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 Marvel Family #85 (Fawcett, 1953)

This issue, from late in the title's run, has a three-part Marvel Family story and a Captain Marvel Jr. story.

The Marvel Family story is "The Marvel Family Battles the Primate Plot". Three gorillas arrive in town and reveal they are intelligent and civilised. They have come to town to buy the things they need to develop their "jungle empire", which turns out to be in the Amazon. The Marvel Family helps them out, but it turns out - SPOILER WARNING - that their ruler, King Zonga, has a potion that turns people into apes, and means to use it to take over the world. At one point in the story Billy, Mary and Freddy are transformed into monkeys and nearly eaten by crocodiles. At another point there's a panel that shows the gorilla army setting out to conquer in tanks, armoured cars and trucks. I've avoided giving away all the story's twists.

The "Capt. Marvel Jr." story is "Vampira's Beast of the Battlefield". This is set in Korea and features the return of a North Korean villainess called Vampira, who first appeared in Captain Marvel Jr. #116. In this tale Vampira fakes the coming to life of an idol called the Beast of Shenshu by replacing it with a war machine, and uses the fake idol to stir up the locals against the Allied forces. According to the GCD the story was drawn by Bud Thompson. I don't recognise his style here, but I'm not so familiar with his work that I could say definitively it's not his. According to Martin O'Hearn, here, the story was written by William Woolfolk. (My hat tip to the GCD for the last point.)

The humour filler items in the comic are "Headline Harry" (four pages, but just the same in its humour as the others), "Rubbernose Randolph" (one page), and "Colonel Korn and Korny Kobb" (a half-page). There is also a page of rebus puzzles. The text story is a nonsense humour story from a series about a character called Vacuum Bloobstutter. It's bylined "Walter Farmer", but according to the GCD this was actually Rod Reed.

The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.

I don't think they liked it. I've read their horror comics were very cheaply made. People and objects were often colored one solid color.

Back in 2011 I posted a brief review of Fawcett's This Magazine is Haunted #12 here. I'd have to read the issue again to see if I still agreed with my younger self.

I should add, since I wrote about it in adjacent posts, that I now accept Bill Battle was drawn by Dick Dillin. Dillin drew many 50s Blackhawk stories, and it seemed to me that the looser artist (as I saw it) of the Bill Battle stories wouldn't have evolved into the more constrained artist of the Blackhawk ones. I now think a lot of the look of those Blackhawk stories was due to inker Chuck Cuidera, and that the different policies of Fawcett's and Quality's editors may have contributed to how Dillin's art looked in each case.

Blackhawk #94 (Quality, 1955)

This issue has three "Blackhawk" stories and a "Chop-Chop" story.

In "The Web of the Black Widow!" the Blackhawks fight a costumed villainess called the Black Widow. Through good planning she gets the better of the Blackhawks several times, but they out-plan her at the climax. The Black Widow is in the tradition of ruthless Blackhawk villains with big plans. In her HQ her seat is suspended in the air and surrounded by an artificial web. I like this imagery.

In "Blind Victory", the cover story, a would-be dictator called Darkk manages to temporarily blind all the Blackhawks except Chop Chop with a nerve gas bomb. The next morning he heads out with his army to seize control of his country, a "tiny free democracy in Europe". Chop Chop says he'll fight them and Blackhawk goes with him in the plane's back seat (reversing their usual arrangement). Chop Chop fights the army to a standstill, and when he's in danger of being overcome by the enemy's superior numbers - SPOILER WARNING - the other Blackhawks, literally flying blind, show up and save him and Blackhawk with "self-guiding rockets". Blackhawk captures Darkk.

The story's splash panel shows Darkk holding Chop Chop captive and preventing him from speaking while the blind Blackhawks, unknowingly, race towards a chasm. I think this an interesting situation, but nothing like it happens in the story.

In "The Prophet of Doom!", a general in a small democracy which owes its freedom to the Blackhawks disguises himself as a prophet as part of a plan to destroy them and to trick the people into making him their dictator. To fulfil one of his supposed prophecies he and his men cause an airliner to crash using a "radio control machine". Subsequently he and his men fake a revolt and turn their machine on the Blackhawks' jets as they arrive.

In the "Chop Chop" story some crooks mistake Chop Chop for a dentist. The text story is a strong, unsentimental one in which - SPOILER WARNING - a bank-robber car-jacks the car of the doctor travelling into town to save his son, and thereby causes his son's death. According to the GCD these were both reprinted from Blackhawk #42.

