All-Star Comics #2 – continued

The Sandman – The Glowing Globe

A man in a mask that looks like it’s made of mud tosses a glowing globe into a bank. The globe kills the guards, allowing the man to rob the vault. Meanwhile, Wesley Dodds is having dinner with a friend of his, an older gentleman named Sir Basil Lorimer. They hear the report about the death over the radio and under the pretext of allowing a doctor to examine the crime scene, head to the bank. They find a burn mark caused by the globe, and while Lorimer professes ignorance about the cause, Welsey recognizes that Lorimer knows what made it as well as he does.

Changing to the Sandman to investigate, Wesley heads to Lorimer’s house, only to find him dead. Wesley accosts the butler, only to be attacked by the masked man, who hurls the globe at him. Wesley can feel it killing him, but the fumes from his gas gun somehow neutralize the effect enough to allow him to survive and escape. After some investigation, Wesley confirms that the killer is Lorimer’s brother, who ends up dead when he tries to shoot Wesley, only to have his own gun turned back on him.

  • The plotting isn’t very smooth in this story, and I don’t know whether to blame the writer, the artist, or both. It’s not always clear how or why characters get from point A to point B, and Wesley Dodds makes several leaps in logic that turn out to be right, be we never see how he arrives at those conclusions. This is one of those cases where the length of the story very much works against it, I think. Sometimes writers can work within the six to ten page limits, and sometimes they can’t.
  • Dodds is lucky to escape with his life both times he’s attacked by the globe. One might say conveniently lucky, both that his gas gun can minimize the effects, and that he’s in a lab the second time with all he needs to neutralize the globe within arm’s reach. I guess the second time does make more sense, given that the globe was likely created in that same lab.
  • The villain looks suitably macabre with his mask. It would be a good design for the original Clayface, since it looks like built-up clay on the man’s face. And an orb that sucks the life out of its victims is more interesting than another thug with a gun, so the story has a creative villain who kills in a mysterious way going for it.
  • His mask serves a purpose too: it protects him from the rays of the globe, presumably. The story doesn’t make that explicit, but it makes sense of Sandman’s comments on page 2, as well as explaining why the man would put it on his hands as well as his face.
  • The final verdict: The Sandman remains a strong character with a good concept, but this isn’t a well-written example of his adventures. There are a lot of sound ideas underlying the story, but the plotting needs some work.

Red, White and Blue – The Smell that Spelled JAIL

Red Dugan and Doris West are walking along the street when a fire truck passes them on the way to a fire, and they decide to follow and see what they can do to help. The first thing they notice is a terrible smell at the sight of the burned down warehouse, which Doris describes as smelling like a “skunk factory”. An investigation of the building produces a dead man and some gas tanks. This leads to a plot by some criminals to render all the ink on the G2 intelligence records invisible so they can easily steal the records and learn tons of valuable secrets. Only the flammable nature of the gas used to render the ink invisible and the resulting fire tipped off Red and his friends so they could work out what was going on.

  • AS02 red white and blue comparisonI actually have two copies of this story, since it’s also reprinted in Comic Cavalcade Archives volume 1. When I compare the two, the colors are often completely different, and some edits have been made to the Comic Cavalcade edition. The dead body of the street cleaner in the warehouse is obscured, Doris West’s swearing as she slips down the stairs is removed, even though it’s just symbols rather than actual profanity, and her modesty is protected a bit more by redrawing her dress. I guess the editors wanted to clean things up for the kids, so good for them. This is the original “uncut” story, and it’s honestly pretty tame.
  • When it comes to non-superhero features, I vastly prefer Red, White and Blue over last month’s Biff Bronson. The art is better, the characters are more interesting, and the plot involved some actual mystery and deduction. And it’s always nice to have a stronger female lead character in the form of Doris West. Sadly, these guys don’t fit in with the up and coming Justice Society concept, which is probably why we won’t be seeing them again in All-Star. It’s nice to have a couple of stories in the first two issues though.
  • I wonder if Red Dugan is any relation to Pat Dugan, also known as Stripesy?

Johnny Thunderbolt – The Darling Apartment

Johnny’s future father in law, Herman Darling, is attempting to build a high-rise on a piece of property that he’s just purchased. The former owner refuses to leave. He’s a crook who runs an illegal gambling operation out of the building, so he threatens Mr. Darling. Johnny decides to take a hand since he knows he has the ability to make things happen, but he still has no idea that it’s the Thunderbolt and the magic words “cei-u” that do it. He gets himself thrown out by the crooks at first, but of course says “say you” and his wishes start coming true, so he’s able to expose the gambling operation and scare the crooks into giving up and turning themselves in. All of this greatly impresses his future father in law, to which Johnny just says “Gosh!”

  • The Thunderbolt isn’t personified in this story. It’s not the pink humanoid with the three lightning bolts on its head, or the little blue thing from All-Star #3. Johnny wishes, lighting strikes, and he’s able to get whatever he wants for an hour.
  • I remember a lot of talk in the late 80s about how Giffen and DeMatteis were doing something new with comics by introducing humor into Justice League International. I suppose at that point only hardcore collectors knew how much humor was incorporated into some Golden Age comics. Johnny Thunder is a prime example of a strip that isn’t meant to be taken too seriously. Comedy in comic books goes all the way back to the beginning.
  • I’m not a fan of the more crude art in this strip compared to others in the book.
  • I have no real antipathy towards Johnny Thunder and his dimwitted nature. The guy has a genie that can do literally anything, so if he was smart, things would be too easy for him. Besides, I like the way the Thunderbolt tends to mock him later on while still having to do anything he says. All that being said, this particular story doesn’t do much for me.

The Invisible Star – text story

500 years in the future, Ric Martin, ambassador to Mars, returns to Earth to discover the temperature rapidly rising with no apparent cause. The sun is fine. Ric and his friend Gus head out into space to survey the solar system and find out the source of the problem. It turns out to be an invisible star that is passing too close to the Earth. The solution appears to be evacuating the entire planet. This is accomplished with a fleet of 5,000 ships, who leave not long before the Earth burns up. Humanity travels to colonize Mars, the nearest habitable planet.

  • There’s not much to say about this story. It really makes no sense. Ric Martin is concerned that the Martians are building up for war, and if it had been some Martian device causing the rise in temperature on Earth, the whole story would have been more cohesive and made more sense. But an invisible star traveling through the solar system? I’m willing to suspend my disbelief quite a bit for superhero comics, but this is a bit too much to swallow.
  • Just to be positive, I will say that the scope of this storyline is pretty epic. I’ll give the author points for imagination. Stars that travel the cosmos, the evacuation of the entire human population and the destruction of Earth are pretty big concepts to squeeze into two pages. So kudos to the author for some ambitious storytelling.
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