Posts tagged ‘Bernard Bailey’

Action 74 – Superman helps an impostor, and Americommando ends

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As the cover of Action 74 (July 1944) makes clear, the Superman story in this issue sits firmly in the realm of romantic comedy.  Ira Yarborough does show some criminal activity, but that’s not the core of the story.

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A clever weakling, Arthur Dribble, lures Superman into a suspended rubber room, locking him in order to impersonate him, using a suit filled with helium.  Superman is more intrigued than anything else, and discovers that Arthur is doing this in an attempt to win over the woman of his dreams, Bertha Bigge.

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Bertha winds up captured by hoods, who think she is Superman’s girlfriend, so Superman must rescue her, instead of Lois Lane.  Arthur’s attempts to solve a drought prove disastrous.

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But everything reaches a happy ending, as the two men work together to stop the flood Arthur created.  And Bertha is so pleased with the effort Arthur put into wooing her that she doesn’t care that he isn’t Superman.

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Greene and Baily bring the Americommando series to an explosive finale in this issue, and the splash page does not lie in announcing a death.

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Americommando is in disguise as Captain Brand, overseeing a bombing run aimed at the California coast.  Before he can do anything to sabotage it, he is unmasked by Dr. Ito.  He is brought aboard the plane, and strapped to the bomb.

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Tex manages to get free and fight his way into the cockpit, taking control of the plane.  Dr. Ito shoots him, but Tex releases the bomb doors, dropping Ito and the bombs into the ocean.  Tex passes out, but wakes up as the plane approaches San Francisco.

Although this is the final appearance of Tex Thompson in this era, he appears as a member of the All-Star Squadron in a couple of stories set during 1942.

Tex is shown in the Justice Society Returns miniseries to be back behind enemy lines as a German officer before the end of the war, which is backed up by the events in The Golden Age miniseries.  Although Golden Age is technically an Elseworlds, James Robinson considered it canonical during his run on Starman, and I tend to follow the train of thought that it is as well, meaning Tex makes his final appearance in its pages, captured and killed by the Ultra-Humanite.

 

Action 73 – Superman and the Hobby Robber, Stuff gives money to the Fiddler, Congo Bill in Canada, and Americommando vs Dr Ito

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Siegel and Citron pit Superman against the Hobby Robber in Action 73 (June 1944).  The cover does not directly tie in with the story, but is generic enough that one could stretch it to be symbolic of it.

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The Hobby Robber steals rare collections, and then ransoms them back to the owners.  This story attributes Clark Kent as collecting clocks.  Not that he has ever been shown to do this before, or after.

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Siegel does craft a nice scene.  Superman has laid a trap for the Robber, but Lois Lane has also picked up the trail, and sneaks into Clark’s apartment, hiding in one of his clocks.  Superman spots her in time to keep his identity a secret, but must then allow himself to be knocked out.  Lois gets discovered, and Superman figures he is sick of rescuing her, so he lets her die.  No, just checking to see you’re still awake.  He rescues her.  Again.

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At least the scene is a dramatic one, as the Hobby Robber tries to kill Lois by throwing her into a giant, man-eating plant.

Although this particular Hobby Robber never returns, Siegel will recycle the name later on for an early Superboy villain.

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The Fiddler returns in this story by Samachson, Meskin and Paris.

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The Fiddler teaches his gang to sing, part of his scheme to worm them into the house of a well-known millionaire with a soft touch.  In fact, the man is so willing to help the needy that he gives Stuff $50 when he sees him on the street, assuming the boy to be a homeless waif.  Perhaps Vigilante should buy Stuff some new clothes. The poor kid has been wearing the same thing for years.

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Stuff then happens across the Fiddler and his men.  In a really touching scene, Stuff gives the Fiddler the $50, in hopes that it will deter him from his next crime.  It doesn’t, but you have to admire the simple faith of the boy.

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The Fiddler and his men get taken in and fed by the millionaire, after hearing their plaintive songs.  But this is just part of their plan to steal his art treasures.  Stuff tells Vigilante about running into the men, and they arrive at the millionaire’s house just in time to stop the thefts.

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Congo Bill heads to Canada in this story, with art by Smalle.  You can tell it’s Canada because everything is covered in snow.  He is dealing with a man who is illegally selling guns to the natives, attempting to stir up a “tribal war.”  In Canada?

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The story claims to be set above the Arctic Circle, but shows natives dressed as if they were living on the plains.  They also seem impervious to the cold, running through the snow in loincloths.  It’s not an awful story, but doesn’t show much familiarity with Canada.

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Dr. Ito arrives in Tokyo to smoke out Americommando in this Greene and Baily tale.

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Ito suspects Captain Brand almost immediately, as well he should.  Americommando does little in the way of disguising himself, aside from his uniform.  Tex does pull off a clever ruse to keep his identity safe – rigging a drop of leaflets at the same time he is with Ito as Brand.

