Batman Begins

Not the movie… the first four adventures, including Batman’s first recurring adversary.

RCO001_1468810475Detective Comics #27
May 1939

The Case of the Chemical Syndicate
Bill Finger wrote and Bob Kane illustrated this story of a secret agreement between four men who had written contracts making them co-owners of Apex Chemical Corporation. One of the four, Alfred Stryker, is murdering the other three so that he will be the sole owner. But he’s foiled in his attempts by the Bat-Man, a mysterious vigilante being hunted by the police. Police Commissioner Gordon discusses the Bat-Man with his friend, bored pipe-smoking socialite Bruce Wayne, who accompanies the Commissioner to interview the son of the first murdered man. The Bat-Man turns up at the second murder scene, overcoming the thugs and learning from the file they stole just what the whole scheme is. He arrives in time to save the third man from Stryker, punching the man into a chemical tank when he pulls a gun on him. “A fitting end for his kind,” declares the Bat-Man, who seems not at all disturbed by the death he’s just caused. The final panel of this six-page story reveals to the reader that (surprise) Bruce Wayne is the Bat-Man.

DC’s Batman: The Golden Age Omnibus volume 1 reprints the uncensored version of this story, complete with the knife sticking out of the dead man’s back on page 2. There are some other changes that I can’t quite remember, though I think both the Archives and Chronicles have the censored version. Six pages is a very inauspicious beginning for Batman, but a lot of the elements we know so well are there right from the start. Bruce Wayne, bored rich guy with no job, Commissioner Gordon, the Batman out after nightfall, using his fists instead of guns (though we’ll see him with guns soon), and escaping death traps (though the trap is set for someone else, not him; he only enters to save the victim). Even the black and gray costume is more like the modern version than the blue and gray one he’ll shortly be seen in and will stick with for decades. And the Batman gets the villain precisely because he doesn’t abide by any rules of evidence gathering or court proceedings. He goes around the law to bring justice. In short, despite the efficient narrative, this is a very familiar Batman, right from the start.

Detective Comics #28
June 1939

Frenchy Blake’s Jewel Gang
Where would Golden Age superheroes be without jewel thieves to contend with? This is another Bill Finger/Bob Kane story, and a rather standard tale of the Bat-Man tracking down and stopping a gang of jewel thieves led by Frenchy Blake is given a plot twist by the fact that Batman lets himself be seen by police with the criminals, so he’ll be blamed and Frenchy Blake will feel bold enough to continue his activities as a result, allowing the Bat-Man to find him more easily. We see Bruce get information from a police informant via phone by imitating Gordon’s voice, and we see the “silken rope” for the first time, allowing the Bat-Man to swing from skyscrapers and other buildings and climb them.

Detective Comics #29
July 1939

The Batman meets Doctor Death
Gardner Fox writes this story, still drawn by Bob Kane, where Batman meets his first supervillain, Dr. Death, and his hulking manservant Jabah (who is supposed to be some sort of “sinister foreign type”). The page count has increased to ten pages from six. Dr. Death is threatening to kill various rich men around the city with his poisonous pollen extract if they don’t pay up. Batman first makes note of his utility belt and the gas capsules he stores there as he’s preparing for the investigation. He walks into a trap set for him by Dr. Death and overcomes the thugs, but is shot by Jabah. Still, being Batman, it barely slows him down, and he escapes, has his wound treated and passes it off as an accident to his suspicious doctor. He is able to track Jabah to Dr. Death’s lair and take him down (literally… he strangles him with his silken rope, apparently!) and chases Dr. Death, who accidentally sets his lab on fire and seems to die laughing. ‘Death to Dr. Death”, Batman remarks, again not at all bothered by this.

Batman has killed at least three men at this point. Two were thugs he tossed off of a roof, and now Jabah. And his fight with Dr. Death led to the lab fire, but as well see next issue, Dr. Death has survived. At this point, Batman has no qualms about killing, which always seems bizarre given how much a determination not to kill has been engrained as a part of the character in the years since. Story by story, his standard equipment is being introduced as well.

Detective Comics #30
August 1939

The Return of Doctor Death
Exactly what it says on the tin. Dr. Death has survived the fire, though he’s horribly injured, and he needs funds to get started again. He decides to steal and fence the Jones diamonds. Bruce figures out pretty quick that Dr. Death survived and tracks him down, killing yet another of his foreign servants, this time by snapping his neck with a kick. Batman is racking up quite the body count here! At least this time he arrests Dr. Death rather than leave him to burn to death. There’s not a lot that’s remarkable about this story, other than the fact that we get a sequel right away.

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The Sandman debuts!

