Posts tagged ‘Edwin Smalle’

Action 215 – the Superman of 2056, and Congo Bill and the butterfly collector


Boring and Kaye take the art on Action 215 (April 1956), as Superman flies into the future to meet his successor.


Superman answers a cross-time distress call, and meets the Superman of 2056.  This man is from Earth, with no actual powers, but with a suit that gives him identical abilities.


As would be the rule for so many future variations of Superman, his alternate identity also matches that of Clark Kent, as Craig King is a reporter for the Daily Planet, working under an editor who looks just like Perry White.  There is a woman at the paper who thinks King is really Superman, and an evil genius with an alliterative name.


Still, it’s a fun story, if not a mind-blowing one.  And though this future Superman would never return, there would be many more to come.


Miller and Smalle share a very entertaining Congo Bill story in this issue, as he and Janu watch over a butterfly hunter.


The man is so intent on collecting the rare species he spots, that he seems completely oblivious to the wild animals that repeatedly threaten his life.  Bill is driven almost to exasperation by the man.


The butterfly collector turns out to be a bit more on the ball than Bill thought, and gets them out of trouble when they run into some angry natives.  But he still puts his butterflies above all else.

Action 203 – The International Daily Planet, and Congo Bill as gladiator


The Daily Planet goes world-wide in Action 203 (April 1955), by Boring and Kaye.


Clark Kent, Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen are each sent out to oversee the opening of new branches of the paper, in Bombay, Paris and London, respectively.  It’s a bit odd that Jimmy would be sent out, as he has little status within the organization.  Perhaps Perry White just wanted a break from him for a while.


Sadly, the story really does not make much use of its varied locales, getting mired in a smuggling plot.  But international editions and offices of Daily Planet would continue to pop up from time to time.


The mid-50s were the heyday of the gladiator movie, and Miller and Smalle manage to weave Congo Bill into the mold, and yet keep the story on a reasonable level.


While guiding an archaeological expedition, Congo Bill comes across the extensive remains of a Roman ampitheatre, as well as some abandoned gladitorial gear.  No sooner has he done this than a lion attacks, allowing for Bill to step right into the gladiator role.


Bill also bests a cape buffalo, toying with it as if it were a bullfight.  Janu only shows up at the very end of the story, and believes none of Bill’s gladitorial achievements.

Action 198 – Lois Lane’s delusions of grandeur, Janu falls in love, and Vigilante ends


Lois Lane gets the cover and the core of this story, by Woolfolk, Boring and Kaye.


It opens as Superman flies out to help at a disaster, and discovers Lois Lane there, dressed as Florence Nightengale, and acting as a nurse.


Superman figures out that Lois has gone insane after seeing him change from Clark into Superman, and is taking on the identities of the various women she recently wrote about in a special article on notable women for the Daily Planet.

He pulls a trick to make her think she saw both men at the same time, which restores her mind.  Sigh.  These kind of stories need to be really fun to work.  This isn’t.


Congo Bill’s logo has changed in this story, for reasons I will mention a bit further down, but it’s worth noting that Janu the Jungle Boy now receives credit as well, although the creative team of Miller and Smalle do not.


The story has Congo Bill become concerned when Janu starts paying a lot of attention to a young girl as they guide her father on a safari.  But the story also has a man trying to kill Bill, and the father is really an impostor.  It’s very complicated for the few pages it runs.  But Bill is relieved at the end when Janu tells him he was only concerned for the girl’s safety, and not in love with her.  I guess Congo Bill still holds his heart.


Oh, remember my comment about the logo?  It has been changed to match that of Congo Bill’s new, short lived, book.  The ad is actually from issue 197.


Vigilante has his final story, by Howard Sherman, in this issue.


Greg Sanders is starring in a movie as a singing cowboy, but they are concerned that the stunts are too dangerous for him, and hire Vigilante to do them.  So Greg has to run around, pretending to be two people.  There is also a man trying to kill him, just to add to the drama.