The "Chop Chop" stories were broadly comic and portrayed Chop Chop as a silly, comical figure. There's no defending them against the charge that they're racist in their humour. In "Blackhawk" stories he was also portrayed as a comical figure, but the stories sometimes showed him as intelligent and capable. I like it when they do this. Late in Quality's run his appearance was toned down, but at the time of this issue he was still drawn as small, round, wearing a bow in his hair, and having enormous buck teeth. In this issue he has a comical speech pattern ("Is very clear, now! Only place same can be stolen is big atomic energy plant right there! Hotsy Doodles!"), and he displays a comical enthusiasm when preparing for his suicide mission in "Blind Victory", but the Black Widow calls him "one of the most clever Blackhawks!", he has the know-how to diagnose what's happened to the team's eyes in "Blind Victory" ("Optic nerve not destroyed... only paralyzed!"), and he's shown to be a very capable flier when he takes on Darkk's army.

The GCD says this issue's "Blackhawk" stories were written by Joe Millard and drawn by Dick Dillin and Chuck Cuidera. I thought they were good late Quality "Blackhawk" tales. The theme of the Blackhawks as freedom fighters is present, Blackhawk is portrayed as a far-sighted leader, and there are elements of military action and real violence in the stories. One would not expect to see the destruction of an airliner in a mid-50s DC story.

The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.

Captain Marvel Jr. #116 (Fawcett, 1952)

This issue contains three "Captain Marvel Jr." stories, and some other items. According to the GCD, following the information of Martin O'Hearn, all three of the Junior stories were written by William Woolfolk.

The first Junior story, "Capt. Marvel Jr. and The Space Voters", is election-themed. (1952 was a presidential election year, and according to DC Indexes the issue went on sale on October 17.) A presidential candidate called B.A. Naitram wins his party's nomination by running on a pro-war platform. Junior learns he and his campaign workers are Martians. After escaping a death-trap as Freddy - SPOILER WARNING - he exposes Naitram at a campaign rally and warns other Martians that if they don't get out of the country before the election they'll be arrested as spies. According to the GCD the story was drawn by Joe Certa.

The second Junior story introduced Vampira, whose return in The Marvel Family #85 I wrote about above. In the present story Vampira is a cabaret dancer in Washington who is known as "Vampira, queen of terror" because she dances with a gorilla. Junior saves a general from a gorilla at the Pentagon and realises the gorilla must have been her trained one when he learns it has escaped with plans for an upcoming offensive in Korea.  He smashes into her night club and proves she's a spy, but she tells him she's already sent the information about the offensive. SPOILER WARNING. Junior flies to Korea and saves the offensive, and then flies back to Washington and arrests her.

In the story in The Marvel Family #85, set in Korea, Vampira is described as an "enemy leader" and seems to be Korean: she's coloured orange, like the other Korean characters, and uses anti-foreigner rhetoric when speaking to them; her hairstyle is perhaps supposed to look Asian. Captain Marvel Jr. #116 describes her as "Vampira the Korean Queen of Terror" on its cover, but the story gives her Caucasian colouring and only calls her "Vampira, Queen of Terror" in its title. There are differences in her costume - here, it's the costume she dances in - and she has a different hairstyle. Rather than depicting her as a mastermind, the tale depicts her as a Mata Hari-type. She twice attempts to seduce Junior and gets turned down.

The GCD assigns the art of this story to Bud Thompson. I think I see his style in it. The cover, which the GCD also ascribes to Thompson, shows Captain Marvel Jr. smashing a Red tank.

The issue's third Junior story is "Capt. Marvel Jr. and The Scientist from the Future". A man from the future causes a bit of trouble with his technology until Junior manages to determine that he's a historian out to prove that a scientist of Junior's era had invented a method of making artificial diamonds. SPOILER WARNING. Junior tells him the science of his era knows of no way of doing this, but it turns out Professor Edgewise has just managed to create one. In the final panel Freddy says he's lost the formula. According to this Wikipedia article the first replicable methods for creating artificial diamonds were developed not long after this story appeared. The GCD ascribes this story to Thompson too. I'm not familiar enough with Thompson's work to judge.

The filler items in the issue are "Judge Smudge" and "Rubbernose Randolph". There are also two four-page comedic features with the same kind of pun-based humour. The first, "Canvasback", is about a boxer. The second, "Big Bow and Little Arrow", features two Indians.

