I've started a thread on Golden Age comics before. My idea was to review runs or portions of runs, but that turned out to be difficult to do; Golden Age features sometimes changed direction in significant ways, so to get a full overview of a long-running feature one has to read a lot of stories. The result was I ended up only reviewing short-running series or one-shots.

 

So I thought I'd start a thread for reviews of individual issues instead. I mean to review comics from the 50s as well as the 30s and 40s. Please feel free to contribute your own reviews.

 

I've included the transition era in the scope of the thread so there need be no debate over when exactly the Golden Age ended. Any pre-Silver Age title is fair game. DC's Silver Age is usually regarded as starting with the Silver Age Flash's debut in Showcase #4, which went on sale in July 1956. The analogous event at Marvel was the appearance of Fantastic Four #1 in August 1961.

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The Mad Hatter #1 (O.W. Comics Corp.)

 

This was apparently the only title from this publisher. It lasted two issues. The title is “Mad Hatter” on the covers and “The Mad Hatter” in the indicias.

 

The GCD credits the scripts of all the comics stories in the issue to William Woolfolk, who in the period was a top comics writer. Among other features he wrote for “Captain Marvel” and “Blackhawk”, and, post-war, "Captain America", "Batman" and “Superman”. Later in his career he wrote novels and for TV. In 1985 he had a final “Superman” story in Action Comics #576 called “Earth’s Sister Planet”, but I haven’t read this.

 

The title character is a superhero who appears in two of the issue’s four comics stories. The remaining two comics stories are in a funny animal style. The above-the-title blurb on the cover calls the issue “a new kind of comic book”, but I don’t think the issue lives up to that claim. The cover, which depicts the hero fighting a gorilla, was drawn by John Giunta and illustrates and blurbs a story that appeared in the second issue. According to this post at the “Who Created the Comic Books?” blog this was due to an error by the printer, who failed to print the whole prepared issue.

 

The Mad Hatter is a non-powered costumed crusader with a skin-tight purple costume, red domino mask, and furry white cape, boots, trunks and gloves. His costume has a hat design on the chest and he signals his presence to his opponents with a visual hat signal, but he doesn’t wear a hat, or even a cowl. The nature of the hat signal isn’t made clear; presumably it’s some kind of torch. (Woolfolk may have been recycling here an element from Fawcett's "Captain Midnight" series, for which he also wrote; Midnight sometimes signalled his presence with his doom beam.) The Mad Hatter has an acrobatic way of fighting that recalls Batman. In the first story he rhymes and jokes as he fights. (He’s not seen in action in the second one.) In his other identity he’s Grant Richmond, a junior partner in a law firm, but his profession isn’t mentioned in the first issue.

 

I’ll review the issue’s stories in the order in which they appeared.

 

Feature: “The Mad Hatter"

Story title: “A Date with the Mad Hatter!”

 

This is a fairly standard story for the period, but with an interesting emotional twist towards the end. It involves a lady reporter who also briefly appears in the second issue; presumably she was intended as the hero’s recurring love interest. Neither of his stories in this issue explain why the Mad Hatter fights crime in a costume or why he chose that second identity.

 

I think the art on this story was by John Giunta. (It’s likely by the artist who drew the story in the second issue that the first issue’s cover illustrates. The cover is signed by Giunta and the GCD lists him as the artist of that other story.) The story is drawn in an impressionistic style with heavy blacks. One might compare Mort Meskin’s Golden Age art and George Roussos’s Batman work. At times the art has an unfinished look. Other features Giunta worked on include Gerona’s “The Duke of Darkness”, about a crime- and supernatural menace-fighting ghost, and Avon’s “Crom the Barbarian”. Some of his stories from these features have a different finish; I don’t know whether this is because Giunta changed his style or because he worked with assistants or had different inkers. I like Giunta’s art when it has a stylised look as here, particularly his splash panels.

 

Feature: “Little Danny Demon”

 

A little demon would rather be good than bad. The birds of the forest help him out by terrorising his teacher.

 

The teacher looks like an anthropomorphic goat, and the little demons look like child fauns. I like the story’s birds more than its cutesy young demons, particularly their strong-willed leader, an owl. The cartooning is OK, and better than that and lively when depicting the birds.

 

Text story: “Dogs are Good Medicine”

 

This is two pages long, unillustrated, and concerns how a boy’s psychological health is restored after his beloved pet dog is killed saving his life. I suppose it's a not-bad sentimental tale.

