Thursday, February 9, 2012

April 1940: Action Comics #25

Cover by Wayne Boring

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy): A hypnotist named Medini (in the customary suit, tie and turban) has embarked on a wave of daring robberies, in which he leaves the victims with amnesia. When Superman tries to stop him, Medini uses his mental power to rob Superman of his coordination. The scenes that follow show Superman stumbling around, crashing through trees and  leaping about haphazardly. This is the first time that Superman has been seen in such a vulnerable position, and it's quite unsettling. He snaps out of it by leaping up into the stratosphere, and must then rescue a plane full of passengers that Medini has captured. The conclusion is very poorly depicted; I still can't figure out how Superman defeats Medini, and for some reason Medini doesn't use his powers again. It's a rare case of bad storytelling for the Superman strip, probably due to replacement artist Paul Cassidy.


'Pep Morgan' (by Fred Guardineer): Pep is working as a war correspondent for a US newspaper now, because the guy just can't figure out what the hell he's doing. Seriously, he has a new job every month. Anyway, he is allowed as a special observer on a ship patrolling the English Channel, which is soon on the trail of a German submarine. After the Germans sink their ship and capture the crew, we get a surprisingly fair depiction of a German sub captain. He's quite polite and reasonable, even though he does warn his captives that he might have to put them back in the ocean if his supplies run low. After Pep's inevitable escape, and commandeering of the sub, the captain commits suicide rather than be captured and disgraced. Shame, he was the most likable character in this story.

'Black Pirate' (by Sheldon Moldoff): The villainous Captain Ruff captures the Black Pirate, and tortures him for the location of his treasure (by tying him to the front of a cannon and threatening to blow him to bits, no less!). The Black Pirate escapes, sets the ship on fire, and swims away through shark-infested waters. To be continued! It's short and to the point, and the action is well-depicted. It's just a shame that it's told in an old-fashioned, all-captions style that I find difficult to engage with.

'Three Aces' (by Gardner Fox and Chad Grothkopf): This starts well, as the Three Aces find a downed plane with a pilot who has been turned to stone. It turns out to be the work of a mad sculptor who has perfected a method of fossilizing living things. He plans to exhibit them as evidence of his great skill, which is a novel if somewhat crazy motivation. The villain is quite good, but the rest falls a bit flat. And Fog Fortune, with his stupid English accent, is easily the most irritating character of the Golden Age.

'Tex Thomson' (by Bernard Baily): Tex and his friends deal with a gang of kidnappers, who are after a wealthy man named Van Skaal who has developed amnesia. The amnesia angle is pointless, and the rest of the story is formulaic. There are some amusing moments, but nothing special on the whole.  Apparently this is the final appearance of Gargantua T. Potts, the most broadly racist recurring character I'm reading right now.  He won't be missed.

'Message to the Major' (by Gardner Fox): British soldiers in the Hindu Kush are about to be ambushed, and young soldier Jones must ride for help before they are wiped out. This is to be continued next month. It's not bad, as Fox has put in the work to make Jones feel like a legitimate character.

'Clip Carson' (by Sheldon Moldoff): Clip and his friend Diaz must go into the midst of a revolutionary army and capture their leader Calero. This wastes no time getting started, and piles one danger on top of the next without respite. It's definitely formulaic, but it's told with enthusiasm, and Moldoff's art is very good.

'Zatara the Master Magician and the One Man Crime Wave' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Zatara goes up against Asmodeus, a chess master who is leading a massive crime wave. It's a low-key bad guy for Zatara, and his response is disappointingly low-key as well. This strip is always at its best when it goes crazy, but here it's all very down-to-earth, and all the worse for it.

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