Posts tagged ‘Fred Guardineer’

Action 27 – Superman and the orphanage, Pep Morgan goes back to school, the Black Pirate buys a ship, more Gorrah, and Clip Carson goes Hollywood

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A really good rendering of the 1940s version of the Superman chest emblem on the cover for Action 27 (Aug. 40), but you gotta feel sorry for the lion.

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Although this story starts out with Lois accepting a date with Clark Kent, any hint of romance is quickly jettisoned as Siegel, Cassidy and Dennis Neville recount the horrors of an orphanage.  There had already been an orphanage story in the pages of Superman, but this seemed a frequent subject in the era.

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After talking to a boy who escaped, Clark insists they contact the police, and leaves to do so, although of course he really just changes to Superman.  Lois accompanies the boy back into the home, where she runs afoul of the corrupt owners, and their nasty dog Black Satan.

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Lois Lane’s soul searching while held captive is a bit difficult to judge. It seems wrong for her to think her “barging into” things is bad, as it is what gets her most of her stories.  On the other hand, contacting the police definitely would have been the wise move.

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Once the action gets going, the story seems to really want to show off Superman’s invulnerability, as object after object shatters against him.

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Pep Morgan is back in university in Ardale in this story by Fred Guardineer.  His pro career having gone nowhere, Pep seems to want more out of life than just being a hired goon, and so has returned to complete his education.

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Perhaps he should have left the sports alone, as once again he gets all tangled up with gamblers trying to fix a track meet.

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A great pose by the Black Pirate to open this chapter, by Sheldon Moldoff.  Captain Ruff’s brother was the mysterious man who entered the inn at the end of the previous issue, and he and Jon Valor fight.  Valor wins, of course.

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The Black Pirate then sails back to Bristol, where he uses some of the treasure to buy himself a ship.  But the jewels he used for the purchase are recognized as belonging to a collection stolen from a queen.  Oh, oh!

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The Gorrah returns, once again seeking vengeance on Tex Thompson in this Baily tale.  Maloney makes a brief appearance, and introduces his daughter, Janice.  This is almost certainly the same woman who returns as his daughter, Peggy.

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The Gorrah manages to capture Tex, and get him under his spell.  Miss X shoots Tex to prevent him from becoming a murderer, and though it’s just a glancing wound, the shock breaks Tex out of the spell.

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Clip Carson heads to Hollywood for four issues, in this Moldoff story, and begins work as a consultant on a movie called “Adventure Pictures,” which really sounds like a lame title for a movie.  Nonetheless, everyone seems to think it will be a massive success.

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There is a rival film crew that sets up in hidden locales to film the same action, hoping to release their version first, and a foreign film company trying to delay the shooting so they can release theirs first.  Amidst this, actors keep getting murdered on set.

Action 26 – Superman and the Cobalt Clinic, Pep Morgan in Canada, the Black Pirate tells his story, Tex Thompson meets Miss X, Clip Carson in Canada, and Zatara in Alaska

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If Superman still can’t fly, then he has leaped higher than skyscrapers with the two thugs on the cover of Action 26 (July 1940).  No wonder they look so scared.

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The story is by Jerry Siegel, but the art is by Paul Cassidy and Paul Lauretta.  The story deals with a phony doctor and his Cobalt Clinic. promising a cure for infantile paralysis.

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Much of this story has Superman frantically going from place to place.  He has been captured as Clark Kent, and keeps heading back to maintain that fiction.  Between those times, he frees Lois Lane from Cobalt, takes down the quack and his men, get help for some of his patients, and keeps checking in with George Taylor at the Daily Planet.

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Superman also displays a new ability – speed reading, and memorization of what he reads.

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Fred Guardineer sends Pep Morgan into “the Saskatchewan district” of Canada for this story.  It’s all the same things one sees in Canada stories. Snow, trees, polar bears, guys named Pierre.  No Mounties though.

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Pep fights off a bear, and performs other heroic acts, but I have deep suspicions about this story.  I think it might just be another lie to explain his time in Florida.  Aside from the reference to the Saskatchewan district, which makes me think that he has not really been to Saskatchewan, the fact that the story just shakes out all the old expected stereotypes makes it sound even more like something Pep made up.

But there is a reference to a red flag on a cabin signalling a plague.  It’s not so much that that adds realism, as that it will pop up again, in this very issue!