In the text story a convict breaks jail in an attempt to make contact with an accomplice before the latter dies. This is bylined "John Martin", and the GCD says this was Rod Reed.

The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.

Space Busters #1 (Ziff-Davis,1952)

Space Busters lasted two issues. The series is set in the far future, against a background of war between Earthians and the alien Belzarians. The Space-Busters(1) are an elite corps. The main characters are Captain Brett Crockett, his love interest nurse Lieutenant April Wing, and the balding and moustached Sergeant Bolo. Crockett is a standard hero type.

In the first issue the Belzarians are represented as having conquered part of the solar system, and the fighting has to do with the Earth's attempt to free Mars. The Belzarians are drawn as human and are ruled by a human-looking empress, but they are also shown, in the third story, to have in their forces a race of hairy dwarfs.

In the opening story Crockett meets April and takes part in the Earth operation to establish a bridgehead on Mars. SPOILER WARNING. The commander of the operation, Senstral, betrays it to the Belzarians. Crockett and co. are captured, but break out and cause havoc that allows the operation to succeed. Senstral appears in most of the subsequent stories as a Belzarian commander. He reminded me of Baltar in the original version of Battlestar Galactica.

In the second story the Empress sends against the Space-Busters her "finest troops", the Valkyrie-like Battle Women. Crockett and his men are captured, but Crockett gets them out by sweet-talking their guard.

In the third story April is captured by the dwarfs, and Crockett rescues her with the help of Martian partisans.

There is also a non-series story in which a couple crash their spaceship on Venus, which has a Rome-like culture. The man has to fight a gladiatorial combat in an arena against the Emperor.

According to the GCD these stories were all drawn by Bernard Krigstein. The first story is signed by him, and the second story is in a similar style, but I have my doubts as to whether he drew the other two. The art of the first two stories is in a clear style and not very sophisticated. There's a Caniff influence in it, and some of the storytelling reminds me of Alex Toth. The art of the third story is not that different, but I think I can see George Tuska's hand in it, and towards the climax it has a strongly Kirbyish look in some panels, perhaps as a result of swiping. The non-series story doesn't have the same look at the first two tales.

The issue's remaining comics items are a two-page retelling of the story of Jules Verne's novels From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon, and a page on the Mount Palomar telescope. The text item is a biography of Jules Verne that stresses his prescience.


The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.

(1) The name is hyphenated in the first issue and not in the second.

There's also a page in the issue advertising Ziff-Davis's comics line-up. The blurb for Space Busters is "Daredevil adventures in the limitless void!" In two cases the titles are listed under different names to those which were used on the comics. Eerie Adventures is listed as Eerie Mysteries. Lars of Mars is listed as Crusader from Mars. In the last case I think the publisher should've gone with the alternative title, but Ziff-Davis's line was so short-lived, I don't know one can say it would've made a difference.

Ziff-Davis's covers were painted. The cover of Space Busters #1 was painted by Norman Saunders, and the cover of #2 is ascribed to Allen Anderson.

Space Busters #2 (Ziff-Davis, 1952)

In this issue Crockett is a commander, and in charge of the Space Busters. This is a change from #1, where he was a captain. The war is represented as an interstellar one rather than as confined to the solar system or Mars. Senstral appears, and is referred to as a traitor, but the Empress doesn't. These differences might be evidence that there had been a change of writers.

Like #1, the issue has three "Space Busters" stories. The first two are drawn by Murphy Anderson, and the third is signed by Marvin Stein, whose art in this period looked like Kirby's inked by Al Williamson. Anderson draws the Belzarians as aliens, Stein's are human. Stein draws April as fighting with the Space Busters.

In the first story the Space Busters establish an alliance with the inhabitants of a strategically important asteroid. In the second, "Remember Makano", the Space Busters avenge a raid on an outpost by raiding the palace of Balzar. In the third the Space Busters assist the resistance on a planet called Baldor.

In the non-series story an elderly officer in Earth's space fleet cracks under pressure during an engagement against an invading craft, but later redeems himself. The story has good art by John Prentice.

The issue's other comics items are a page depicting a Space Buster and his equipment - it's attractively drawn in a clear style, but I can't identify the artist - a page on life in the solar system drawn by Everett Raymond Kinstler ("We are quite certain of life on Mars, for our scientists have seen seasonal changes in coloration due to plant life!"), and another page drawn by Kinstler about the German rocket program during WWII.

