Posts tagged ‘Joe Samachson’

Action 101 – Superman gets nuked, Congo Bill pulls the eye, and Vigilante knows his horses

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Win Mortimer and George Roussos are the artists on the Superman story from Action 101 (Oct. 46), which actually does have Superman filming a nuclear explosion as part of the story.

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At first, it seems as if the story will have no relation to the cover.  It deals with some criminals who have developed a serum that drives people crazy.  They use it in a blackmail scheme, only providing the antidote when the relatives of the wealthy victims pay up.

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Superman gets onto the case, after a famous actor goes crazy during a performance, and almost kills his scene partner.

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The serum proves to even affect Superman, and he goes into a wild flight around the world.  He winds up at a Pacific atoll, and is at ground zero for a nuclear test.  But all that does is clear his mind, and he grabs a camera and films the next explosion, just to be a nice guy.  And, sane again, has no problem rounding up the bad guys.  An odd and roundabout way of reaching the cover.

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Congo Bill gets shipwrecked, winding up on a small island with a scientist and his criminal assistants, in this story by Alvin Schwartz and Edwin Smalle.  The scientist is so into his giant octopus, which he calls the devilfish, that he has not noticed that the men who work for him are intentionally causing shipwrecks to loot the cargoes.

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Bill figures it out pretty fast, but the men are also wary of him, and decide to kill Bill and their boss.

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And of course the big octopus gets involved in the climax of the action, and Congo Bill grabs the eyeball of the creature to get loose.  Look at that.  He almost pulls it right out of the socket.  Oh, my gosh that is so gross.  I think I’m traumatized.

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Samachson, Meskin and Roussos provide a much less disgusting story for the Vigilante.  Some enterprising thieves begin pulling horseback robberies of the carriages that drive around in parks in the US.  I’m guessing this is meant to be New York’s Central Park, as that’s the one always shown with these type of carriages.

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Vigilante knows his horses, and recognizes the one on the poster for a travelling rodeo as the same as one of the horses used in the robberies.  This puts him and Stuff on the trail pretty fast.

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Still, it’s a fun story, with both hero and villain on horseback by the end, and an impressive jump off of a bridge.

Action 81- Superman saves a theme park, Congo Bill is back in Canada, Stuff learns magic, and Zatara in Rio

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A New Year’s cover on Action 81 (Feb. 45).  Considering that the end of World War 2 was in sight, the cover seems very appropriate.

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Superman gets cast in another light-hearted but enjoyable story, by Ira Yarborough.

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Superman helps a millionaire build Playland Isle, a theme park for children.  His heirs think it’s a waste of money. The millionaire promptly dies, although his body is not found.  The will disinherits the heirs, unless they can prove the theme park is dangerous.  Not too hard to see where this story is going.

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Lois and Clark come to inspect the park, and Lois goes undercover as a little girl, in a hilarious disguise.  The heirs have hired goons to sabotage the park, although they come to regret their actions as the day goes on.

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The most is made of both the park and Superman’s speed, as he defuses bombs on a variety of attractions, all timed to go off at once.

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The park’s friendly Santa Claus turns out to to be the millionaire, who faked his death to teach his heirs the value of not blowing up theme parks, or something like that.

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Congo Bill is back in Canada in this story by Ellsworth and Daly.  I think it’s set in what was then the Northwest Territories, although the story describes it as “Hudson’s Bay country.”

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Congo Bill is pursuing diamond thieves, who performed the robbery in Toronto – the city is even named in the story!  Sometimes I have a problem with Congo Bill stories set far from Africa that make no use of the lead characters skills, but in this one he gets to show his abilities with a dogsled, so that works for me.

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Samachson and Meskin give Stuff a more important role than usual in this issue.

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Stuff has been learning magic tricks, which he entertains Greg Sanders with.  He hasn’t mastered it yet, and is better with card tricks than animals.

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They go to an exhibition of lightweight, futuristic furniture, which is apparently so valuable it is worth stealing.  Vigilante and Stuff get captured, but Stuff shows that he has learned the first principle of magic, misdirection, and keeps the hoods entertained while Vigilante sneaks up behind them.