New York World’s Fair Comics #1 –¬†April 1939
Sandman at the World’s Fair

Wesley Dodds, officer of and heir to the Dodds-Bessing Steel Corporation’s vast holdings, has invented a new “ray gun”. He is displaying the model at the World’s Fair against his better judgment, while at the same time delivering the plans to the government. Dodds and Evarts, president of the Dodds-Bessing Corp, meet Agent George Henry and go over the plans. Wes has an uneasy feeling, so he surreptitiously hides a key part of the drawings. The power goes out, and the plans are stolen in the confusion, minus the key component drawing that Wes had hidden. Henry vows to track down the plans, but Wesley Dodds also gets involved as the Sandman. He investigates and is able to determine that the man he met was an enemy agent, while the real George Henry had been captured and imprisoned. It turns out that Evarts had sold the plans to the fake Henry because he needed the money. Sandman knocks everyone out with his gas gun, and leaves them to the real Agent Henry to clean up.

  • Sandman wears an orange suit in this story rather than a green one, though when he’s investigating the boat on which the enemy agents are hiding, he strips down to a swimsuit and his gas mask, as well as a harness for his gun. Sandman is almost unique among superheroes in that he wears actual normal clothing, with the exception of his cape and gas mask.
  • WW2 propoganda creeps into the series well before the US got involved, as Wesley refers to US government offices as “hallowed halls”.
  • His very first story, and Wes Dodds is established as very technologically savvy, and he’s inventing new weapons, something that would come back to bite him much later on.
  • I really like the sequence before Wes goes to mix up his sleeping gas (which has a nice aroma, according to some thugs who get hit by it later). There are four or five silent panels of Wes in his home, acting pensive and thoughtful, and leaving a tiny doll version of “Mr. Dodds” on his bed as he heads out to work.sandman first story
  • There’s no origin story here, and no motivation is given for why Dodds is a vigilante. He’s a rich inventor and businessman who has, for whatever reason, chosen to spend his nights fighting crime.
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Leading Comics #4 – The Sixth Sense!

Fall 1942

The Sixth Sense
A robot (“Like the one they had at the World’s Fair” one thug describes it) marches down the street and kidnaps five hoodlums, tossing them in the back of a van. The Shining Knight, flying around the city on Winged Victory, spots the strange kidnappings and trails the robot to a house by the waterfront, where he is knocked unconcious by the robot. The narration notes that he’s hit in the jaw, so I guess that’s an attempt to get around the fact that his armor should protect him from blows to the back of the head. When he awakens, he’s tied hand and foot, and so are the five kidnapped crooks. A bearded man named Dr. Brett is threatened by an unseen individual into performing surgery on the men, with the result being that one of their senses is greatly amplified. One man can hear, to the point that a beetle on the floor sounds like horses hooves to him. One man can see the warehouse across the street, one can taste the dust in the air, etc. The person who has done this to them reveals himself as a paralyzed genius who speaks telepathically through the robot. He reveals thefts that he wants the sense-enhanced men to pull off, and reveals that he killed Dr. Brett for double-crossing him. He drops the still restrained Shining Knight into the water, expecting him to drown, but the Knight cuts his bonds with his sword and survives to call in the rest of the Seven Soldiers.

As always, the opening chapter sets up the plot, and it’s in many ways a retread of the first three issues, with a hidden mastermind gathering five crooks to help him pull off his as yet unexplained plot, with one of the Seven Soldiers witnessing the crime and summoning the others. I don’t know why this particular plot should be any more far-fetched than pulling conquerors from the past via time machine to use as flunkies, but “enhanced senses to aid in crimes” doesn’t quite work as well for me, despite the fact that I like a few of the individual chapters and the twist ending quite a bit. This formula that’s sustained the book for the first three issues is starting to get a little tired, and thankfully we’ll start to see a greater variety of plots in the coming issues.

The Crime Concerto – The Crimson Avenger and Wing
Mickey Gordon (the only one of the five thugs with no nickname, so you know something’s up with him) is supposed to steal a diamond from Alice Howard. She likes music, hence his enhanced hearing will allow him to appreciate her playing, or something. He hears her playing the piano through an open window, and the beauty of the melody combined with his sensitive hearing moves him to tears. Rather than being shocked and put out by a man listening to her through her window, Alice talks with Mickey and the two of them hit it off. She doesn’t care that he’s been to jail, believing he’s decent deep down inside because he loves music. The two have fallen for each other pretty quick, and when the Crimson Avenger tracks Gordon down to the concert hall to stop the theft and punches him, Alice defends him. Mickey confesses all, that he was sent to steal the diamond, but he couldn’t go through with it after meeting Alice. The next night, she decides to test him, and asks him to hold the diamond during the concert. When the other hirelings come to collect, Mickey turns against them and gets shot for his trouble. Despite the Crimson Avenger’s attempts, the thugs get away with the diamond, but Alice doesn’t care. She’s just happy Mickey wasn’t killed when the bullet hit him. Mickey wasn’t even hurt that bad, and he insists on helping go after the Sixth Sense.

Don Quixote Rides Again – The Shining Knight
Eccentric retired explorer Don Coty likes to think and act like his hero Don Quixote, much to the amusement of his servants, who play along. Coty goes to see a magician, a “modern day Merlin” and accepts his invitation to a costume party. “Merlin” is really “Fingers”, working his plan to steal Coty’s jewel. At the costume party, the Shining Knight is in attendance. When the robbery begins, the Knight takes on Fingers’ men, only to accidentally cut a wire and shock himself. Thinking him dead, Coty takes horse and chases the thieves, only to find that they’ve hidden in (where else) a windmill. The Knight recovers and gives chase as well, and he and Coty round up the gang. But they do not recover the stolen gem, which has been sent to the Sixth Sense by carrier pigeon. The Shining Knight knights Coty, granting the old man his fondest wish.

