Posts tagged ‘George Taylor’

Action 15 – Superman raises money, Pep returns to the US, Clip Carson enters a pyramid, and Tex gains a second sidekick

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It’s a submarine with a porthole on the cover of Action 15 (Aug. 39). Unfortunately this amazing sci-fi watercraft does not appear in the Superman story in this, or any other, issue.

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George Taylor sends Clark Kent out to do a story for the Daily Star on Kidtown, a centre for juvenile delinquents, clearly meant to be Boys Town, in this Siegel and Shuster tale.

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Clark discovers that the youth centre is running dangerously low on funding, and decides to raise $100,000 to help them out.  And give him something to do that shows off his powers.

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Among his deeds is searching for sunken treasure.  This story states that he can hold his breath for hours, and the underwater fight with the shark is probably the high point of the story.

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Pep Morgan finally makes it back to the US in this issue, thanks to Guardineer.  The pilot he rescued turns out to be a wealthy businessman, who hires Pep to find out why his night watchmen keep disappearing.  Are they all part of the gang of thieves they are meant to be stopping?  Or are they all being murdered?  Clearly Pep Morgan is the wisest choice of person to solve this mystery.  Because.  Just, because.

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To be fair, Pep does figure things out, and disguises himself as a policeman to round up the crooks who are also passing themselves off as cops.  Apparently athletes are much better at solving these sorts of cases than policemen.

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Bob Kane continues Clip Carson’s adventures in Egypt.

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They reach the “pyramid of Cheops,” which is almost certainly the Great Pyramid, and find a really convenient entrance door halfway up.

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This chapter ends as Clip and the archaeologist come face to face with the living mummy of Cheops.

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Baily’s art has improved dramatically, and should make for far more enjoyable storytelling in the Tex Thompson series.  And the story starts out ok, another strange mystery for Tex to solve.

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But then we meet Gargantua T Potts, who will become Tex’s second sidekick.  A black man, but not really drawn to look like a black man.  Honestly, I was really confused as to why black characters looked like this in the 30s and 40s, until I had it explained to me that they were meant to resemble monkeys, not humans.  And oh my gosh, it’s true.

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It’s a sickening shame that as the Tex Thompson series becomes visually much more interesting, it also becomes so much more appalling.

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Action 12 – Superman smashes cars, Scoop goes to the hospital, Pep stops an assassination, and Zatara visits the 4th Dimension

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Zatara gets the cover of Action 12 (May 1939), but despite travelling to the 4th Dimension in his story in this issue, he does not take a cool art deco rocket.  Superman gets his image on this cover as well, in a circle.  This will get re-used a few issues down the road, and shortly thereafter become a regular part of the cover.

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After a pedestrian is killed by a reckless driver right in front of the Daily Star, Clark gets so upset that he changes to Superman and goes on a rampage.

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He bursts into a radio station, announcing his declaration of war against reckless drivers.  But he doesn’t stop just with them.  The police arrive, but Superman eludes them by smashing through a wall.

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He then goes on a reign of terror.  He not only goes after drunken and reckless drivers, he destroys the inventory of a used car dealer.

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And Superman demolishes an entire auto plant, because the cars are not safe enough.  He even smashes through the radio station for a second time!

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Superman begins to feel his goal has been achieved when he sees a policeman strike a driver, rather than accept a bride from the speeder.  But the cop only does this because Superman is staring menacingly at him.

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Even George Taylor is looking more harried than usual at the end of the story.  As a staunch defender of Superman, today’s actions must be difficult to justify.  Clark is happy though, when a policeman tickets him for a parking violation.

The final panel of the story promotes the first appearance of Batman.

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Scoop Scanlon’s undercover storyline comes to a conclusion in this issue.  After the gun battle ends, with the bad guys escaping, Scoop is taken to the hospital where he spends a month recovering.

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Because his face has been in the papers, Larroway forces a doctor to perform plastic surgery on him, and then kills the doctor.

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The doctor got the last laugh, though, as Larroway discovers his face was left hideous and mangled.  Scoop does pop up at the end, when the police arrest the gang, but he’s not very active in the scene.  A month in the hospital can do that to you.

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Pep Morgan finds himself adrift in an unnamed, but apparently Central American country.  A friendly and trusting consul gives him some money until his parents back home can wire him some.  Pep sees a parade, and winds up stopping an attempted assassination.

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Pep is feted by the president for his actions, but then kidnapped by the rebels.  From the comments the rebels make about Americans, and the actions of the US in Central America, it seems fairly clear that the country is run by a US backed dictator.  But Pep is innocent about politics, and escapes from his captors, warning the president of a new plot against him.

