Sunday, February 26, 2012

May 1940: More Fun Comics #56

Cover by Howard Sherman

'The Spectre' (by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily): Jim Corrigan, aka the Spectre, must deal with an unscrupulous wholesaler that is threatening a department store, trying to force the store to buy more of its goods. There's never a question that the Spectre might fail, and not a hint of drama. Instead this story provides the catharsis of seeing crooks get what they deserve, usually in a gruesome or morbid fashion.  It's still a good read, though it is lacking in eeriness compared to previous installments.

'Biff Bronson' (by Albert Sulman and Joseph Sulman): Biff picks up the wrong short from the dry cleaners, one with a message written on it as a tip-off to a payroll robbery. He foils the robbery by posing as a Chinese laundryman, in a predictably horrendous fashion. As usual, I can accept it when the villains are racist, but Biff's disguise and fake accent are just terrible.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): Gabby is captured by the society of Assassins, and Desmo rescues him. This almost certainly breaks the record for grenades thrown in a story up to this point. Even so, it manages to be a bit rubbish.

'Radio Squad' (by Jerry Siegel and Chad Grothkopf): Sandy tackles a married couple who are selling counterfeit fur coats on the street. The premise is a novel one, but it all falls flat in execution.

'Lieut. Bob Neal of Sub 662' (by Bob Hirsch and Russ Lehman): Bob and his sub must protect a huge American oil tanker from attacks by the "belligerent" nations. Another very dull story.

'Memory Test' (by George Shute): A kid helps a circus elephant that has a broken piece of chain sticking into its leg. Later, after an accident in the big top, the elephant saves the kid's mother. I don't know what it is tonight, but this is another terrible story. Perhaps I'm just in a shitty mood.

'Congo Bill' (by Whitney Ellsworth and George Papp): It's the first appearance of Congo Bill, who goes on (in a completely different form) to become one of DC's most long-lived characters.  In the Congo, Bill foils an attempt by the villainous Skull to steal treasures from some ancient ruins. Once again, I couldn't muster up any enthusiasm for this. I'm pretty sure now that this is all the fault of my sleep-deprived brain.

'Detective Sergeant Carey and the Jade Hatchet' (by Joe Donohoe): An old Chinese man is targeted by hatchet men for daring to oppose an opium smuggling operation. Carey protects the old man, and exposes the hatchet man as the mayor of Chinatown. Mayor dude, you need to learn how to delegate.

'Sergeant O'Malley of the Red Coat Patrol' (by Jack Lehti): Mounties and horse thieves. It's like my worst nightmares personified.

'Doctor Fate' (by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman): After supposedly destroying his foe Wotan last issue, Fate goes to Hell to check if he is actually dead. It turns out that he's still alive, and has a plan to blow up the world. Naturally, Fate stops him. The first half of this story is great, full of references to Elder Gods and eldritch beings, all of which contribute to giving this strip an air of mythic wonder. The second half is more conventional super hero fare, and not nearly as good.

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