Tuesday, November 8, 2011

February 1940: Adventure Comics #48

Cover by Bernard Baily

'Tick-Tock Tyler the Hour-Man' (by Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily): Well, this one certainly took me unawares. This is the first appearance of Rex Tyler, aka the Hour-Man. He is a chemist who has invented a wonder drug called Miraclo, which gives him superhuman speed and strength for one hour. The story here is pretty pedestrian, as the Hour-Man must stop a gang of jewel thieves and also try to help one of them go straight and return to his family. The limited duration of Hour-Man's powers adds a little bit of extra tension as the clock counts down, but it's not enough to make such an average plot interesting.

'Barry O'Neill' (by Ed Winiarski): Jean LeGrand has been hypnotised and framed as a spy, and that can mean only one thing: Fang Gow has returned from the dead! Again! At this point Fang Gow has probably cheated death more than any other villain around. Barry tracks him down and frees Jean from his mental hold, but Fang Gow escapes. This is solid stuff, and Ed Winiarski probably does his best work on this strip.

'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and Chad Grothkopf): Steve Carson infiltrates a "crime school", where crooks are taught how to kill people, crack safes, and commit other nefarious deeds. In a neat twist on the FBI set-up, the crooks have complete finger-print files on all law-enforcement officers, which they use to expose Carson. Then they hook him up to a Suicide Machine, clamping his arms in place so that he is pointing a gun at his own head that is set to go off. One of the crooks ends up saving Steve because he's annoyed at getting in trouble for not doing his homework. This is truly insane stuff. I'm a little disappointed that Shuster didn't draw it, though, because he's a master of this kind of bonkers, tongue-in-cheek material.

'The Sandman' (by Gardner Fox and Ogden Whitney): This is the first strip to feature both the Sandman and his new partner, the Lady in Evening Clothes (aka Dian Belmont). Dian's father is threatened by racketeers, and there are three suspects. All three end up being in on it in a clever twist. This strip is taking a slightly lighter tone, and I quite like it.

'Dead Man's Chest' (by Clem Gordon): Two sailors find a dead body, and figure out that the culprit is a millionaire sportsman who is obsessed with a jade idol of the weather god Hurican. It all fits together well enough, but without ever being enjoyable.

'Socko Strong' (by Al Sulman and Joseph Sulman): Socko's film rival Monte Swift is still trying to kill him, but Socko turns the tables. Swift's murder attempts are a bit more sedate after last issue's house full of death-traps, and the story is poorer for it.

'Steve Conrad, Adventurer' (by Jack Lehti): While on a cruise, Steve sees the notorious jewel thief Singapore Sal, and suspects that she's up to her old tricks. A woman's jewels are later stolen, but it turns out to be a trick to claim the insurance, rather than a plot by Sal. This is a decent twist on the usual formula, even if it setting up one over-used cliche only to serve into another. It's too bad that Chang's speech patterns are the most egregiously racist I've seen so far.

'Rusty and His Pals' (by Bill Finger and Bob Kane): Continuing from last issue, Rusty and his pals, along with their new friend Angus, explore the dead old man's house for treasure. A dwarf and a man named Zoroff are looking for it too, and the strip ends when Rusty finds the old man's diary and a secret note. I'm a sucker for kids hunting for lost treasure (a legacy of "The Goonies", I suspect) so I enjoyed this. I'm still not sure why the swords here are being referred to as spears, though.

'Anchors Aweigh!' (by Bart Tumey): Don Kerry goes undercover as criminal Joe Madsen to catch a dope smuggler. I was amused at the constant hounding and attention Don gets, from telegrams congratulating him on his release from jail, to a visit from Madsen's wife. But other than that this is average stuff.

'Cotton Carver and the Earth Passage' (by Gardner Fox and Ogden Whitney): Carver and Deela crash land in a strange valley, where they are menaced by Ape-Men. Eventually they escape, and climb a volcano until they reach the surface world. This is an interesting direction to take the strip, as Carver has been stranded underground for a long time now. The next installment promises to be an interesting diversion from the norm.

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