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The rebels get wiped out, and the president is glad.  He lets slip that they would have been executed without trial the next day anyway.  Pep gleefully accepts a position as the dictator’s bodyguard.

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Zatara returns to the US in this story by Gurdineer, though he spends little time there.  At the Explorer’s Club in San Francisco, Zatara is approached by a scientist who has developed a way to travel to the 4th Dimension, and he invites Zatara to try it out.

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Zatara is game, and allows the machine to transport him to a weird realm, where he winds up in the middle of a war between two rival factions.

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Zatara manages to bring peace, through a marriage uniting the two peoples, and returns home.

 

 

Action 10 – Superman in jail, Scoop Scanlon in the mob, Marco Polo in Persia and Zatara in Mongolia

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A dynamic pose for Superman on the cover of Action 10 (March 1939), though the story itself has no relation to the picture.

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The image inside is far more important.  That rendering of Superman would be blown up and used as the cover for the first issue of his own book, later in the year.

Siegel and Shuster’s story takes us back into the realm of social commentary, and the horrifying conditions in some prisons.  I’ve seen the movie “I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang,” which deals with similar abuses, and may well have been an influence on this story.  Taylor gets a mysterious phone call at the Daily Star, and sends Clark out to investigate.

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Clark meets a chain gang fugitive, who shows off his awful bruises, and tells him about the torture in the camp.  Clark goes to the camp itself to question to question the warden.  He and his men browbeat Clark, and force him to lead them back to the escapee.

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Back at the Star, Clark is reviled for his actions.  Jimmy Olsen (not yet named, but now with red hair!) makes his second appearance.  Lois is even more contemptuous towards Clark than normal.  You can tell because her words are larger than normal.  Only when Clark is being yelled at by George Taylor does he come clean.  He intended the man to be taken back to prison, as they need evidence of the warden’s actions.  Clark intends to go undercover into the prison and get that proof.  Taylor is impressed.

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The story’s light-hearted moments are a little bizarre.  Basically, humour is found in the ease with which Superman endures the back breaking work and inhuman conditions the prisoners must suffer through.  But it works.

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Superman then puts the warden in his own hot box, and grabs the Governor, bringing him to witness a confession clearly extracted under threat of death.  The Governor yells “but, wait!” as Superman leaves, doubtless wanting to explain that the confession was meaningless.  The story Clark writes for the Daily Star was probably of more use in gaining a conviction.

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Wow, look at all that text.  Pages like this just beg to be read, don’t they?  Go on, I dare you.

Scoop Scanlon infiltrates the Larrowman gang, along with his faithful photographer Rusty, as this four part story continues.

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Scanlon, in disguise, shows off his remarkable shooting skills.  He ought to be skilled, for all the times this reporter pulls out his gun.  Rusty has no dicernable skills to merit inclusion in the gang, but he’s along for the ride anyway.

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At least, until the gang find his notes.  Rusty is assumed to be a cop, and Scoop is ordered to shoot him.  Which he does.  Just can’t resist that gun.

The story continues in the next issue.

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Marco Polo has an enjoyable one-issue adventure in this issue.  He and his family have been hanging out in Persia on their way east for the last few issues, and get invited to a wedding in this one.

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There is an attempted assassination of the prince getting married, and Polo helps get the man.  But the prince decides to spare him, as he can understand the man wanting to kill for the bride.  Which is kind of nice.  The art is a bit above the norm for this series as well.

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Zatara finds a book in Shanghai, which gives him information on the location of Genghis Khan’s treasure, in this story by Fred Guardineer.  The Tigress just happens to be close enough to overhear as Zatara explains his plans to Tong.

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Then it’s off to Mongolia.  Zatara tries to get more information out of a witch there, and does what I would call a Plastic Man impersonation, except there was no such character yet.

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Zatara breaches unbreachable gaps, endures challenges and battles Mongol hordes, all the while with Tigress tailing along behind, taking advantage of his work.

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Zatara finds the treasure, guarded by an immortal priestess, who will only turn it over if she is killed.  Zatara refuses, which is kind of surprising, but the Tigress is happy to oblige, and blasts the woman, who turns into a giant diamond as she perishes.

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They loot the treasure together, and Zatara turns it all into dried peas to make it easier to transport.  What happened to that flying spell?  Could have flown them and the treasure back.  He gives Tigress her share, and turns the rest over to the Explorer’s Club, keeping one chest for himself.  He makes the curious observation that he is wealthier than he’s ever been.  Ever dreamed might have sounded more emphatic.  Anyway, it’s certainly clear that Zatara will never have to worry about money again, and presumably neither will the Tigress.  She disappears for a while now, not returning for almost a year.