The text story is on flying saucers, and endorses belief in them and their extraterrestrial origin. According to the GCD this was written by Harry Harrison. He worked in comics as an artist before he became a writer.

The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.

(1) It doesn't have the same Kirbyish look as the Kirbyish panels in the third story in #1, and the styles of the two stories are very different.

Commander Benson said:

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.

I suspect that Otto Binder continued to use the "Eando" name after his brother stopped writing because it was a name recognized by the readership.

I really enjoyed the Adam Link novel and the TV and comics adaptations. I didn't know there were additional stories.

Luke Blanchard said:

Don Winslow of the Navy #47 (Fawcett, 1947)

This issue contains four Don Winslow stories. In the first, he sails as a member of an Arctic expedition, and finds and brings back its leader after the latter breaks his ankle. In the course of doing this he fights and kills a polar bear with only a knife.

The Coca Cola commercials notwithstanding, it's my understanding that fighting a polar bear is pretty much like fighting a grizzly bear.

Except the polar bear is larger, heavier, and somewhat stronger.

Planet Comics #73 (Fiction House, 1953)

This was the last issue. For most of its run Planet Comics was a feature-based title: among it's long-running features were "The Lost World", "Space Rangers" and "Futura". According to the GCD #65-#70 each reprinted stories from a particular past issue. (In most cases only a selection of their features, as the page counts in the reprint issues were lower. The exception is #68, as the issue it reprinted, #40, had the same page count.) With #71 it started running new stories again, but it now featured mostly non-series stories. (#71 had a final "Space Rangers" story: perhaps it was left over from before the hiatus, or perhaps the editor flirted with the notion of continuing the series as the title's sole feature. The GCD lists a story from #71 and another from #72 as "Planetoid X" stories, but while the two stories both use that name, they are unrelated.)

#73 has five non-series stories. The cover, as the GCD points out, is not related to any of them.

The first story, "Cerebex", is about a giant robot that goes on a rampage and then creates an army of robots that it uses to destroy "all possible rivals for world domination". What makes this story special is its art, by Bill Benulis. This is both attractive and shows skill at storytelling. He would not have been out of place at early Silver Age DC.

The story, in its art and writing, reminded me very much of some of the stories from Ziff-Davis's Amazing Adventures. Ziff-Davis's line generally had good art. The stories have good ideas and good storytelling, but aren't as carefully-plotted or complexly-plotted as early Silver Age DC stories. Now, here's the interesting thing. The plot (but not the resolution) is basically the same as that of the "Computo" two-parter from Adventure Comics #340-#341. That story is often attributed to Jerry Siegel (albeit not always: we discussed this here). Siegel had an art director position at Ziff-Davis. So it might be that the resemblance in the writing I think I see is to stories Siegel wrote, and this is another of his stories. On the other hand, robot-tries-to-take-over-the-world is a standard SF plot, and Jerry Bails's Who's Who doesn't list Siegel as having done any work for Fiction House. Also, I can't be sure those Ziff-Davis stories were by Siegel. Anyway, the Ziff-Davis story I suggest comparing it to is "The Cosmic Brain!" from Amazing Adventures #3 (writer unknown, art by Leonard Starr).

The second story is "The Wonder-Warp", pencilled by A. Albert. This is a twist ending story, somewhat like an ACG story. The art, again signed, is by A. Albert.

The third story is "The Martian Plague", and is about Martians stealing Earth's water. This reads like a lesser DC story, partly because it was inked by Bernard Sachs. The GCD tentatively credits the pencils to Art Peddy.

The fourth story is "Strangers on Satellite C!". This reminded me of EC in a couple of ways. The splash panel has a Wally Woodish look and there are some disgusting alien monsters. There's also some EC-ish narration. It's not as mordant as an EC tale, though. The art, again signed, is by John Belcastro.

The final tale is "Among the Missing". This is a bit like an ill-put-together Charlton tale. It has a nice splash panel depicting seven alien cities floating in space. I think this imagery was likely inspired by James Blish's "Cities in Flight" stories, but in this tale the cities are dead cities. Two spacemen explore one of the cities in search of loot. The GCD tentatively credits the art to Benulis - it isn't as good as that of "Cerebex", but there are a couple of similar special effects so that might be right - and the inks to Jack Abel.

The issue can be read at Comic Book Plus.

This post displaced the thread Randy Jackson Re-Reads Steve Gerber's Howard the Duck from the home page.

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