Tuesday, January 24, 2012

April 1940: Adventure Comics #50

Cover by Bernard Baily

Hey look, Adventure Comics has reached a milestone!  This being the Golden Age, there is no special celebration.  It's just another normal issue.  But for me, a child of 90s comics, there's no escaping the significance of a nice round number.  And this time, unlike with More Fun Comics before it, I can legitimately say that I have read them all.

'Tick-Tock Tyler the Hour-Man' (by Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily): The Hour-Man gets involved in my favourite type of story: a horse-racing tale with crooked gamblers! Not only do I have this nonsense to deal with, but the Hour-Man, in his civilian identity as Rex Tyler, is one of the most insipid characters of the Golden Age. Not only does he allow the thugs to beat the hell out of him and put him in hospital, but he doesn't lift a finger to help a horse trainer either. I know he's protecting his secret identity, but there are limits.

'Barry O'Neill' (by Ed Winiarski): Barry and Inspector Le Grand are tasked with escorting some American bombers into France, while Fang Gow plots to steal them. It's all very routine, though I was surprised to see that Fang Gow is captured at the end, and scheduled for execution.

It only occurred to me just now, but for a strip set in France in 1940 there is absolutely no mention of the war. The main villain here is Chinese, which seems like an anachronism to me given the country's situation at the time.

'Federal Men' (by Jerry Siegel and Chad Grothkopf): Steve investigates a series of mysterious plane crashes, and discovers that they're the work of a crazed inventor using a newly created hot air ray. Steve stops him from selling the plans to a foreign nation in a mediocre story.

'The Sandman' (by Gardner Fox and Creig Flessel): This starts intriguingly, when the Sandman witnesses a hit-and-run accident, only to discover that both parties were already dead beforehand. It's the work of two crooks who are out of jail and going after the judge and jury who put them away. While all this is going on there's a lot of stuff about the Sandman being a wanted man. After he stops the crooks he's offered a pardon if he reveals his secret identity, but he refuses. It's nice to see one of the staple elements of the genre being used well, and it adds some interest to an otherwise average tale.

'Socko Strong' (by Albert Sulman and Joseph Sulman): Socko must convince a gifted violinist that he shouldn't become a boxer just to make a quick buck. Which he does by punching the hell out of him. Thankfully it all ends quite sweetly when Socko organises for the kid to play a concert at Carnegie Hall. Perhaps I'm going soft, but I rather liked it.

'Dead Reckoning' (by Tex Horton): In this prose story a US Marshall investigates the source of guns being smuggled to the Indians, and discovers that the local undertaker (and mayor) is transporting the guns in coffins. This is short and to the point, and gets the job done adequately enough.

'Steve Conrad, Adventurer' (by Jack Lehti): Steve must stop a foreign spy from uniting the native tribes on a South Seas island and attacking the US military base situated there. He does this by tricking the tribes into fighting each other again, but it's okay. Everything is fine as long as white people aren't being killed.

'The Adventures of Rusty and His Pals' (by Bob Kane): Rusty and his pals sail for Malay in search of a hidden treasure, but the guide that they hire is also after the treasure for his temple. I wasn't engaged by this at all, but it's just set-up.

'Anchors Aweigh!' (by Bart Tumey): In the Philippines, Don has a fever that drives him crazy. He rides wildly away and wakes up in a pit full of political prisoners. He finds a map to an escape route, but one of the prisoners knocks him out and escapes. Red comes along and rescues Don, and the story ends, with the betraying prisoner presumably having achieved his goal. It's all very haphazard and unsatisfying.

'Cotton Carver in the City of Glass' (by Gardner Fox and Jack Lehti): The last issue ended with Cotton and company falling down a crevasse. Here they arrive in a strange land occupied by the descendants of the lost colony of Roanoke, where the king takes a liking to Princess Deela. This is average stuff, made interesting only by Cotton's declaration that the underground kingdom of Barlunda is now the place he thinks of as home.

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