Posts tagged ‘John Sikela’

Action 112 – Mr. Mxyztplk’s chess game

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John Sikela does the art as Mr. Mxyztplk returns, in Action 112 (Sept. 47).

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The 5th Dimensional imp comes back to Metrolpolis, but finds his usual mayhem not as interesting.  Superman attempts to reason with him, suggesting he do something less destructive to occupy his mind, like playing chess.  This spurs Mxyztplk into creating a life sized chess game.

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One of the most entertaining bits of this story deals with two men inside the castle that Mxyztplk takes for his set.  Although they get flown across the ocean, the men continue having tea, unconcerned and unaware of what is going on.

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Lots of good art, and a fun story, ending with a special piece that Superman adds to his side of the board.  A Klptzyxm!

Action 111- the newsreel blimp, and a rival shooting gallery

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John Sikela helms this story, which deals with two former GIs who set up a newsreel company in Gotham City, in Action 111 (Aug. 47).

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The blimp the GIs use appears right at the top of the story, and Lois Lane notices it, as it advertises a perfume that does not really exist. Apparently Lois is so into perfume that she knows every single brand.  Among the people mystified at how the newsreel footage is being taken are Clark Kent, and also the head of a rival newsreel firm.

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Some of the art is extremely good.  And the story isn’t bad.  Superman takes a liking to the boys, and works to help them, especially when their rival tries to sabotage them.

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Billy Gunn returns in the Vigilante series in this story by George Roussos.  Once again, Stuff is nowhere in sight, and probably recording his radio show.

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Billy Gunn (called Popp Gunn in these stories, matching the name he uses in the Vigilante movie serial, runs a shooting gallery in Times Square.  A rival gallery has opened, offering big prizes, to lure customers away.  Vigilante uses his shooting skills to win every prize they have, turning them over to Gunn to offer himself at his gallery.  The assumption is made that the rivals want to drive Gunn out of business, and will then no longer offer prizes, but that’s a pretty weak justification for Vigilante’s actions.  But the rivals than firebomb Gunn’s stand, so all bets are off.

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There is a good scene, with Vigilante captured an bound behind a target, which Gunn is encouraged to shoot at.

Action 109 – The Prankster wipes out currency, Congo Bill protects elephants, and Billy Gunn returns

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John  Sikela does the art on the Prankster’s latest scheme, in Action 109 (June 1947).

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The Prankster releases a gas in the mint that wipes out all the printing on the money, leaving everyone with blank notes.  Chaos sweeps the US.

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The government turns to Superman, who finds some gold meteors, flings them to Earth, and melts them down, turning them into money.  I wonder if this story is meant to be some commentary on the gold standard?

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What makes the story fun is Superman’s scam on the Prankster.  The Prankster is buying all the blank currency for pennies, clearly because he intends to restore the printing on it.  Superman pretends to help, bringing him huge amounts of blank paper – but he keeps selling the Prankster the same paper over and over – and it isn’t even the real money, but fake stuff Superman had printed up.

Once the real money is restored, the story doe snot address what happens with the massive gold reserves Superman just created.  Are they spread around for the good of humanity? I doubt it.

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Congo Bill gets a really solid African adventure in this story by Samachson and Smalle, aiding a tribe that protects the elephants in their territory from poachers.

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The tribe gets forced by the poachers to build fake elephant skeletons, creating a phony elephants burial ground, but the more interesting thing is the backstory between Bill and the tribe, who made him a member after he saved their leader.

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Some really nice art on the elephants as well.

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Billy Gunn. not seen in this strip for years, returns in this story by Don Cameron and George Roussos.

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Still in Times Square, Billy meets two former Texas Rangers, and convinces them to get jobs with the police.

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Together the Rangers, Vigilante and Billy Gunn stop some thieves.  Stuff is nowhere to be seen in this story, but in a previous tale, he was given his own radio show spin-off from Greg’s show, so I assume this is the night he is recording.

Action 106 – Superman meets King George VI

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John Sikela is the artist on the Superman story in Action 106 (March 1947), in which Clark learns a possible origin for himself.

