Posts tagged ‘Don Cameron’

Action 119 – Clark Kent pretends to be Superman, Zatara powers up a piper, and Vigilante rides the jet-aquacycle

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Edmond Hamilton and Win Mortimer tell an early version of a common tale, as Clark Kent has to pretend to be Superman, in Action 119 (April 1948).

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A series of robberies using a helicopter are the crime motivating this tale.  Superman does not want Lois on the case, figuring it is too dangerous, and lies to her, saying he will be out of town, in hopes that this will discourage her.  After 10 years, you think he would know better.  Lois forces Clark to dress as Superman and accompany her, to scare away any dangerous men they encounter.  The difference in physique between Clark and Superman is addressed in this story, and explained by Superman’s super muscle-control.

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Superman gets through the case through a mix of outright lies, and ingenuity. He manages to duplicate a few of his super-stunts right in front of Lois’ eyes, though she gains no admiration for Clark’s resourcefulness.  At the end, she simply condescends that Superman wouldn’t have needed to come up with his clever solutions.

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Zatara’s story in this issue, by Samachson and White, is better than the series has been in a long time.

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A broke but honest piper uses his music, and some concealed gas, to lure and capture some wanted men.  Zatara is impressed, and endows the man with the power to create “magic music.”  That’s kind of vague, and indeed, the music functions in a variety of ways, creating illusions, even transforming criminals into rats.

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Zatara gives the man complete credit for the big criminal round up, and nothing indicates that these powers will wear off.

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Don Cameron, Mort Meskin and George Roussos bring back the Rainbow Man for an adventure so demanding, it requires Vigilante to use BOTH his sidekicks!  Yes, Stuff and Billy Gunn, together at last!

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To be fair, Stuff falls into the hands of the Rainbow Man right at the top of the story, so Billy Gunn gets most of the actual sidekick time in this tale.  Rainbow Man captures Stuff more or less at random.  He does not recognize the boy, which is very odd, considering how many encounters they have had, and  that Stuff wears no disguise.  Perhaps it’s just that Stuff has become increasingly white which throws him off.

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Vigilante’s motorcycle shows itself to be as good as a sidekick, as it becomes a “jet-aquacycle” – capable of travelling on the water.

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Rainbow Man? Some more colour crimes, of course, but he almost gets lost amid everything else in this tale.

As the underscript on the final page indicates, Vigilante is also now starring in a series in the new Western Comics.

Action 109 – The Prankster wipes out currency, Congo Bill protects elephants, and Billy Gunn returns

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John  Sikela does the art on the Prankster’s latest scheme, in Action 109 (June 1947).

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The Prankster releases a gas in the mint that wipes out all the printing on the money, leaving everyone with blank notes.  Chaos sweeps the US.

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The government turns to Superman, who finds some gold meteors, flings them to Earth, and melts them down, turning them into money.  I wonder if this story is meant to be some commentary on the gold standard?

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What makes the story fun is Superman’s scam on the Prankster.  The Prankster is buying all the blank currency for pennies, clearly because he intends to restore the printing on it.  Superman pretends to help, bringing him huge amounts of blank paper – but he keeps selling the Prankster the same paper over and over – and it isn’t even the real money, but fake stuff Superman had printed up.

Once the real money is restored, the story doe snot address what happens with the massive gold reserves Superman just created.  Are they spread around for the good of humanity? I doubt it.

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Congo Bill gets a really solid African adventure in this story by Samachson and Smalle, aiding a tribe that protects the elephants in their territory from poachers.

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The tribe gets forced by the poachers to build fake elephant skeletons, creating a phony elephants burial ground, but the more interesting thing is the backstory between Bill and the tribe, who made him a member after he saved their leader.

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Some really nice art on the elephants as well.

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Billy Gunn. not seen in this strip for years, returns in this story by Don Cameron and George Roussos.

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Still in Times Square, Billy meets two former Texas Rangers, and convinces them to get jobs with the police.

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Together the Rangers, Vigilante and Billy Gunn stop some thieves.  Stuff is nowhere to be seen in this story, but in a previous tale, he was given his own radio show spin-off from Greg’s show, so I assume this is the night he is recording.