The Man Who Followed His Nose – The Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy
In a nice personal connection to the hero of this chapter, the gem that is to be stolen belongs to Sylvester Pemberton’s father. “Bloodhound” was given enhanced smell to get a job in a perfume factory owned by John Pemberton, and while there, he sees Mrs. Pemberton wearing the emerald. He “accidentally” spills some perfume on her hand so he can find the gem again by smell. When they come to steal it, the Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy fight them off, only for the crooks to get away when Mr. Pemberton appears in the middle of the fight and gets in the way. Sylvester’s mom wonders why the Kid and Stripesy remind her so much of her son and his chauffer. Considering Dugan isn’t wearing any sort of mask, this doesn’t make either Mr. or Mrs. Pemberton appear all that smart. The Kid rushes home so he can answer the phone when his mom calls in some lame secret identity hijinx. Later, the family decide to head out to see on a yacht to keep the gem safe, but the crooks are wise to the plan and follow them. The Bloodhound has a fake gem ready, pulls a switch, and then escapes by sea-plane after it appears he and his gang have been beaten in a fight by the Kid and Stripesy. He delivers his gem personally to the Sixth Sense, who now has three of the five. Good thing the five historic conquerors from last issue can’t see how they’re being show up by some no-name crooks this time around.

The Man Who Was Afraid to Eat – The Vigilante
Someone is poisoning the food of former movie star Karl Dennison who refuses to call the police out of sheer vanity, not wanting the world to know that the formerly handsome star is now vastly overweight. It’s all part of the plan to get Leo Palate (groan) and his super-sensitive taster in to see Dennison and get a job as his food taster in order to steal Dennison’s diamond. Dennison hires him, and Palate comes right out and admits he’s doing this because he wants to steal the diamond. While Dennison is thinking it over, Dennison’s nephew shows up dressed as his hero, the Vigilante, and then the genuine Vigilante shows to capture the crooks, but Dennison sides with Palate because he wants to stay alive. But Palate decides to speed things up and uses Dennison’s nephew to force him to give up the diamond, but the recovered Vigilante rounds up the gang. It’ll all for nothing as the cook that the Sixth Sense had bribed to poison Dennison obtains the diamond and takes it to the Sixth Sense.

The Man With the Miracle Eyes – The Green Arrow
The final villain with his enhanced sight targets a carnival barker who owns the Garnet Diamond. Calling himself Eagle Eye, he gets a job with the circus reading things like a telephone book from across the parking lot. When Green Arrow and Speedy show up to capture him, the circus folk defend one of their own, until they learn that these two are famous crime-fighters, but by then Eagle Eye has vanished. He returns and unleashes the animals to cause chaos and damage, and the Circus owner is forced to sell the diamond to make enough money to pay for the damage, but a disguised Eagle Eye steals the “garnet” first. (The story can’t decide if it’s set in a carnival or a circus, and can’t decide if the gem is a garnet or a diamond). He is captured but reveals that he’s already sent the gem ahead to the Sixth Sense, who now has all five gems.

Chapter 7 – The Sixth Sense pays off the surviving hirelings by electrocuting them all to death. The Seven Soldiers and Mickey Gordon (with his advanced hearing) go to confront the Sixth Sense, only to discover that the paralyzed man is a mannequin, and the real Sixth Sense is the supposedly murdered Dr. Brett, disguised as the robot. The five gems are keys to open an idol that holds the “Lifestone”, a mysterious gem that brings inanimate objects to life. Brett runs for it with the Seven Soldiers in pursuit, and after bringing a few statues to life to slow the soldiers down is cornered in the library and accidentally turns himself to stone. No one told him the stone works both ways. Vigilante decides the stone is too dangerous for anyone to possess and throws it in the river where it will be perfectly safe…. and by perfectly safe, I mean found by someone much more easily than it would be if it was put back in the idol again. Not too bright, Vig. Mickey Gordon becomes a famous composer, and the Seven Soldiers enjoy a concert, ready to face whatever comes next.

As I noted at the beginning, the formula this series has followed for four issues now is becoming stale, and honestly a bit hard to sustain, given the convoluted plots in this story. Four stories with a mastermind hiring exactly five crooks to carry out five overly complicated plots is only going to work for so long to keep reader interest, and there’s only so many variations on this same theme. Some of the individual chapters worked pretty well despite themselves, with Mickey Gordon’s story being my favorite. It’s nice to see a crook redeem themselves occasionally in these old comics. The payoff was pretty good too, with the ending feeling more like a proper comic-book supervillain plot after five chapters of gangsters and jewel thefts. Dr. Brett even wants to use the Lifestone to take over the world, so he’s a proper mad scientist/would-be world conqueror.

