Posts tagged ‘Ed Dobrotka’

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.

 

Action 45 – Superman builds an ark, the Vigilante meets Stuff, the Chinatown Kid, and the Three Aces find survivors of Lemuria

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Another generic Superman image on the cover of Action 45 (Feb. 42).

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The Superman story, by Siegel, Nowak and Dobrotka, begins with Lois and Clark taking a trip to the zoo, only to discover that there are very few animals there.  The zoo has not been able to afford to buy any.  And apparently is not very good at keeping the ones they have alive and reproducing.  Superman builds a giant ark and flies to Africa to restock the zoo.

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Once there, he runs into Count Von Henzel, and the story suddenly weaves into the Most Dangerous Game.  Despite the fact that they make the count German, the story avoids anything about the war.  And it still winds up showing Superman beating up animals and carting them back to the zoo.  You’d think they might have been aware of the parallel between the count imprisoning and hunting people, and the zoo imprisoning, if not hunting, the animals, but they weren’t.

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More amazing art on the Vigilante story, as George Roussos takes the inks on Meskin’s pencils for Weisinger’s story.

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The villain of the story is the Head, who sometimes appears as a giant head.  The story seems  be a “yellow peril” one, set in Chinatown, although it deals with silk thefts rather than opium or white slavery.

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Betty Stuart makes her final appearance. Can’t blame her, she has been sidelined in every story so far.  Stuff, later to gain the nickname the Chinatown Kid, enlists the aid of the Vigilante when his grandfather is framed for the thefts.  He also rescues the Vigilante after he is captured by the Head and subjected to Chinese water torture.

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Ironically, despite the water torture and the Chinatown location, the Head is actually Japanese.  He is a foreign agent, sent to try to stir up a gang war.

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The Three Aces find a golden city high in the California mountains, and discover it populated by survivors of Lemuria, an Atlantis-like sunken ancient city.

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With humans continuing to encroach upon them, the Lemurians have decided to use their advanced weaponry to destroy mankind.  The Three Aces win by blasting everything to bits.  Many of their stories see them triumph by destruction.

Action 44 – Superman vs a caveman, the Vigilante vs the Shade, and Congo Bill stays behind

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The US was not yet part of World War 2, but Superman seems to have chosen a side on the cover of Action 44 (Jan. 42).

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Siegel, Nowak and Dobrotka helm this story, in which a caveman is discovered in the ice, and thawed out and revived.

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Lois Lane and Clark Kent are there covering the story when the “dawn man” breaks free.  Lois, trying so hard to succeed in a “man’s” profession, has no trouble playing on her gender when it gets her what she wants .  “Ladies first!”

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The caveman goes on a murderous rampage, but it turns out there are really two of them.  A real caveman, but also a fake one, committing intentional murders that are blamed on the neanderthal.  Superman figures it all out.

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The two Morts pull off another great Vigilante story in this issue, bringing back the Shade.

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The Shade is having his men kill horses, for unknown reasons.  Vigilante tries to protect the animals,but winds up accused of killing them himself.

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Billy Gunn comes to Vigilante’s help when he’s being accused of being the horse killer, and Betty Stuart is also around, but does little.

The Shade gets captured, and is revealed to be a radio announcer, who had been around throughout the last couple of stories.  The horses had been used to smuggle in maps of stolen bonds.  This Shade never appears again.

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Fred Ray brings about some changes in the Congo Bill strip this issue.

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Bill continues to work with the British against the Germans in Africa.  Professor Kent winds up his research, and heads back to the US, and Sheila Hanlen goes with him.  I guess they hit it off between panels. Neither character will appear again, but it’s nice that they were formally written out.

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As for Congo Bill, his series shifts from adventure stories to war stories.

 

 

 

Action 43 – Superman and the plane crashes, Vigilante meets Billy Gunn, and Mr America fights giant puppets

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Superman fights the Nazis on the cover of Action 43 (Dec. 41).  And though one might associate the cover date with the US entry into the war,in fact this book was printed and on sale in mid-October of the year.

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The Superman story in this issue, by Jerry Siegel, Leo Nowak and Ed Dobrotka, is average.  Lois Lane is sent out to write a story about an airline whose planes keep crashing.  Superman follows, to rescue her periodically.

