Sunday, January 22, 2012

April 1940: More Fun Comics #55

Cover by Bernard Baily

'The Spectre' (by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily): The Spectre is confronted by Zor, a powerful spirit who has been trapped on Earth for centuries, who uses his vast powers to promote evil. The ensuing battle is a cracker, with both combatants growing so large that they fight in outer space. Zor ends up kidnapping the Spectre's old lover and escaping to another dimension, and the Spectre must petition God so that he can track him down. The final confrontation isn't quite so epic, but this is a great story. It's chock full of elements that I always associated with the late 1960s cosmic books, not the Golden Age. And Zor is a very intriguing villain for the time. Siegel is a long way ahead of his contemporaries.

'Biff Bronson' (by Albert Sulman and Joseph Sulman): Dan Druff is framed for stealing some pearls by fake detectives, who then demand hush money from him. Biff dresses as Dan's mother to deliver the money, then beats the hell out of the crooks. Dan and Biff are entirely too into the whole scenario.

'Bob Neal of Sub 662' (by B. Hirsch and Russ Lehman): Foreign saboteurs try to blow up the Panama Canal with a convoluted plan involving a ship loaded with dynamite that is being guided by a radio signal. It's all quite garbled. The plan of the saboteurs isn't revealed until the end, when a hasty infodump informs the reader what's happening and it all gets wrapped up in a couple of panels.

'Brand New Gun' (by Brittin Quigley): The local sheriff has a shoot-out with a killer who is armed with a new-fangled automatic pistol. Predictably, the killer loses because he doesn't know how to work the thing properly. It's quite well told for what it is, and the killer's inability to understand the gun ties well into the idea that he is impeding progress in the town.

'Doctor Fate' (by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman): Once again I have been surprised by the debut of a DC Universe staple. In this story, the mysterious Wotan tries to kill Doctor Fate, reasoning that he is the only one that can stand in the way of his plans for world conquest. Fate is a strange figure in this story. He's presented very much as a mystery. We learn that he's a master of science and the occult, but very little else. His face is constantly hidden by his rad helmet, and we never learn his true name. It's a shame that the final battle with Wotan descends into fisticuffs, but the rest of the set-up is very intriguing.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): Desmo and Gabby help a man who is being blackmailed for money by assassins. It's actually quite tedious, which is an achievement for a story with assassins in it.

'Radio Squad' (by Jerry Siegel and Chad Grothkopf): Sandy and Larry must stop a mad scientist from murdering the people he believes stole his invention. The killer is convincingly insane, and makes for a great villain.

'Detective Sergeant Carey in Death Stalks the Campus' (by Joe Donohoe): Carey takes on a mad scientist who is posing as a vampire and killing college students. I have no idea why any of this is happening.

'Sergeant O'Malley of the Red Coat Patrol' (by Jack Lehti): O'Malley goes up against the Wolf Man, a bandit who commands wolves and dresses in their skins. With his combination of overblown villainous dialogue and understated all-grey colour scheme, the Wolf Man is certainly an interesting villain. It's too bad that he has no interesting protagonist to strive against, or this might have been great.

'Bulldog Martin' (by Bart Tumey): A man is framed for the murder of his uncle, in a manner that can best be described as desperately thorough. The sheer volume and precision of the evidence piled up against the kid is ridiculous. The story is hackneyed and obvious, but the true murderer's frame job was amusing to me.

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