The formula has worn thin, but the ending was pretty strong. Leading Comics 5 varies the formula slightly and then issue 6 goes off in a completely different direction, so I guess the writers got tired of doing the same thing every quarter as well.

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Leading Comics #3 – The Tyrants of Time!

The Tyrants of Time
Famous conquerors from history are snatched out of time. Alexander the Great, Nero, Attilla the Hun, Genghis Khan and Napoleon are all brought to New York in 1942 by Dr. Doome (no relation, though it would be funny if there were!). Doome has invented a time machine, obviously, and he offers the five men a chance to rule the world in the future, if they’ll help him steal what he needs to finish another machine that will send them into the future. The five men all like the idea and agree to help Doome. I like that all these historical conquerors are shown as intelligent and able to at least cope with the 20th century and to understand that they’ve traveled in time.

Meanwhile, on Wall Street, Oliver Queen and Roy Harper are testing a new short wave radio when the villains of history rob some of the brokers of their cash. When Roy tries to intervene, he’s knocked down by Genghis Khan, and his radio is taken by the curious Mongol. A plane carries the five conquerors to Dr. Doome’s lighthouse hideout, with Nero and Genghis Khan marveling at the miracle of flight. Deciding that this is too much for Green Arrow and Speedy to tackle alone, Oliver calls a meeting of the Seven Soldiers. The tale of tyrants having traveled through time is accepted readily by the group, with the Shining Knight noting that he comes from the past, so why couldn’t they? Can’t argue with that logic. And it’s fortunate that Khan stole the radio, because he’s left it on, and the plans come through loud and clear with each of the villains going to different places to steal different metals. Naturally, the Seven Soldiers split up to take them on.

1 – Defeat before Waterloo
The Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy go after Napoleon near the Canadian border, where the Frenchman is after a shipment of gold. Napoleon isn’t too happy with the disrespect the gangsters working for him are showing him, and he runs the theft like a military operation, with himself as the general. They blow up the tracks and cut the telegraph wires. The Kid takes on Napoleon and his men, but even with Stripesy’s help, they are overpowered. Napoleon has them tied up and thrown into the river with a stone to weigh them down until they drown. Stripesy saves them both by managing to get their heads above water, where some nearby hoboes pull them out of the river. Using the Star Rocket Racer, the gangster’s plane is brought down and the men captured, though Napoleon gets away, lost in the woods. When he finally gets out at the site of a carnival, he’s mistaken for a madman, and rather than submit to the disrespectful treatment, he uses the device that Doome gave all five conquerors and returns to his own time.

Dr. Doome is watching PIckett’s charge at Gettysburg when he sees Napoleon fly by, headed back to his own time. Amazed that he’s failed, Doome figures Alexander can get the gold after he brings back the radium from Florida.

2 – The Radium Robots
Green Arrow and Speedy head to Florida to stop Alexander the Great from stealing radium, stored in the hidden Everglades workshop of Leo Starr, who has created robots powered by radium to fight America’s wars instead of humans. But one robot, Oscar, has somehow developed a prankish sense of humor, something even Starr doesn’t quite understand. But he has very little time to ponder it when he’s killed in Alexander’s attack. Oscar accepts orders from whoever he perceives as the “boss”, so when Alexander demands the radium he brings it, only to drop it on his toe. Meanwhile Green Arrow and Speedy are captured and brought to the workshop by the other robots. As usual in these stories the status quo goes back and forth. At first GA and Speedy disable Alexander and the robots, but Alexander recovers and captures Speedy. With the help of Oscar, GA reverses the situation and Alexander runs into the swamp, dodging snakes and gators, only surviving because GA is killing the animals before they can kill Alexander. A robot appears to lead Alexander to safety, but it’s Green Arrow in disguise, which amuses Oscar to no end. Alexander has had enough and returns to his own time, once again observed by Dr. Doome, who wonders if some organization is working against him….

One question: why does the reprint in the Archives keep giving Oliver Queen brown hair when he’s blonde?

3 – The Man Who Told a Fish Story
The Shining Knight chases Genghis Khan to Alaska, where Khan is at the town of Jackpot, planning to steal platinum en route to Seattle. The Knight lands and gets involved with fisherman Bill Bates, who has bet his friends that he can catch a whale. If he doesn’t, he’s out a hundred dollars. Bates leads the Knight to the docks just as Genghis Khan and his men attack the guards and take the platinum, hiding inside a hollowed out iceberg. Puzzled by their disappearance, the Knight is able to find them. Their guns don’t hurt him, but they toss him overboard, expecting his armor to weigh him down and drown him, but the Knight uses his sword to stab the iceberg, stop his fall, and climb out of the (presumably freezing) water. Does the magic armor keep him warm as well? The story breezes past this point, and the Knight ends up riding a whale and capturing Khan, while Bates is able to tow the dying whale back to port and win his bet. Just like the others, Genghis Khan returns to his own time. This time, Dr. Doome hears the news on the radio and hears of the presence of the Shining Knight, making him realize the Seven Soldiers are after him.

