Sunday, November 13, 2011

February 1940: All-American Comics #13

Cover by Ben Flinton

'Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man' (by Jon L. Blummer): The armies of Warlord Tor attack America, and Gary Concord and his forces fight back. This is a six-page war, but somehow Blummer has managed to give it a grand sense of scale, with fighting in the Arctic and along the Equator, as well as the main offensive in America. Concord's attack plan goes off without a hitch, which is usually something I don't care for, but what I liked here is that he has more than one plan. He has his sleep foam, and his ray that disintegrates metal, and his special jungle tanks. It all culminates in a great panel when Tor is defeated, and crawls from the wreckage of his ships saying "Look! Blood! Blood on my hands!" It's not the most subtle of symbolism, but symbolism of any sort in the Golden Age is a thing to treasure. And let us not forget Gary's sidekick Guppy, who dies here during the conflict. I hated him, and he had a stupid comb-over, but at least he died well.

'Hop Harrigan' (by Jon L. Blummer): With Hop now a national hero, his friend Wash starts up a new company, All-American Aviation. Their mechanic Ikky celebrates by dragging Hop along to the closest thing a comic for kids can get to depicting a strip club. Ikky leaves with a girl, and because Hop doesn't like the looks of her he steals their bankroll from Ikky's pocket. He doesn't warn Ikky, doesn't try to get him to leave the girl, he just takes the money and leaves, and of course Ikky gets jumped by thugs. Hop Harrigan: terrible friend. Then there's an interlude with some spies who try to steal some aviation plans, which is the most boring part of the strip. And then the cliffhanger, in which Hop's legal guardian, the crook he ran away from all the way back in issue #1, tries to regain custody of him. This is a damn busy comic, and all the better for it.

'Ben Webster' (by Edwin Alger): Ben and Taffy have been abandoned by Sidewinder Pete, and captured by Mexican bandits. The bandits take them to their "Big Boss", who ends up being Sidewinder Pete, who ends up being Abner Mattix, the very man Ben and Taffy were looking for. It's all very implausible, and I really don't understand the reasons for such a hoax at all. Anyway, it turns out that Abner has found some magic mud that can heal any wound (even a gunshot wound to the head!), but the well he found has dried up. The three of them must find the source, which is a decent enough premise to go on for the next few installments. This would have been okay without the nonsense at the beginning.

'Adventures in the Unknown: The Infra-Red Destroyers' (by Carl H. Claudy): Now this is a mess. The main plot seems to be that mysterious meteors are bombarding Earth, then disintegrating into powder. But around that a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated things are going on. A kid is framed for murder by a mad scientist. Eleven people are murdered at a radio station. A guy is attacked by something invisible, and Alan gives a lecture on infra-red light. The most inexplicable scene is one where Ted stops some boys from teasing a dog. There are even more unexplained goings on than I've mentioned here, and it's just too much. It's possible that the next chapter will have a brilliant explanation for it all, but at the moment it's just unfocused and terrible.

'Scribbly' (by Sheldon Mayer): Scribbly's little brother Dinky has fallen in love with Sisty Hunkel, and they get engaged. This is firmly in the camp of humour that thinks that kids acting like adults is inherently funny, which isn't really my thing.

'Death's Playground' (by George Shute): Jimmy and Phil finally capture the saboteurs, but I was pretty lost through the whole thing. This story started quite a few issues ago, and I really can't remember much of the first few chapters. Perhaps if I sat and read it all in one go it would come together, but as a serial it just stretched out loo long.

'Popsicle Pete' (by Sheldon Mayer): Pete and his friends have found a pot of gold that turns out to be stolen, and then they catch the crooks responsible by accident. The strip ends by asking what the reader thinks the kids should do with the money. Perhaps they could actually open the radio station that they were trying to raise money for for like a million strips?!?

'Red, White and Blue' (by William Smith): This story sees the return of Mr. Glib, the villain from a couple of issues ago who has the power of invisibility. He supposedly died in a car crash, but here he is alive and well, helping in a plot to spoil America's food supplies. It's a pretty lacklustre story, not helped by a scene where Blooey gains the power of invisibility through some very hazily defined means. It also raises the possibility of the heroes being court-martialed for going AWOL, then hastily wraps that up in the closing caption, which is pretty weak.

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