 

Action 72 – Superman helps the movers, and Americommando in Tokyo

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Another very specific cover image on Action 72 (May 1944), with no connection to the story inside.

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Siegel returns to these pages, with Ira Yarborough on the art, as Superman comes to the aid of a moving company suffering sabotage.

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On what must be a very slow day in Metropolis, Perry White assigns both Lois and Clark to do a story about the moving company – before any sabotage has happened.  It’s only when the reporters arrive that the first “accident” happens.  One of the crew is of German descent, and is suspected to be a Nazi saboteur.

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Siegel is to be commended for this story.  The villain is actually the head of a rival moving company, who is using the fear of saboteurs to cover his tracks. While many stories from this era have evil Nazi agents lurking everywhere, and most everyone with a German accent is a foreign agent, this story goes out of its way to show that leaping to conclusions helps no one except the actual criminals.

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Greene and Baily have the Americommando in Tokyo in the final few stories from his run.

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Tex once again adopts the guise of a Nazi officer, this time Captain Brand, and sets up shop in the German embassy.  It’s likely his most successful mission, as he manages to destroy a convoy of ships carrying fuel and supplies.  Americommando’s role in this is suspected, but not Brand’s.  The story ends as Tex learns that Dr. Ito has been called in.  Though why Ito would be still considered a competent man to hunt for Americommando is puzzling.

Action 66 – Superman faces a moral quandary, and Americommando in Burma

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Another military cover on Action 66 (Nov. 43).

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Cameron, Dobrotka and Roussos share a heart-warming Superman tale in this issue.

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The story begins with a blind millionaire, whose grandson falls into a river and vanishes. He wants to believe the boy is still alive, and offers a huge reward for his return.  The Daily Planet runs a story about this, and Clark immediately suspects that criminals will take advantage of the situation.  As, indeed, they do, fobbing off another boy as the missing child.  Superman is onto the scheme, but the old man is so happy to have the boy back, that Superman doesn’t want to break his heart, and isn’t sure what to do.

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Surprisingly, this does not end with the revelation that the boy really is the missing child.  The boy is a fake, and the old man even knows that, but is content to adopt him and raise him anyway.  Superman scoops up the hoods and throws them in jail.

But what happened to the missing boy anyway?  His body was never found, and Superman discovered a way the boy could have survived.  Poor kid is still out there, broke and starving, and his grandfather doesn’t even care anymore.

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Greene and Baily send Americommando east with this issue, heading to Burma.

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I find the story uncomfortably awkward. It contrasts how much better the Burmese were under British subjugation than under Japanese subjugation.  No one seems to think the Burmese should just be left to run their country on their own.

Action 63 – Superman loses his memory, the Dummy times 3, the Three Aces end, and Americommando kicks Hitler in the face

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Quite the dramatic wartime cover for Action 63 (Aug.43).

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Don Cameron and Ira Yarborough come up with a new way to weaken Superman in this story.

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A collision of two stars in space sends cosmic radiation towards the Earth.  When it reaches the planet, Superman is literally knocked off his feet by it.  He falls to the street, and winds up with no memory of who he is.

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Some hoods see him fall, but as he is in his Clark Kent clothes, do not realize it is Superman.  But his strength and resilience, and lack of memory, make the hoods convince their hapless victim that he can impersonate Superman.  So Superman winds up joining a criminal gang.  Superman’s ethics do cause him doubts, but he believes he could not possibly be the real Superman, or he would not have lost his memory.

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Lois Lane gets involved, distressed to see Superman committing crimes.  A falling meteor, which he shatters, restores his memory.  Superman rounds up the thieves, and pretends that his time with them was  just an act to gain evidence.

A pretty lame explanation, but people are glad to accept it.

With no kryptonite yet, this story was an early attempt at weakening or altering his powers.

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Cameron and Meskin bring back the Dummy to pester Vigilante in this story.

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The Dummy is now part of an act, with two other identically dressed men – or are they actually dummies?  The story introduces this idea, but really doesn’t play on it much until the last few pages.  The set-up also has the Dummy and Greg Sanders performing at the same venue the same evening, but aside from the Vigilante seeing the three Dummies perform, nothing happens on that night either.

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Stuff gets captured, in typical sidekick fashion, and Vigilante discovers that the middle dummy really is a dummy.  The tallest one seems to be a real person, but we never get that confirmed, or find out who he is.  Definitely better in concept than in execution.

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The Three Aces have their final adventure in this issue, battling the Japanese.

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It’s a serviceable war story.  They hold off a Japanese assault.  All seems well for the three men, but since their series ends here, and they are never seen again, I believe this was their last successful mission, and they died on their next one.  They are all old enough to have fought in the World War 1, so their reaction time would not have been the best. Kind of amazing they survived in the war as long as they did.

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After travelling around through occupied Europe and helping out the resistance groups, the Americommando returns to Germany in this story by Greene and Baily.