4 – The Spirit of Wild Bill Dickson
The Vigilante pursuies Atilla the Hun to the Black Hills of South Dakota and gets mixed up with old Wild Bill Dickson, a former old west sheriff now living as a hermit. This is a nice character touch, since an old man in the 1940s would have been alive during the heyday of the “old West”. Dickson survives an encounter with Atilla, but is nearly lynched by the local townspeople, since a surviving guard who had been taking the tantalum out of the hills accuses him. In another great little character moment, Atilla sees Mount Rushmore and thinks the carvings of Washington and the others must be “the idols of the land”. Despite an attempt to trap him, Vigilante survives and he and Billy Gunn capture Atilla and save Dickson’s life, only for Atilla to retreat into the past like the others. Dr. Doome has only Nero to rely on now.

5 – Fiddler’s Farewell
The Crimson Avenger and Wing take on Nero out at sea as the Roman emperor tries to steal a shipment of uranium. The story opens following young Sammy Singer and his dog Scraps (whose barks are helpfully translated for the reader), who stow away on a ship for adventure, but find out that all they’ve earned is trouble and hard work for months until the ship hits port. There’s a running gag where Nero plays his fiddle and all his flunkies tell him it’s great music while secretly thinking about how bad it is. Crimson Avenger and Wing take on the Roman soldiers but are badly outmatched and left to die on the burning yacht that the Romans have plundered. While the captain and crew fight to save their ship, the Avenger and Wing pursue the Romans, only to be captured again. Sammy helps free them from rowing in the galley, and iwth the help of the rest of the galley slaves, the third time is the charm and they capture Nero. However Nero had nearly reached Dr. Doome’s lighthouse hideout, which Crimson Avenger sees before Nero returns to his own time, so now the Seven Soldiers will know where to find him.

6 – The Tyrants of Time, conclusion
The Seven Soldiers head for the lighthouse, foil some death traps and confront Doome, who escapes into the past. The Soldiers rather rashly charge after him, while Speedy takes the time to grab one of the hand-held time travel wands that all the historical conquerors had used before following the group. They end up in the past at the battle of Troy, where Doome had been busy convincing Ulysses that they were a threat. However, Ulysses is impressed by the fighting prowess of the Seven Soldiers and after talking with them, decides that he believes them rather than Doome. Doome sneers that he came to Troy to trap the Soldiers and returns to the 1940s. And his plot would have worked if Speedy hadn’t been smart enough to grab that time travel device. Doome is shocked to see the Soldiers return to his lab, and in desperation his uses his unfinished time machine, the one that he needed all the components the tyrants were stealing for him to complete, to travel into the future. The machine explodes, and no one is sure if Doome lived and made it to the future or not. But the threat is over, and the Shining Knight salutes his comrades.

Like so many stories of the 40s, it’s inevitable that when one of these mad scientist types like Doome invent a miraculous invention, the first thing they do is turn to crime. Never mind exploring time for the sake of learning and exploration (though Doome is shown observing past events and enjoying them), science is there to exploit for power and wealth. That being said, in a crazy comic-booky way, picking successful military leaders and conquerors to help carry out his plan makes a certain level of sense, and showing the five tyrants as smart men who can grasp the situation they’re in is a nice touch. The five individual chapters are typical runarounds of the day where the hero fails to capture the villains at first and then his fists ultimately solve the problem. A few details elevate some of the chapters for me, from the funny robot in the Green Arrow story, to the Shining Knight’s jousting on the back of a whale, to Atilla’s assumption that Mount Rushmore is an idol. And everyone is saved by the sidekick in the end, or Doome’s trap would have worked. Not a bad issue for this non-powered team.

 

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All-Star Comics #5 concluded

ALL STAR 5008The Spectre

Close this place coppers – but just try and stop me from opening elsewhere again!

The Spectre leaves the JSA meeting. bored to death because there’s no crime to fight, so he goes looking for some. He finds it when he learns that some crooks are trying to frame the Spectre for running an illegal gambling hall. It’s all part of Mr. X’s plan to destroy the Spectre. Baretti, the crook, is carrying it out, because he doesn’t think the Spectre is dead at all. He thinks it’s all a bunch of tricks.

The Spectre infiltrates the new gaming joint and after allowing all the gamblers to win, goes after Baretti and his thugs. He makes short work of them, until a ring that one of the thugs is wearing renders him nearly powerless. They take him out, shoot him and dump him, but of course it doesn’t kill him. Restored to full power, he returns and finishes off the thugs, and then goes in search of Mr. X.

  • I was going to gripe about the plot hole of a dead man running a gambling joint, but the story explains that nicely with Baretti not believing the Spectre is a ghost at all.
  • Where did the henchman get a ring that neutralized the Spectre? Without knowing about it? I bet Roy Thomas explained it somewhere.
  • This is pretty small-scale stuff for the Spectre, honestly. The character feels a little wasted in this plot.