 

Feature: “The Mad Hatter" (but see notes)

Story title: “The Case of the Scornful Girl!”

 

This story is only two pages long. The reader is challenged to figure out the clue the Mad Hatter spotted before he reveals it to the reader, but the story doesn’t quite play fair.

 

The story lacks a “The Mad Hatter” logo, as the GCD also notes. It looks like the artist left space for it in the splash panel; perhaps someone forgot to paste it in.

 

My current guess as to the artist is Jack Alderman, but I’m not completely certain. I didn’t know his name before I started trying to identify this story’s artist and got it from this page on Quality’s artists, which has images of the different's artists' work. It doesn’t have quite the same look as some of the Alderman stories I compared it too but I was able to parallel a number of its traits in his work.

 

Feature: “Freddy the Firefly”

 

This is a funny animal imitation of Marvel’s “The Human Torch”. The feature also appeared, under the name “Freddy Firefly” in the early EC title Animal Fables; according to the GCD it was written by Woolfolk there, too. An ad for Animal Fables appeared on the inside front cover of The Mad Hatter’s second issue.

 

I didn’t find the story funny, but the characters are likeable and the cartoonist’s art is nice to look at. I take him to be a different artist to the “Danny Demon” one.

 

The issue can be read at the Digital Comic Museum and Comic Book Plus websites.

Super-Mystery Comics v.8 #6 (Ace Magazines)

 

Super-Mystery Comics was a miscellaneous genre anthology title. This issue, from 1949, was the last. By this point the line-up no longer included any superhero features, although it had previously.

 

The art in the comic is clear and sometimes stiff, the stories solid but not too exciting. These stylistic elements became common in US comics coming into the 50s; you also see them in DC's output. The cover doesn't illustrate any of the stories, although the blurb does match the lead story. The issue's contents were as follows.

 

Feature: "The Unknown"

Story title: none in the issue, "The Unlucky Seven" on the cover

 

This is an anthology crime-and-nemesis feature. The title character is a cowled and robed figure who narrates the story without taking part in it. The story involves murder and cruelty, but it's not a gory/lurid crime tale. It concerns a hobo gang whose leader thinks he needs to always have seven men in the gang for good luck. An unusual element in the tale is the concern of one hobo, a ruined millionaire, for an alcoholic whom the gang leader controls with alcohol.

 

Feature: "Burt and Sue"

 

This is a feature about a husband and wife who solve crimes (the opening blurb calls them "Mr. and Mrs Sleuth", which to my mind would have been a better title for the series). In this story Burt and Sue solve two murders at a friend's rodeo show. My pick for the murderer became the second victim. The story is a decent if not especially original whodunit, the art is attractive and clear with a Caniff influence in it. Art by F. Giacoia and B. Lander.

 

Feature: "Mr. Risk"

Story title: "Rogues Gallery"

 

The title character is apparently a crime-fighting adventurer of private means who tackles his cases with the assistance of his Asian servant Abdul. Abdul calls him "master", but isn't portrayed in a racist way. In this story they go to Paris to help out an artist who has fallen under the domination of a counterfeiter. Unusually, Mr Risk kills the villain at the climax to prevent his escape. The instalment is a tepid example of this kind of tale. Art by Sy Grudko.

 

Text story: "The Tunnel" by Oscar Ross

 

A crime-does-not-pay story about a bank vault robbery. I knew a twist ending was coming, but I didn't guess what it would be.

 

Feature: "Hurry-Up Harrigan"

 

This is a lively feature about a slightly goofy but capable crime-solving newsman that intertwined its a-plots with comedic b-plots about the attempts of Harrigan's rival reporters to get the better of him. In this instalment an actor who stars in crime movies plots to take over a city's rackets. Art by Sy Grudko.

 

Al Camy did other stories in "Hurry-Up Harrigan" series. I recently read one here and read the story in this issue to see if I'd be able to tell the difference between the artists. I can, but the Grudko story has the same liveliness. (It's much livelier than the Mr Risk one.)

 

Harrigan's costume in the two stories consists of a green or orange check jacket, pants in the reverse colour to the jacket, bow-tie, and hat. The jacket and bow-tie remind me of how Jimmy Olsen dressed in the Silver Age. On Four Favorites #28, the only cover-appearance by the character that the GCD found for me, he has a plain jacket, pants the same colour, and normal tie.

