The Flash – The Murder of Widow Jones
Jay Garrick is out for his morning run when he spots trouble in the form of a policeman trying to gain entrance to a locked house. The policeman suspects trouble for the widow Jones who lives there alone. The Flash volunteers to help, and finding the back door open, searches the house where he finds Widow Jones murdered and her safe empty. He returns to the policeman who protests that the Flash just left, and why hadn’t he found a way in yet? The Flash demands to be let into the investigation and is directed to the police commissioner. He is refused, steals a policeman’s uniform and harasses the commissioner enough that the man finally deputizes him. From there the Flash follows a trail of clues based on a scrap of fabric he found at the scene of the crime. The trail eventually leads him to “Clutch” Widdles, the murderer, and he takes him to jail. All of this is done in the 30 minutes that it took the policeman to walk from the home of Widow Jones back to the police station to report the murder.
- This story is structured all around the Flash’s speed. Whether he’s searching the house or looking through sales records and sales receipts, it’s all a contrast between how quickly he does things and how slowly everyone else moves in comparison. Jay’s search of the widow’s house, a sequence that takes a couple of pages, only lasts a few seconds according to the policeman. And Jay tracks down the murderer and brings him in in less time than it takes the policeman to walk from the house back to the police station.
- Jay’s a little impatient with everyone in this story, particularly the poor sales clerk! Maybe the murder made him more short-tempered than usual? He hasn’t got time for all of these people to slow him down, he’s got to find the killer!
- The scene with the poor sales clerk is a delight as she gets all flustered and Jay flies through index cards of sales records in seconds. The thing I’ve discovered about these early Flash stories is just how much they rely on humor to keep things moving, and that makes them a lot of fun to read.
The Spectre – The Tenement Fires
The police are investigating a tenement fire, and detective Jim Corrigan is there as well. The tenement owner, present at the investigation, remarks that it’s a good thing he had the building insured, but Corrigan is more concerned about the people who died in the fire. In a pretty awesome display of just what the Spectre can do, he heads up to Heaven where a line of souls can be seen entering the gates. The Spectre finds a man who died in the fire and learns that the fire was no accident, but was set on purpose. The Spectre promises justice, and heads back to Earth to track down the arsonist. He scares one crook to death by growing to giant size and stepping on his car, then makes his head disappear leaving only his brain so he can read his mind! He then finds the owner Dr. Cragg and shows him all the people who had died in the fires, telling him “they’re waiting for you!” Cragg shrieks and dies, and the Spectre declares that justice is done.
- What other superhero could actually go talk to the soul of a murder victim to find out the truth? I’m sure that’s not admissible in court! Not that the Spectre’s even going to bother with due process or going to court. He’ll punish the guilty himself.
- I love the way the boss assumes that the arsonist was drunk when he is told about the “spook” that appeared out of thin air. “You drunken fool!”
- I love the giant Spectre stepping on the guy’s car and picking him up as if he’s a toy. Sometimes a “guy that can do anything” makes for a more entertaining story.
Biff Bronson – the Great Remembro
Here’s another character I knew nothing about, but he’s nowhere near as interesting as Gary Concord. Rendered in a more cartoony style, Bronson is a square-jawed, two fisted secret agent who is on the case of some plans for a new bomber. The plans were believed to have been stolen, but when Biff investigates, they’re still there, though they have clearly been examined. The culprit turns out to have been “The Great Remembro”, a factory worker by day and a performer by night, whose act revolves around his perfect memory. He had memorized the bomber plans and intended to sell them to a foreign power, but Bronson puts a stop to that. It’s a pretty straightforward plot that lacks the fun and spectacle of the tales featuring the superheroes of the era. I can see this guy as a supporting character in one of the other features, but as a lead character he’s not all that interesting.