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.
Four Color #684 - Helen of Troy (Dell, 1956)
This is an adaptation of a 1956 movie. I supposed this was Italian film, but it was actually an international co-production directed by Robert Wise. Helen was played by the Italian actress Rossana Podestà, and Paris by Jacques Sernas, who was Lithuanian by birth but grew up in France.
The adaptation tells the story of the Trojan War. The gods don't appear. Paris meets Helen when he travels to Sparta on a peace mission. Helen protects him and has to flee with him to escape the wrath of Melelaus. The "abduction" provides a pretext for the Greeks to go to war, but what they really want is loot. The story continues to the fall of the Troy.
The GCD ascribes the script to Paul S. Newman, and the art to John Buscema. Buscema's work here shows precise, accomplished draftsmanship, on a level with Reed Crandall's.
The adaptation is solid, but doesn't stand on its own as an exciting story. It's like a superior Classics Illustrated adaptation.
Read two pre-Code horror collections in the last few days that have been unusually interesting.
One was Pre-Code Classics: Strange Terrors Vol. 1, collecting Strange Terrors #1-5 (1952), from St. John. The other was Pre-Code Classics: Out of the Shadows Vol. 1, collecting Out of the Shadows #5-9 (1952-53), from Standard.
Both have unusually detailed, often high-quality covers -- some even appear painted. And I was surprised again and again at the interior art. Both books featured art of higher quality than was the norm at the time outside of EC Comics, including Russ Heath, Carmine Infantino, Reed Crandall and Nick Cardy. There were plenty of lesser, but still recognizable, lights, such as George Tuska, Al Plastino, Don Perlin, George Roussos, Jerry Grandenetti and possibly Mike Sekowsky, Ross Andru, Vince Colletta and Mike Katz. That's a lot of recognizable Silver Age artists here in 1952-53.
The covers I so admired were mostly by some guy named Meyerriecks. There are two more issues of Strange Terrors, but I have no idea why they weren't included in this book and if they will ever be reprinted. Out of the Shadows begins with issue #5 -- the first four issues never existed.
Just some observations.
Rangers Comics #8 (Fiction House, 1942)
This was the first issue with the title. Previously the comic was Rangers of Freedom.
Adventures of Rangers fighting the Japanese in Asia. The feature commenced in #5, and was originally called "Rangers of Freedom". It replaced a feature of the same name about a team of costumed kid heroes.
In the instalment a Japanese general assigns a beautiful woman to trap Captain Morgan. It was the last episode with a Malay peninsula setting.
The war features in this title have a realistic element: the heroes' exploits aren't incredible, and the military units in "U.S. Rangers" and "Commando Rangers" (see next review) lose men in the fights.
The GCD tentatively ascribes the art to Ruth Atkinson.
"Glory Forbes, Vigilante"
Spybuster feature. Initially the series was set in San Francisco and recurringly pitted Glory against a Japanese spy named Yaki Su.
In this instalment he seeks to start a tong war among the city's Chinese population. The Chinese are depicted sympathetically, which I always like seeing.
The art was by Pagsilang Rey Isip. The GCD notes the story is signed (at the bottom of the splash panel).
"The Werewolf Hunter"
This was the first episode of this feature. It continued to #41 in 1948, but after the first few instalments Broussard encountered other menaces than werewolves.
In this instalment a woman from the French quarter of New Orleans is menaced by a werewolf. Fortunately, her grandfather runs an antique shop, and Prof. Broussard is one of his customers.
The identity of the werewolf is too obvious. This is recurringly the case in these early instalments. The GCD tentatively ascribes this one's pencils to Gustaf Schrotter.
"The Sea Devil"
Feature about the exploits of a pocket submarine with a two-man crew.
This instalment belongs to a series of episodes in which the heroes wage a campaign against U-boats off the coast of Florida with the help of a woman \whose stepfather is head of a spy ring. In this episode the spies suspect Cora and the duo are briefly captured. The GCD ascribes the art to Joe Doolin.
"Rocky Hall, Jungle Stalker"
Series about a young jungle-hand and his Tarzan-like friend Gary. In Rangers of Freedom #6 they were joined by a young woman, the daughter of a murdered missionary.
