Posts tagged ‘Fiddler’

Action 146 – Superman vs the Statue of Liberty, Tommy Tomorrow creates rotation, and the Vigilante finds the ship in a desert

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It’s really curious that a generic Superman image was chosen for the cover of Action 146 (July 1950), considering the amount of dynamic visuals in the story.

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Stone statues begin to come to life throughout Metropolis, in this story by Woolfolk, Boring and Kaye.  Luthor is the one behind it.

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Luthor brings the Statue of Liberty to life, to battle Superman.  He has quite a time with it, not wanting to destroy the monument, and finally manages to bind it to its pedestal.

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As a refreshing variation, Luthor brings to life a statue of Lois Lane, and endangers it, distracting Superman as he kidnaps the real woman.  The story culminates in Superman battling a giant statue of himself.  The ending is far too quick and simple, though.

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Tommy Tomorrow works to make uninhabitable worlds safe for settlement in this story by Binder, Swan and Fischetti.  It opens showing that there is dire need for this Planteers mission, as colonists have been stuck on worlds where they can barely survive. You have to wonder about why they were settled there in the first place.

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The story is fun, and I love Curt Swan’s art, but the scene where they give a planetoid rotation using their space ships is just goofy.

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I was struck by this page.  The lightning world, and the wold beasts.  It’s two different worlds, but the juxtaposition brings to mind Korbal, the planet of the lightning beasts, which appeared much later in Legion of Super-Heroes stories by the same team.

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The Vigilante and Stuff are on the trail of another legend in this story by Joe Samachson and Dan Barry.

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The mysterious ship int he desert, an actual legend, is called the Donna Louise in this story.  An expedition is mounted to find it, and Vigilante rides a special sort of tank-cycle to navigate the desert sands.  The Fiddler, not seen in many years, returns in this tale.  The ship is a fake, as is the treasure found on it, and the Fiddler is pulling a huge scam.

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The story clips along, lots of action and twists, and great art throughout.  One of the best Vigilante tales.

 

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Action 91 – Superman on the Great Lakes, and the Vigilante and Fiddler jam in a big band

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When I first saw the cover of Action 91 (Dec. 45), I thought it likely a re-drawn image, intended as a World War 2 cover.  Just change the men’s garb to uniforms, and that’s what it would be.  And though it may have started out that way, it actually turns out to be an image representing a scene in the Superman story!

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Shipping problems on the Great Lakes are at the core of this Ira Yarborough story.

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Lois and Clark read about ships sinking, and Clark suspects that they may not be accidental.  He flies out as Superman, and accompanies as ship as it passes through Lake Huron, and into Lake Michigan. Sadly, the other three lakes are not really a part of the story, and all of the locations mentioned or shown are on the US side.

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There is a mysterious “ghost gun,” which the villains use to give the sinking ships a supernatural air. This is the gun pictured on the cover.

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Superman raises all of the sunken ships, carrying them to the various cities they were intended for.

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Mort Meskin gives the Fiddler one final story, which sees him and Greg Sanders perform together in the same band.

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Big Band music was in its heyday, and the Fiddler, although contemptuous of the music itself, joins one of the bands.  He uses his outrageous musical antics onstage to communicate with his gang, finally hearkening back to his very first story.

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Vigilante and Stuff are on the Fiddler’s trail, but cannot figure out how he keeps vanishing after the crimes.  Ultimately, Greg winds up performing alongside the band the Fiddler is in.  He even shares the stage with him, and does not recognize the man until thinking back on it later.  This is also sort of unforgivable on the Fiddler’s side.  After all the times he captured Vigilante, are we supposed to believe he never pulled that handkerchief down and looked at his face.  Or better yet, the handkerchief slipping on it’s own in the heat of battle?  These two men really ought to have seen each other.  I guess they were both too carried away with the music.

Anyway, after the performance, Vigilante figures it out, and the Fiddler is captured.  This is, I believe, his final appearance, and the prominence given to the Flash villain of the same name has pretty much ensured he will never return.

 

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 73 – Superman and the Hobby Robber, Stuff gives money to the Fiddler, Congo Bill in Canada, and Americommando vs Dr Ito

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Siegel and Citron pit Superman against the Hobby Robber in Action 73 (June 1944).  The cover does not directly tie in with the story, but is generic enough that one could stretch it to be symbolic of it.

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The Hobby Robber steals rare collections, and then ransoms them back to the owners.  This story attributes Clark Kent as collecting clocks.  Not that he has ever been shown to do this before, or after.

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Siegel does craft a nice scene.  Superman has laid a trap for the Robber, but Lois Lane has also picked up the trail, and sneaks into Clark’s apartment, hiding in one of his clocks.  Superman spots her in time to keep his identity a secret, but must then allow himself to be knocked out.  Lois gets discovered, and Superman figures he is sick of rescuing her, so he lets her die.  No, just checking to see you’re still awake.  He rescues her.  Again.

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At least the scene is a dramatic one, as the Hobby Robber tries to kill Lois by throwing her into a giant, man-eating plant.

Although this particular Hobby Robber never returns, Siegel will recycle the name later on for an early Superboy villain.

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The Fiddler returns in this story by Samachson, Meskin and Paris.

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The Fiddler teaches his gang to sing, part of his scheme to worm them into the house of a well-known millionaire with a soft touch.  In fact, the man is so willing to help the needy that he gives Stuff $50 when he sees him on the street, assuming the boy to be a homeless waif.  Perhaps Vigilante should buy Stuff some new clothes. The poor kid has been wearing the same thing for years.

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Stuff then happens across the Fiddler and his men.  In a really touching scene, Stuff gives the Fiddler the $50, in hopes that it will deter him from his next crime.  It doesn’t, but you have to admire the simple faith of the boy.

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The Fiddler and his men get taken in and fed by the millionaire, after hearing their plaintive songs.  But this is just part of their plan to steal his art treasures.  Stuff tells Vigilante about running into the men, and they arrive at the millionaire’s house just in time to stop the thefts.

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Congo Bill heads to Canada in this story, with art by Smalle.  You can tell it’s Canada because everything is covered in snow.  He is dealing with a man who is illegally selling guns to the natives, attempting to stir up a “tribal war.”  In Canada?

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The story claims to be set above the Arctic Circle, but shows natives dressed as if they were living on the plains.  They also seem impervious to the cold, running through the snow in loincloths.  It’s not an awful story, but doesn’t show much familiarity with Canada.

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Dr. Ito arrives in Tokyo to smoke out Americommando in this Greene and Baily tale.

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Ito suspects Captain Brand almost immediately, as well he should.  Americommando does little in the way of disguising himself, aside from his uniform.  Tex does pull off a clever ruse to keep his identity safe – rigging a drop of leaflets at the same time he is with Ito as Brand.

 

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 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.

 

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