Posts tagged ‘Don Cameron’

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.

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.

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