Stuff does not appear in this story, he made his final bow in the previous issue.

At some point after this story, the Vigilante teamed with the other Seven Soldiers of Victory against the Nebula Man, and Vigilante got sent back in time to the old west, where he remained until rescued by the Justice League and Justice Society, in the big Unknown Soldier of Victory storyline in the early 70s. But another Vigilante, Greg Saunders (instead of Sanders), had already appeared by then, also in the pages of Justice League of America.

Stuff would not return until the Vigilante series in World’s Finest, in the late 70s.


Action 194 – the return of Mala, Congo Bill brings Janu to Africa, and Tommy Tomorrow chases a ship


Mala and his two brothers, Kizo and U-Ban, make their second and final appearance in Action 194 (July 1954), in a story by Finger, Boring and Kaye.  These Kryptonian villains had been introduced a few years ago in the pages of Superman.  Found guilty of crimes on Krypton, they were put into a rocket and shot into space in suspended animation, which is a fairly extreme form of punishment.  They got free, and caused problems for Superman, who imprisoned them at the end of that tale.  After a brief re-introduction, they get free again, and Mala heads straight for Earth. The other two don’t show up until the end of the story.  Maybe they stopped to get something to eat.


Although he has no idea of Superman’s alternate identity, Mala decides to impersonate Clark Kent, whom he knows as Superman’s friend.


Clark begins acting much tougher and more dynamic, which of course draws Lois Lane’s attention.  Not realizing that he is actually speaking the truth, Mala reveals that Clark Kent is Superman.  And where is the real guy?  Mala has been stealing and replacing monuments from around the world, and Superman is busy examining them, trying to figure out what Mala is up to.  Far more important than stopping a crazed Kryptonian from hanging out with those he loves.


Sadly, this story gets even worse, as Mala reveals his true self to Lois Lane before shooting her off into space.  Superman rescues her, and takes her back to Earth, which they discover is unpopulated.  It doesn’t take Superman long to figure out that this is a fake Earth, built by Mala.Presumably Mala thought they would just stay there forever, without questioning the situation.


Superman then rounds up Mala and his brothers, seals them in a bubble permeated with kryptonite, and sends them out into space.  TO DIE!  The bubble is coated in kryptonite for goodness sake!  He doesn’t say that he intends them to die, but what else are we to think?  The characters never appeared again.

Of course, the reason they didn’t appear, except in some comprehensive life story of Superman tales, was that they were soon supplanted by the Phantom Zone villains.  And the fact that Superman killed them.


Congo Bill is clearly back in Africa in the Miller and Smalle story in this issue.  A lion is central to the tale, after all.  And while in previous stories Congo Bill would run into Janu in the wild, in this one Janu accompanies Bill.  So it’s safe to say that, just before this issue, Bill persuaded Janu to travel back to Africa, and has been taking care of the boy since then.


That’s really the primary reason I included this story, which deals with a man selling fake charms against danger, but travelling around behind the guy he sold it to, shooting blowdarts into any animals that threaten him.  It’s hardly surprising that Congo Bill figures out the scam.  It’s more surprising that anyone would go to so much trouble to sell a fake good luck charm.


The Tommy Tomorrow story, now with art by Jim Mooney, deals with a dangerous, thieving space ship that seems to have no one at the controls.


The ship turns out to be controlled by a brain in a jar, which comes from an entire planet of brains in jars.  I only point this out because later Legion of Super-Heroes stories would also feature brain in jar creatures, possibly the same.



Action 191 – Superman plays sick, and Congo Bill meets Janu


Many stories deal with Superman performing operations, or showing medical training.  The one in Action 191 (April 1954), entitled “Calling Doctor Superman,” does not.


Instead, Hamilton, Boring and Kaye relate a tale in which a man is shot by a bullet that Supermna is particularly interested in retrieving.  To stay near him, Clark Kent  convinces the small town doctor attending the man that he is sick as well.