In this episode the trio rescue a number of young women from slavers. The GCD ascribes the pencils p.1-7 to Rudy Palais with perhaps Saul Rosen on inks, and the art p.8 to Richard Case. Some of the art is quite good (p.5 panel 5; p.7 panels 3 and 6).
"Private Elmer Pippin and the Colonel's Daughter"
Service comedy feature about a private who is in love with his Colonel's daughter. He always screws up, but his screw-ups always have good results.
In this instalment Pippin accidentally releases an army carrier pigeon with a love message. Meanwhile, Nazi spies scheme to poison the men of the next post. The GCD ascribes the art to Al Walker.
Western feature that started in #4. Tex was a young cowboy hero. In the first instalment his father was killed and he caught his murderers. From the second instalment he had a pal he didn't know was a young woman.
In this instalment they arrive in a town and he goes to a dance. She switches clothing and goes too, and bandits raid the dance. The GCD ascribes the writing and art to Sam Savitt.
This was the last instalment of the original series. Altered versions of the stories appeared in Pioneer West Romances/Firehair later.
"The Phantom Falcons"
Adventures of a small, unofficial squadron fighting the Japanese out of Australia.
In this instalment the squadron learns the Japanese mean to send planes from an aircraft carrier to arm prisoners in an internment camp for a breakout. The art was by Art Saaf. One of the fliers is a woman, and the art has mild cheesecake shots.
The text story is titled "Treachery on Timor". A pilot in the Pacific is sent on a lone mission to locate an Axis weather station.
Prize Comics #9 (Prize, 1941)
The cover shows the Black Owl rescuing a woman from a battleship. The ship they are escaping onto has an American flag. The battleship has no flag or markings. Presumably it's an Axis ship. The issue went on sale in Dec. 1940. The scene isn't from the issue's story, and the GCD doesn't identify the artist.
"The Black Owl"
A gang lead by a woman known as Madame Mystery has been committing murderous jewel robberies. A journalist talks his editor into running a fake story that the Black Owl has vowed to capture the mob in order to set him after it.
The Black Owl was a costumed crimefighter like Batman. In his other identity he was a playboy who was friendly with a lady private detective.
This was the last instalment of Jack Kirby's brief run on the feature. The art is good early Kirby art. The story starts decently but becomes an ordinary action story. The story has what seems to be a dropped thread: who's the screaming prisoner p.2 panel 5?
Vulcan and his Steam Dwarfs attempt to invade the surface world.
Doctor Frost was one of several Golden Age heroes with iceman-like powers. The other ones I'm aware of are Sub-Zero from Blue Bolt and Jack Frost from USA Comics.
The art was by Ben Thompson, whose style is like a cartoony version of Alex Raymond's.
This episode opens with Doctor Frost the prisoner of Vulcan. Apparently he was captured in the previous instalment. The GCD says Vulcan was introduced in #7, so the story may have been a three-parter.
O'Neil and Hinky encounter spies during a bombing raid, and later fly in a big battle in the Channel.
O'Neil was an American aviator hero. By this point he was flying for the RAF. Hinky was his British pal.
This episode is an action-packed war story. As with "The Black Owl" the tale was pencilled by Kirby, and the last instalment of his brief run on the feature. The battle scenes are well-depicted and show the violence of war.
A dwarf gangster with a grudge against Frankenstein befriends the monster.
This is a good, violent early episode of this feature, from before the introduction of Bulldog Denny. (He was introduced in the next instalment, in #11.) Story and art by Dick Briefer.
"The Green Lama"
A Nazi agent assassinates a senator who is about to denounce fifth columnists.
The Green Lama was a pulp hero. This version wears a habit like the magazine character rather than a skin-tight costume and cape like the Spark version.
Comic Book Plus's copy of the issue is missing four pages. On the pages it has the Green Lama fights the villains physically, and it's not clear that he has powers. The GCD attributes the script to Ken Crossan (=the character's creator), and the art to Mac Raboy. The final panel is an ad for the pulp in which the hero appeared.
Following a storm at sea Gallant has an adventure involving cannibal natives.
This was an age of sail feature, The clothes show the setting to be the 16th or early 17th century. Gallant is a "daring Robin Hood of the Seven Seas" who is "feared by pirates yet pursued by the Queen's navy", so the monarch must be Mary I or Elizabeth I.