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This story has Americommando’s greatest challenge, to steal plans that Hitler carries on himself at all times.  He succeeds by turning Hitler’s propaganda against him accepting a challenge to fight a Nazi champion in the ring.  Actual German heavyweight champion Max Schmelling appears in the story, although he is not the one to fight Tex.  This is sort of sad, part of the anti-Schmelling view the media played up during the war.  In fact, though he was drafted into the service, Schmelling was not a Nazi, and even risked his life to save two Jewish children.  At any rate, Tex triumphs in the ring, and not only escapes the Nazis after the match, but kicks Hitler in the face while stealing the plans.

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Tex gets a new sidekick in this issue as well, a Greek prisoner of war, Poppy, who is his assistant during the match, provided by the Nazis.  Poppy joins Tex on his next mission, in Russia, but is not seen after that.  I expect he returned home and worked with the resistance until war`s end.

Action 62 – Superman fights Nazis, Americommando in Romania, and Congo Bill in the Arctic

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Action 62 (July 1943) does put Superman into a World War 2 adventure, but the cover does not depict the actual story.

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Don Cameron and Ed Dobrotka take an interesting route to telling a World War 2 story with Superman.  It was difficult to show the heroes in battle.  The course of actual events could make the stories very inappropriate.

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This one starts off in the distant future, a happy, peaceful one.  The story is told in flashback, but set in 1943.  Lois Lane is doing an article on a fisherman, Captain Zeb.  She and the rest of the crew get captured by Nazis.

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Superman finds an underwater Nazi base, and destroys it.

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The last couple of panels of the story show Superman alive in this distant future, over 200 years old, and not appearing to have aged a bit.  This may be the first time that Superman’s longevity has been discussed.  I will keep an eye out when I come to his own book.

 

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Americommando is in Romania in this story by Greene and Baily., with Dr Ito hot on his trail.  The story has Tex working with the resistance movement again, helping to blow up an oil plant.

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There is a good, climatic fight on a train between Americommando and Ito, who appears to fall to his death *he’ll be back.)  Tex no longer wears his mask as Americommando, so seems to have completely given up on trying to disguise himself.

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Congo Bill’s story is once again war-based.  Samachson and Smalle have him up in the Aleutian Islands, helping to defend a fort against a Japanese assault.

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The story is good,nothing really special.  But I included it simply because it has taken Congo Bill about as far from the Congo as he could get.

Action 58 – Superman vs Dr Menace, Vigilante vs the Dummy, Americommando vs Dr Ito, and Congo Bill vs the Nazis

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Oh, it’s that infamous “slap a Jap” cover on Action 58 (March 1943).

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Jerry Siegel is joined by Sam Citron on pencils and John Sikela on inks for this unusual tale.

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An aging actor is approached by Dr. Menace, who insists he can make the actor young again.  He undergoes the surgery, only to discover that he has been left with a hideous face, and must wear a mask to appear normal.  Although really, what could one expect from a man named Dr. Menace?

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Menace forces the man to commit crimes while wearing a leopard skin, and sends notes to the police and the papers, claiming to be the thief, and calling himself Adonis.

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Clark and Lois get on the case when the Adonis letters arrive, and eventually Superman corners the two men, who wind up killing each other.

The final panel is such a let-down though, never showing what the man looked like after the operation.

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The Dummy is the most enduring villain of the Vigilante.  He had been introduced in the pages of Leading Comics, battling the Vigilante as he functioned as one of the Seven Soldiers of Victory.  This story, by Don Cameron, Mort Meskin and Charles Paris, was the villain’s second appearance, and first in the pages of Action Comics.  Chronologically, this story follows the Dummy’s appearances in All-Star Squadron.

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The Dummy breaks out of prison with the help of Bobo, a relatively dumb criminal.  He is content to follow the Dummy’s instructions, as he begins a new crime spree.

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The Vigilante and Stuff get on the Dummy’s trail.  Bobo traps the heroes, but gets tossed into the pit himself by the Dummy, who has tired of him.  Bobo quickly switches sides, helping the Vigilante escape.  In turn, Vigilante allows Bobo to give the Dummy a spanking before taking him back to prison.

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Dr. Ito returns yet again, hunting the Americommando in this Greene and Baily tale.

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They are both still in France, and for some reason Ito is also running a concentration camp.  Americommando is working with the French Resistance, and this time Ito does not even really get close to catching him.  Still, from the next issue, Americommando moves on from France, travelling to other occupied countries.

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Congo Bill returns to Africa in this story by Samachson and Smalle.

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Bill comes to the aid of Joan Reid, whose father has been killed by an “outlaw” native tribe.  Bill discovers that the tribe has been supplied by guns by the Nazis.

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This story manages to weave the African adventure and war elements together better than most, as a stampeding herd of elephants trample the Nazi general, as Bill rescues Joan from man and beast.

 

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