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Moldoff gives a happy ending to the first adventure of the Black Pirate. The mystery ship is on Jon Valor’s side, and he returns to Savannah.

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Jon rides to a small inland town, and stops at an inn.  There he finds Jeanne, his love, and friend since childhood.  He regales her with his battle against Captain Ruff, and neither sees a cloaked figure enter the inn.

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As od this issue, Gargantua is gone.  We learn that he has enlisted with the French army as a cook, and that he is of Senegalese descent (meant to explain why he did such a thing).  While I was glad to see the last of him, this story was cover-dated July of 1940, meaning Gargantua joined the French army just in time for the Nazi invasion of France.

In this issue Bailey also introduces Special Prosecutor Maloney, who swears Tex and Bob in as agents reporting directly to him, needing their skills to help fight a crime wave.  Tex infiltrates the main gang, discovering that their leader is the supposedly honourable Vander Wallace.  Tex winds up shooting and killing Vander Wallace as he gives a public address, the audience completely unaware of Wallace’s criminal ties.  One would expect this to have some major repercussions, but Maloney is content to keep Tex and Bob as his staff.

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This story also introduces Miss X, a woman with knowledge of the mob, who sometimes seems to be working with them, but who also acts to protect or aid Tex.  Both Maloney and Miss X will return for the next few issues.

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Clip heads to New York City in this Moldoff story, and from there to Canada to help Miss Trent find her missing father.  The man had discovered a mine in “Hudson Bay country,” but been captured by evil Metis claim jumper Jacques Frontenac.

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Oh, look.  Snow, trees, french people and wild animals.  It must be Canada.  But “Hudson’s Bay country?”  In the same issue with “the Saskatchewan district,” nonetheless.  Do they actually have any real maps of Canada in the US?

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By the time one reaches the Zatara story by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer, one has to wonder if there was an attempt by the editor to create a theme issue.  Cause Zatara is surrounded by snow, trees, and french people.  There’s even a red plague flag on a cabin!  But a mention towards the end of the story of the city of Nome makes it clear this gold mine story takes place in Alaska.

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It stands above the other two, simply because Zatara turns his own airplane into a battling, flying robot to stop the claim jumpers.

Action 25 – Superman vs a hypnotist, Pep Morgan at sea, the Black Pirate captured, Tex Thompson and the amnesiac, Clip Carson defeats the rebels and Zatara vs Asmodeus

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Once again, the cover of Action 25 (June 1940) appears to show Superman in flight, before the stories themselves acknowledge this ability.

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Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy helm this tale, which begins with a bank robbery by thieves with no recollection of the events.

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Lois Lane mentions a psychic and hypnotist to Clark, Medini, whom she is going to consult, in order to find out Superman’s secret identity.  Ironically, that’s the same information Medini is trying to extract from her.

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Superman confronts Medini, who uses hypnosis to paralyze him.  Once Medini has gone, Superman’s powers begin to return, but he lacks complete control over his abilities until he jumps high into the stratosphere, which removes the effects of the hypnosis.  Pondering this sequence, it would seem that Medini must actually possess some degree of mystical powers, as only magic would be able to have such an extended effect on the hero.

Once his powers are back, Superman quickly dispenses of this one-shot villain.

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With this issue, Guradineer has Pep travelling to England as a war correspondent, despite having no experience or training in this field whatsoever.  But that is only the first odd thing about this tale.

After not only the ship Pep is on gets torpedoed, but the rescue ship as well, the lifeboat capsizes.  Pep swims around tirelessly saving people until the sub surfaces and they are brought on board.  Despite being an American kid and not in the military, Pep is brought before the sub`s commander, and manages to get his gun from him and single-handedly take over the sub.

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The commander of the sub wears a white uniform, which I thought was odd.  As they are showing England at war, why would they not depict the Nazis as they appeared?

Then it become clear.  The art “error” is our clue to confirm that this story is a preposterous tale – this is the story Pep told people to explain why he left for a while, rather than telling them the truth about his dismal Florida tryout.

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Sheldon Moldoff continues the Black Pirate’s adventures, as he falls into the hands of the angry Captain Ruff, who demands to know where Jon Valor hid his treasure.

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The Black Pirate breaks free, and sets fire to Captain Ruff’s ship.  Everyone winds up in shark-infested waters, ass the Black Pirate heads for a mysterious ship he saw on the horizon.

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Gargantua T. Potts makes his final appearance in this Baily story, spending some time with Tex and Bob Daley at Tex’s camp in Maine, Golden Gates.