Lois Lane shows up, hearing that Clark is sick.  She recognizes the hoodlum in the next bed, and notices that Clark seem healthy, so figures there must be a scoop involved, and sticks around to nurse him.  So the story descends into the normal territory of fooling Lois, and all the while helping the doctor as Superman as he gets phony emeergency calls to draw him away.


It’s all a bit more comedy than adventure, culminating in a scene where Superman makes the bad guys, who have kidnapped Lois, cause everyone kidnaps Lois, into thinking that they all have come down with a deadly swamp fever.


Congo Bill is in Saigon in this story by Miller and Smalle, when his help is sought in bringing a wild boy in from the jungle to receive proper schooling.  The white boy’s father was killed, leaving him an orphan, and he has been raised by animals. So basically, he is Mowgli.  But in Saigon.


Congo Bill finds the boy, whose name is Janu, although he asks to be called Johnny, as his US pen pal calls him.  Somehow he learned how to speak English though having a pen pal.  This kid is a genius.  He also displays a lot of resourcefulness in the wilds.


Congo Bill discovers that the boy is taking correspondence courses by mail.  Exactly how he does this strains the imagination, but Bill accepts it as true, and decides the boy does not need proper schooling.  Janu remains a supporting character, although for the next few stories he continues to live in the wold, being visited by Bill.  The stories move location to India, so Janu really gets around.  At the start of the story in the following issue, Bill is calling him Johnny, but the boy asks to be called Janu again, as that is what his father called him.


Action 183 – hurling metal at Superman, and a portrait of Congo Bill


People do, indeed, hurl all sorts of metal objects at Superman during the course of the Al Plastino story in Action 183 (Aug. 53).


Superman cannot figure out why so many hoods are doing this, when it clearly has no effect.  But they are working for Luthor, who has his own plans.


Luthor has discovered that any metal object that makes contact with Superman gains a microscopic amount of kryptonite. This makes no sense, even by comic book standards.


Nevertheless, it works. Superman collapses, and Luthor puts him on a rocket ship and fires him into space, covered in the kryptonite dust.  Dumb plan, Luthor.  Superman uses his heat vision to short out the ship, which plunges into the ocean, and the water washes off all the kryptonite.


Congo Bill is no longer a roving insurance investigator, and is back in the African jungles, exploring and having adventures.  In this story, by Miller and Smalle, an artist is commissioned to paint a portrait of Congo Bill, and follows him out into the jungle to do so.


The artist’s works keep getting defaced during the nights, and Bill and his men keep getting attacked during the day.  By the third time, Bill has figured out that the artist is a phony, he is leaving information for the poachers who want to get rid of Bill, and is defacing his own works to cover his lack of artistic ability.


Action 178 – dreams of crime, and Congo Bill saves Congorilla


The cover of Action 178 (March 1953) proclaims the “Sandman of Crime,” but there is no Sandman of any type in the story by Boring and Kaye.


Instead, there is a puzzling little tale about a criminal who has dream-domes, in which hoods get dreams of how they could commit crimes.  The dreams are all fake – just movies that the hoods “watch” while sleeping, getting the impression that they are involved in the events.  But it’s also not a scam.  He only accepts payment if the inspired crime succeeds.


Superman gets involved in all of this. Adopting an identity to infiltrate the group, he winds up playing Superman in the dreams on how to get the best of him.  But another hood is jealous.  He wanted to play Superman.  So he replaces a prop gun’s bullets with real bullets, and exposes Superman’s fake identity.


It’s a very wandering story, which doesn’t hold together very well.  At the end, Superman gives all the bad guys dreams of triumphing over him, which he has filmed, and then wakes them to the harsh reality that he has captured them.


Jack Miller and Edwin Smalle introduce the word Congorilla into the Congo Bill series, if not the actual character, yet.


