Posts tagged ‘Fred Ray’

Action 52 – Superman vs the Emperor of the US, Vigilante reveals himself to Stuff, the Three Aces get trapped in time, the Americommandos, Congo Bill delivers cigarettes, and Zatara stops a kidnapping

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I just love the cover for Action 52 (Sept. 42).  It is the one and only cover from this era that features the heroes of all the series contained in the issue.  It’s kind of curious that none of the other DC comics from the era ever did this.  And as I always write about the cover featured hero in any blog entry, every series will be covered for this issue.

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Siegel and Sikela’s Superman story is set in a possible future, so not actually canonical.  In it, a man decides to proclaim himself Emperor of America – although he only takes over the US, and leaves the rest of the two continents alone.

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To Clark’s mystifcation, every seems to support this.  The Daily Planet staff think it’s a great idea, even Lois Lane and Perry White.  Jimmy Olsen can be seen in cameo,with his back to the reader.

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As the Emperor’s reign progresses it becomes more and more authoritarian.  As one might expect from a self-proclaimed emperor.  Superman discovers that the man has used a mind control machine to win people to his side, and destroys the machine, freeing the country.

The story is clearly meant to be read as a warning against authoritarianism, which would have been synonymous with the Axis powers at this time.

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Mort Meskin and Cliff Young have the Vigilante deal with kidnappers who captures a children’s band in this story, but that’s really just a hook for the true purpose of the tale.

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Up to this issue, Stuff had been taken care of by Greg Sanders, and worked as Vigilante’s sidekick, but had no idea the two men were the same.  Stuff is clearly not the most observant boy.  Greg finally reveals his identity to the boy.

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This leads, quite logically, to Greg relating his origin.  It does not change anything from the origin related in his first appearance, simply expands on it.  Greg’s grandfather was an “Indian hunter,” who nonetheless was so admired by those he killed that they gave him an honourable burial.  We also discover that Greg had begun his singing career before his father’s death, which makes more sense than beginning it at the same time he became Vigilante.  The earlier version of this tale left that sequence of events unclear.

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The Three Aces get a bit of a change of pace from the war stories that had become their meat and potatoes.  They wind up flying into a remote valley to avoid a storm, and get trapped there.  The valley is populated by other trapped soldiers, going back centuries, who continue to fight each other.

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This allows the Three Aces to keep fighting the Japanese, even though the Asians got trapped their in the 10th century.  Radium radiation is given as the reason no one can escape the valley. The Three Aces use lead from the armor of the captured Japanese soldiers to protect their plane engines from the radium, and escape.

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The logo on this series changes for a second time, becoming the Americommandos, although there is no obvious difference in the strip itself, in this story by Joseph Greene and Bernard Baily.  The story even alternates between calling Tex Mr. America and Americommando.

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The story deals with a Nazi soldier who escapes from a Canadian prison camp and heads down to the US to wreak havoc.  Fat Man does appear in the story, but in a small, non-speaking cameo.

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Congo Bill is still in China in this Fred Ray story, continuing to help the war against Japan.  It’s an odd mission that he is on, though, having to deliver a pack of cigarettes.

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It’s a deadly trek that Bill takes to do this. The cigarettes are an effective decoy, as the Japanese do not question Bill’s possession of them when they capture him. Bill escapes, and makes it to the Chinese lines, where we learn that the rolling papers the cigarettes are in contains the plans for the Japanese attack, which they successfully hold off.

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The issue closes with Gardner Fox and Joseph Sulman’s Zatara adventure.  An ice skater gets kidnapped, and Zatara uses his magic to torment the kidnappers.

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While he probably could have rescued the ice queen more easily, the Zatara strip has become much more about goofy and amusing magical events than about serious action.

 

Action 51 – The Prankster debuts, and Congo Bill joins the Flying Tigers

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The Prankster makes his debut in Action 51 (Aug. 42), in a story by Siegel and Sikela.