ALL STAR 5009The Green Lantern

All subtlety goes out the window as Mr. X begins bombing the city and daring Green Lantern to try and stop him. He accepts, and is able to find the plane that was bombing the city with the help of his ring… which is just what X wanted him to do. When he follows the plane back to its base, he’s surprised and disabled by an electric charge. He finds himself held captive, whereupon the thugs shoot him at point blank range, only for his ring to protect him.

Thug: Look! He ain’t dead! He ain’t even bleedin’!

GL: Maybe I’m anemic!

Naturally GL whips the bad guys and then heads for the power plant to stop it from being destroyed. He’s too late, and the entire city is without power. GL is determined to do something, and he consults the lamp of the green flame. Green Lantern manages to repower the entire city, marveling at just how powerful he is, something he never realized before.

  • This is much better. A gambling joint is pretty small potatoes for someone like the Spectre, but bombings and city-wide blackouts are good large scale challenges for someone like Green Lantern to take on.
  • Having a problem too big for GL to handle, so that he has to go ask the lamp for more power is very interesting. The lamp is mostly unexplained at this point, and since so much Golden Age Green Lantern is unavailable to read, I don’t know how much is ever explained.
  • Similiarly, having Alan use his power ring to re-power an entire city is pretty amazing. It reminds me of modern day JSA stories where he really cuts loose and shows just how powerful he can be when circumstances call for it.

ALL STAR 5010Conclusion

The Justice Society return to base, all of them admitting they failed to find Mr. X. Then they spot him heading into the police station, though they still don’t realize it’s him. They all encountered him, so they follow him in, and are shocked to find out that he’s the criminal mastermind.

Mister X: Yes Gentleman, I am Mister X! Just when I had a good living set for myself with incomes from all organized crime, you all had to come along and smash my rackets! You’ve taken my livelihood away! So now I’m going to jail – and live off the state! Good day, gentlemen!

  • Living off the state? Are we sure this was written 75 years ago?
  • So technically this guy beat the Justice Society… they could not catch him. But he turns around and admits defeat, because they’ve cut off all his sources of income. So it’s an indirect victory for them.
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Busy reading, not much blogging…

Sorry folks, I really need to get caught up on reviews. I always tend to read a lot and write a little. I will try to get back on track sooner rather than later!

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All-Star Comics #5 continued

ALL STAR 5004Hawkman

I was going to use a little subtlety in this affair, but you spoiled it all. Maybe this is the best answer to your type after all!

With the JSA meeting adjourned, Hawkman flies home to “catch up on my researches”. He’s shown in a laboratory, complete with beakers, vials and test tubes. Meanwhile some underworld thugs plot a trap to catch, kill and frame Hawkman for a jewel robbery. The plan is spoiled when Shiera overhears one of the mobster’s girlfriends looking forward to the new jewelry she’ll soon be wearing after the robbery. Shiera calls Carter to warn him.

He springs the trap and beats the bad guys with his fists, causing them to run, just as Shiera approaches the shop. He berates her for getting into trouble, and then is forced to fly and take her with him as the hidden gunman nearby takes a shot at both of them.

Deciding to try a ploy to fool the gangsters and trap them instead, Hawkman gives Shiera his extra wings and flight harness, dressing her up in a costume similar to his. Shiera’s enjoying it all immensely, but Carter warns her that they have a lot of work to do first. He confronts the crooks in their hideout while Shiera is left on the roof. But sadly for her, the hitman drives up and, thinking she’s Hawkman, shoots her. When he finds out, he stops with his “fun” and just pummels the bad guys until they’re down and out. He checks on Shiera, full of remorse that he’s responsible for her being injured. Thankfully it’s not serious, and he takes her for medical attention before going to look for Mr. X.

  • This is effectively the first appearance of the Golden Age Hawkgirl, though I’m sure having Shiera dress up in costume was meant to just be a plot device for this one story.
  • I’m thinking that Carter rarely shows any signs of being any sort of chemist, so this is one of those “new skills to fit the plot” instances.
  • At this point, it’s fairly obvious that the little guy in the bowler hat is Mister X. How he’s able to find every last JSA member isn’t explained, but in a way it does underline the fact that he is dangerous, despite his harmless appearance. He’s in Jay’s apartment a few chapters ago, meaning he found out the Flash’s secret identity. Why he doesn’t try blackmail or something is hard to say.

ALL STAR 5005Doctor Fate

Doctor Fate returns to his tower to find Inza waiting for him. She has a story about a woman, Mrs. Vera, who has been swindled out of thousands of dollars by a fake magician, named … Magico. Fate is curious about the situation, so he goes with Inza to see Magico. He’s in a suit rather than his Doctor Fate costume, and together they attend the “seance” with Mrs. Vera. Mister X puts in an appearance, and even gets in a dig at Mrs. Vera.

While Magico attempts his seance, a hidden gunman takes a shot at Fate, only for Inza to step in the way. This makes the second story in a row where the hero’s girlfriend is shot! Inza’s wound is far more serious than Shiera’s, and it takes a powerful spell to save her life. Doctor Fate is angry now, and heads out to teach Magico a lesson.