 

With its combination of a likeable hero, crime-solving and comedy "Hurry-Up Harrigan" is the feature in the issue with the most to offer. But I'm partial to Golden Age mystery stories and husband and wife detective teams, so I also liked "Burt and Sue".

 

The issue can be read at the Digital Comic Museum and Comic Book Plus websites.

Captain Marvel Adventures #87 (Fawcett, 1948)

This issue contains four Captain Marvel stories, a Captain Kid story, a Jon Jarl text story, and three filler pages. It also has some comics-form ads.

The first Captain Marvel tale is the cover-story, "The Electron Thief!" A man has developed a way of collecting free electrons. He tells Mr Morris and other radio station owners that in future they'll have to buy electrons from him to be able to broadcast. Captain Marvel interprets this as an illegal attempt to create a monopoly. He chases the man back to his hideout but is transformed into Billy when his antagonist hits him with an artificial lightning bolt. Billy then finds his magic word won't work due to the absence of free electrons from the air. I think this story was based on "A Corner in Lightning" by George Griffith.

The second Captain Marvel tale is "The Stolen City!" In this a forger fakes a document that fools everyone into believing that the land on which a major city stands was only leased from the Indians, not bought from them. The Indians in the story are depicted very stereotypically, but they willingly return home when Captain Marvel uncovers the truth. I thought the splash panel, which depicts the Indians in occupation of the city hall, attractively drawn.

The third Captain Marvel tale is "Silence Reigns!" In this Orpheus, "the god of all music and sound", gets tired of the cacophony coming from Earth and causes all sound on Earth to cease. Billy first has to figure out how to transform to Captain Marvel when he can't say his magic word, and then, as Captain Marvel, how to convince Orpheus to change his mind. The story has a likeable Salvador Dali-style surreal splash panel.

The fourth Captain Marvel tale is "The Wonderful Iron Horse". In this a gambler builds a mechanical horse and enters it in a race, forcing his friend to ride it. The scheme comes undone because the 'horse' is difficult to control. The two gamblers have very distinctive faces and are drawn in a less cartoony style than usual. They might be based on two actors. The smaller gambler somewhat resembles Mickey Rooney, but has a personality unlike Rooney's screen persona, so I'm not sure that's who he was modelled after.

These are so-so Captain Marvel stories. The premises are good, but they don't do all that much with them, and most of their resolutions aren't very interesting. They are drawn in the feature's standard style, but aren't by C.C. Beck as they depart from that style in places (as with some of the shots of the gamblers in "The Wonderful Iron Horse!") Possibly Beck drew elements of the stories, such as the Billy and Captain Marvel figures, or the splash panel of "Silence Reigns!" The GCD attributes their art to Pete Costanza, but I don't know if that's more than guesswork. According to Martin O'Hearn, here, "The Stolen City!" and "The Wonderful Iron Horse" were written by William Woolfolk. (My hat-tip to the GCD for this information.)

The "Captain Kid" series is about an adolescent boy. The name suggests a comedic superhero, but in this instalment, "Too Many Robin Hoods", the title character is just a boy who wears a striped sweater. The story is drawn in a likeable cartoon style. According to the GCD the artist was Al Liederman. In the tale Captain Kid bullies his friends out of wearing Robin Hood costumes to a masquerade party because he means to, so they arrange for him to be beaten up.

The Jon Jarl text story is titled "Tiny Terror" and credited to Eando Binder. Presumably this was Otto Binder writing solo. The Jon Jarl stories were space adventure tales. In this instalment Jarl answers a call for help that takes him to an asteroid where he is captured by tiny people in a sequence obviously modelled after Gulliver's binding by the Lilliputians in Gulliver's Travels. It turns out these are city people who need his help against a less-civilised hill people. The Asterites in Buck Rogers were also miniature people, but the people in this story are much smaller.

Two of the filler pages feature "Tightwad Tad" and "Dopey Danny Dee" humour strips. I don't like these. The third features "Fabulous Facts About Snakes". The comics-form ads include an "Adventures of Sam Spade" Wildroot Cream Oil ad and a "Captain Tootsie" ad credited to C.C. Beck.

The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.

This post displaced the thread Doctor Who Reactions: "Time Heist" (SPOILERS) from the home page.

 
Luke Blanchard said:

The Jon Jarl text story is titled "Tiny Terror" and credited to Eando Binder. Presumably this was Otto Binder writing solo. 

