Posts tagged ‘Don Cameron’

Action 68 – Susie returns

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Susie Tompkins makes her second appearance in Action 68 (Jan. 44), which does everything to indicate that it is her first appearance.  I’m not sure why Don Cameron, Ira Yarborough and Stan Kaye felt it was important to pretend the earlier story did not exist.

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Susie is introduced to Clark Kent at the Daily Planet, and perhaps that is why she doesn’t seem to recognize him.  I mean, Lois can’t tell the difference between Clark and Superman due to their glasses, so perhaps there is a genetic abnormality in her family that prevents recognition in different situations.  Anyway, Susie immediately starts lying, telling Perry White that she caught a whale.

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Superman is enchanted by her, for some reason, and goes out of his way to make her story seem true.  Maybe just because Lois is always coming down on the girl, and as Clark, he feels her pain.  Whatever the reason, it’s the worst thing Superman could have done, as Susie learns that Superman will make her lies come true.  Hearing about Lois’ newspaper scoops, she decides to call ion one herself, about a forthcoming riot.

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Lois is angry and embarrassed when the story comes out under her byline.  Superman starts trying to find out what Susie overheard to spark the story, and discovers that her lie was, in fact, true, if only by fluke.  He stops the riot, and Lois’ reputation is restored.

It’s a couple of years before Susie returns, in the pages of Superman.

Action 67 – Superman plays matchmaker, and the Fiddler teaches his craft

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A oddly specific image, considering that it does not in any way reflect the Superman story in Action 67 (Dec. 43).

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Don Cameron, Sam Citron and George Roussos put Superman into the middle of a thirty year romantic quarrel in this story.  The military intend to build a base in Metropolis, but three people refuse to sell their houses.

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Two of the houses are occupied by a couple who had a silly fight when they were young, and have spends decades living two houses away from each other, but both refusing to apologize and patch things up. The other house is owned by hoods, so Superman gets the requisite crime and action in the story.

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But the lovers plotline even steals the show power-wise, as Superman spends a busy night moving and reconstructing the couple’s homes as they sleep.

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They wake to a merged mansion on the outskirts of the city, and finally end their fight, living happily for however many years they have left.

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The Fiddler returns in this Vigilante story by Joe Samachson and Mort Meskin, with inks by Joe Kubert.

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It’s one of the Fiddler’s better schemes, as he impersonates a music teacher, after arranging for him to go out of town.

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He cases the houses of the wealthy people he instructs, and then returns with his gang in the evenings to rob them.  Greg Sanders is asked to perform at one of these houses, and he and Stuff wind up on the scene, taking the Fiddler down.

 

 

 

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 65 – Superman spends money, and Zatara wakes up sleepy actors

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Cameron, Dobrotka and Roussos combine Superman with the plot of the movie Brewster’s Millions in Action 65 (Oct. 43).

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A dying millionaire  has two possible heirs, a responsible lad, and a wastrel.  He leaves all his money to the good boy, on the condition that he spend a million dollars the first day. If he fails, the money will go to the other one.  The Daily Planet runs a story on this, which attracts Clark’s attention, and Superman decides to help the boy.

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It makes for an enjoyable, but lightweight tale.  The rival heir tries to sabotage the other boy, which gives Superman some criminal activity to fight.  But that’s really secondary to the plot.

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Fox and Sulman tell a story about a director who tries to inspire his student actors using masks conveying emotion in this Zatara story.

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By far the most striking thing in this tale, for me, is the row of emotion masks.  They get used by criminals who put sleeping powder in them to knock out the students, but that’s not the important thing.  They bear a distinct resemblance to the Medusa Masks, introduced in the 60s with the second Psycho-Pirate, in a story also written by Gardner Fox.

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So the masks may well be the same as the Medusa Masks, which makes the story painfully ironic.  The criminals had something extremely powerful in their hands, but no idea what they had.

Action 64 – the Toyman debuts

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The Toyman makes his first appearance in Action 64 (Sept. 43), in a story by Don Cameron, Ed Dobrotka and George Roussos.

