Thursday, August 30, 2012

July 1940: Crack Comics #5

'The Black Condor' (by Lou Fine): A man calling himself the Sapphire King is using giant eagles to kidnap sailors, so that he can use them to retrieve sapphires from a pool inhabited by a deadly giant octopus. The Black Condor puts a stop to the whole operation, but sadly never tangles with the octopus.  He does totally punch out a giant eagle, though.  And as always, it looks fantastic. I just recently discovered that Lou Fine was Jack Kirby's favourite comic artist, and it's a title well earned.

'The Clock' (by George Brenner): The Clock must capture the Jay-Bird, a criminal who flies by means of a cable attached to a plane overhead. It's an absurd premise, but I'm quite taken with the way the Jay-Bird just swoops in, guns people down, and swoops away again. He's audacious! And a bit crap! But it's a lovable combination.

In other stories:

'The Red Torpedo' (by Henry Kiefer)
battles the Lone Shark, a pirate who is robbing ships single-handedly with his technology. 'Madam Fatal' (by Art Pinajian) helps a circus that is up to its neck in debt. In 'The Space Legion' (by Vernon Henkel), Rock Braddon stops a revolt on Mars. 'Alias the Spider' (by Paul Gustavson) deals with a mad scientist who is experimenting on young girls to make them deformed and super-strong. 'Lee Preston of the Red Cross' (by Bob Powell) is shot down behind enemy lines, and earns her freedom by flying wounded general to hospital. And 'Wizard Wells, Miracle Man of Science' (by Harry Francis Campbell) takes on some racketeers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

July 1940: Smash Comics #14

 Cover by Gill Fox

'Espionage starring the Black X' (by Will Eisner and Dan Zolnerowich): The Black X quits as a spy because he is in love with the sinister Madame Doom. As fate would have it, at the same time she is building an army of slaves who are willing to drink explosives and turn themselves into suicide bombers. The Black X eventually comes to his senses and stops the plot, but he can't stop Madame Doom from killing herself to avoid capture. It's more good stuff from Eisner, who somehow manages to sell the idea that X has really quit, and provides some genuine pathos in the conclusion. Zolnerowich turns in some good art as well, with a very capable Eisner impression.

'The Ray' (by Lou Fine): Ray Terrill is a reporter, who gains amazing light-based powers when he is on a hot air balloon that passes through a cosmic storm. His first adventure involves stopping some crooks from stealing an explosive formula, and it's not particularly exciting. But the art by Lou Fine is great, especially in the origin sequence.

In other stories:

'Magno' (by Paul Gustavson)
battles a disgraced physics teacher who has a paralyzer ray. 'Abdul the Arab' (by Bob Powell) uncovers some traitors who are giving information to the enemy of a British colonel. 'Clip Chance' (by George Brenner) competes in a car race. 'Wings Wendall of the Military Intelligence' (by Vernon Henkel) enters Nazi territory to recover some papers. 'Invisible Justice' (by Art Pinajian) deals with some crooks who are mining helium to sell to other countries. 'Chic Carter, Ace Reporter' (by Vernon Henkel) goes in search of a missing explorer, who has gone crazy. 'The Purple Trio' (by S.M. Iger and Alex Blum) deal with a spy who is disrupting shipping near Turkey. And 'Bozo the Robot' (by George Brenner) tackles a mad scientist who has created a monster out of dead body parts (like Frankenstein).

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

July 1940: National Comics #3

Cover by Lou Fine

'Uncle Sam' (by Will Eisner and Dave Berg): Uncle Sam stops a dictator named Yiffendi from taking over the Philippines. Sam does his usual routine of gentlemanly invincibility, smashing Yiffendi's army without ever losing his cool. Much like Bugs Bunny he defies every law of storytelling, but somehow it still works.

In other stories:

'Prop Powers' (by Toni Blum and possibly Witmer Williams)
is caught in a war between rival air transport companies. 'Sally O'Neill, Policewoman' (by Toni Blum and Chuck Mazoujian) stops some jewel thieves. 'Kid Dixon' (by George Tuska) goes to New York, and through a series of unlikely events becomes the heavyweight boxing champion. 'Merlin the Magician' (by Dan Zolnerowich) deals with a crooked orphanage. 'Wonder Boy' (by Toni Blum and John Celardo) beats up a lot of South American natives to rescue a lost expedition. 'Cyclone' (by Henry Kiefer) explores Planet X, and awakens an ancient pharaoh bent on destroying his people. 'Pen Miller' (by Klaus Nordling) stops a murder syndicate that has been hired to wipe out the witnesses against a racketeer. 'Paul Bunyan' (by Herman Bolstein and John Celardo) deals with an evil lumberjack who is trying to steal an old man's gold mine. And 'The Kid Patrol' (by Charles Nicholas) deals with some kidnappers who are after their rich friend Percy.