Action 107 – J Wilbur Wolfingham in 1972

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Don Cameron and Ira Yarborough work on the Superman story in Action 107 (April 1947), which doesn’t really have anything to do with the cover.

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The story centres on con man J Wilbur Wolfingham, who opens the story by catching a cat.  For a con man, he is remarkably unaware of his surroundings, as he is being watched by Clark Kent, who turns into Superman to rescue him, and Wolfingham noticed nothing.

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Wolfingham is using the cat in a scam to put people into suspended animation, while their money accumulates over the years, so they will wake up rich.  His system is a fake, but Superman makes Wolfingham think it actually works, and pulls a huge con on him.

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With dozens of people helping him, Superman convinces Wolfingham that he has been awakened from suspended animation in 1972.  So many people did this, that no one kept working, nothing new was produced, and their vast riches are valueless.

Of course, once Superman’s con is revealed, there is no reason for Wolfingham to change his tactics, but he is apparently so traumatized by the experience that he does.

Action 102 – Mr. Mxyztplk’s magic lamp

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Don Cameron, Ira Yarborough and Stan Kaye bring Mr. Mxyztplk back in Action 102 (Nov. 46), as the imp learns about the legend of Aladdin’s lamp, and decides to create one himself.

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Mr. Mxyztplk gives people their wishes, but in his fashion.  When people discover their wishes have become nightmares, they beg for things to return to normal, but Mxyztplk refuses.

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It’s Lois Lane who outwits the imp, rather than Superman.  She asks for three wishes, and then uses them to remove Mxyztplk’s powers, and have him encased in steel.  With no way to escape, the imp has little choice but to say his name backwards, and return to the 5th Dimension.

 

Action 85 – The Toyman returns

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While the cover of Action 85 (June 1945) goes for humour, the Superman story inside is not one of the “funny” ones, that have become so common recently.

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The Toyman returns, in this story by Don Cameron and Ed Dobrotka, pulling a series of robberies, in which he only takes items made of jade.

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The first robbery in the story is the best, as the Toyman surrounds a ship with deadly toy boats.  Lois Lane is on board, sent to do a story on the cruise, while Clark is assigned to the Toyman, and winds up scooping Clark on his own story.

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At one point the Toyman blows up a train bridge, expecting the engineer to stop the train, so he can rob it. The Toyman is shocked when the train does not stop, and upset at the idea of the passengers dying.  Superman repairs the bridge in time, but it is still notable that the Toyman is very much not a killer in these days, no matter how often he threatens Lois.

The stolen jade pieces turn out to form a map to hidden loot, which Superman retrieves and returns.

Action 81- Superman saves a theme park, Congo Bill is back in Canada, Stuff learns magic, and Zatara in Rio

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A New Year’s cover on Action 81 (Feb. 45).  Considering that the end of World War 2 was in sight, the cover seems very appropriate.

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Superman gets cast in another light-hearted but enjoyable story, by Ira Yarborough.

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Superman helps a millionaire build Playland Isle, a theme park for children.  His heirs think it’s a waste of money. The millionaire promptly dies, although his body is not found.  The will disinherits the heirs, unless they can prove the theme park is dangerous.  Not too hard to see where this story is going.

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Lois and Clark come to inspect the park, and Lois goes undercover as a little girl, in a hilarious disguise.  The heirs have hired goons to sabotage the park, although they come to regret their actions as the day goes on.

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The most is made of both the park and Superman’s speed, as he defuses bombs on a variety of attractions, all timed to go off at once.

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The park’s friendly Santa Claus turns out to to be the millionaire, who faked his death to teach his heirs the value of not blowing up theme parks, or something like that.

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Congo Bill is back in Canada in this story by Ellsworth and Daly.  I think it’s set in what was then the Northwest Territories, although the story describes it as “Hudson’s Bay country.”

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Congo Bill is pursuing diamond thieves, who performed the robbery in Toronto – the city is even named in the story!  Sometimes I have a problem with Congo Bill stories set far from Africa that make no use of the lead characters skills, but in this one he gets to show his abilities with a dogsled, so that works for me.

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Samachson and Meskin give Stuff a more important role than usual in this issue.

