Zatara gets his second, and final, cover appearance in Action 14 (July 1939). The image even represents his story! Superman once again gets his little bullet to the side of the cover.
Siegel and Shuster bring the Ultra-Humanite back in this story, though that’s not clear until the last few pages. I guess the idea was to keep him like a Professor Moriarty, in the background. While this was a common trick in novels to keep a powerful villain shadowy and ominous, it does not work as well in these stories.
This story starts off dealing with an attempted murder in the subway system.
Superman’s inability to fly comes up again. He tries scaring a confession out of one hood by dangling him out a window, only to have his compatriots push Superman all the way out.
The bad guys start to flee, with Superman in hot pursuit. Only when their car vanishes does it become clear something big is going on.
And it’s the Ultra-Humanite, back for the last couple pf pages, and another woefully inadequate death-trap. The Ultra-Humanite explains his survival, using a parachute, but the experience was clearly traumatic for him, as he has lost what little hair he had. The red headed assistant, who may be Lex Luthor, is at his side again.
Superman escapes the death-trap, and the Ultra-Humanite escapes Superman, plotting his revenge in the final panel.
Pep Morgan’s voyage home continues in this story, by Guardineer.
The ship gets caught in a terrible storm, and it does not help matters any that one of the mutineers is still on board, killing off members of the crew.
The ship begins to sink, and Pep gets the opportunity to show of some of his athletic prowess. Not only does he row the lifeboat, he dives in to rescue the pilot of a seaplane that has also crashed as a result of the storm.
Clip Carson, Soldier of Fortune, was created by Bob Kane, debuting less than a month after Batman. Clip travels to exotic locations, fighting even more exotic villains. This should have been a big hit, but maybe it’s the giant grin always on Clip’s face, or his constant upbeat chatter, but he fails to be a hero you are interested in.
His first three-parter sees him in Egypt, meeting archaeologist Jim Blake, on the track of buried pharonic treasure.
There is some really good art by Kane in this strip, better than his work on Rusty and his Pals.
The story continues in the next issue.
Bernard Baily has also notably improved, as this issue Tex Thompson demonstrates.
The story is not the greatest. Bored, Tex puts an ad in the paper, looking for people to help, as Bob Daley takes a short vacation. Tex goes to see a woman concerned about her father, but he barely learns what the case is about before they get attacked.
Tex wakes up, to find a different woman there, insisting that Tex was drunk, and there never was any other woman. Tex has no idea what is going on.
Bob shows up, which helps Tex get a grip on his sanity.
The resolution to the story becomes tortuously convoluted, but there are some great moments along the way. The bandaged patient, really the first woman, now held captive, is straight out of The Lady Vanishes, and I do think Hitchock’s early films influenced this one-shot story.
Hey, whatever happened to Chuck Dawson? I wrote about him in the first issue, but haven’t touched on his series since. Well, that’s largely because it’s very repetitive, even the art.
A serial has been running, with Chuck trying to get his land back, as I mentioned before, but long the way Chuck discovers Burwell is sending out men to take over the Diamond H Ranch, and heads there to warn them, and of course help them battle Burwell’s men. The daughter of the rancher, Virginia, gets captured, and the foreman, Zebe, joins with Chuck to find and rescue her.
This sort of ties up with this issue. The Diamond H Ranch is saved, and Zebe and Virginia are re-united, but Chuck is no closer to getting vengeance or his land.
Zatara hears of the Fountain of Youth while at the Explorer’s Club, and sets out to find it in this Guardineer tale.
Zatara leads an expedition to the lost “Red City.” It doesn’t go nearly fast enough for him, and he seems to have remembered his flying spell, which speeds things up.
He encounters the mysterious snake woman from the cover, but she is really just a decoy, not the guardian of the Fountain.
Zatara dispenses with the snakes, and uses his magic to draw the location of the well from the mind of the guardian.
Zatara sends Tong in to retrieve the water from the Fountain. What are servants for, after all? The water does seem to make Tong get younger. But the water itself warns them not to drink it. Though Zatara and Tong make it back safely, presumably with the water, they do not drink it.