Monday, August 27, 2012

July 1940: Feature Comics #36

Cover possibly by Gill Fox

'The Doll Man' (by Will Eisner and Lou Fine): A mad scientist who is collecting brains decides that he needs the Doll Man's, and he sends one of his lobotomised slaves to capture him. What follows is a creepy tale, with art from Eisner and Fine providing just enough grotesque detail.

'Samar' (possibly by Chuck Mazoujian): This story is something else. Samar finds himself captured by a society of Amazons, where the women rule and the men are slaves. By the time Samar is through with the place, the men are back on top. Not only that, he promises to return to see the former queen "when she has learned her lesson". There's even a shot of one of the women lying protrate with the crotch torn out of her dress. This is pretty bad no matter what era it was made in.

In other stories:

'Rance Keane' (by William A. Smith) deals with a doctor who has given his anti-cancer serum to a crime syndicate. 'Reynolds of the Mounted' (by Art Pinajian) captures the head of a narcotics ring. 'Spin Shaw of the Naval Air Corps' (by Bob Powell) defends the air mail service in South America from saboteurs, one of whom is named "Greg Rucker". 'Rusty Ryan of Boyville' (by Paul Gustavson) rescues a wealthy young boy from kidnappers. 'Dusty Dane' (by Vernon Henkel) is captured by a German-looking guy and forced to join the crew of his ship. 'The Voice' (by Stan Aschmeier) investigates the murders of radio personalities, all of whom were killed by their boss for insurance money. 'Captain Bruce Blackburn, Counterspy' (by Harry Francis Campbell) stops some spies from stealing an experimental motor. And 'Zero, Ghost Detective' (by Dan Zolnerowich) helps a girl whose grandfather's ghost is trying to take her to the afterlife with him.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

July 1940: Marvel Mystery Comics #11

 Cover by Alex Schomburg
'The Human Torch' (by Carl Burgos): The Torch goes against the law to burn down a plague-infested slum. He is also targeted by crooks who want the plague to spread. It's not a great story, but it is nice to see the Torch wreaking some destruction again, even if it is in a good cause. It's also apparent that Burgos has no interest in exploring the Torch's robotic nature. Here his arm is wounded, and a doctor bandages it and expects him to heal like any normal person. Shame.

'Sub-Mariner' (by Bill Everett): An American sailor has been captured by Namor's people. Namor spends the whole story doing things to sabotage the American's chances of escape, but in the end it turns out to be his plot to help the man escape. Which is all well and good, except that he kills this guy's entire crew in the process. In any other strip out there Namor would be the villain, and the American sailor would be the hero. But Namor is just so much more interesting.

'Ka-Zar the Great' (by Ben Thompson): Ka-Zar goes up against Rajah Sarput, an Indian nobleman who takes ownership of Ka-Zar's jungle and uses it to hunt big game. The story ends with Ka-Zar and his pet lion on a ship to New York, and Rajah Sarput surprisingly still ruling the jungle. Normally I wouldn't give extra comment to this story, but it features what may be the first genuine double-page spread I've seen during the course of this blog. It's fairly impressive in context.

'The Angel' (by Paul Gustavson): Last issue the Angel was trapped underground, and here he spends most of the story punching the hell out of seriously creepy ghouls. He meets a girl who belonged to a civilisation that the ghouls destroyed thousands of years ago. She gifts the Angel with a cloak that belonged to Mercury (the god, I assume, though it would be fair to say that Freddie Mercury's cloak would also have magical powers), which gives him the power of flight. I'm not certain whether he keeps it or not. This could either be a significant story, or an inconsequential one (albeit one with awesome-looking monsters).

In other stories:

'The Masked Raider' (by Al Anders)
catches some robbers whose leader is posing as an old egg-woman. 'Terry Vance the School-Boy Sleuth' (by Ray Gill and Bob Oksner) tackles a gang of crooks that is fixing motor races by injecting the car tires with mercury.  (Again, probably not Freddie, but there is a joke to be made here about lethel Mercury injections.) 'Electro, the Marvel of the Age' (by Steve Dahlman) deals with some arsonists working for a disgruntled lumber mill president.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

July 1940: Nickel Comics #5-6

Cover by Jack Binder

'Bulletman' (by Bill Parker and Jon Smalle): Bulletman takes on a building contractor who is using shoddy materials, in a story that ends with him completely destroying City Hall. It's a pedestrian yarn, but more super-hero stories should end with the hero destroying a government building.