Action 7 – Superman joins the circus, Pep Morgan kicks it, and Bob Daley rescues Tex Thompson

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Superman gets his second cover, in Action 7 (Dec. 39).  It does not reflect the story in the issue, but it does somewhat resemble the opening scenes from the Superman story in issue 2.

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Siegel and Shuster introduce another employee of the Daily Star, Curly.  He is a prankster, and Clark Kent is the butt of his jokes.  George Taylor tells Curly to lay off of Clark, and as editor, should have the power to stop, or fire, him.  But when Curly makes Clark look foolish, Taylor just stands aside watching, with Lois and the rest.

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Taylor sends Clark out to do a story on a circus that is failing.  Because it is an amazingly slow news day.  Not wanting to write a sad tale of bankruptcy, Clark gets into costume and joins the circus as its headliner.

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This story is referenced, many years down the road, in the Time and Time Again story arc, which also sees Superman work as a circus strongman during the Depression.  And the panel of him lifting an elephant will be duplicated on a cover of Action in 1989.

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Once again, the action only kicks in on the last few pages, as Clark stops a rival from sabotaging the circus.

The story ends as Clark uses his powers to give Curly his comeuppance.  Curly is never seen again, but in the 70s, Steve Lombard would be introduced, a very similar character, almost certainly inspired by Curly.

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Gamblers once again prove a problem for Pep Morgan.  This time he is playing football.  Few stories mention a location, but this is one of those few, setting Pep’s activities in Ardale.

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Despite getting kidnapped and drugged, Pep escapes and makes it back to the field in time to score the winning goal.

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Bernard Bailey concludes Tex Thompson’s battle with Captain Diablo in this issue.

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Bob Daley has been hunting for Tex since he disappeared. His identification backs up Tex’s story, and he is released from prison.

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Tex joins the army of the foreign nation that Diablo is pestering.  I don’t understand the logic behind this.  It’s a “temporary” enlistment, lasting only the duration of this tale.

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There isn’t as much confusion of identity in this one, which is unfortunate, especially when Tex and Diablo have their final battle.

 

Action 5 – the first real Superman story, and Zatara in Egypt

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Oh, that guy on the cover of Action 5 (Oct. 38) is in lots of trouble!  He cannot possibly have survived.  That’s probably why there is no story about him in the comic.

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Superman as a character had now been around for a few issues, but the stories to this point did not have the feel of what the series would become.  That changes now.  Siegel and Shuster craft the formula here, in its earliest and purest form.

A dam is in danger of collapse from a flood.  George Taylor, the harried editor of the Daily Star, wants Clark Kent to cover it, but Kent is not around.

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Lois wants the story, but Taylor refuses, as it is “no job for a woman.”  This infuriates Lane, so she cons Clark, sending him after a fake story, and heads out to the dam herself.

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Clark realizes he has been set-up by Lois, and rushes out to the dam.  He tries to hold it together, but it collapses, and the wave threatens Lois.  She, for her part, has taken a cab abandoned by its driver, who possessed common sense.

Superman swoops in and saves Lois from certain death.

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Once again showing her assertive side, Lois kisses Superman, an extremely forward act for the time.

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The story ends with Lois being a total shit to Clark.

There are some interesting concepts of male and female roles in this.  The editor looks extremely masculine and dominant, and feels he has the power to determine gender roles, forbidding Lois to cover the story.

Lois shows herself able to outcon a man, and take another man’s vehicle.  But this drive is her downfall, leading to her near-death.

Superman has all the power, all the “ideal” male qualities, and is pursued by Lois, although in kissing him she takes the “male” role.

And Superman does not want to be valued for those overt qualities, instead, he wants to be valued for his meekness and politeness – his low status – the status women are “meant” to have.  And Lois, always fighting to be free of that status, cannot possibly respect it, in Clark, or anyone else.

Anyway, that’s how I see it.

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Zatara travels the world,  more or less at random, at times during his series.  Sometimes mention is made of it being a vacation, though a vacation from what it’s hard to see.  Zatara is spoken of as a stage performer, but no stories show him doing this, or being at a theatre.

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Zatara is able to look into the memories  of a dying man, and learns that his entire expedition vanished into a colossal ancient statue.