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Clark is approached by lawyers representing a British lord, whose son was kidnapped many years earlier. They have some loose evidence linking the boy and Clark.  Clark does not believe he is really British, but at this point has no idea of his actual origin, beyond being found in a rocket by the Kents.

Clark heads to England to assume the role of heir, and gets involved in a dispute with the miners who work on the lord’s land.  Clark even takes a seat in the House of Lords, and votes for a bill that will ensure the safety of the miners.  Lois accompanies him, but is really just a distraction in the story.

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Superman receives a royal invitation, as King George VI and Queen Elizabeth make a cameo.

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The story reaches a very happy ending, with the leader of the miners revealed as the actual heir.  Superman builds a new mining town, and moves the castle so that everyone can live happily together.

 

Action 105 – Santa Claus gets fat, and the Vigilante heads west

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Siegel and Sikela send out another Superman Christmas story in Action 105 (Feb. 47).

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The art is top drawer as evil Jasper Rasper heads to the North Pole, in order to fulfill his dream destroying Christmas.

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He has developed a drug that causes huge weight gain, and gives it to Santa Claus and his reindeer.  Superman is close behind, and spends the rest of the story trying to help Santa lose weight.

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Yes, there are laughs aplenty as Superman flies Santa Claus in circles around a volcano, one of the most common methods of weight loss in the late 40s.

But it’s silly, and fun, and the art is excellent.

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This story sees the Vigilante in the west, as Greg Sanders travels on a radio tour.  It begins a trend of moving the urban cowboy into a more rural setting.  The western genre had a huge boom in these few years, and the Vigilante series made the most of it.

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The story itself is mostly set within a town, and deals with a corrupt sheriff, and a crusading newspaper.  So it has some western stereotypes, as well as a saguaro cactus.

Action 97 – Hocus and Pocus at the Magician’s Convention

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Jerry Siegel and John Sikela put Hocus and Pocus centre stage in Action 97 (June 1946).

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Perry White assigns Clark to do a story on a Magician’s Convention, which seems kind of tame.  But he does order Clark to find a better story there than any other paper.  Hocus and Pocus also plan to attend, and Superman decides to once again make their magic come true.

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Fortunately for Clark, there seem to be a lot of criminal magicians attending the convention, competing for the grand prize.  He flies around at super-speed, making the spells of Hocus and Pocus come true as they round up their evil rivals.

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Superman’s activities ensure that Hocus and Pocus win the big prize, which they then donate to charity.  And as before, they remain completely ignorant of the fact that they do not have powers.

But you do have to feel sorry for the other, honest, magicians who lost out to them.

Action 95 – the Prankster makes Superman the laughing stock of Metropolis

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John Sikela handles the Prankster story in Action 95 (April 1946), in which the Prankster nearly succeeds in driving Superman to quit.

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The Prankster’s goal is to continuously publicly humiliate Superman, but using intermediaries, so that Superman will not realize that it’s a plan.

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The Prankster gets away with it a few times, undermining Superman’s self-confidence.  After getting a pie int he face at a ceremony meant to honour him, Superman decides to hang up his cape, and announces his retirement, as the city doesn’t love him anymore.

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Later, once he gets a grip on himself, Superman figures out the Prankster’s scheme, and goads him into confessing onstage.

Sikela’s art on the Prankster is a bit odd.  He doesn’t look quite right.

Action 88 – Hocus and Pocus return

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John Sikela brings Hocus and Pocus back for their second adventure with Superman, in Action 88 (Sept. 45).

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Their detective agency has not been very successful, but they also have not, apparently, tried using their magic, as Hocus and Pocus still believe they have the powers.  A man hires them to entertain at a party, and they accept. Superman decides to help them, as they are planning to spend the money they make on war bonds.  I wonder how they are affording food and shelter.

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At the party, a con man enlists their help in extorting contributions for a phoney youth centre.  Superman continues to help them, putting their victims in deadly and terrifying situations.  They gladly fork over huge sums to end the torment.

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At the end, Superman exposes the con man, so the money really does get used for building the youth centre.  But you can’t help but feel something is wrong.  Superman willingly tortured those people, even if he was only fulfilling the “magic spells” of Hocus and Pocus.  And this time Superman doesn’t even try to convince the two that they have no magic.

Hocus and Pocus return in the following year.

