Monday, March 12, 2012

May 1940: Action Comics #26

Cover by Wayne Boring

'Superman' (by Jerry Siegel,  Paul J. Lauretta and Paul Cassidy): Superman tackles a crooked doctor who is selling a phony cure for infantile paralysis. One of the things that works about these low-key social injustice stories is that they allow Superman's alter ego of Clark Kent to play an integral role in the story; his investigations, as well as those of Lois Lane, are as important as the heroics of Superman, and it's a big part of what makes even the most formulaic Superman stories work.


'Pep Morgan' (by Fred Guardineer): Pep is hunting with his friend Pierre in Canada. Pierre breaks his leg, and Pep must carry him to safety before a blizzard arrives, but the nearest outpost has a plague warning. Pep and Pierre hole up in a cave, and Pep must fight a bear. Eventually he finds some people and returns to save Pierre. I enjoyed this story, which is usually the case when Pep stops playing sport and gets involved in a real story. He should fight bears more often.

'Black Pirate' (by Sheldon Moldoff): This story starts with the Black Pirate adrift in the ocean, fighting off sharks with a chain. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you'll know I was impressed. Eventually he is rescued by a passing ship and returned to land, where he meets Jeanne, a childhood friend. Jeanne is menaced by some villain that the Black Pirate recognises, and that's where it ends for now. With an arresting start and a good cliffhanger, I can forgive the somewhat flagging middle.

'Three Aces' (by Gardner Fox and Chad Grothkopf): The Three Aces help a woman get to New Guinea to claim a stash of pearls left to her by her dead father. Some natives oppose them, but the Aces gleefully mow them down with machine guns in order to get the pearls. All in a day's fun for them, apparently. I guess it's self defence, but the Aces are so much more well-equipped, and are spoiling for a fight anyway; they just come across here as reprehensible bastards.

'Tex Thomson' (by Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily): The story starts with a mention of Gargantua's departure. Apparently he has left to join the French army, which is a decent enough send-off for the guy. As the story proper kicks off, Tex and Bob are recruited by special prosecutor Maloney to help him clean up the rackets. Tex starts by rounding up a gang of car thieves. He is helped along the way by a woman named Miss X, who seems to have some mysterious connection to him. I can see now why the creators decided to write Gargantua out; this is humourless, street level crime fiction, and he really wouldn't have fit in. It's not bad, but it is a little bit bland.

'Message for the Major' (by Gardner Fox): In this prose story, a British soldier saves his fellow troops from an ambush by sending smoke signals. Somehow Fox manages to tell this story without any drama present at all. It's just the guy lighting a fire and waiting around for two pages.

'Clip Carson, Soldier of Fortune' (by Sheldon Moldoff): Clip heads up north to help a girl and her father stop a pair of killers from claiming their mine. In the process Clip blows up some wolves with dynamite. After he is captured by the killers, one of them takes Clip's coat, and ends up getting mauled by an angry wolf. And so, Clip is saved because of his callous violence against the animal kingdom. This is a well told story though, with some top-notch art.

'Zatara, the Master Magician and the Jagtooth Gold Mine' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer): Man, there sure is a lot of Canada in this comic. Zatara goes up north to claim a friend's gold mine, only to find that it has been taken by a half-breed named Tony. I was getting a bit bored of this, even after Zatara turned a pack of wolves into balloons. But the conclusion, with Zatara turning his servant Tong into a flying robot to pursue Tony's getaway plane, is sheer genius. This is the Gardner Fox I want to read.

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