In other stories:

'Warlock the Wizard' (by Creators Unknown) deals with an island dictator who has taken over a mining operation from a pretty girl. In 'Jungle Twins' (by Sven Elven), Bill takes his savage brother Steve to New York, while the villainous Sneed plots to steal Steve's ruby. 'Capt. Venture and the Planet Princess' (by Rafael Astarita) land on a planet inhabited by intelligent spiders. And 'The Red Gaucho' (by Harry Anderson) stops some crooks from stealing an ancient treasure from a South American Amdah tribe.

Cover by Jack Binder

Sorry, no story to talk about here at greater length. This was a seriously boring issue.

'Bulletman' (by Bill Parker and Jon Smalle) tackles a group of protection racketeers called the Blue Devils. 'Warlock the Wizard' (by Creators Unknown) stops a gang that has been kidanpping wealthy tourists. In 'Jungle Twins' (by Sven Elven) Steve and Bill, on a return trip to Africa, are shipwrecked near a castle and forced to fight in an arena. 'Capt. Venture and the Planet Princess' (by Rafael Astarita) helps liberate a planet full of slave miners. And 'The Red Gaucho' (by Harry Anderson) protects treaty papers between Santo Palos and the USA from foreign spies.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

July 1940: Master Comics #4

Cover by Harry Fiske

'Master Man' (by Newt Alfred): Master Man tackles an army of hooded bandits who steal military equipment and then try to rob Fort Knox. The plot desperately wants to be epic, but the art isn't up to the task, and everything feels very small scale because of it.

In other stories:

'The White Rajah' (by Creators Unknown)
rescues Princess Derissa from his rival, Hassi Kaffir. 'Shipwreck Roberts' (by Mike Suchorsky) takes on Dr. Drown, who is sinking ships to steal their treasure. 'Rick O'Shay' (by Creators Unknown) defeats some Arab slave traders. 'El Carim, Master of Magic' (by Sven Elven) stops an evil chemist, who is mixing flammable greasepaint to frighten and extort actors. 'Frontier Marshal' (by Creators Unknown) captures some crooks, but is shot in the process. And 'The Devil's Dagger' (by Ken Battefield) deals with gamblers who are operating out of a blimp.

July 1940: Whiz Comics #6

Cover by C.C. Beck

'Capt. Marvel' (by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck): Sivana opens a circus full of freakish animals imported from Venus, intending to make a fortune and become the most powerful man alive. What follows is a story that is little more than Captain Marvel smashing the hell out of lions, elephants, giant crocodiles, a caveman, and a weird ape-tiger hybrid. The sad thing for Sivana is that he wasn't breaking the law at all. This is stupid, stupid fun.

'Scoop Smith' (by Greg Duncan): Scoop Smith and his photographer Blimp Black are on the trail of Otto Von Krug, a noted ambergris smuggler who has started operating in the Bahamas. What follows is an action-packed story with crooks, a giant octopus, jaguars, a castle, and a pit full of giant spiders. This is the final appearance of Scoop Smith, but he goes out on a high.

'Ibis the Invincible' (by Bill Parker and possibly Pete Costanza): Ibis loses his wish-granting  Ibistick, and through a series of wacky events it ends up in the hands of a hobo, who promptly tries to make himself emperor of America. What follows is the greatest headline in the history of print.

In other stories:

'Golden Arrow' (by Bill Parker and Pete Costanza)
once again goes up against Brute and Bronk, who start a stampede to distract the town while they rob the bank. 'Lance O'Casey' (by Bill Parker and Bob Kingett) rescues a girl cast adrift at sea, then saves her father from island savages. 'Spy Smasher' (by Bill Parker and C.C. Beck) stops the villainous mask from assassinating Admiral Corby at an amusement park. 'Dan Dare' (by Greg Duncan) solves a series of murders at the New York World's Fair.

July 1940: Superman Radio Show episodes 58-69

There are twelve episodes this time around, split into two six-part stories.

In the first six episodes, an arms smuggler named Hans Holbein is shipping explosives inside of dolls. There's not a lot to say about this story, as it's classic formulaic Superman, something that's become very familiar by this point. But on thing I'm struck by is how often Superman beats up thugs for information. He's basically Vic Mackey from The Shield at this point.