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Looking like a bad vaudeville comedian, the Prankster is somewhat of Superman’s version of the Joker. Indeed, the story in this issue could easily be a Joker story.  After having his gang accumulate a large “nest egg” through small robberies, the Prankster launches into his scheme.  He and his men force their way into banks, but leave money, rather than taking it.

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Sergeant Casey shows up, trying to arrest the Prankster, but frustrated at his lack of criminal acts.  Superman faces the same problem.  Eventually, the bankers stop fearing the Prankster, and one cheerfully allows him into the vault, where the Prankster’s scheme comes to fruition, as he steals millions.

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The finale is fairly abrupt.  Superman captures the Prankster’s men, but believe the Prankster himself to have died in a cave-in.  We see that he is still alive, and he returns shortly in the pages of Superman.  The same story that brings back the Puzzler, in fact.  But while the Puzzler would fade into obscurity, the Prankster would remain a major Superman villain.

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Congo Bill joins the Flying Tigers in this story by Fred Ray.  The Flying Tigers was a volunteer air brigade that operated out of China just after the US entered the war.  They were absorbed into the US airforce proper only a month after this story came out.

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Although in many respects this is a war story, typical of Congo Bill tales of the time, it is also a mystery, as one of the Tigers is really an enemy operative.

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It’s not that difficult to figure out who the bad guy is, though there are some decent decoy clues.

I had to wikipedia the Flying Tigers before I wrote this entry, and discovered that another early DC artist, Bert Christman, who worked on Sandman, was a member of the Flying Tigers, and in fact died flying with 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 48 – Superman vs the Top, Mr America vs the Pied Piper, and Congo Bill fights the Japanese

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The trend towards having covers that represent the story inside comes to an abrupt end, an exceptionally indirect result of the bombing of Pearl Harbour.  Superman would be engaged in war on the covers of Action Comics, even while his stories inside tended to avoid even mentioning the conflict.

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In this issue Jerry Siegel and John Sikela match Superman against the Top, a mysterious villain whose evil scheme largely consists of selling defective cars.

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Lois and Clark become targets of the Top when they start publishing stories implicating the dealership.

The Top never appears again, and has no connection to the later Flash villain.

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Fitch and Baily send Mr America and Fat Man for another round with the Queen Bee in this story.  This time the Queen has a Pied Piper working for her, using his music to mind control the wealthy into following him, and turning over their money.

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I have to admit, even though I have never really cared for this series, Baily does give it his all, and the action in this issue particularly is well rendered.

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Congo Bill gets even more into the war with this Fred Ray story.  Aside from a couple of panels, this story could fit into any of the later DC war books.

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Bill joins the British forces fighting against the Japanese in the “East Indies,” which I think means islands in the Indian Ocean.

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 41 – Superman and the saboteur, Pep Morgan ends, the Black Pirate chooses to forget, and Congo Bill battles for loyalty

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Very nice cover for Action 41 (Oct. 41).  I like the puff of steam at the side of the train, helps convey forward motion.  I can’t draw for the life of me, and spotting those kind of “tricks” always impresses me.

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Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy turn out another story about foreign saboteurs in this issue.  The politics and motivation of those behind it are kept muddy, though.

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Sergeant Casey is featured again.  He is no longer hunting Superman, and they are buddies again.  Casey tracks down the man who planted the bomb which began the tale, and Superman winds up having to protect him, while tracking down his boss, who is trying to have him killed.

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Lois Lane gets captured, and must be saved, but the whole sequence is so quick it seems almost jammed in because it “had” to be there.

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Pep Morgan’s series comes to a close with this issue, which follows from the previous story. Don Alvera brings him to his ranch in the country, where Pep is pitted against the local bandit king, Tuerto, whom he kills.  Don Alvera seems to actively be trying to set up Pep with his daughter, though Pep’s first comments to her are about her father’s wealth.

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The last we see of Pep he is embracing the prone Juanita, as her father Don Alversa looks on approvingly.  After his failed gay relationship, his failed professional baseball career, and his many failed attempts at college, Pep settles down in Chileanos, becoming the muscle behind the powers the run the country.  And after marrying Juanita, and becoming heir to Don Alvera, Pep was sure to rule like a warlord.