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They encounter a mysterious amnesiac, being pursued by gangsters.  For a few panels it looks like Gargantua will be the one to save the day, but again he is reduced to racist comic relief.  I’m just so glad this character is being dropped, it’s worth mentioning his final tale.

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Moldoff winds up Clip Carson’s Verdania adventure in this issue.

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Surprisingly, for the era, the rebels turn out to be financed by an American oil man, trying to manipulate the situation in the country for his own benefit.

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The final panel, the hanging of the revolutionaries, is coloured so darkly, it’s almost in silhouette.  But it does add a very somber tone.

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Zatara faces off against Asmodeus, a powerful villain who uses science and magic against the hero, in this story by Gardner Fox and Fred Guardineer.

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The Tigress also returns in this story.  She is working for Asmodeus, but winds up being of very little assistance, as Zatara draws the villain’s plans and location from her mind, before shrinking her to doll size to keep her out of trouble.

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Asmodeus makes a really good villain for Zatara, and the battle between them easily carries the few pages that it lasts.  It’s a shame this villain never made a return.

Action 24 – Superman uses microscopic vision, Pep Morgan gets a try-out, Black Pirate finds the treasure, and Clip Carson gets shot down

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Action 24 (May 1940) features another could that could, but doesn’t, reflect the Superman story inside.

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The story, or at least the climax of it, bears some resemblance to the first Superman story.  It begins with Clark being sent out to get the story behind an ad a wealthy man posted in the Daily Planet.

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The man has a wastrel son, and he asks Superman’s help in making the boy straighten out.  Superman uses many of his abilities in this issue.  X-Ray vision is shown a bit more like it was the first time, with the dissolving wall.  Super-hearing is just shown by Superman leaning in towards a wall.

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The boy gets framed for murder, and in investigating to find proof of his innocence, Superman uses microscopic vision, for the first time, to find a second bullet, buried in a wall.  Sadly, this is not given any visual form, and is simply mentioned in the narrative.

The story ends with Superman rushing to the governor to call off the execution, just in the nick of time.

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Pep Morgan heads to Florida for this Guardineer story, as he is given a try-out with a professional baseball team.

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He gets wind of a plot by gamblers to kill the primary pitcher, Fog Bellows, and Pep messes up his tryout to save Fog’s life.  He gets booted, and although at the end he is told he is back on, this must just mean he is allowed to finish the tryout, as Pep is never shown playing for this team.

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Another brief but beautiful Black Pirate story by Moldoff in this issue.

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Jon Valor races Captain Ruff to his treasure horde, and gets there first.  He hides it, so that when the pirate captain arrives, he cannot find it.

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Moldoff’s art also shines in the Clip Carson story in this issue, which continues from the previous one.

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Clip’s plane gets shot down, and he winds up in the hands of the rebels.  He is sentenced to death, but manages to escape and make it back to the region controlled by the government forces.  Clip vows to bring down the rebel general, setting up next issue’s conclusion to this tale.

 

 

Action 23- Luthor debuts, Pep busts a strike, Black Pirate debuts, Clip Carson in South America, and Zatara and the Tigress race for treasure

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Superman is still not able to fly, though you wouldn’t guess that from the cover of Action 23 (April 1940).

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Clark Kent and Lois Lane continue to investigate the war between Toran and Galonia in this story by Siegel, Shuster and Cassidy.

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General Lupo alerts them to a peace conference, but also arranges for it to be ambushed.

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Superman trails Lupo to a secret base inside a mountain, guarded by a stone face.  Luthor is first mentioned, as Lupo gives up his bosses name, just before being killed for doing so.

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Luthor is not given a first name in this story, or indeed, in any story until his origin in Adventure Comics in the early 60s.  He is a red-haired genius in this tale, manipulating the situation between the two countries as part of his world domination goal.  He has a base high in the stratosphere.  A giant dirigible, which supports a massive platform capable of supporting entire buildings.

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And while Superman cannot fly, he can jump high enough to reach the dirigible.  By and large, if one does not read the text, simply looked at the illustrations, one would believe Superman was flying.

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Lois gets captured, as she once again shows more curiosity than common sense, and Superman and Luthor have their first of many meetings, each puffing to show superiority to the other.

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Superman destroys Luthor’s base, sending it all crashing to the ground, but Luthor returns in the pages of Superman the following month.