The second story is about a girl who inherits Happyland, an amusement park built by her father. She is threatened by the owners of a rival park named Carnivaltown, further proving that you can never trust a carny.  There's something charming about how small potatoes this story is.  It's quite nice seeing Clark Kent/Superman helping someone out just because he likes them.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

July 1940: Superman Sunday Strip 31-38

Superman takes on a secret society known as "The Chosen", a group of wealthy businessmen who are swindling other businesses at the behest of a mad scientist known as the Lamite. It's another story of Superman against crooked businessmen and thugs, although it does have some fun action sequences. The Lamite doesn't have much to offer either, besides a couple of giant spiders for Superman to fight.

July 1940: Superman Daily Strip #415-462

A crime wave hits Metropolis, and the police have been blackmailed with a bomb to turn a blind eye. When one bank get robbed the populace goes berserk, and Superman has to secure some money so that they don't kill the bank manager. The culprit behind the crime wave is the mayor's campaign manager. It's a solid enough story without having any memorable elements. Superman battling common thugs and crooked politicians has lost some of its lustre.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

July 1940: Action Comics 28

Cover by Paul Cassidy

'Superman' (all stories by Jerry Siegel and Jack Burnley): A bandit of incredible strength is committing robberies all over Metropolis, and everyone suspects the circus strongman Herculo. Clark Kent goes to the circus to investigate, and even ends up fighting Herculo in an exhibition match. But because everyone suspects Herculo, he can't possibly be the culprit, and the real thief is revealed to be the circus clown, disgruntled because Herculo replaced him as strongman. The prospect of Superman finally meeting a foe as strong as himself was an exciting one, so I was disappointed that that didn't happen. Even so, the scenes of him humiliating Herculo were enjoyable enough, and the remainder of the story was adequate.

'Three Aces' (by Gardner Fox and Chad Grothkopf): The Three Aces investigate the mystery of Easter Island, and discover that the Easter Island statues are actually an ancient race of giants who were turned to stone by germs from a comet. This is a great, imaginative starting point for a story, but it goes nowhere. The Aces show up, discover the secret, and leave, with nary a shred of drama to be had.

In other stories:

'Pep Morgan' (by Fred Guardineer)
has his right hand burned by some gamblers, and has to compete in the shot put with his left hand. 'The Black Pirate' (by Sheldon Moldoff) is cornered by the King's men, and fights his way to freedom in a great-looking story. 'Tex Thomson' (by Bernard Baily) once again tackles the one-eyed Gorrah, who is running a blackmail racket. 'Clip Carson' (by Sheldon Moldoff) takes on a gang of jewel thieves in Hollywood. And 'Zatara' (by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer) is slumming it by dealing with common crooks known as the Gringo Gang.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

July 1940: Batman #2

Cover supposedly by Bob Kane

'Batman' (all stories definitely by Bill Finger and supposedly by Bob Kane): Bar a few filler strips and text pieces, this is cover-to-cover Batman.  Issues like this make all the cowboys worthwhile.

The first story sees the return of the Joker, who is near-death from wounds sustained in his last battle with Batman. Batman plans to abduct the Joker and take him to a specialist who can fix his brain, but instead a gang of crooks intervenes. The Joker is brought back to health, and sets about double-crossing his saviours within two panels. He then attempts the robbery of some valuable jewels, and that's where Catwoman gets involved. It's a rollicking good story, that even features a Joker-Batman sword duel on a castle balcony. This is classic Golden Age Batman.

In the second story, a meek museum custodian falls and hits his head, and becomes a murderous master criminal known as the Wolf. The chain of coincidence in this story is almost too much to bear, but it gets by on drama and momentum. I was very surprised to see Batman get shot by a common thug, and spend a page being operated on by a very tense and nervous Robin. The modern Batman just never gets hurt like that, especially by a regular dude.

In the next story, a group of heirs are each left a token that, when combined, reveal the location of a gold mine. One by one the heirs are murdered by a guy with a wooden foot and a hook hand. This guy is serious business: he beats the hell out of Batman on page one. In the end he's revealed to be the family lawyer. Dude must have put in some serious hours training with that hook, otherwise Batman's years of jiu-jitsu practise were worthless. It's a solid story, if a bit unoriginal.

In the final story, an explorer brings a giant prehistoric savage back to civilisation, and various crooks try to get the savage to work for them. Batman gets involved, and as is the way with these types of stories, it all ends up in a huge fight at the circus. The giant is really a gentle guy, but the death of the explorer sends him into a berserk rage. And then, despite this giant being misunderstood - Robin totally kills him with a slingshot to the head! It's not acknowledged at all, as everyone credits the giant's subsequent fall with his death, but Robin totally did it. This ticks all the 'savage comes to civilisation' cliche boxes, and is a lot of fun.  You know, until Robin goes on a murder spree.