I imagine, in the end, Pep was unable to accept the frailties of age, and attempted some fight or daring act when his body was no longer capable of it, and died stupidly.

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The Black Pirate is given a one-issue tale by Moldoff in this issue, which seems derived from Haggard’s novel She.

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Jon docks the ship, and goes ashore, discovering an albino “goddess,” and her giant black slave.  He doesn’t have time to do much more than break a jar and run back to his ship.  He decides to forget about the adventure, and never tell anyone about it.  If it wasn’t for Moldoff’s art, I probably would have forgotten about it, too.

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I probably should have written about Congo Bill’s adventure in the previous issue, as it introduced Sheila Hanlen, who continues as a supporting character.  The story was a silly one, though, about finding a valley of dinosaurs.  I guarantee it is not going to be the only story in which Congo Bill finds dinosaurs, and I’m sure there are better versions than the one by Fred Ray.  But Sheila is back in this story anyway, which deals with World War 2 again.

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Congo Bill and Professor Kent, along with Sheila, return to a British fort, and discover that a German agent is trying to rouse the natives against the British.  Bill goes out to fight the man, as apparently the natives will follow whoever wins.  It’s kind of insulting, really, and ignores the huge reasons the Africans had for not siding with their alien overlords.

Action 39 – Superman vs a radioactive killer, Pep Morgan changes schools, the Black Pirate escapes, and Congo Bill patrols the coast

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Another militaristic cover for Action 39 (Aug. 41).

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Jerry Siegel and Leo Nowak craft a decent tale, pitting Superman against a radioactive murderer.

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The story is also a mystery, as the killer is believed to be a scientist who died in a laboratory explosion. Did the radiation bring him back from the dead?

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Superman is still having troubles with the police.  He does his best to save a cop from being killed by the radioactive man, but winds up getting blamed for the murder himself. Sergeant Casey is once again out to get him.

This has a more Batman-like solution, with the dead man not really dead, and the whole explosion part of an elaborate decoy in the murder scheme.

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Pep Morgan is abruptly attending Midwest University in this George Papp story.  No word on what made him leave Midtown, and Slim is nowhere to be seen.  Those two facts must be connected somehow.  Curious that the kidnapping made them break up.  But a few issues earlier, there had been a story in which Slim’s gambling debts set off the problems.  Was the kidnapping a fake, intended to get money from Slim’s uncle?  It seems to me to be a reasonable conclusion, as I apparently have no faith in human nature.  And Pep ruined Slim’s plans, while at the same time Pep learned that his beloved Slim was not to be trusted.

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So off Pep goes to another university, and once again winds up framed by gamblers who want to fix the game.  Pep winds up disguising himself as a bum to make it back to the field.  As has happened before, the story ends with the coach putting Pep back on the team, but this is the last Pep Morgan story to have a school setting, and I think he simply left under a cloud.

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Sheldon Moldoff continues the Black Pirate’s reunion with Don De Avila in this story.  Bonnie’s suspicions about the man prove correct.  They don’t even reach the banquet table before De Avila orders Jon Valor arrested.

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The Black Pirate manages to escape the castle, but Bonnie is held captive.  This is no victory at all for De Avila, who has lost a friend and gained an enemy, and it’s done nothing to restore his place at court.

The story continues in the next issue.

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Fred Ray pushes neutrality to the limit in this month’s Congo Bill story. Bill is in Cairo, working with the British, who ask him to help patrol the coast for u-boats, as he is more familiar with the territory.  That’s an amazing realistic and logical opening to a story.

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While the word “Nazi” does not appear in this story, and the country menacing north Africa is never named, the use of the term “u-boat,” as well as the fact that the evil army address each other as “herr” makes things pretty clear.  A Hitler moustache is even used on one of the characters.

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Congo Bill finds the invaders, and sends them packing in short order.

 

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