Posts tagged ‘Leo Nowak’

Action 45 – Superman builds an ark, the Vigilante meets Stuff, the Chinatown Kid, and the Three Aces find survivors of Lemuria

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Another generic Superman image on the cover of Action 45 (Feb. 42).

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The Superman story, by Siegel, Nowak and Dobrotka, begins with Lois and Clark taking a trip to the zoo, only to discover that there are very few animals there.  The zoo has not been able to afford to buy any.  And apparently is not very good at keeping the ones they have alive and reproducing.  Superman builds a giant ark and flies to Africa to restock the zoo.

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Once there, he runs into Count Von Henzel, and the story suddenly weaves into the Most Dangerous Game.  Despite the fact that they make the count German, the story avoids anything about the war.  And it still winds up showing Superman beating up animals and carting them back to the zoo.  You’d think they might have been aware of the parallel between the count imprisoning and hunting people, and the zoo imprisoning, if not hunting, the animals, but they weren’t.

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More amazing art on the Vigilante story, as George Roussos takes the inks on Meskin’s pencils for Weisinger’s story.

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The villain of the story is the Head, who sometimes appears as a giant head.  The story seems  be a “yellow peril” one, set in Chinatown, although it deals with silk thefts rather than opium or white slavery.

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Betty Stuart makes her final appearance. Can’t blame her, she has been sidelined in every story so far.  Stuff, later to gain the nickname the Chinatown Kid, enlists the aid of the Vigilante when his grandfather is framed for the thefts.  He also rescues the Vigilante after he is captured by the Head and subjected to Chinese water torture.

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Ironically, despite the water torture and the Chinatown location, the Head is actually Japanese.  He is a foreign agent, sent to try to stir up a gang war.

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The Three Aces find a golden city high in the California mountains, and discover it populated by survivors of Lemuria, an Atlantis-like sunken ancient city.

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With humans continuing to encroach upon them, the Lemurians have decided to use their advanced weaponry to destroy mankind.  The Three Aces win by blasting everything to bits.  Many of their stories see them triumph by destruction.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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 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.

 

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

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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