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There is a secret cult, preparing for human sacrifice to bring a god to life, and a living statue.  Guardineer’s art, which I find dreadfully static when the characters are talking, shows a lot more spark when he gets to illustrate weird creatures and outfits.

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Zatara uses some not-backwards spoken magic to melt the statue, and end the cult’s reign of terror.

 

Action 1- Superman, Chuck Dawson, Zatara, Marco Polo, Scoop Scanlon and Tex Thompson debut, and Pep Morgan begins

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Action Comics 1 (June 1938) has been called one of the most important comic books ever printed.  It saw a number of characters debut, but one more than any other would affect not only comic books, but movies, television, and stage. Siegel and Shuster’s crowning achievement, Superman has been the longest consistently published character in history, yet there was no certainty of this when he first appeared.  There had never been a superhero.  The word didn’t even exist yet.  And it would take some time before sales proved that they had struck gold, and a new genre had been born.

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The story begins with a page of introduction, briefly mentioning a baby shot from a dying planet and coming to Earth.  The Kents do not even appear in this brief origin, and the “scientific explanation” of his powers is laughable.

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With the second page, we jump mid-stream into the tale. In fact, the first six pages of the story had been cut, but would be included when this story was reprinted in Superman 1.  You may notice the miscolouring of his boots.  In Superman 1, his boots are red for the first six pages, then revert back to blue, as coloured in this story.

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After saving an innocent man from execution, Superman changes into his identity as reporter Clark Kent, and visits his editor at the Daily Star.  Although not named as yet, this is George Taylor.

It is also worth noting that Superman goes out of his way to protect a woman being beaten by her husband.  A social conscience was part of this strip from the outset.

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Lois Lane works with Clark at the Star, writing “sob stories.”  He invites her on a date, but his determination to make Clark appear a weakling just rouses Lois’ contempt.

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Lois is abducted by some men from the club, but rescued by Superman, who she immediately falls for.

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The story, which continues in the next issue, ends with Superman terrorizing a pro-war lobbyist.  Superman cannot fly in this story.  He can jump, and runs along telephone wires, but lacking flight makes his trip with the lobbyist far more dangerous.

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Chuck Dawson follows the adventures of the son of Charles Dawson, a rancher who was killed and his land stolen during a Texas Range War.  He was sent to Wyoming to grow up with his uncle, but as the series begins heads back to Texas to avenge his father’s death and regain the family lands.

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As soon as he arrives in Red Gulch, trouble arises.  The sheriff wants him gone, as does Burwell, the owner of the 4-G Ranch, who now owns the disputed land.  Burwell has an awful lot of men at his command, and he just keeps sending them after Chuck.

This launches a serial that will run for the first 14 issues of the book.

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Zatara, Master Magician begins, by Fred Gaurdineer.  The character is a fairly blatant rip-off of Mandrake the Magician, a popular newspaper strip from the time.  Along with his assistant, Tong, Zatara prevents a train robbery by the Tigress and her men.

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The Tigress would return in a number of Zatara’s stories, as both enemy and ally.  And though the character was never revived past the Golden Age, her name has been adopted by a number of other DC women.

Zatara’s magical abilities are quite extensive at first, not limited to the backwards-speaking that would later become his trademark.

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The Adventures of Marco Polo begins, looking much like other novel adaptations.

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The first chapter, which gives some background before seeing Marco and his uncle head out on their journey to the East, follows the book itself fairly closely. This will change as the series goes on.

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Pep Morgan’s series, following the adventures of an all-round athlete, had ended a few months earlier in More Fun Comics, but begins anew in Action.  He appears to be a professional boxer in this story by Guardineer, though later tales would show him in college.

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His stories in Action Comics were longer than his More Fun tales, and allow for more complexity.  In this match, Pep faces a boxer who uses a drugged needle in his glove to overcome his opponents.  Pep still triumphs.

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Scoop Scanlon is a reporter for the Bulletin, in an unnamed, but large, American city.  He works with friend and photographer Rusty James.

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Reading his stories, you really have to wonder why he went into journalism, when Scoop clearly would prefer to be a policeman.  He carries a gun, which he is quick to use.  He had only fourteen stories in total, and in four of those he starts shootouts.

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More than any other series from this era, Tex Thompson would shift and change to reflect the prevailing interests.  This was Bernard Bailey’s second series for DC, and, like the Buccaneer, the art would improve rapidly.

Tex Thompson is a blond Texan, in England, who gets framed for murder. He proves his innocence with the aid of two young children.

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He wears a large stetson hat, which is distinct enough that one might think it will be his trademark. But it only appears in this issue.

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