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Stuff has been learning magic tricks, which he entertains Greg Sanders with.  He hasn’t mastered it yet, and is better with card tricks than animals.

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They go to an exhibition of lightweight, futuristic furniture, which is apparently so valuable it is worth stealing.  Vigilante and Stuff get captured, but Stuff shows that he has learned the first principle of magic, misdirection, and keeps the hoods entertained while Vigilante sneaks up behind them.

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Later, Stuff manages to hold off half the gang, simply by entertaining them with card tricks, as Vigilante takes down the rest of the thieves.  A really good role for Stuff, and the magic tricks are well-used.

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Zatara gets involved in a jewel smuggling plot in this story by Cameron and White.

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Zatara is on a cruise down to Rio when the jewels go missing.  He suspects they have been tossed into the harbour, and heads down to retrieve them, winding up rescuing a man from an octopus with really emotive eyes.

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Although Zatara appears to be underwater for most of the story, the water itself is “parting” around him, which explains why his top hat remains comfortably in place throughout the story.

 

Action 80 – Superman vs Mr Mxyztplk, and Congo Bill on vacation

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Don Cameron and Ira Yarborough bring back Mr. Mxyztplk, the 5th dimensional sprite introduced a few months earlier in the pages of Superman, for his second appearance, in Action 80 (Jan. 45).

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Mr. Mxyztplk is fully aware of Superman’s secret identity as Clark, but has no interest in exposing him. He really just wants to play.  It’s just that his way of “playing” involves tormenting and annoying people.

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Lois Lane makes the mistake of insisting that the previous encounter with Mr Mxyztplk did not really happen, and the imp toys with her until she admits he exists.

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Because the imp’s other-dimensional “magic” can do pretty much anything, the character is never made truly evil or malevolent.  And his stories are always visually dynamic.

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Superman tricks him into saying his own name backwards, and uses a simple but effective ruse in this one, pretending to have forgotten the name.

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Congo Bill goes on vacation in this story by Frederic Ellsworth and John Daly.  One has to wonder what a world-traveller does while on vacation, or where they go.  The answer turns out to be Hubb City, an otherwise unremarkable location in the US.

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Bill goes to the park, and sees the reservoir being drained.  This puts him on the trail of criminals trying to retrieve evidence hidden there earlier.  So a “vacation”for Congo Bill just means solving crime in a city instead of in the wild.

Action 79 – Superman vs J Wilbur Wolfingham, the Fiddler teaches birds to sing, and a charm against Zatara?

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J Wilbur Wolfingham, a frequent adversary in the pages of Superman, makes the cover of Action 79 (Dec. 44), the first time he appears in this book.

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Sadly, it’s really not one of his better stories.  Don Cameron and Ira Yarborough seem to be going through the paces on this one.  Wolfingham buys up a lot of land, then convinces the seller that there is gold on the property, so they will buy it back at higher prices.

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Superman outwits Wolfingham, and the land owners learn that there is silver, not gold, under their land.  And Wolfingham winds up broke, if not in prison.

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Wolfingham is always a con artist, but usually a better one.  The look of his character is based on W.C. Fields.

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Joe Samachson and Mort Meskin also seem a little tired in the Vigilante story.  The splash page is great, and the story idea itself is pretty good.

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The Fiddler has figured out how to teach birds to sing like humans, and puts his teaching skills on the market.  He cases the homes of those who hire him – essentially the same set-up as when he impersonated the music teacher.

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From there on, the story is all the usual formula.  Vigilante and Stuff fall into his hands.  Fiddler puts them in a deathtrap, from which they escape.  They defeat him and send him back to prison.

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And finally, in this issue I find somewhat disappointing, comes a Zatara story by Fox and White that almost makes me angry.

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A man claims to have figured out how to neutralize Zatara’s magic, and sells hoodlums a special box, containing the secret.  More amazingly, this winds up working, and the bad guys are indeed immune to Zatara’s spells.

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Zatarais mystified, but shows off some other abilities, which he uses to make some deadly dogs turn into friendly and helpful allies.

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Where this story gets me is the explanation.  The “secret” turns out to be ear plugs – and the idea behind this that if one cannot hear Zatara’s spells, they will have no effect. This makes absolutely no sense.  Often his spells are cast an inanimate objects, or on people at a distance, who could not possibly hear him.