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As the story ends, Clark sends his report to the paper – the Daily Planet!  But it had been the Daily Star that sent him out there.  I have read a couple theories, which have either Lois or Clark leave the Star for the Planet, and the other one following them there.  But I cannot see that.  The change happens while both reporters are overseas.

No, what I think is that the Daily Star fell victim to the Depression.  Later tales would show that the Daily Planet prints newspapers in other cities in the US, and around the world.  Nothing like that is ever shown about the Daily Star.  So I believe that the Star wound up being sold, and was purchased by the expanding empire of the Daily Planet, which changed the paper’s name, as they were making Metropolis the hub of the Planet.

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Pep Morgan heads to Pennsylvania in this Guardineer story, to help a cousin who owns a mine, where the miners are on the verge of striking.

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Everything I have ever read about the conditions of mines in the US at this time puts me firmly on the side of the miners, but that’s not the slant the story has. The miners are being forced into striking by thugs, and the mine owners are the good guys, and victims.  Pep helps stop the strike, but it’s amazing that he succeeds at this, when he waves a flashlight at them, claiming it’s a gun.  He has far more luck when he grabs a pipe and starts hitting them over the head with it.

Pep Morgan has become little more than a goon.

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The Black Pirate makes his debut in this issue, by Sheldon Moldoff.  At first the strip is only four pages in length, and serialized.  Jon Valor is called the Black Pirate, presumably because he wears all black clothing, but it is not a secret identity, simply a nickname.  Those he fights, the men of Captain Ruff, know him by both names.

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The series starts slow, but with the standard pirate story ships and treasures.

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Clip Carson arrives in South America in this Moldoff tale.  The previous issue saw him sail from Africa, solving a poorly written mystery.

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In this story, Clip gets enlisted to help run weapons deep into the interior, to aid government troops against rebels in the nation of Verdania.

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Clip helps the army massacre the rebels, and has so much fun doing it, he decides to stick around for a while.

The story continues in the next issue.

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Zatara runs into an old high school friend in this Guardineer story, who tells him about a fabulous treasure, left in a tower by a wealthy inventor.

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The Tigress is also on the trail of this treasure, and the two of them compete to acquire it.  A mysterious man in the tower controls a number of deadly traps and devices.

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It turns out to bethe inventor himself.  The treasure was simply a lure to draw innocents in, so that he could kill them in elaborate ways.  Zatara destroys the tower, and the treasure gets divvied up, although Zatara declines his share.  But the Tigress must get some of it then, right? Maybe?

Action 22 – the second L.L., Chuck Dawson ends, and the Tigress returns

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A kind of lower key cover for Action 22 (March 1940), considering that Superman’s story in this issue puts him in the middle of a war.

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Siegel, Shuster and Cassidy acknowledge that a war has broken out in Europe, as George Taylor, looking like he has some grey hair now, sends Lois and Clark across the ocean to report on the war for the Daily Star.  Oddly, rather than deal with the real war, this story is about a war between Toran and Galonia, neither of which is made to seem like any specific, actual nation.

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Shipboard, Lois and Clark see the famous “foreign” actress Lita Laverne.  The second of the L.L.s in Superman, but the first indication that this might become a theme.  Lita Laverne plays hot and cold with Clark, but does invite him and Lois to a party once they land.

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It doesn’t take Clark very long to realize that Lita is a spy, and her party is simply a way for her to pump the guests for information.

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Clark spends the rest of the story trying to enforce neutrality.  He brings down a couple of bombers, and stop a submarine from torpedoing a ship.  As he does this, he demonstrates another super-power.  The ability to talk while underwater.  There is no one for him to be talking to, but perhaps he is just testing this ability out for his own edification.

Lita Laverne gets exposed as a spy, and arrested.  She never appears again.  Firing squad for sure.

The story continues in the next issue.

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Chuck Dawson’s bland western series comes to a bland finale in this issue.  Chuck is still wearing that same red plaid shirt he has been wearing since his strip began.  It must smell awful.

Instead, in his final outing, Chuck yet again comes across a dead body and is accused of the murder.  The last time this happened (it happened a lot) Chuck simply proved himself innocent, and couldn’t be bothered to actually solve the crime.  This time he actually tracks down and apprehends the killer, a hired gun working for the foreman of the Slash D Ranch, who killed the fiancee of Miss Parsons, the ranch’s owner, in hopes of marrying her and taking over the ranch.