He steps into Magico’s building, only to have the fake magician try to destroy it with explosives. Fate survives of course, and drags Magico off to show him some real magic, freaking Magico out. Fate mocks him, and gets Magico to spill the whole story about the trap set by Mister X. After checking on Inza, Doctor Fate heads out to look for Mister X.

  • Doctor Fate really can’t be harmed in these early stories, though I suppose since Doctor Fate is invulnerable that Inza has a use in that she can be hurt or threatened in a way that he can’t.
  • Shouldn’t Inza know that the bullets won’t harm him?
  • This story gives us a nice mix between mundane swindle plots and weird magic that typifies Doctor Fate tales at this point.

The two page ad-spread featuring all the comics on sale this month appears next. Thanks to reprints, I’ve actually read every issue, or at least the ones featuring the title character. Good stuff.

ALL STAR 5006Hourman

The crooks try to frame Hourman for stealing hubcaps by having one of them dress up in costume, and then allowing the police to see him. The scheme works, and the police put out an alert. In the meantime, the genuine Hourman heads to the scene of the crime to bust the tire theft ring, and is making short work of the crooks until a barrel from the storefront roof knocks him out, and the crooks turn him over to the police.

Hourman easily escapes, since he’s taken his Miraclo pill, and the trails one of the thugs to the gang’s hideout, where he once again overpowers them all. Once he’s scared the truth about Mister X out of them, he turns them over to the police, clearing his name.

  • The art is good, but this isn’t a very compelling story. Not that tire theft wouldn’t have been very topical in the days leading up to World War 2, so I suppose that would be a serious enough crime to merit a hero’s attention.
  • Hourman always seems to be in trouble with the police. It never takes much to get them to believe he’s gone bad.

ALL STAR 5007The Atom

The Atom gets involved in Mister X’s plot when a group of thugs attack him on the street while he’s in his civilian identity of Al Pratt. He beats them, and discovers a note that reveals they were after the Atom, and had just attacked Al because he’s a “shrimp” and they’re not nice. Okay… pretending to have fallen victim to their attack, Al allows them to take him to a gym, where a scheme to bilk would-be bodybuilders out of $500 each is underway. Al humiliates the would be instructor, and then turns up in his Atom costume and proceeds to beat the tar out of the thugs and learn about Mister X’s plans. Mister X gets his usual cameo.

  • The Atom is probably my least favorite JSA character, and this is probably my least favorite story of the issue. At least the writer knows the thugs don’t have half a brain amongst the lot of them, so the whole situation isn’t played too seriously.
  • And of course, watching the bad guys all knit at the end is admittedly pretty funny.
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All-Star Comics #5

ALL STAR 5001Chapter One

The Justice Society members are pretty bored. It seems they’ve done their job too well, and crime is down across the board.

But the criminals have not given up… they’ve just been laying low. The big boss, “Mister X” has a plan to go after the Justice Society and to get them out of the way so business as usual can resume. As they meet to hand out assignments, a balding man in a derby approaches the group and asks for a light. He leaves, with everyone wondering just who he was…

With the crooks each having been given their assignment, they head out to take on members of the Justice Society, with the aim of destroying them.

Chapter Two – The Flash

ALL STAR 5002

Flame Farmer and his arson gang are sent to finish off the Flash. Mister X has narrowed down where he lives, and the hope is that by setting fire to numerous apartment buildings they can kill the Flash in the process. They set fire to the buildings, but the heat wakes Jay up, and of course once he’s up, there’s no chance of the fire killing him. He employs various super speed tricks to put out the fire, including sucking the oxygen out of the rooms, and hitting the buildings with the fire hose from a nearby fire truck. He also rescues a number of people from the flames. With the help of a kid who witnessed the arsonists, he chases them down and gets them to confess to what they did and tell him where their boss is. Jay rounds up the gang and learns about Mister X, but no one knows who or where he is, due to the way he gives out orders. Jay drops the crooks off at the local jail, before sending telegrams to warn the other JSAers about the threat.

  • Why would the Flash send telegrams??! Wouldn’t he be faster?
  • Mister X is hiding under Jay’s bed when the fire starts. So he has apparently figured out Jay’s secret identity since passing on the info about the neighborhood to the arson gang. For such a nondescript fellow, he’s pretty ruthless, if he’s willing to burn down multiple buildings just on the off chance he might kill the Flash. Lots of people in those buildings would certainly have died a horrible death.
  • There’s an ad for All-Flash Quarterly #1 after the story

Chapter Three – The Sandman

ALL STAR 5003Wesley Dodds is searching the city for crime when he decides to call on his friend Dian Belmont. He finds her apartment ransacked and Dian herself missing. A note has been left by the Kidnappers Union (seriously), telling whoever finds it to send the Sandman after Dian. When he tunes his radio in the hopes of getting a message from the kidnappers, he gets directions on where to go: the Lone Tower Inn. The crooks are waiting on the only road leading to the inn to ambush him when he arrives.

