Wednesday, February 15, 2012

April 1940: Daring Mystery Comics #5

Cover by Alex Schomburg

'The Fiery Mask' (by George Kapitan and Harry Sahle): A mad scientist named Dork (yes, Dork) has created a huge mass of flesh-eating protoplasm that he unleashes on the city from his phallic tower. Dork's men are wearing suits that make them immune to the protoplasm, and they go out in search of women for Dork's experiments. "Come! Dork needs your body to experiment on!" Anyway, the Fiery Mask is able to resist the protoplasm due to his intense body heat, and he deals with Dork and his deathtraps with little difficulty. He even interrupts one of Dork's experiments on a lady, which sounds suspiciously like a near-rape scene. Subtext, welcome to comics.

'Trojak the Tiger Man' (by Arnold Hicks): Trojak's friend Jerry is dying, and only the life-juice of the devil-flower can save him. Trojak and his girlfriend Edith embark on a quest through the jungle, fighting natural threats, supernatural menaces, and the tribe that worships the flower. There's enough general weirdness to keep me entertained here, and a good-dose of man-on-animal violence as well. The disinterested expression on Trojak's face as he throttles an ape is priceless.  This is the last we see of Trojak, but he goes out on a high.

'K-4 and His Sky Devils' (possibly by Jack Binder): K-4 and his partners are tasked with getting some photos of a Nazi coastal base, but as events unfold they end up destroying it. It's unremarkable.  This is the last appearance of K-4, who never made much of an impression.

'Monako, Prince of Magic' (by Larry Antoinette): Monako deals with a pair of jewel thieves on a cruise ship, but of much greater interest is his account of his origin story. While in India, Monako's parents were killed by a tribe of evil magicians, who then took Monako in and taught him all of their arts. Eventually the tribe was wiped out by colonial soldiers, Monako returned to civilisation, got educated, and devoted himself to fighting evil. It's pretty messed up that this guy had to live with the tribe that killed his mum and dad for years and years. He actually seems pretty dispassionate about it, which I find intriguing. I know it will never go anywhere, but he's still a better character for having such a messed up background.

'Marvex, Super Robot' (by Hal Sharpe): Marvex is targeted by Doctor Narr, a mad scientist who wants to dissect Marvex to improve upon his own robot army. There's plenty of robot-smashing action, but Marvex himself has become terribly bland.  This is his last appearance.  Marvex was never particularly interesting after his origin story.

'Whirlwind Carter of the Interplanetary Secret Service' (by Fletcher Hanks): Earth is targeted by the Black Light Planet and it's weird lizard-like people. Their plan is to freeze the Earth, kill all the humans, then sell the planet to Mars. Whirlwind Carter leads a fleet to destroy the Black Light People in a serious case of counter-genocide. Then he returns to Earth to proclaim victory, never mind that millions died in the attack. The body count in this story is brutal, even if it's mostly off-panel.

'The Death Clutch' (by T.K. Hawley): In this prose story, a man who murders his uncle is found out due to the victim having grabbed his fountain pen. It does what it does quite well.

'Breeze Barton in Rebuilding the World' (possibly by Jack Binder): Breeze and his companions start building a city, but they are raided by a strange white-skinned tribe. Breeze beats them by blowing up their leader with rocket fuel, then offers peace to the survivors. This was okay, but the most notable thing was that Breeze's girlfriend Ann gets into the action as much as he does, gunning down the enemy with skill. Good to see after years worth of ineffectual female characters.  Even so, this is Breeze's last appearance.  There's some serious reshuffling going on with this book.

'Little Hercules' (by Bud Sagendorf): Hercules is a boy who is inexplicably the smartest and strongest person in the world. He has invented a new explosive, and beats the hell out of the spies who try to take it. But as portrayed he's kind of dull, naive and clueless. And yet he's a doctor of every science and is basically impervious to physical harm. The sheer nonsense of it amuses me (and it is supposed to be a humour strip). I hope they never explain it.

'The Falcon' (by Maurice Gutwirth): The Falcon is Carl Burgess, assistant DA. As far as I can tell he has no powers, just a semi-decent costume and a gun. In this story he investigates some mysterious deaths, in which all the victims were sent a wand of death. The Falcon traces the killings to Doctor Sunga, and figures out that the parcels the wands were sent in were set with a lethal charge of static electricity. As an action story this is mediocre, and the villain has no motivation to speak of.  There are suggestions that this character is simply a reworking of the Purple Mask, which makes a lot of sense.  They're basically the same guy.

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