Sunday, March 18, 2012

May 1940: More Fun Comics #57

Cover by Bernard Bailey

'The Spectre' (by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Baily): Zor is back! The Spectre's arch-nemesis escapes from his imprisonment, and it's not long before the two are engaged in psychic combat, hurling comets at each other. Zor wins, then sets about ruining the Spectre's life by framing his alter ego Jim Corrigan for murder, and recruiting a serial killer to menace Jim's ex-girlfriend. The Spectre is powerless, and as he always does in such a situation, he goes to God for advice. (It's happening a little too often for my liking.) God sends him off to find the mystic Ectobane tree, from which the Spectre fashions a casket to imprison Zor. He hurls the casket into space, rescues his girl, and everybody lives happily ever after. Except for the scientist at the beginning who Zor left trapped for eternity. And come to think of it, Jim never cleared his name of murder, either. But even with these nagging loose ends, this is cracking good fun. I'd be very surprised if this strip wasn't a major influence on Ditko's Doctor Strange work, and that's praise indeed.

'Detective Sergeant Carey and the Royal Lurma Diamond' (by Joe Donohoe): Carey is assigned to transfer a diamond from a ship to an armored car, but is tricked by disguised thieves. Most of this strip is the following car chase, which has some quite poor sequential storytelling. In the end it turns out that Carey's sidekick Sleepy didn't hand over the diamond after all, because: "I didn't trust that purser; he had a beard!" This from a guy with a comb-over and a Hitler moustache?

'Congo Bill' (by Whitney Ellsworth and George Papp): Bill and Professor Kent are heading for civilisation with the priceless relics they stole last issue, but they are ambushed and captured by the Skull. I rather liked the Skull last time, but his credibility goes down a notch here when he's beaten by a chimp. The chimp becomes Bill's new sidekick, christened O'Toole. This is alright. The action scenes are adequate, and there's some banter to liven things up. I've certainly read worse.

'Wild Stallion' (by Alec Mayne): A cowboy saves a wild horse from a precarious cliff, and the horse saves him in return. Then they become bestest buddies forever. Sickening.

'Captain Desmo' (by Ed Winiarski): Desmo decides that he's had a gut-full of the assassins, and goes after the Grand Assassin himself. He ends up captured, but escapes with an implausible bomb made out of playing cards, an iron pipe and some gunpowder. The assassins' castle is conveniently rigged with self-destruct mechanisms, so Desmo simply escapes and blows the whole place to smithereens, killing all of the assassins inside. The ending goes too far out of its way to make things easy for Desmo, and to wrap up the story quickly.

'Radio Squad' (by Jerry Siegel and Chad Grothkopf): Sandy and Larry are pissed off because they're stuck hunting for a stolen baby carriage when they'd rather be after a gang of bank robbers. So of course, it turns out that the bank robbers are the ones who stole the carriage. It's a mediocre story, but the annoyance of the main characters and a good car chase in the middle liven things up.

'Lieut. Bob Neal of Sub 662' (by B. Hirsch and R. Lehman): A soldier convicted of espionage in 1918 seeks revenge by murdering the pilots who testified against him. Part of his plan involves dressing up as an old lady, which again I question the necessity of. Bob stops him. Move along, nothing to see here.

'Biff Bronson' (by Albert Sulman and Joseph Sulman): Dan eats some chicken at 3 am, and has a nightmare about a guy who falls into a coma and is buried alive. Pointless and bizarre.

'Sergeant O'Malley of the Red Coat Patrol' (by Jack Lehti): A murderer escapes town with a captive child, and O'Malley must track him down. Against my natural instincts, this was actually a pretty solid adventure story.

'Doctor Fate' (by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman): Doctor Fate battles a mystic named Mango, who is killing people with an orb of fire. Between the fiery deaths and some undead legions there's certainly enough going on, but Fate himself is almost too mysterious for his own good. He's very detached and otherworldly, and there really isn't a gateway character to draw me into the strip otherwise.  Even the Spectre has a human alter ego.

1 comment:

  1. Ah, the infamous "Comet Snowball fight" scene. It's been referenced in every subsequent Spectre series except the Aparo run. I like to think that's the very reason it got reprinted in that 'Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told' anthology back in the 90s, but it was probably because it has some of Baily's best art and because it uses Spectre's supporting cast the most.

    You're totally right about the scientist at the beginning of this story. I'm suprised Roy Thomas never brought that poor guy back.

    As for Dr. Fate, don't worry, it gets better soon, although I quite liked Mango's bizarre (forgive me) fate.