Posts tagged ‘Ed Dobrotka’

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 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 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 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 59 – Superman meets Susie, and the Vigilante meets the Fiddler

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Superman meets Lois’ niece Susie in this issue, but not inside a Nazi tank, despite the cover for Action 59 (April 1943).

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The story itself, by Siegel, Sikela and Dobrotka, bears no resemblance to the style of Susie’s later stories.  Susie would come to be known as a “teller of tall tales,” to be polite.

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In this story, Lois enlists Clark as an emergency babysitter.  We learn that Susie is the daughter of Lois’ sister, although that woman is not named.  As Susie’s last name is Tompkins, that at least gives us the father’s name.

Clark starts reading Susie the story of Cinderella, but falls asleep while doing so.

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The rest of the story relates the Cinderella story, with Susie aged into the lead role, and Superman standing in for the fairy godmother.

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There are some men trying to kill the prince, which gives Superman an opportunity for some action.  At the end, Clark wakes, and Susie and Lois are both amused that Clark would dream that he is Superman.

Susie returns next year in this book.

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Mort Meskin and Charles Paris introduce a new foe for the Vigilante in this issue, the Fiddler.  Although superficially similar, this is quite a different character from the better known one, the Flash villain introduced a few years down the road.

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This Fiddler passes himself off as a harmless old street musician, while secretly communicating with his criminal gang through his music.

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Even after his gang winds up in a fight with Vigilante and Stuff, they have no idea that the “witness” they question is really the leader of the gang.

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Later, as Vigilante and Stuff stop a shipboard robbery, Greg hears the same music, and recognizes the man’s voice.  Stuff appears to get shot, but misses the bullet by falling overboard, and swims back in time to save Vigilante.

The Fiddler is captured and sent to prison, but returns in a couple of months anyway.

 

Action 55 – Superman and L’il Abner, and Americommando in Berlin

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Superman helps build an airplane on the cover of Action 55 (Dec. 42), but has a lot more fun inside.

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Siegel, Sikela and Dobrotka go for a change of pace with this issue, as Superman deals with characters based on those from the comic strip L’il Abner, as well as an artist based on Al Capp.

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Al Hatt is a newspaper cartoonist for the Daily Planet, who has run out of ideas for his strip.  He heads out to a cabin in the country, and gets distracted by the romantic antics of a young hillbilly couple – clearly based on L’il Abner and Daisy Mae.

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He begins a strip about them in the Planet, which becomes a huge success.  The story then plays off the biggest tease in the original series at the time – Daisy Mae’s attempts to marry L’il Abner, and the readership rooting for it.

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Just as in the original series, an evil woman is brought to lure the boy away, and other detriments are caused by those who are working against the cartoonist.  It’s an incredibly silly tale, but a lot of fun, and really immersed in the source material.  Siegel was clearly a big fan.

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Green and Baily send Americommando on his first mission in this issue.  He arrives in Berlin, and hooks up with the local resistance, and adopts his identity as Gestapo captain Otto Riker.

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The disguise proves difficult right from the start, as the resistance leader is arrested, and Tex has to stand by and allow the execution.

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He gets into his Americommando garb (which just happens to be exactly the same as his Mr. America garb), and swoops in to rescue the man just before he is killed.  It’s a triumph, of sorts.  While he hasn’t exactly blown his cover, he has alerted the Germans that an American agent is among them.

Action 49 – the Puzzler debuts, the Rainbow Man returns, the origin of the Queen Bee, and Congo Bill on the Burma Road

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With a pretty good name for a villain from this era, the Puzzler debuts in Action 49 (June 1942), in a story by Jerry Siegel, John Sikela and Ed Dobrotka.

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The Puzzler is very much along the lines of a Batman villain, sending clues to the police.  He sends a note to Clark Kent, for them to meet, but Lois intercepts it and goes in his place.  The Puzzler has an immense ego, but no costume as such.

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The Puzzler challenges Superman, but when he loses, reneges on his deal.  He shows himself not only not as intelligent as he claims, but not even willing to live up to his word.  He has a lot to learn about comic book villainy.

Jimmy Olsen has a very small role in this story.

The Puzzler escapes at the end, and returns a few months down the road in Superman, but never becomes a significant villain.

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The Rainbow Man returns, courtesy of Mort Meskin and Cliff Young, escaping from prison by using cans of paint as a distraction.

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He wastes no time launching into another colour-coded crime spree.  Greg Sanders has been associated enough with the Vigilante that the Rainbow Man sends a note to Greg, relayed by Stuff, to challenge Vigilante.

The story is ok, but not great.  There are no cool light globes or anything.

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Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily provide the origin of the Queen Bee in this month’s Mr America story.

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We meet her scientist father, and learn that it was a failed experiment with a machine that would eliminate worry that caused her to lose all sense of right and wrong.

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The Queen Bee gets captured,  and her father manages to de-program her, ending her criminal career.  He also smashes the machine, preventing anyone else from falling victim to it.  Poor Mr America, he just lost his best villain, and no chance of re-creating her.

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Congo Bill isn’t even near the African coast in this Fred Ray story.  It opens in Washington DC, as Bill meets with FDR, who personally commissions him to lead a shipment down the Burma Road, to reach Chaing Kai-Shek.

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It’s a good story, tense, and the soldier who travels with Bill, dying at the hands of the enemy, is handled well.  As with last issue, this could be from a 50s war comic.

 

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