Wednesday, April 4, 2012

May 1940: Mystic Comics #4

Cover by Alex Schomburg

'The Blue Blaze' (by Creators Unknown): Not only do the villains in this story live in a place called Horror Hall. Not only is their leader called Doctor Vortex. No, these guys go one better by naming themselves the Trustees of Hate, which is easily the raddest bad guy name to date. Their plan is to use a hate ray to foment war between two European nations. The Blue Blaze emerges from a corpse-filled lime pit to deal with them. He kills Doctor Vortex by grabbing him and jumping back into the lime pit, and the story ends with a great final line: "And thus the two men descended into the murky lime pit - ONE will return." Yes, this is crude and simplistic. But it's got atmosphere and an absurd sense of the grotesque. And the TRUSTEES OF HATE!

'Hercules' (by Malcolm Kildale): A mad scientist plans to use a tank-like war machine to conquer the world. Hercules smashes it. There's not much else to be said about it, unless I bring up the panel where the scientist admires Herc's "perfect body".

'Thin Man' (by Klaus Nordling): Bruce Dickson gets lost while exploring the Himalayas, and ends up in a lost city, where the locals teach him their secrets. Armed with the ability to become paper-thin, and accompanied by the girl Ollala, Bruce returns to America to fight crime. Which he does by tackling a racketeer. The origin is completely by the numbers, as is the rest of the plot. But the Thin Man's powers are quirky and interesting. I'd love to see what a more creative artist could do with the concept.

'Flexo' (by Ben Flinton and Bill O'Connor): Flexo, along with his creators Joel and Josh Williams, must go to Teutonia to recover a powerful stolen formula. Which they do. Flexo is really not very interesting, and it doesn't help that he has a terrible design.

'Black Widow' (by George Kapitan and Harry Sahle): Claire Voyant is a psychic. When a woman complains about her witchcraft, Claire places her whole family under the curse of Satan. They all die in a car crash, except for James Wagler, who returns to murder Claire in revenge. Claire goes to Hell, where Satan gives her the guided tour then sends her back to Earth as his emissary. She kills Wagler, and Satan talks about his plans to use her to collect the souls of evil-doers. It's a bizarre premise, to say the least. And I question whether James Wagler was an evil man. Besides that, doesn't Satan get those evil souls regardless? It's a flawed story, but still an intensely intriguing one. I really want to see where this goes.

'The Invisible Man' (by George Harrison): The Invisible Man investigates the murder of a famous actress which is made to look like suicide. The culprits are a gang of generic crooks, and no motive is ever given for the murder. Most of the story is set on a ship, with the Invisible Man sneaking around causing trouble, but it's fairly uninteresting.

'Devil-God' (by Andrew McWhiney): In this prose story, a naturalist and a big game hunter go after the native "Devil-God", a giant lizard, and kill it. This story is far too admiring of the "Great White Hunter" archetype for its own good.

'Merzah the Mystic' (by Russ Lanford): Merzah is a mystic (duh) who fights against communist and fascist spies. In this story it's the Japanese, who aren't as badly portrayed as I would have expected. It's terribly dull though; some good old-fashioned Golden Age racism might have livened it up a little. I'm also getting sick of magician heroes. Merzah seems to have nothing more than some mild psychic powers, which doesn't help him to stand out.

'Dynamic Man' (by Creators Unknown): Dynamic Man goes up against a mad scientist who is stealing gold by using a dirigible and a special magnet. Again this is quite dull, but there is one bizarre scene. Dynamic Man gets captured and wrapped in a rubber sheet, and he escapes by gnawing his way out. Even the dullest comic book stories can pull a priceless moment like that out at you.  It's the last time the Dynamic Man appears in the Golden Age.

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