Wesley takes the cliff route thanks to his wirepoon, noticing the same bald, smoking little man with the derby as he swings over to the hotel. He finds Dian quickly enough, and could get out without the crooks being any wiser, but the two of them decide to bust up the racket instead of running for it. And the Sandman mops them up with relative ease. He leaves the defeated thugs in Dian’s care, after she’s been armed with one of their tommy-guns. He gets Jay’s warning telegram after the whole thing is over!

  • Apparently the relationship between the Sandman and Dian is known to Mister X, meaning he’s gotten very close to two JSA members. This guy is looking like a decent threat to the team.
  • I love the chief thug taking out accident insurance after Dian warns him that he’ll need it. There’s a humorous undertone throughout this whole story, if you couldn’t tell.
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Some 1940s Green Lantern reviews…

Comic Cavalcade #6

Green Lantern – “They Are Invincible”

Alfred Bester, Paul Reinman

Anyone remember the old “What if?” series that Marvel used to publish? I read the occasional issue back in the day, and the book would take some well-known Marvel story and then ask “what if it happened this way?” and the run with an alternate version of events. The alternate version would almost always end in disaster or have Wolverine save the day, but anyway… this Green Lantern story from the Spring 1944 issue of Comic Cavalcade is a “What If?”. The author, an unnamed Al Bester (sci-fi writer from the 40s – 70s) speaks to the reader, saying that his wife complained to him that Green Lantern and Doiby Dickles always win through luck rather than by being smart, so he’s decided to prove that the opposite is the case. He posits a “hypothetical story” to make his point.

GL and Doiby return from a case and head to the apartment building where they live. It’s a densely foggy night, so they’re a bit careless, and two thugs spot them entering the building. The thugs can’t believe their luck… they think they’ll be able to learn just who Green Lantern really is under his mask and put an end to his crime fighting. So they hang around waiting for the two men to come back out of the building, and once they do they follow them. Here’s where the “what if” comes in, because Alan and Doiby reach an intersection where they can walk left, right or straight ahead. The story has them do all three. First they go left, and a sequence of events plays out. Then Bester winds back the clock and they go right, and again we see a different sequence of events. Finally they go straight, and a third sequence of events happens. Each time Alan and Doiby manage to beat the thugs and preserve Alan’s secret identity, though circumstances are entirely different each time. Doiby even starts griping that the author won’t let him punch out the thugs before switching narratives, and Alan tells him to just be quiet and pretend he doesn’t know they’re in a comic book story. You’d almost expect Deadpool to pop up and start talking about the little yellow boxes and how much he’s missed them.

In the end, Bester insists that it’s all been just a hypothetical story, and that Alan and Doiby never actually left the apartment. They were enjoying a hot dinner, courtesy of Alan’s well-stocked fridge, and the two men that came out of the apartment were someone else entirely, so the thugs end up foiled. Bester’s editor shows up, declares the story a failure and fires Bester. The end. It’s a lighthearted and fun little story, and a nice change of pace from the stories with villains and death traps that Doiby wishes they were in.

Oh, and this is apparently the first appearance of the modern day Green Lantern oath, the one that Hal Jordan still uses to this day. “In Brightest Day, in Blackest Night…” etc. I knew it first turned up during the 40s, but wasn’t sure when.

 

Green Lantern #30 – Feb/March 1948

“The Saga of Streak”

Robert Kanigher and Alex Toth

Alan, you shouldn’t have adopted this dog as a pet. He’s going to take over your book. It’s the beginning of the end, pal.

I’m not sure this story was the best one to choose to represent the latter years of Alan Scott’s run as Green Lantern. In any case, only in the 1940s would we get a story narrated by the dog, as Streak tells us the story of his life. He’s not a talking dog (because that would just be silly, right?), but the book has his internal narration by Streak as we go through his life. He’s the pet of brother and sister Luke and Sara Dale. He goes with Luke, and after some time witnesses Luke gunned down by gangsters. Enraged, he attacks them, only to be shot by the thugs, and then rescued by Green Lantern, who takes him to the vet to recover.

Through a series of events, GL learns that Sara Dale is being targetted by former Nazi scientist Dr. Malorgo, who puts him and Sara on a giant death trap. Yay for giant death traps…¬† Streak attacks the guards and distracts them long enough for Alan to get free and take out the bad guys. Sara asks Green Lantern to take care of Streak for her, and he says that while he can’t, his friend Alan Scott can. Streak is of course aware that Alan and GL are the same person, but he says he’ll never tell…

I wonder what readers at the time thought of having a Green Lantern story that revolves around a dog that can think like a human? I think I’d have felt a little ripped off. A lot of the stories in the Green Lantern 75th anniversary book are of the “first appearance of…” variety, so maybe the editors wanted to put Streak’s first appearance in the collection, regardless of the quality of the story. It’s not a bad story per se, but it’s hardly the type of thing you’d expect to see in a superhero comic. I think they were trying to adapt to whatever was popular at the time in order to keep these books selling, but the final issue of Green Lantern was a little more than a year later in 1949.

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Who is your favorite JSA member?

How did I miss posting in September? I guess I’ve been busy! How about a new poll?

I forgot the Sandman!

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