The Congorilla in this story is a highly intelligent ape, who saves Congo Bill towards the start of the story.  He encounters the creature again, as he is working alongside a motion picture crew in his job as troubleshooter for World-Wide Insurance.  I really hate the period when he has that job, which is why so few of these stories are being discussed here.  Anyway, the film crew want to trap the gorilla and use him in movies.  Bill is supposedly helping them, but really sabotaging their efforts, to keep the gorilla free.

A few years down the road a completely different Congorilla would become the mainstay of this series.

Action 128 – Superman plays football, Congo Bill gets a job, and Tommy Tomorrow watches football


Superman takes sides in a kid’s football game in the cover story from Action 128 (Jan. 49), by Frederic Ellsworth and Al Plastino.


Gamblers get involved in the game, and an attempt to take out the best player, Big Red, winds up giving one entire team food poisoning.


Superman comes to the aid of the children who take the place of the sick players, lead by Big Red’s little brother, cleverly named Little Red.  It’s not a great story, barely a serviceable one.  The best bit has Clark all bundled up against the cold – but the bundling is to cover to Lois that he is not really there, but on the field as Superman.


For the last few stories, ever since the leopard attack, the narration has referred to Congo Bill working for the World-Wide Insurance company.  In this issue, by Smalle, Bill himself refers to the company in the dialogue, and we see that he has a secretary.  He also is trying to sneak out, before being sent on another assignment.  Only a few months in, and having a boss is already grating on the man.


Bill gets sent to the Kimberly diamond mines in South Africa, after a theft.  But as the story progresses, Bill comes to believe he is on a wold goose chase, and the manager of the mine is the true thief.


Binder, Swan and Fischetti take us back to the amazing future of 1988 in this Tommy Tomorrow tale.


Tommy is watching robots playing football as the story opens. We also discover that criminals are now kept in prisons made out of hollowed asteroids – a forerunner of the “prison planet” idea that would grow in Legion of Super-Heroes.


Tommy spends much of this story chasing an escaped prisoner through our solar system.  The memorial to the first moon landing is kind of neat.  Good thing there is no date on it though!

Action 125 – Superman vs Nostradamus, and Congo Bill vs a leopard


The cover of Action 125 (Oct. 48) goes for a generic image, and not a particularly interesting one at that.


Al Plastino does a good job inside, though, as an old hermit shows up at the Daily Planet, announcing to have discovered prophecies by Nostradamus.  Lois Lane displays her learning, filling in the staff (and some readers) with background on the historical figure, and Perry is impressed enough to give his forecast of a meteor hitting the city front page coverage.  And it does come true, although Superman stops the meteor from doing any damage.


Superman continues to act to make further prophecies harmless, while the reader gets informed that Luthor is really the mastermind behind this scheme.  The hermit is simply the dupe he left the prophecies for, and he has been using his weaponry to make them come true.  His plans is to empty the city of people, so he and his men can loot it, after a prophecy warns people against staying.


It’s a fairly elaborate plot, but not a bad one.  Superman gets on his trail, when he spots indications that the prophecies were forged.  There is also a subplot of one of Luthor’s men seeing Clark change into Superman.  He has to prove that he is two different people, which he does using the super speed he ought to have used when changing clothes where the hood could see him.

Curiously, at the end of the story, the Daily Planet hire the hermit to do weather forecasts.  Umm, ok.


Congo Bill gets a particularly vicious tale this month, by Edwin Smalle.  A man wants to steal diamonds, but Congo Bill is camping on the spot where they are.  Not willing to wait until Bill moves on, or simply scare him off, the man buys a leopard.


He then train the leopard to kill Congo Bill.  This guy is seriously disturbed.  But I admit I fear for Bill’s life.


The fight between Bill and the leopard is really well told, very intense.


There is no shying away at the ending, either.  Bill stabs the creature, who attacks his trainer in a dying leap.  Congo Bill finds the man by following the vultures.  Geez.

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


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


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


Some really nice art on the elephants as well.


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


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


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.

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