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I think poor hapless Chuck wound up sticking around after this case.  Miss Parsons was now desperately in need of a ranch foreman and a boyfriend.  I could have Chuck just continue wandering aimlessly, finding dead bodies left right and centre and always being accused of murder, but I would rather have him just settle down.  Maybe Miss Parsons not only washed his shirt, she even bought him a new one!

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The Tigress returns in this issue’s Zatara story, by Fred Guardineer.

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She is working for a man called The Mask.  When not wearing his head covering, he impersonates other people.  In this case, a bank manager the Tigress was supposed to kill.  Zatara saved the man’s life, ruining their plot, though the bad guys do not realize this at first.

The Mask is not, as one might think, some sort of disguise artist, or even shape changer.  He is a man willing to undergo repeated surgeries to alter his face, for the impersonations.

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The Mask has himself operated on again, to impersonate Zatara, and tests it on the Tigress.

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Later, Zatara will turn the tables, pretending to be the Mask, and getting his plans out of the Tigress.  During this sequence, the Tigress admits that she is now broke.  In one year she somehow squandered her entire share of Genghis Khan’s treasure.

Zatara uses his magic to give the mask a horrendous, dog-like face that no surgery will remove.  He lets the Tigress go, on her promise to leave the country and never return.

The Tigress returns next issue.

Action 20 – Superman meets Dolores Winters, Pep Morgan becomes a mechanic, Clip Carson plays the harmonica, Tex Thompson needs a rescue, and Zatara faces the Moon Men

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The cover of Action 20 (Jan. 40) continues to feature Superman, if not the story that he was in.

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George Taylor sends Clark Kent out to Hollywood to do a series of stories on movie stars for the Daily Star.  It’s actually meant to be his vacation time, but Clark does not complain.  Taylor looks definitely stockier than he used to.

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Siegel and Shuster start his Hollywood time by having Clark meet actress Dolores Winters.  Although she is friendly at first, and agrees to an interview later, she becomes cold and distant, cancelling it when Clark shows up.

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Dolores invites a bunch of Hollywood big names to a party aboard her yacht, which she turns into a big kidnapping.

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Superman is on the case.  He uses his x-ray vision, which is shown closer to the way it would be, as beams emerging from his eyes.

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Superman reaches the ship, and one look into Dolores Winters’ eyes is enough to convince him that, somehow, this is really the Ultra-Humanite.  Probably because there was no easy way to have him figure it out.  And Dolores explains how his/her men put his brain into her body.

She dives overboard at the end, escaping from him, but will return.

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Pep is still in his hometown in this Guardineer story, and is playing baseball on the city team when Jimmy Dee crash lands his plane on the diamond.  Pep helps save the man, who offers him a job as his mechanic as he competes in the Air Races.

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Apparently aside from needing no qualifications, the mechanic sits in the rear seat of the biplane – perhaps to perform repairs while the fly.

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At any rate, Jimmy passes out and with no teaching time whatsoever, Pep takes the controls and wins the race.

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Bob Kane continues Clip Carson’s adventures in Kenya.  Clip gets captured by the raider he is meant to stop, Wolf Lupo.

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Things look bad for Clip, but he pulls out his harmonica and starts playing, which calls the tribe he had showed it to last issue.  They rescue him.  So it’s not really Clip that is the hero of this issue, just the most musical person in it.

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Bernard Baily concludes Tex Thompson’s battles with the zombies in this issue.

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It’s not that great a story, and really I only included it to show this page, with both Gargantua, and Africans in it.  These are all black people, so one would expect them to be drawn in a similar style.  But that is not the case, not at all.  The Africans actually look like Africans, more or less, while Gargantua still appears as a caricature.

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Guardineer sends Zatara on another mission against aliens in this adventure, which begins as a poisonous mist starst circulating.

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Zatara meets a fairy-looking woman, Nala, who helpfully explains that the mists are sent by the Moon Men.  Despite being from the Moon, they have set up in a secret city in India.

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Nala leads Zatara to the city, and he uses a variety of magic acts to defeat and humiliate the Moon Men, before working with Nala to use their own poisonous gas against them.

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Together they completely wipe out the Moon Men.  It’s bloodthirsty Zatara back in action.  But Nala is happy with him, offering to take him to the Moon.  Despite her promise, and that of the editor announcing that next issue will see Zatara on the Moon, it never happens.  Or if it did happen, it consisted of events unsuitable for a children’s comic.

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