Thursday, November 3, 2011

January 1940: Zip Comics #3

Cover by Charles Biro

'Steel Sterling, Man of Steel' (by Charles Biro): Sterling has taken on the identity of his "twin brother" John, and acts as a private investigator. He's hired by a girl named Dora Cummings to rescue her scientist father, who has been kidnapped by the villainous Black Knight. The story that follows is pretty mad. It has flying tanks conquering a South American country. It has a cannon that fires balls of flaming oil. It has alligator men. It has a swarm of giant mosquitoes. And it has Steel Sterling smashing the hell out of all of them. I'm a sucker for a fast-paced, frenetic action story with lots of crazy elements, and this is exactly that.

'The Scarlet Avenger' (by Harry Shorten and Irv Novick): I had almost forgotten about the Scarlet Avenger, but how could I ever forget "The Man Who Never Smiles"? In this story he takes on Texa, a female crime lord who flies around in a dirigible and uses a giant magnet to rip a vault full of gold bullion from beneath the earth. It's a solid if unspectacular action story, and there is lots of gonzo technology on display. The cliffhanger is good as well, with the Scarlet Avenger having barely survived a plane crash and Texa hunting him in her dirigible.

'Nevada Jones, Quick-Trigger Man' (by Creators Unknown): Nevada Jones takes on a gang of stagecoach robber who are posing as Injuns. The storytelling here is really choppy, and the page layouts are also weird. As far as I'm concerned, if you need arrows to tell me what panel to read next, your layout sucks.

'Kalthar the Giant Man, King of the Jungle' (by Harry Shorten and Lin Streeter): Kalthar joins up with some white men who are searching for the lost city of Kybys, and a golden tablet hidden within. There are the usual traitorous party members, and a girl for Kalthar to fall in love with. The only thing that separates this from every run-of-the-mill jungle lord story is that Kalthar can change size, and that's hardly a compelling enough hook.

'War Eagles, the Devil's Flying Twins' (by Ed Smalle): Tom and Tim leave a man behind while escaping from Nazis, and must go back to rescue him. They're still jerks, but not as insufferable as they were last time. And Smalle has gotten much better at drawing aerial dogfights.

'The Slip-Up' (by Creator Unknown): In this prose story, Larry Duryea tries to kill another businessman by filling his car with poison gas. But when Larry slips and is knocked unconscious, the businessman stops to bundle him into the car and drive him to the hospital, and it's Duryea who dies. This is a pretty good twist ending story, the sort of thing that I'd be happy to see more of.

'Captain Valor' (by Abner Sundell and Mort Meskin): Angie's father is kidnapped by the villainous Ho Tsin, and Valor goes to his rescue. The most interesting scenes come when Valor befriends one of Ho Tsin's goons, a giant with no name and an endearingly stupid personality. It was also novel to see Angie save Valor's life, instead of the other way around. But otherwise this is truly generic stuff.

'Mr. Satan' (by Harry Shorten and Ed Ashe): Mr. Satan takes on a gang that is wrecking trains carrying payrolls for the local mine. The cliches are thick and fast here, to the point that Mr. Satan is actually tied to a railroad track. Even that bit of audacious hack-work can't make this story interesting, though.

'Zambini the Miracle Man' (by Joe Blair and Ed Wexler): In this story, Zambini goes to Hell and kills Satan. For real. It's not even like he has a difficult time of it, because Satan here is a complete wimp. All he has is his minions (including a brontosaurus, weirdly), who Zambini casually dismisses with his magic powers. This could have been brilliant, if only Satan wasn't so weaksauce.


  1. That Scarlet Avenger summary sounds really good; wish I could read it.

  2. It is pretty exciting and crazy. Have you ever checked out They have a lot of public domain comics available, including this very one. (No Marvel or DC, but they're pretty thorough otherwise.)