Thursday, November 24, 2011

February 1940: Mystic Comics #2

Cover by Alex Schomburg

'The Master Mind Excello' (possibly by Arnold Hicks): Society playboy Earl Everett is also Excello, agent of the Naval Intelligence Department, who solves plots against the US with his mental and physical powers. Sound familiar?  It should if you've been paying attention, because this is exactly the same set-up as the Wizard over at Archie. Excello even has the power to visualise things that are happening elsewhere, just like the Wizard does. And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, Excello leaves his calling card behind, complete with a patriotic message.  Just like the Wizard!  This is the most shameless rip-off I have seen in the course of this blog, in a medium that is rife with shameless rip-offs. The only thing this character has going for him is the name "Master Mind Excello", which is truly great.  It's too bad they never refer to him by that full title in the story.

'Flexo the Rubber Man' (by Jack Binder): Flexo and his creators take on a group of spies who have stolen a new machine designed to repel torpedoes. I didn't particularly enjoy this, although the scene where the spies try to run Flexo down in their car, only to bounce back over the cliff to their doom, is priceless.

'The Dynamic Man' (by Gus Ricca): The Dynamic Man is Curt Cowan, who has all sorts of powers related to magnetism. In this story he takes on a gang of spies and saboteurs led by Doctor Vee. This is about as dull and generic as a Golden Age super-hero tale can get. The Dynamic Man displays no memorable traits whatsoever.

'Space Rangers' (by Creators Unknown): In the year 2300 AD, Bob and Nibbs are Space Rangers, tasked with protecting interplanetary travellers and merchants. In this story they take on Blackhawk, a space bandit who lives with his ape men on an inexplicably pleasant asteroid near Mercury. The resolution is simplicity itself, as the Space Rangers just get in their ship and blow Blackhawk to smithereens. The only interesting part of the story comes from Blackhawk's relationship with his daughter. Says Blackhawk: "You're worse than your wretched mother was!" Says the daughter: "He is mean, and I hate him!" Complexity, thy name is Golden Age.

'The Blue Blaze' (by Newt Alfred): The Blue Blaze goes up against an inventor who is sabotaging mine shafts so that he can sell his own safety devices. This is terribly bland. The Blue Blaze is a lot less interesting now that his back-from-the-dead angle doesn't play into the story. Except when he's strangling dogs, then he's rad.

'Murderer's Mistake' (by Eddie Herron): "It was a swell night to murder the boss." Now that is how you open a prose story. This one's about a gardener who murders his boss, but is caught because he is careful not to tread on his flowers as he makes his escape. With relatively rounded characters and a satisfying wrap-up, this is very good for a comic book prose story.

'Taxi Taylor and his Wonder Car' (by Creators Unknown): Taxi Taylor invents a special car that can turn into a plane or a submarine, but when he presents it to the US government they think he's a crackpot. Determined to show them up, Taylor uses his car to stop a plot by agents from the totally-not-German country of "Swastikia". I like the premise here, and the car does have some impressive gadgets, but ultimately the story is just too dull.

'The Invisible Man known as Dr. Gade' (by Newt Alfred): Some thugs send an assassin to kill Dr. Gade by pushing him into a furnace. Gade survives, and thanks to a combination of chemicals he can now turn invisible. He seeks revenge on his would-be killers, and the dude is bloodthirsty. Not only does he throw one guy out of a window, he grabs another guy's arm and makes him shoot his friend. The last crook he throws into a disintegrator, and he is "blown into atoms forever!" The ruthlessness of the hero made this a more compelling read than some other stories. I've complained about invisible heroes in other strips (notably 'Invisible Justice'), but it's all in the execution. The artist here uses light and shade to effectively convey the lead character's invisibility without sacrificing mood or dynamics.

'Zara of the Jungle' (by Newt Alfred): Captain Graves goes into the jungle to stop two warring tribes, and encounters the white goddess Zara. This is the first instance of the "jungle girl" genre I've seen in the course of this blog. It has the usual racial unpleasantness that permeates jungle comics, but Zara makes for a refreshing change from the likes of Ka-Zar. And I did like that she refused to return to civilisation with Graves.

'Dakor the Magician' (by Creators Unknown): Dakor rescues a British consul from Chinese bandits. This isn't bad for a bargain bin Zatara knock-off. I have no idea why the Chinese bandits are coloured green, though.

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