When Otto Binder and his older brother, Earl, wrote a story jointly, they used the pen name Eando Binder---the first name being a portmanteau created by their first initials:  "E and O".

The most famous works produced by them under the Eando Binder byline were the science fiction stories of the robot Adam Link, who debuted in "I, Robot", from the January, 1939 issue of Amazing Stories.

Wikipedia's page on Otto says all the Eando Binder work was by Otto writing by himself from 1936. The claim is footnoted to a biography of Otto called Words of Wonder by Bill Schelly. An online SF encyclopedia says here that Earl stopped writing after "approximately 1934". A story might not get sold right away, and after being sold might not appear right away, but I think that means the Adam Link series was likely by Otto alone.

For those who don't know, Binder scripted comics adaptations of instalments of the Adam Link series for EC and Warren. Jack Kirby's Machine Man work has some very similar elements and was probably influenced by the series.

The first I, Robot story came out less than a year before Marvel Comics#1. Wonder if Carl Burgos read it?

Did either EC or Warren print all of the Adam Link stories?

The GCD and Wikipedia lists three EC instalments from Weird Science-Fantasy #27-#29, and eight Warren ones, adapting (if I've got this right) the first six stories, from intermittent issues of Creepy from #2 to #15.

Wikipedia's page on the character attributes the scripts of the EC adaptations to Binder, but the GCD currently attributes the adaptations to Al Feldstein. Both sources credit the art on both versions to Joe Orlando, but according to Martin O'Hearn, here, the pencils of some or all of the Warren ones (he isn't clear which) were ghosted by Jerry Grandenetti. The EC stories have been reprinted by Russ Cochran.

Both sources also lists an adaptation of "Adam Link's Vengeance" by Bill Spicer and D. Bruce Berry that first appeared in two issues of Spicer's fan press publication Fantasy Illustrated. This was apparently reprinted in Spicer's Graphic Story Magazine - it was cover-featured on #13 - and again in the 90s in Fandom's Finest Comics #2.

The opening stories in the series have also been twice adapted for TV, first in the 60s on The Outer Limits, and again in the 90s when that series was revived.

Some of the stories were collected in the 60s as a fix-up novel titled Adam Link, Robot. This drew its contents from the first six stories and the last.

There's a gallery of pulp covers featuring the character here (link via Wikipedia).

 
Luke Blanchard said:

Wikipedia's page on Otto says all the Eando Binder work was by Otto writing by himself from 1936. The claim is footnoted to a biography of Otto called Words of Wonder by Bill Schelly. An online SF encyclopedia says here that Earl stopped writing after "approximately 1934". A story might not get sold right away, and after being sold might not appear right away, but I think that means the Adam Link series was likely by Otto alone.

Interestingly enough, the Wikipedia entry on Eando Binder states that Earl Binder ceased all writing efforts in 1939 (to become brother Otto's literary agent).

So we have a spread of 1934 to 1939 to consider.  Whichever is the actual year when Earl Binder stopped his writing contributions affects when "Eando Binder" became just Otto.  Feasibly, any collected works from 1940 or so, credited to Eando Binder, could still be the efforts of both brothers.

There were ten Adam Link stories, beginning in 1939 and ending in 1942, that ran in Amazing Stories.  If 1939 is the correct stop-year for Earl Binder's writing, then he could have contributed to the first few Link tales.  But the last ones were most probably from Otto's typewriter alone.

I'm not saying you're wrong, Luke.  It's just that the inconsistency in the information available makes it tough to be definitive.

I've seen the old Outer Limits episode. Never liked the remake. The guy says "We are controlling transmission" then says "Please stand by." If he's controlling our tv sets then why does he ask us to stand by? We shouldn't be able to change the channel or turn off the set if we want to.

The novel contained seven of ten stories? Were three inferior?

Ellery Queen was also two people, and I believe ceased to exist when one died.

I have the Adam Link, Robot fix-up novel. The opening stories are the best ones: they have an interesting downbeat quality. As the series progressed it became more of an adventure series. I can't comment on the omitted stories as I haven't read them. Possibly the publisher just didn't want a longer volume.

Regarding the stories' authorship, I could believe the series began with collaborations given its shift in approach, but Mr Schelly's information seems the most authoritative to me. Binder was probably asked whether the series started as a collaboration somewhere.