The story was drawn by Grieg Chapian. His work here is on the crude side, but shows the promise of eventually being good. It has a woodcut-ish look at times. The best character is the fierce first mate, "Big" Tom. The storm at sea sequence is better than the part involving the cannibals. This was the third and last instalment.
"'Twist' Turner, Master Acrobat"
Turner is tasked with investigating a series of armoured truck disappearances.
Turner is a great acrobat who wants to join an exclusive club for great athletes. To do this he must complete 99 tasks.
This is a wordy adventure story drawn in a linear style with lots of shading. The trick Turner uses to catch the gang is the best touch. I assume the driver and guards p.2 were murdered off-panel. The creators were the four Roth Brothers, who went on to have careers as cartoonists. Al Ross was a longtime cartoonist for The New Yorker.
"The Great Voodini"
A scientist comes to Voodini for help. He has received a job offer he wants to accept, but other scientists have received similar offers recently and disappeared.
Voodini is a Mandrake imitation with a young assistant. At this point they performed magic by speaking commands backwards, like Zatara. The villains are agents of "Chukos Hohito, feared dictator of Jarawaz". They're intended as analogues for the Germans.
The story lacks forward drive and the heroes don't use their magic in very imaginative ways. The GCD attributes the art to Jon Smalle. It attributes the writing tentatively to Fred Guardineer, but that might be purely on the basis of the backwards talking. I don't know if Guardineer wrote for other artists.
"Power Nelson, Futureman"
Fifth columnists who have control of a US military base start a fire to cover their attempt to steal American gold stocks.
This is an uninspired imitation of "Superman". Nelson's other identity is Gene West, radio commentator. In this identity he wears an eyepatch and broadcasts against fifth columnists. The story imitates the approach of Siegel's and Shuster's Superman stories, but lacks any memorable touches. The GCD tentatively attributes the art to Paul Norris.
The text story is titled "The Curse of Ram-Kaem". This is a Scooby Doo-type mystery.
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Pep Comics #16 (Archie, 1941)
“The Shield with Dusty the Boy Detective”
The Vulture steals the plans to a robot plane.
The Vulture was a recurring villain. That’s him on the (awful) cover, but he doesn’t have those monster assistants and it doesn’t show a scene from the story.
The story mixes standard superhero adventure with broad comic relief. The film Bulldog Drummond at Bay (1937) had a robot plane theft plot, so it may have been a recurring premise at the time.
The story was written and drawn Harry Shorten and Irv Novick. It’s signed, as the GCD notes. We’re used to the writer’s name appearing first, but that wasn’t always the case in the Golden Age and Novick’s appears first.
“Danny in Wonderland”
Danny’s dwarf pal Kupkake is lured to Playland, where there’s no school, and you can play all day.
This feature was about the adventures of an American boy in a fairyland. This instalment’s plot was copied from Pinocchio, as the GCD notes. (It says “Disney’s PINOCCHIO”, which is probably right, but the story was a book first.) Danny met the Queen of the Mermaids in the previous issue.
The creators were Harry Shorten and Lin Streeter. Shorten’s byline is in the opening caption. Streeter signed himself “Lin” on the kerb on the right. My hat-tip to the GCD for noting his signature.
The Comet investigates accidents at a construction site.
This is a “Superman”-style story. In his other identity the Comet looks like Clark Kent. His girlfriend Thelma Gordon is a more serious Lois Lane, and knows the Comet’s secret ID. The Comet was killed and replaced by the Hangman in the next issue.
The GCD attributes the story to Joe Blair and Lin Streeter.
The Fireball investigates the deaths of a series of men important to America’s defence.
The Fireball has the ability to control flame and produce heat. He is a fireman in his other identity. The villains are a German spy ring disguised as a bund. (They are apparently all immigrants, as they have German accents.) The heroine contributes significantly to the cracking of the case.
The GCD tentatively attributes the art to Harry Lucey.
Boyle and Twerp undertake the rescue of an American citizen who the Germans are about to execute.
This was a feature about an American in the British army. The story was signed by Charles Biro, and the GCD thinks he may have written as well as drawn.
“Lee Sampson, Midshipman”
Sampson and Shipwreak graduate. Shipwreak will need his sword for their final dress parade and has pawned it.