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Later, Stuff manages to hold off half the gang, simply by entertaining them with card tricks, as Vigilante takes down the rest of the thieves.  A really good role for Stuff, and the magic tricks are well-used.

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Zatara gets involved in a jewel smuggling plot in this story by Cameron and White.

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Zatara is on a cruise down to Rio when the jewels go missing.  He suspects they have been tossed into the harbour, and heads down to retrieve them, winding up rescuing a man from an octopus with really emotive eyes.

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Although Zatara appears to be underwater for most of the story, the water itself is “parting” around him, which explains why his top hat remains comfortably in place throughout the story.

 

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 71 – Valentine’s Day for Superman, Vigilante and Rainbow Man are polite, and Congo Bill in the desert

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Don Cameron and Ira Yarborough give Jimmy Olsen his first major role in this book in Action 71 (April 1944), in a story that works its way into all-out farce.

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Jimmy wants to impress Betty Roxmore, and buys what is, for him, an expensive present.  Superman decides to give Lois Lane an insulting present, and then something nice as Clark, to move her affections towards the identity he wants her to respond to.  But there is also a phony count, and a diamond necklace.  And then ALL the gifts get mixed up.

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Mix-ups and romantic misunderstandings galore in this silly but enjoyable story.  Jimmy does wind up impressing Betty, with Superman’s help.  But being the hero does not work as well for Clark, as Lois winds up thinking he was the one behind the insulting present, not Superman.

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The Rainbow Man escapes from prison to pester the Vigilante once again, in this story by Samachson and Meskin.  Rainbow Man no longer wears his colourful shirt, but his colour-themed crimes do persist.

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Greg Sanders is performing at a society function, and spots the Rainbow Man from the stage. But he does nothing, simply finishes his set, before leaving and changing to Vigilante.  Rainbow Man spots the hero, but rather than fleeing, gets a group of fans to start talking to him.  Vigilante stops his pursuit of Rainbow Man to chat with his fans.

This is so low-key it’s almost laughable.

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Eventually things do get hopping, as Vigilante figures out Rainbow Man’s art thefts, replacing them with forgeries which he sells as originals.

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Congo Bill is back in the desert in this story, illustrated by Smalle.  A cheetah (which doesn’t look very much like a cheetah) winds up becoming his ally and saviour in this tale.

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But I didn’t include this story because of the cheetah.  Rather, this is the first Congo Bill story in a very long time that is neither a World War 2 adventure, nor a globe-trotting excursion.  Bill is back in Africa, fighting with and against the native tribes.

Action 69 – Lost and Found with the Prankster, the Dummy gets smaller, and Zatara fights evil magicians

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The Prankster returns in a story by Sam Citron in Action 69 (Feb. 44).

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The story deals with preposterous ads about lost items, which run in the Daily Planet.  The first is for a needle in a haystack, which winds up starting a stampede.  The items are actually rare, and stolen, and the Prankster’s ads elicit a blackmail payment as a reward.  Lois and Clark take a while to piece the story together, and it’s made even harder for them as the Prankster’s men pretend to be Planet reporters, extorting money to keep the true story from the papers.

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The Prankster’s scam only really falls through when he kidnaps Lois Lane.  Astoundingly, the Planet has no trouble running the ad about this, although they do send the copy to Perry White before the paper goes out.

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Samachson, Meskin and Kubert produce one of the best Vigilante stories in this issue.

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The Dummy steals an experimental machine that can make people smaller.  He first uses it on himself and his gang, so they can pull off an impressive in-flight robbery.

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Vigilante and Stuff get on his trail, but the Dummy uses the machine on them, and leaves them prey to a chicken. I just love that sequence.  Vigilante and Stuff manage to survive until the effect wears off, and then turn the tables on the Dummy, capturing and shrinking him (again), and bringing him to jail in a birdcage.

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Gardner Fox and William White pit Zatara against two Eastern mystics in this story.  It touches on racist, with the Hindu magicians, but avoids the extremes common in the era.

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The two men are shown to have magical powers equal to those of Zatara.  He manages to defeat them largely through subterfuge, and then by knocking them out with his fist. Still, the Hindu mystics are not shown to be phonies, or cowards, or anything other than criminally bent.

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.

 

 

 

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