about to take revenge on Gat and his thugs.

This is quality stuff.  Siegel is really on his game here, drawing out the origin story into a compelling read. If I have one disappointment it's that it ends before Corrigan can assume the look he has on the cover of the issue. It's a minor quibble. The characters are relatively well-defined, Baily's storytelling is strong, and I want to see where it's going.

'Wing Brady' (by Tom Hickey): Continuing from last issue, Wing Brady and his men are defending Fort Miranda from an Arab tribe known as the Touaregs. Wing uses some rudimentary tactics to defeat them, but the story is well told. If I have one complaint it's that the Touaregs are never developed as characters. Faceless hordes usually make for uninteresting villains.

'Biff Bronson' (by Albert Sulman and Joseph Sulman): A mad scientist known as the Wizard has built a robot army, and he uses it to steal all of the silver from West Point. It probably cost him more to build the robots, but never mind that. Biff Bronson disables a robot, figures out that he can use it as a disguise, and determines to infiltrate the Wizard's hideout. To be continued! This is fun stuff.

'Radio Squad' (by Jerry Siegel and Martin Wheeler): Sandy and Larry go up against a safe manufacturer who has rigged his safes with secret panels that conceal the treasure placed within. He then plans to buy back the seemingly looted safes and collect the treasure himself. This starts off as an intriguing mystery, but the payoff is not as interesting as the set-up.

'Bust-Up in Borneo' (by Jack Anthony): Two adventurers rescue a young boy from savages by using flares. It's not awful. It just kind of exists.

'Lieut. Bob Neal of Sub 662' (by B. Hirsch and Russ Lehman): Bob and Tubby go up against a disguised yacht that is laying mines in the Panama Canal. This is solid if unspectacular stuff. It's continued next month, even though the story seems to be over. Perhaps whatever foreign power is responsible for the plot will retaliate.

'King Carter' (by Paul J. Lauretta): King and Red are in the Arctic, searching for a lost research expedition. It turns out that the expedition was killed by a rival outfit, who wanted the reward money for scientific data about the Arctic for themselves. This story is okay, but marred by some terrible exposition near the beginning, as King and Red spend a page telling each other things they already know.

'Detective Sergeant Carey and the Studio Mystery' (by Joe Donohoe): Carey investigates a murder on a movie set, in which an actor was shot while filming a scene but nobody can find the gun. The culprit turns out to be a cameraman, who killed the actor with a gun inside the camera. This story doesn't do anything particularly wrong, but it's still not very good.

'Sergeant O'Malley of the Red Coat Patrol' (by Jack Lehti): O'Malley goes up against a gang of robbers who have their hideout in a secret room behind the local bank. I was convinced they were living behind a waterfall, and was all set to write about how stupid O'Malley was for not figuring it out on the first panel. That's some effective misdirection from Lehti, the best thing about an otherwise mediocre story.

'Bulldog Martin' (by Bart Tumey): Bulldog is left a bottle of invisibility pills by a deceased scientist, and uses it to break up a gang of union racketeers. There are some decent comedy bits in this story that give some life to the very well worn plot. And I'm glad that this strip now has a hook of some sort, even if it's not a particularly original one.

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