Posts tagged ‘Ken Fitch’

Action 49 – the Puzzler debuts, the Rainbow Man returns, the origin of the Queen Bee, and Congo Bill on the Burma Road

act_49

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.

act_49_001

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.

act_49_002

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.

act_49_003

The Rainbow Man returns, courtesy of Mort Meskin and Cliff Young, escaping from prison by using cans of paint as a distraction.

act_49_004

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.

act_49_005

Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily provide the origin of the Queen Bee in this month’s Mr America story.

act_49_006

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.

act_49_007

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.

act_49_008

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.

act_49_009

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

act_48

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.

act_48_001

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.

act_48_002

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.

act_48_003

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.

act_48_004

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.

act_48_005

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.

act_48_006

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

Action 47 -Luthor wants the Powerstone, the Three Aces enter the War, Mr America fights living skeletons, and Zatara vs the Brain

act_47

Luthor makes his first cover appearance in Action 47 (April 1942).  Too bad it’s not in any way flattering.  The story, by Jerry Siegel and John Sikela, is officially Luthor’s first appearance since issue 42, but I believe that Luthor is the same person as Lightning Master, and this story follows his appearance in Superman.

act_47_001

Luthor wears the same green robes as Lightning Master, minus the headdress, and has electrical powers.  These are not explained in any way.  But could be a logical extension of the end of the Lightning Master story.  When I reach that Superman story, I will argue this further.

act_47_002

Luthor goes on a mad spree using his new powers.  He is able to stun Superman with them, but not kill him.  Luthor sets up an entertaining scam, holding a contest for the richest man, in order to award him millions more.  The panel I reproduced above is worth reading, for all the different characters who come for the prize.  Luthor simply holds them all for ransom.

act_47_011

Superman shows up, and Luthor threatens to kill the men unless Superman retrieves the Powerstone for him, from a buried temple in India.

act_47_003

Superman brings Luthor the Powerstone.  The villain is thrilled to have the stone, which will grant him greater powers than even Superman.  But the stone is a fake, Superman kept the real one.

Luthor is defeated, but returns, as does the real Powerstone, in the next issue of Superman.

act_47_004

Three Aces undergoes a dramatic change with this issue, written in the wake of the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

The Three Aces are now part of the US airforce, operating off of the carrier USS Roosevelt. No further mention is made of them being in the First World War.

act_47_005

The magic carpets, lost civilizations and Mongol treasures are shoved to the side as they face the Japanese fleet and airforce.  The heroes get shot down a fair bit, being taken prisoner by the Japanese a few times, though they always manage to escape. The stories are neither better or worse than before, really, and the series continues to leave me cold. But the change is notable.

act_47_006

Fitch and Baily bring back Queen Bee for another round with Mr. America and Fat Man.

act_47_007

Although the Queen Bee barely appears in the tale, and once again escapes, the story itself is a good read.  She has caused the dead to rise, the skeletons dressed in old armor.  Not a deep tale, but visually interesting throughout.

act_47_008

Zatara deals with a twisted genius, master of an underwater city in this story by Fox and Sulman.

act_47_009

The Brain has great mental powers – strong enough to be able to act as a counter to Zatara’s magic.

act_47_010

Sadly, the Brain winds up dying, and his city gets destroyed.  I would have easily accepted any excuse for his return.  It’s very rare for anyone to be able to challenge Zatara effectively.

Action 46 – Superman vs the Domino, Vigilante vs the Rainbow Man, Mr America vs the Queen Bee, and Zatara vs Adolf Hitler

act_46

Hey, the cover of Action 46 (March 1942) reflects the story!  Lois and Clark go to a fair, which is being menaced by the Domino, in a story by Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy.

act_46_001

The villain is masked – but it’s not a domino mask. It makes one wonder exactly why he chose that name.  His goal is force the fair to allow gambling, so I imagine he must be talking about gambling on dominoes, which would give a reason for that name.

act_46_002

The Domino sets off all sorts of sabotage on the various rides, but Cassidy does not really play this to the hilt. It’s all rather tame in execution.  Lois gets captured, and must be rescued.  I think I could write that sentence blindfolded.