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Clark Kent and Lois Lane first encounter the Toyman in the park, as he hands out toys to children.  With no real motivation besides greed,he decides to turn his toy making skills to crime.  Curiously, he begins by sending a letter to Lois Lane, announcing his intent.

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The letter also gets Superman on his trail, but the Toyman’s crimes always leave bystanders in danger.  Superman is so busy taking care of them that the Toyman repeatedly gets away.  Lois Lane tracks him down, and gets captured, of course.  That gives Superman that extra impetus he apparently needed to capture the villain.

Despite appearing on the cover, I’m not sure whether Toyman was really planned to be a recurring character.  The story seems pretty basic.  He returns about six months down the road in the pages of Superman.

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 61 – Superman reveals his identity to Lois, the Fiddler returns, Congo Bill in Istanbul, and Zatara’s magic is duplicated

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It’s not a military cover on Action 61 (June 1943), but it’s not related to the story, either. Kind of a shame, as the cover is very effective.

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Jerry Siegel and Ed Dobrotka are behind this twisting and entertaining story.

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The story begins by introducing a wealthy young wastrel, Craig Shaw, who starts a fire at a nightclub for his own amusement.  Disaster is only averted by Superman. Lois and Clark were at the club, and Lois writes a scathing article about Shaw.

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Shaw is enchanted by Lois’ anger and outspokenness, no woman had ever talked to him that way before. They begin dating, as a worried Superman spies on Lois.  Shaw proposes marriage, and Lois accepts.

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This drives Superman near into a frenzy.  He decides to propose to Lois as well, as Clark.  And he reveals that he is Superman.  Lois refuses to believe him, and the story moves into slapstick, as Clark’s attempts to prove that he has powers keep backfiring on him.

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Then the situation gets even worse, as he discovers that Lois never had any interest in Shaw, and was just getting close to him for her story.  Shaw, meanwhile, proves himself to be much more criminal than anyone suspected.  Now Clark has to try to prove that he is NOT Superman, and winds up kidnapping and knocking out a man on the street in order to appear to be both men at once. Again, this type of story will be told many times in the future, but this early version is one of the best.

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The Fiddler returns to face the Vigilante again in this Cameron/Meskin/Paris story.

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This time the Fiddler accompanies his men to their crimes – no more need for subterfuge now that his identity is known.  He plays his music for inspiration and mood, rather than communicating instructions.

act_61_008 We discover that the Fiddler hates cats, and a howling kitten does a lot to help Vigilante and Stuff in this story.  Notice Vigilante’s motorcycle in the final panel.  This has become a much larger machine than it started out as.  There were no big dramatic changes with the cycle, more like small modifications from issue to issue, which will eventually create his famous cycle.

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There is another interesting deathtrap, an electric bed, which Vigilante and Stuff get tied to.  The cat proves critical to escaping it. The Fiddler returns a few months down the road.

act_61_010 Congo Bill has left Africa to fight the Nazis again, in this story by Samachason and Smalle.  Istanbul is the location for this tale.  Love the splash for the story.

act_61_011 The story itself is really a spy thriller, with Bill having to trap spies from the German embassy.  Not really any use of jungle skills or such.

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Gardner Fox and Joseph Sulman spread the powers around in this month’s Zatara story.

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A man, who must have particularly good hearing, realizes that Zatara is speaking backwards to cast his spells.  From having all manner of magic abilities early in his run, his repertoire has reduced and stabilized to the backwards talking by this point.  Still, it’s impressive that the man can figure this out simply by hearing Zatara.

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He tries the backwards speaking himself, and finds that it works sometimes, but not others.  His crime spree is not nearly as successful as he had hoped, and Zatara gets on his trail pretty fast.

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The story ends on a very odd panel, as Zatara explains why the man’s magic did not always work, an explanation that involves the man’s bugging eyes, and really makes very little sense.  Zatara has also used his magic to wipe the man’s mind of his secret.  Mind-wiping would seem to be a Zatara family trait.

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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