Action 59 – Superman meets Susie, and the Vigilante meets the Fiddler

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Superman meets Lois’ niece Susie in this issue, but not inside a Nazi tank, despite the cover for Action 59 (April 1943).

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The story itself, by Siegel, Sikela and Dobrotka, bears no resemblance to the style of Susie’s later stories.  Susie would come to be known as a “teller of tall tales,” to be polite.

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In this story, Lois enlists Clark as an emergency babysitter.  We learn that Susie is the daughter of Lois’ sister, although that woman is not named.  As Susie’s last name is Tompkins, that at least gives us the father’s name.

Clark starts reading Susie the story of Cinderella, but falls asleep while doing so.

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The rest of the story relates the Cinderella story, with Susie aged into the lead role, and Superman standing in for the fairy godmother.

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There are some men trying to kill the prince, which gives Superman an opportunity for some action.  At the end, Clark wakes, and Susie and Lois are both amused that Clark would dream that he is Superman.

Susie returns next year in this book.

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Mort Meskin and Charles Paris introduce a new foe for the Vigilante in this issue, the Fiddler.  Although superficially similar, this is quite a different character from the better known one, the Flash villain introduced a few years down the road.

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This Fiddler passes himself off as a harmless old street musician, while secretly communicating with his criminal gang through his music.

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Even after his gang winds up in a fight with Vigilante and Stuff, they have no idea that the “witness” they question is really the leader of the gang.

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Later, as Vigilante and Stuff stop a shipboard robbery, Greg hears the same music, and recognizes the man’s voice.  Stuff appears to get shot, but misses the bullet by falling overboard, and swims back in time to save Vigilante.

The Fiddler is captured and sent to prison, but returns in a couple of months anyway.

 

Action 58 – Superman vs Dr Menace, Vigilante vs the Dummy, Americommando vs Dr Ito, and Congo Bill vs the Nazis

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Oh, it’s that infamous “slap a Jap” cover on Action 58 (March 1943).

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Jerry Siegel is joined by Sam Citron on pencils and John Sikela on inks for this unusual tale.

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An aging actor is approached by Dr. Menace, who insists he can make the actor young again.  He undergoes the surgery, only to discover that he has been left with a hideous face, and must wear a mask to appear normal.  Although really, what could one expect from a man named Dr. Menace?

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Menace forces the man to commit crimes while wearing a leopard skin, and sends notes to the police and the papers, claiming to be the thief, and calling himself Adonis.

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Clark and Lois get on the case when the Adonis letters arrive, and eventually Superman corners the two men, who wind up killing each other.

The final panel is such a let-down though, never showing what the man looked like after the operation.

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The Dummy is the most enduring villain of the Vigilante.  He had been introduced in the pages of Leading Comics, battling the Vigilante as he functioned as one of the Seven Soldiers of Victory.  This story, by Don Cameron, Mort Meskin and Charles Paris, was the villain’s second appearance, and first in the pages of Action Comics.  Chronologically, this story follows the Dummy’s appearances in All-Star Squadron.

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The Dummy breaks out of prison with the help of Bobo, a relatively dumb criminal.  He is content to follow the Dummy’s instructions, as he begins a new crime spree.

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The Vigilante and Stuff get on the Dummy’s trail.  Bobo traps the heroes, but gets tossed into the pit himself by the Dummy, who has tired of him.  Bobo quickly switches sides, helping the Vigilante escape.  In turn, Vigilante allows Bobo to give the Dummy a spanking before taking him back to prison.

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Dr. Ito returns yet again, hunting the Americommando in this Greene and Baily tale.

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They are both still in France, and for some reason Ito is also running a concentration camp.  Americommando is working with the French Resistance, and this time Ito does not even really get close to catching him.  Still, from the next issue, Americommando moves on from France, travelling to other occupied countries.

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Congo Bill returns to Africa in this story by Samachson and Smalle.

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Bill comes to the aid of Joan Reid, whose father has been killed by an “outlaw” native tribe.  Bill discovers that the tribe has been supplied by guns by the Nazis.

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This story manages to weave the African adventure and war elements together better than most, as a stampeding herd of elephants trample the Nazi general, as Bill rescues Joan from man and beast.

 

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