All-Star Comics #1 – Summer 1940

all-star050Hawkman  vs. the Sorceror Trygg

Carter Hall is in Wales looking for adventure.  He finds it when he hears a woman named Margo calling for help. Her brother Jan has been kidnapped by her uncle Trygg and is being tortured. Margo warns Hawkman that her uncle has learned the secret of “Haitian zombies” and uses them as servants. Hawkman takes the direct approach, flies to the castle where Trygg is holding Jan prisoner and rescues him after a fight with the zombies. The uncle, determined to gain control of Margo’s castle and inheritance, employs the services of a witch, Beldame Gaffy, to kill Jan and Margo from a distance. Naturally the Hawkman realizes what is happening. He attacks Trygg and Gaffy, who run, but in the end Hawkman finishes them off, leaving Margo and Jan safe.

Thoughts:

  • Hawkman doesn’t just fly around New York looking for trouble. He’s in Wales, near Cardiff when this story begins. This fits well with the international flavor of his regular series.
  • I’m not sure why Margo and Jan are white-skinned but Trygg and Gaffy are sort of a dark yellow. I guess some ethnicity other than Caucasian is implied, but the story never says. Gaffy is surely meant to be Welsh though, so it’s just strange.
  • That hello kiss between brother and sister Jan and Margo is weird. It makes me wonder if they were originally meant to be not related at all and the script was changed after the story had already been drawn.
  • Trygg, the evil uncle, has a sound motive for his actions. Given that Margo is set to inherit a castle, there’s likely a good deal of land and money involved, so Trygg would get rich quickly if he could get it. He’s kind of a nut though. He could just put a hit on Jan and Margo, but instead he resorts to using torture, witches and zombies. Can’t fault his creativity! Maybe he figures that the police would figure out a normal murder, but his methods would be harder to trace. Or maybe I’m just overthinking Golden Age silliness. J
  • I love Hawkman’s solution to the problem of a magic circle he can’t walk through. He just flies over it. And then when he chases Trygg he stops to “quickly whittle” a quarterstaff. He’s good at improvisation, that’s for sure.

The Sandman – The Twin Thieves

Wesley Dodds, the Sandman, has gone to Kennedy’s jewelry store to buy a watch. “Something servicable”, Wesley says. Suddenly a man bursts in and pulls a gun, stealing some jewels and threatening Wesley and the shopowner if they follow. Wes naturally goes after him, but is distracted by what appears to be an identical man in a different suit going in the opposite direction. Following the second man, he notes his address, collects his Sandman costume, and breaks into the house where he finds the jewels. He’s shot, but manages to fight the man off and rather than leave, rests in a side room. The two men, unaware that he’s there, plot their next crime and he follows them, tipping off the police. This time he gets hit on the head and is forced to escape out a window before the police arrest him. He finally gets the drop on the two men instead of the other way around, subdues them, and leaves them for the police to find.

Thoughts:

  • I’ve heard these old characters criticized because they supposedly never fail. Wesley Dodds makes a mess of his investigation here, getting himself shot, almost caught by the police, and hit on the back of the head. He’s a long way from infallible.
  • He seriously needs a sidekick. He spends a lot of time in this story talking to himself.
  • I vastly prefer this version of the Sandman with his gas mask, cape and fedora to the later yellow and gold suited version, though he will gain that sidekick he needs here.

 Gary Concord, the Ultra-Man

Here’s a change from the usual super-hero fare. This is the only time I’ve ever read this character, who is the “high moderator of the United States of North America” in the year 2240. His outfit with the finned helmet, short sleeves and chest straps reminds me of old Buck Rogers-looking sci-fi. It’s definitely very retro, which makes sense considering that it was published in 1940.

The plot involves a war in Europe, with two nations fighting each other. This affects American exports, people lose jobs and there is violence and riots in the streets due to the shortage of goods and food. Gary Concord decides that he has to put a stop to it right away, and he tries several approaches, with limited success. He tries to talk some mine owners into reopening, but they protest that they won’t have the funding if the war drags on too long. Lord Cricket, ambassador of a third European country, offers to lend the money to reopen the mines if they are pledged as security. It’s pretty obvious that this is a plot to gain control of them, though it takes the characters in the story awhile to get there. In the end, Concord figures out that Lord Cricket and his country were behind the whole thing, and with Cricket defeated the war ends rather quickly.

Thoughts:

  • The story is a sci-fi mixture of politics and superheroics. It’s actually a fairly interesting bit of world building, though obviously in a “ripped from the headlines” way. The war in Europe and the recent Depression are no doubt two influences on the plot.
  • Concord’s “action outfit” is essentially green shorts and red boots. He looks like he’s ready for a swim. I prefer the retro finned helmet and crossed straps that he wears while in his official capacity.
  • It’s interesting to see what is essentially a super-hero from the future who is also in political office and hobbled by the demands of that office. I can see this guy and Grant Morrison’s “President Superman” Calvin Ellis comparing notes and getting along.
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