Thankfully, this does not become Zatara’s “weakness.”

Action 77 – The Prankster’s newspaper stand, the Rainbow Man goes colour-blind, and Zatara vs Pan

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Don Cameron and Ed Dobrotka give the Prankster one of his more devious schemes in Action 77 (Oct.44).

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The Prankster takes over a newsstand in the business centre of town, and makes a deal with a failed entrepreneur.  The Prankster sells men fake copies of the Daily Planet, with news of the destruction of their factories or resources, and the businessman then quickly buys their company at a low price.

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Of course, it’s not long before the Planet gets involved.  Lois Lane and Clark Kent both have their names attached to phony stories.  Superman figures out what has happened, but the Prankster has another twist to his plan, forcing his dupe to sell the companies to him for pennies, so the Prankster can then sell them back to their owners at hugely inflated rates.

Superman then steals what the Prankster has bought, making everything worthless again.  It takes a while, but Superman finally makes sure that everyone owns what they did at the start, and the Prankster is back in prison, for a few months at least.

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Mort Meskin gives the Rainbow Man a really hard time in this month’s Vigilante story.

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The Rainbow Man’s men take advantage of the lax security when their boss is taken to the hospital, and break him out.  Vigilante and Stuff learn from the doctor that the Rainbow Man really is quite sick, but doesn’t realize it.

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In an enjoyable twist, Rainbow Man’s illness gives him colour-blindness.  Ignoring his own men’s objections, Rainbow Man wears a green suit to match others wearing red.  Vigilante spots him immediately, but wonders what his motive is in wearing the wrong colour.

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Eventually Vigilante figures out the colour-blindness, but Rainbow Man basically does himself in, stopping his car at a green light, thinking that it’s red.

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In the best Zatara story in a long, long time, Gardner Fox and William White pit the hero against the Greek god Pan. For his own amusement, Pan creates a coin that makes the owner’s every wish come true.  Pan ensures that the coin eventually winds up with criminals.

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For a while now, Zatara has been casting complex spells simply by saying them normally, and the “be it so” backwards.  Kind of a cheap shortcut.

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Still, Zatara does an impressive job outwitting Pan and the gang of thieves.

Action 71 – Valentine’s Day for Superman, Vigilante and Rainbow Man are polite, and Congo Bill in the desert

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Don Cameron and Ira Yarborough give Jimmy Olsen his first major role in this book in Action 71 (April 1944), in a story that works its way into all-out farce.

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Jimmy wants to impress Betty Roxmore, and buys what is, for him, an expensive present.  Superman decides to give Lois Lane an insulting present, and then something nice as Clark, to move her affections towards the identity he wants her to respond to.  But there is also a phony count, and a diamond necklace.  And then ALL the gifts get mixed up.

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Mix-ups and romantic misunderstandings galore in this silly but enjoyable story.  Jimmy does wind up impressing Betty, with Superman’s help.  But being the hero does not work as well for Clark, as Lois winds up thinking he was the one behind the insulting present, not Superman.

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The Rainbow Man escapes from prison to pester the Vigilante once again, in this story by Samachson and Meskin.  Rainbow Man no longer wears his colourful shirt, but his colour-themed crimes do persist.

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Greg Sanders is performing at a society function, and spots the Rainbow Man from the stage. But he does nothing, simply finishes his set, before leaving and changing to Vigilante.  Rainbow Man spots the hero, but rather than fleeing, gets a group of fans to start talking to him.  Vigilante stops his pursuit of Rainbow Man to chat with his fans.

This is so low-key it’s almost laughable.

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Eventually things do get hopping, as Vigilante figures out Rainbow Man’s art thefts, replacing them with forgeries which he sells as originals.

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Congo Bill is back in the desert in this story, illustrated by Smalle.  A cheetah (which doesn’t look very much like a cheetah) winds up becoming his ally and saviour in this tale.

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But I didn’t include this story because of the cheetah.  Rather, this is the first Congo Bill story in a very long time that is neither a World War 2 adventure, nor a globe-trotting excursion.  Bill is back in Africa, fighting with and against the native tribes.

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