Perhaps the editor felt the later stories were too different from the earlier stories. In the 60 and 70s there were a lot of very short books, some less than a hundred pages. Howard's Solomon Kane stories were printed in several very short books. An average sized novel could have contained everything Howard wrote on the character.

Captain Marvel Adventures #40 (Fawcett, 1944)

This issue contains four Captain Marvel stories, a "Richard Rich, Private Dick" two-page story, a filler page, and a text item. One of the Captain Marvel stories is an instalment of the Mr Mind serial "The Monster Society of Evil".

The first story is "Captain Marvel Gets the Heir!" A rich man called Ira Van Prooble means to identify his long-lost grandson by his birthmark. It turns out Billy has a birthmark, and he joins a number of other orphans at the mansion where Van Prooble lives with his adult nephew. Van Prooble's last servant quits to join the army and Captain Marvel is mistaken for his replacement. Van Prooble's nephew attempts to kill the heir before his uncle can identify him. (Did you see that coming? I saw that coming.) Not all that much is done with the idea of Captain Marvel acting as a servant.The most exciting bit is a panel of Captain Marvel tearing apart a water wheel in a bid to save a boy's life.

The second story is the cover tale, "Captain Marvel and the Chimes of Crime". Billy is sent to investigate a series of murders in a town called Chimeville. It turns out they are connected to a supposedly haunted bell tower and have been perpetrated by a homicidal hunchback, who at one point seems to be ghost. (Villain: "I warn you... I have bats in my belfry!" Captain Marvel: "You're telling me!") Billy nearly becomes his victim, but is saved by some good luck.

The third story is "Captain Marvel and the Mayor for a Day". This was one of a series of stories set in different cities of America. In this one the setting is Boston. There are a couple of shots of Boston buildings on the first page which look like they were drawn from photographs, and a shot of the Bunker Hill Monument later. Real people in the story include Mayor Maurice Tobin, radio personalities Cedric Foster and Fred Garrigus, and a businessman called Dave Adams who headed the University Distributing Co. The story had a blurb, "Special Captain Marvel visits Boston, Mass.", on the cover.

The issue's instalment of "The Monster Society of Evil" is chapter 19, "The Black Death Ray". In this one Billy only escapes death by sheer luck, and Captain Marvel kills an innocent caterpillar. Mr Mind's crocodile-headed henchman is called Sylvester. The instalment begins with the resolution of the previous issue's cliffhanger and ends with another. ("Bullets speed from the gun, towards Billy's heart! Can he reach the black ray in time? How will this tense, grim drama resolve itself in the laboratory of the most evil mad scientist in the universe?")

Although these stories have less striking premises than those in the issue I reviewed last, they twist and turn in more interesting ways. For example, in the serial instalment there's a sequence where Mr Mind hits Billy with his black ray before he can say his magic word. Billy survives - but how? These kinds of touches keep the stories suspenseful.

As in the later issue, a style of having the story title follow on from the "Captain Marvel" logo is used. I ignored that last time around, but have included the introductory bits here. The intro. of the serial is handled differently. It lacks a splash panel, and instead starts with a pictureless title panel followed by a panel introducing the main characters and a couple of recap panels.

The opening of the "Heir" story uses Billy's servant Steamboat. He is here taller than Billy and looks like an adult. Steamboat was stereotypically depicted: he spoke in thick dialect and had cartoon thick lips. According to C.C. Beck, in this interview, he was dropped from the strip after a delegation of black leaders visited the Fawcett offices and asked for his removal.

"Richard Richard Private Dick" is about an incompetent detective who solves his cases by luck. His assistants are a Chinese man called Ah Choo and a dog called Flub Dub. The story is zanier than the Captain Kid story I reviewed last time, with a number of puns. The GCD attributes the instalment to Dick McCay. This was apparently the feature's only appearance in Captain Marvel Adventures, but it appeared before and after in other Fawcett titles.

 

The features on the filler page are "Dopey Danny Dee" and "Sergeant Sandy". The text page tells a supposedly true story about a boy Russian war hero called Alexey Andreyitch. This is described as "told to the National War Fund by the Russian War Relief Society", so given the predilection of the Soviets for propaganda it may be wholly fabricated. There's also a page which uses Captain Marvel to exhort readers to collect milkweed pods for use in life belts and flying suits and to collect scrap paper.

There are only a couple of comics form ads in this one: one for Wheaties, and a Charles Atlas one.

This issue also has a "Largest circulation of any comic magazine" badge on the cover.

The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.

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