Wednesday, February 8, 2012

April 1940: All-American Comics #15

Cover by Jon L. Blummer

'Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man' (by Jon L. Blummer): Gary and his friends must battle an army of monstrosities bred in the laboratory of the scientist Marman. One of these monsters, named Garoo, has developed psychic powers, and is willing the others to conquer the planet. But when another of the monsters emerges from a test tube with the same powers as Garoo they fight viciously, until Gary blows up the lab and kills them all. There's an air of desperate urgency to these events, and the story really does get across the idea that the world is in big trouble if Garoo gets his way. It helps that the skeletal monsters are eerily inhuman, and their silence only reinforces that. Good stuff, even if the conclusion was a bit anticlimactic.

'Hop Harrigan' (by Jon L. Blummer): Hop's old school mistress Miss Snap has come to stay, and Ikky the mechanic is unhappy about everything being cleaned up. He tries to scare her into leaving with a hair-raising plane ride, but that doesn't work. Later she stops a bank robbery, Ikky decides she's great after all, and she is made treasurer of the aviation company. I like Miss Snap. She is very much in the same vein as Spider-Man's Aunt May, in that she is quite clueless when it comes to criminal activity. But I shudder at her suggestion that Hop form a flying club for young boys. Seriously DC, I do not need another fan club page to read.

'Scribbly' (by Sheldon Mayer): Scribbly is still on assignment at a dude ranch, where the cowboys are convinced that he's a great horse rider. Scribbly gets entered unwillingly into a rodeo, which he wins purely by accident. It's good to see Scribbly back on form with this storyline.

'Popsicle Pete' (by Art Helfant): With $2500 at their disposal, Pete and his friends go into business, and advertise for inventions. Their ad attracts the attention of J. Flower Potts, who has invented a lawn sprinkler with every other hole missing; he claims that this will water the grass while leaving the weeds unwatered. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that Potts is an escapee from a mental asylum. I did get some mild amusement out of Potts' invention, but otherwise this is predictably uninspiring.

'Adventures in the Unknown: The Infra-Red Destroyers' (by Carl H. Claudy and Stan Aschmeier): Alan is captured by the crazed Professor Jurghens, who has allied with invisible snake creatures from Venus in a bid to conquer the Earth. There's no real tension here, and the attempts to portray Alan's horror at being locked in a cell with an invisible monster fall flat.

'Traitors' Treachery' (by George Shute): In this prose story, Jimmy Stone is still on the trail of some thieves who are stealing passports from the State Department. He tracks the woman responsible to a gambling den, and the story continues next month. I didn't mind this series when the stories were one-shots, but right now the pace is turgid.

'Ben Webster' (by Edwin Alger): Ben and his friends have great success with their magic mud business, making women beautiful and curing a boy of warts (although Ben's assertion that the boy now "looks human" is hardly the most compassionate sentiment). Later Ben is contacted by a woman named Miss Terry, who is on the run from somebody. The two halves of the story are seemingly unrelated, and as such the scenes with Miss Terry feel like a distraction from the main plot.

'Red, White and Blue' (by Jerry Siegel and William Smith): Red, Whitey and Blooey put a stop to German saboteurs who are laying mines in one of America's busiest harbours. This strip is on autopilot here. It's still more entertaining then most of the stuff out there, but it's getting a little dull at this point.

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