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He gets into his Clark Kent clothes, claiming to have followed her.  This happens largely so that they can be captured and bound together, to make it difficult for Superman to get away.  But the scene ends in a lame cop-out, as Lois knocks herself out, banging her head while trying to escape.

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The Vigilante story, by Mort and Mort (Weisinger and Meskin) is much more fun.  It introduces a villain, the Shade, who is not the same as the later, and more famous, Flash villain.  He does spend most of his time in the dark, and seems to have the power to disappear.

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The Shade is pursuing an old man, Billy Gunn, although Gunn has no idea who the Shade is, or why he is after him.

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Billy Gunn mets Greg Sanders while appearing on a gong show that he is hosting.  Gunn gets gonged fast, and Greg feels sorry for him.  That woman next to him is Betty Stuart, Greg’s girlfriend, who was actually introduced in his first story, but I forgot about her.

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Although Billy Gunn dresses and talks like a cowboy, he is an easterner, who just admires the west.  Still, when Vigilante gets captured by the Shade, it’s Billy who comes to his rescue, and sticks around, becoming his sidekick.

Billy had inherited a mine, and the Shade had been out to kill him and get it.

The Shade returns in the next issue.

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Mr. America and Fat Man fight giant puppets in this story by Fitch and Baily.  It’s actually quite a bit better than the previous sentence would imply.

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Bob learn that Tex knows his identity in this story.  Which is good, because Tex is not a total idiot.  It is also the final appearance of the flying cape.  Tex uses it to escape from German agents who have been sabotaging factories, making it fly while it is still around his neck.  Although he does get away, I think it likely caused some major neck strain, probably why he retired it.

 

Action 38 – Superman gets arrested, Pep Morgan hunts down kidnappers, the Black Pirate runs into an old friend, the Three Aces loot Atlantis, and Mr America vs the Gorrah

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Lots of stories to talk about in Action 38 (July 1941), so I’m not even going to banter about the cover.

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Jerry Siegel, Leo Nowak and Ed Dobrotka dish out a Superman story that gives Sergeant Casey a run for his money.

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People are committing crimes with no memory of having done so.  The police are run ragged, and have no idea what is behind the rash of thefts.  Sergeant Casey and Lois Lane get locked in a bank vault, and though Superman rescues them, his presence at so many crimes scenes prompts Casey to arrest him – or at least try to.

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Superman gets away, but then Casey decides that Clark Kent must be behind it, following similar reasoning.  Although not named, Jimmy Olsen cameos in one panel, looking more like himself.

Both as Clark and Superman, our hero must evade the police, until he figures out that the man behind it all is using radio waves to take over people’s minds.

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George Papp puts Pep Morgan through the ringer in this story, when Slim gets kidnapped. His wealthy uncle whines about not having the cash on hand to pay the ransom, so Pep decides to fake out the kidnappers and rescue his friend himself.

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Pep succeeds, and is reunited with Slim. The final panel shows them back in their college dorm, happily bantering.  Aww.

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After skipping last issue (because of a boring Atlantic crossing), Jon Valor lands to rest and restock before continuing on to Barcelona.  Docked alongside him is the ship of Don De Avila, an old friend of the Black Pirate, who has fallen out of favour with the crown.

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Don and Jon are happy to run into each other, and De Avila invites his friend to a banquet that night. Bonnie has misgivings, fearing that De Avila intends to imprison the Black Pirate, and turn him over for the reward, but Jon trusts in his friend.

He shouldn’t.

Nicely ominous ending, the walls of the castle.  The story continues in the next issue.

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The Three Aces continue their trip into Atlantis in this story.

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It reminds me a bit of Jack and the Beanstalk. Our heroes steal radium from the underground city, attack its leaders and leave the palace in ruins.  Hurrah!  Some triumph.

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Although the Mr America series pits Tex largely against spies and saboteurs right now, the Gorrah makes his final appearance in this issue, working with Nazi agents, in this story by Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily. The Gorrah betrays them in the end, preferring to pursue his goal of vengeance over their plot against the army.

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At first Gorrah believes Tex to have died, and is out to kill Bob, but he learns the truth, and the identity of Mr. America, just before perishing in the explosion intended for a educator’s convention.  It’s really odd to see the one-eyed character dressed in an ordinary suit.

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