Sunday, November 6, 2011

February 1940: More Fun Comics #53, Detective Comics #37

Cover by Bernard Baily

I wasn't able to find a copy of this, aside from a reprint of the Spectre story, so that's all I can write about. 

'The Spectre' (by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily): Continuing from last issue, Jim Corrigan has returned from the dead to battle crime with his supernatural powers. In this story he must rescue his fiancee from the crooks who killed him. This is fantastically eerie stuff. Jim kills one of the crooks just by looking at him, and makes another's flesh fall away from his skeleton with a touch. And even though the crooks are dealt with easily, Jim is still little more than a ghost, and must leave his fiancee forever. This is very good stuff, spooky and tragic. The art lets it down here and there, but overall it's still effective.

Cover by Bob Kane

'Batman' (by Bill Finger and Bob Kane): Batman goes up against foreign agents in this story, which never quite feels right. From the opening where Batman has gotten lost while driving around, to the numerous instances if him being bashed on the head from behind, he doesn't feel like the same character. And I feel like the tone has shifted from what has come before, in a way that I can't quite pinpoint. It's not a terrible story by any means, but there's something off about it that I can't quite put my finger on.

'Spy' (by Jerry Siegel and Maurice Kashuba): Bart takes on Ligoni, leader of the "Ring of Death", who has just bombed some government officials. This is a solid story of Bart going undercover, even though it doesn't stray from the usual formula.  It's a solid rendition of a familiar routine.

'Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise' (by Sven Elven): Cosmo must stop a plot to hijack a  ship en route to England and sell it to an enemy nation. Part of his plan involves faking an explosion so that the ship will be evacuated, but I'm still wondering how that was done without crippling the ship as well. The story itself certainly has no explanation for me.

'The Crimson Avenger' (possibly by Jim Chambers and Harry Lucey): The Crimson Avenger is back, after a lengthy absence.  He hasn't been seen since Detective Comics #29! Very little effort is made to reintroduce the character, but I don't think it would be too hard to pick things up. In this story he tackles some kidnappers, which is a fairly dull starting point. Their ringleader ends up being a guy named J.N. Worthy, which seems fair enough, except for the scene where he seems surprised to be getting a note from the kidnappers. There's no reason he'd do so while alone in his own office.  It's just a cheap ploy to obscure the identity of the villain.

'Murder at Sea' (by John Randall): In this prose story, a professor is murdered and his secret plans are stolen. A boy named Billy figures out that the steward did it; his alibi was that he was writing a note at the time of the murder, but the note is too neat to have been written on the ship. It's just clever enough to work, but it's in the much-loathed "kids stop crooks" category, which is something I really hate.

'Speed Saunders, Ace Investigator and the Crime Roundup' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Speed is framed by crooks as a drunk, doused with whiskey and thrown in an alley. He's quickly demoted, but sets about getting his job back by starting a one-man war on crime. Normally I'm a sucker for this kind of thing, one guy just going around town and busting up every crook he finds, from the lowest to the highest. But this one just wraps up too neatly. It's the sort of story that works really well when it's drawn out and the crooks get their chance to retaliate, but here they just get rounded up, put on trial and sent to jail.

'Steve Malone, District Attorney' (by Don Lynch): This is a stock standard story about a kidnapping plot, where Steve goes to the rescue and saves the day, ticking all the cliche boxes as he goes. But there's an actual rape attempt by one of the kidnappers on their victim, which is definitely something that hasn't been done in DC comics to this point. It's all pretty PG in the way it's presented, but the intent is obvious. There's something to be said for this as a nod to realism, but it's not something I want to see in every story from now on.

'Cliff Crosby' (by Chad Grothkopf): This is a new strip. Cliff Crosby is friends with a reporter, and to be honest I'm not sure what it is that Cliff does. In this story, he and his friend get a lead on a missing judge, and find that he is being sold by a slave ring in South America. Cliff gets captured himself, saves the judge when he is thrown to a giant octopus, then wears the octopus on his head to frighten the slavers. It's not good, and the art is some of the worst I've seen. There are good panels here and there, but in every fight scene the perspective and scale are completely off. And Crosby has the world's tiniest arms.



'Slam Bradley' (by Jerry Siegel and Mart Bailey): Slam and Shorty are left a horse named Dynamite in a wealthy man's will, and before too long they have it racing in the Kentucky Derby. The usual shenanigans ensue, with crooked gamblers taking an interest, and of course Shorty ends up having to ride the horse in the derby. The plot elements here are as hackneyed as any other horse racing story, but the difference is in the presentation. Slam Bradley's stories are always laced with a knowing humour that raises them above the pack.

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