This was the last instalment of this feature, a military academy series. It comes across as knowledgeable about naval academy customs and rules. President Roosevelt reviews the graduating midshipmen, and in the final panel the Sampson asks readers who want to see the characters' further adventures to write in.
The GCD attributes the writing to Joe Blair, and doesn’t know the artist.
A woman murders the parents of her fiancée who she is marrying for his money. Satan means to make her a member of his band.
This was Madam Satan’s debut appearance and origin story. The GCD attributes it to Abner Sundell and Harry Lucey.
Ward and his girlfriend fight because he won’t give up boxing. The manager of the boxer he’s preparing to fight stirs the pot so Ward won’t be mentally on form.
This feature was an imitation of Joe Palooka. The GCD attributes the writing to Harry Shorten. It attributes the art to Bob Wood, but another indexer has added the note “Looks like an even simpler artist is trying to imitate Wood”. I think he was rather imitating Ham Fisher. The story follows the expected course but is engaging.
“Bentley of Scotland Yard”: “The Case of the Pirate’s Ghost!”
A rich man consults Bentley about his decision to place a supposedly cursed goblet he has inherited on exhibition. When he retires for the night he is mysteriously shot.
This is locked room mystery, done as a fair play mystery. I didn't find the solution satisfactory. If the first respondents didn't find the weapon, I think the police would've. Also, how could the killer count on the victim being in exactly the right place?
The GCD notes the story was signed by artist Sam Cooper. It attributes the writing to Joe Blair.
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Variety Comics #3 (Croyden, 1946)
This was the last issue. The GCD attributes the cover to Marvin Stein. The indicia says the issue was a Lloyd Jacquet Studios production.
"Hi Hilton" appeared this issue only. The other features appeared in this title only, with the exception of "Jungo", as I explain below. "Jungo" didn't appear in #1 and "The Mystery Master" didn't appear in #2.
"Captain Valiant": "The Fidder!"
A gang-leader hires forces a trio of musicians to perform with him.
This is a weak superhero story. Its best feature is some humorous touches. Captain Valiant has no powers and is an actor in civilian life. The GCD tentatively attributes the art to Marvin Stein.
"Gabby Grayson, Radio Reporter"
After Grayson broadcasts against racketeers a racketeer leaves him a message saying he's going straight.
This is a so-so crime story. The GCD doesn't know the artist.
"Terry Temple": "Laughing Fireman!"
Is the brother of a fireman an arsonist?
This is another so-so crime story. Terry is a detective heroine. The art was signed by Leo Bachle.
Marty and his father go deep-sea fishing.
This is a strip about a boy drawn in a bigfoot style. The art is good but the gags aren't amusing. The GCD doesn't know the artist.
Treasure-hunters kill the animals around a waterhole.
This is a unexciting jungle king story drawn in an old-fashioned style. Its animal art is its best point. The GCD doesn't know the artist. The feature was drawn by a different artist when it debuted in #2.
Holyoke's Sparkling Stars carried a jungle king feature called "Jungo" from #13 (1946). The characters look the same - they're both ginger-haired - but that series had a distinct premise: its hero was a movie star who became a jungle hero after getting a knock on the head. The feature became "Jungol" in #23.
The GCD attributes the art of the first and some of the subsequent instalments of "Jungo"/"Jungol" to Robert Peterson. He signed the cover of #13, which is partly based on the splash panel from that issue's story.
The Variety Comics #2 instalment was more crudely drawn, but I think it's by the same artist. I guessed he was imitating Jesse Marsh's Tarzan work, but Variety Comics #2 appeared in 1945, and according to DC Indexes the first Tarzan issue of Four Color, #134 was dated for 1947. DC Indexes says it came out at the end of 1946.
A former baseball player returns from the war. He can no longer pitch due to a shoulder wound, so he becomes a coach. A gambler has a mortgage on the club and will gain control of it if the club doesn't win.
A good element in this story is the ruthlessness of the villains. The cartoony art is a little clumsy in places but the story reads well. The GCD doesn't know the artist.
"Mystery Master": "The Mystery of the Eccentric Collector"
A couple get a flat in a storm and seek help at an isolated house.
This is a sinister house story with an unsatisfactory twist end. Art by Leo Bachle.
The issue also had three one-pagers. Two of these are "It's True" pages that imitate Ripley's Believe it or Not! The other explains the origins of some common words.
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