The Domino is unmasked and defeated, and never returns.

act_46_003

The Vigilante, on the other hand, has his first match against the Rainbow Man, who would become one of his most frequent enemies,in a story by Weisinger and Meskin.

act_46_004

The Rainbow Man looks and acts nastier than his name would imply.  He has his men commit crimes according to colour themes.

act_46_005

The Rainbow Man captures Vigilante and Stuff, but his murderous machine is really just a colourful light globe, so it’s not too surprising that they manage to escape, and prevent his “white” crimes, as they pose as doctors.

act_46_006

The Queen Bee returns in this Fitch and Baily story to menace Mr. America and Fat Man.

act_46_007

The Queen Bee and her men have forced an inventor to build a giant robot, which emerges from a volcano as Vol-Kan, and heads through the city on a destructive rampage.  Fat Man sprays oil into the robots eyes, and it destroys itself trying to clear its vision.  Mr. America doesn’t slack, he takes down the Queen Bee’s men, but she escapes to return next issue.

act_46_009

I haven’t cared much for the Zatara series since Joseph Sulman took over the art, but he and Gardner Fox have a story that definitely merits inclusion.  It was released in early January 1942, so must have been written and drawn before the attack on Pearl Harbour, but features Zatara wading right into the war.

act_46_010

It is the Nazis that Zatara is fighting, along with Tong.  There is no mention of the Japanese.  Zatara makes bombs behave like humans (sort of), in one of Sulman’s better pages.

act_46_011

The story culminates as Zatara faces Hitler.  Hitler admits defeat, calls off the war, and heads into exile.

Ok, so as this CLEARLY is not what happened, how to interpret the ending?

Going off of Roy Thomas’ later work, with the Spear of Destiny being used to insulate the Axis against beings with super-powers, I suggest that this story was one used by the German high command as a sort of “it could happen here!,” and to back up the use of the Spear to generals who might be doubting why such magic would be needed.

 

Action 43 – Superman and the plane crashes, Vigilante meets Billy Gunn, and Mr America fights giant puppets

act_43

Superman fights the Nazis on the cover of Action 43 (Dec. 41).  And though one might associate the cover date with the US entry into the war,in fact this book was printed and on sale in mid-October of the year.

act_43_001

The Superman story in this issue, by Jerry Siegel, Leo Nowak and Ed Dobrotka, is average.  Lois Lane is sent out to write a story about an airline whose planes keep crashing.  Superman follows, to rescue her periodically.

act_43_002

He gets into his Clark Kent clothes, claiming to have followed her.  This happens largely so that they can be captured and bound together, to make it difficult for Superman to get away.  But the scene ends in a lame cop-out, as Lois knocks herself out, banging her head while trying to escape.

act_43_003

The Vigilante story, by Mort and Mort (Weisinger and Meskin) is much more fun.  It introduces a villain, the Shade, who is not the same as the later, and more famous, Flash villain.  He does spend most of his time in the dark, and seems to have the power to disappear.

act_43_004

The Shade is pursuing an old man, Billy Gunn, although Gunn has no idea who the Shade is, or why he is after him.

act_43_005

Billy Gunn mets Greg Sanders while appearing on a gong show that he is hosting.  Gunn gets gonged fast, and Greg feels sorry for him.  That woman next to him is Betty Stuart, Greg’s girlfriend, who was actually introduced in his first story, but I forgot about her.

act_43_006

Although Billy Gunn dresses and talks like a cowboy, he is an easterner, who just admires the west.  Still, when Vigilante gets captured by the Shade, it’s Billy who comes to his rescue, and sticks around, becoming his sidekick.

Billy had inherited a mine, and the Shade had been out to kill him and get it.

The Shade returns in the next issue.

act_43_007

Mr. America and Fat Man fight giant puppets in this story by Fitch and Baily.  It’s actually quite a bit better than the previous sentence would imply.

act_43_008

Bob learn that Tex knows his identity in this story.  Which is good, because Tex is not a total idiot.  It is also the final appearance of the flying cape.  Tex uses it to escape from German agents who have been sabotaging factories, making it fly while it is still around his neck.  Although he does get away, I think it likely caused some major neck strain, probably why he retired it.

 

Action 42 – Superman and the city in the sky, the Vigilante debuts, the Black Pirate ends, and Fat Man joins Mr America

act_42

A fairly generic Superman cover for Action 42 (Nov. 41).

act_42_001

Jerry Siegel and Leo Nowak provide a very non-generic story for Superman on the inside.  A number of prominent men go missing in Metropolis, which Clark covers for the Daily Planet.

act_42_002

Perry White approves of the series, and Jimmy Olsen makes a small cameo.  Superman has some theories as to who is behind the kidnappings, but the trail keeps ending when his suspects keep getting killed by beams coming down from the sky.  Sergeant Casey is also on the case, with no idea what is going on.

act_42_003

Things only start to move towards an explanation when Clark Kent gets grabbed, and taken up to a city floating high in the stratosphere, ruled by an alien, Zytal.  Clark’s articles made him worthy of being collected. Zytal’s intention of collecting people from different worlds in a search for knowledge vaguely resembles Brainiac’s motivation, many years down the road.

