Action 54 – Superman vs Captain Ironfist, the Three Aces identify aircraft, Americommando gets his commission, and Congo Bill in Central America
Great World War 2 cover for Superman on Action 54 (Nov. 42).
The story, by Siegel and Sikela, even maintains the maritime theme, if not the actual watercraft or enemy. Captain Ironfist is the villain of the issue, a really interesting creation.
The story spends a long time setting up Stanley Finchcomb, obsessed with his pirate ancestor since childhood. The ghost of Ironfist possesses him, and sets him on a life of crime.
Although he captains a sailing ship, he forces his men to take over steamers. They succeed, though I wonder how they manage to board the much larger ships. Captured Lois rescued is and be must.
Ironfist is not ultimately defeated by Superman, but by the ghost of Stanley’s father, for bringing shame on the family name. Stanley dies, and presumably ends the line of descent, as Ironfist never appears again. His supernatural nature could have made him a really interesting villain.
The Three Aces story in this issue continues to see the flyers fighting the Japanese in the Asian sphere.
The story makes a point of teaching the reader about the Japanese Nakajima plane, and the Allied Wildcat fighter, as well as explaining a fair bit of the lingo pilots used. The fact that the Japanese plane is credited as “highly maneuverable” while being slower than the US planes I found a striking bit of honesty at this time of patriotic propaganda.
With this issue the series truly does become Americommando. It is also by far my favourite story out of Tex Thompson’s entire run. Joseph Greene scripted this Bernard Baily tale.
Tex is secretly brought to FDR himself, and ordered to undergo extensive training to become the Americommando, proficient with all weaponry, able to pilot planes and tanks, and multilingual. Bob is requested to stay behind and fight crime as Fat Man, and this is his final appearance, unless one considers The Golden Age miniseries from the mid-90s as canonical. Which I do, despite the Elseworlds label on it.
The training sequence is well done, with Mr America’s spinning head helping to convey the massive chore in the brief time span.
The last panel on the page above is duplicated in two other stories, both by Roy Thomas. The scene is shown as part of the Mr. America story in Secret Origins, and later shown in an expanded form in the pages of Young All-Stars. Various heroes are added to the shadowy group saluting him.
To Tex’s surprise, his first mission is to impersonate a German officer, and the story ends with him being flown in, to be dropped behind enemy lines.
Joe Samachson and Edwin Small take the reins of the Congo Bill series with this issue, and his wartime adventures abruptly end. Now, he is in Central America, of all places.
Bill deals with an unknown tribe and a secret idol. The tribe’s leader is really a white explorer who has been hording the gold for himself. Not a great story.