act_42_004

But Zytal is really Luthor in disguise.  He manages to use electricity to not only paralyze Superman, but also put him under Luthor’s mental control for a while.  This is when he puts Lois in danger.  Cause Lois always has to be in danger at some point in the tale.  Superman breaks free, and rescues the people from the city, although Luthor seemingly jumps to his death.

act_42_005

Mort Weisinger and Mort Meskin introduce a really successful blend of the western and superhero genres in this issue, with the Vigilante.  A modern day cowboy who fights crime in the big city, his first case centres on a supposedly executed felon, whose death was faked.

act_42_006

Vigilante’s origin is covered briefly.  Greg Sanders was the soon of a sheriff, who taught him gunslinging and gave him his taste for justice.  After his father was murdered, Greg adopted the guise of the masked Vigilante.  In his everyday life, he is a country music singer.

act_42_007

Meskin’s art is extremely dynamic, and the story is fun to read.

act_42_008

Sheldon Moldoff ends the Black Pirate’s run in Action with a really quick, but mediocre tale.

act_42_009

Jon spots a man adrift, and takes him on board, though Bonnie harbours doubts about him.  Once again, Bonnie is dead on, as the man is working with others to take over Valor’s ship.  The Black Pirate defeats him. From here, the series moves over to join the starting line-up on the new Sensation Comics.

act_42_010

Sidekicks are popular, right?  So the Mr America series could only be improved by introducing a sidekick, right?

act_42_011

In this story, by Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily,  Bob Daley decides to take on a masked identity of his own.  He puts on long red underwear and a lampshade on his head, and armed with a broom and a squirt gun of ink, takes to the streets as Fat Man.

act_42_012

Tex has no idea of Fat Man’s identity at first, he has been busy in his secret cabin/laboratory in the woods making his cape function as a flying carpet.  Together they face the Queen Bee, the first of many DC villainesses to use that name.  The Queen Bee returns later in the run.  So does Fat Man.  Sadly.

Action 38 – Superman gets arrested, Pep Morgan hunts down kidnappers, the Black Pirate runs into an old friend, the Three Aces loot Atlantis, and Mr America vs the Gorrah

act_38

Lots of stories to talk about in Action 38 (July 1941), so I’m not even going to banter about the cover.

act_38_001

Jerry Siegel, Leo Nowak and Ed Dobrotka dish out a Superman story that gives Sergeant Casey a run for his money.

act_38_002

People are committing crimes with no memory of having done so.  The police are run ragged, and have no idea what is behind the rash of thefts.  Sergeant Casey and Lois Lane get locked in a bank vault, and though Superman rescues them, his presence at so many crimes scenes prompts Casey to arrest him – or at least try to.

act_38_003

Superman gets away, but then Casey decides that Clark Kent must be behind it, following similar reasoning.  Although not named, Jimmy Olsen cameos in one panel, looking more like himself.

Both as Clark and Superman, our hero must evade the police, until he figures out that the man behind it all is using radio waves to take over people’s minds.

act_38_004

George Papp puts Pep Morgan through the ringer in this story, when Slim gets kidnapped. His wealthy uncle whines about not having the cash on hand to pay the ransom, so Pep decides to fake out the kidnappers and rescue his friend himself.

act_38_005

Pep succeeds, and is reunited with Slim. The final panel shows them back in their college dorm, happily bantering.  Aww.

act_38_006

After skipping last issue (because of a boring Atlantic crossing), Jon Valor lands to rest and restock before continuing on to Barcelona.  Docked alongside him is the ship of Don De Avila, an old friend of the Black Pirate, who has fallen out of favour with the crown.

act_38_007

Don and Jon are happy to run into each other, and De Avila invites his friend to a banquet that night. Bonnie has misgivings, fearing that De Avila intends to imprison the Black Pirate, and turn him over for the reward, but Jon trusts in his friend.

He shouldn’t.

Nicely ominous ending, the walls of the castle.  The story continues in the next issue.

act_38_008

The Three Aces continue their trip into Atlantis in this story.

act_38_009

It reminds me a bit of Jack and the Beanstalk. Our heroes steal radium from the underground city, attack its leaders and leave the palace in ruins.  Hurrah!  Some triumph.

act_38_010

Although the Mr America series pits Tex largely against spies and saboteurs right now, the Gorrah makes his final appearance in this issue, working with Nazi agents, in this story by Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily. The Gorrah betrays them in the end, preferring to pursue his goal of vengeance over their plot against the army.

act_38_011

At first Gorrah believes Tex to have died, and is out to kill Bob, but he learns the truth, and the identity of Mr. America, just before perishing in the explosion intended for a educator’s convention.  It’s really odd to see the one-eyed character dressed in an ordinary suit.

Tag Cloud