Posts tagged ‘Mort Meskin’

Action 123 – Superman’s punchboard of doom, and the Rainbow Man’s colour organ


Al Plastino takes the art chores on Action 123 (Aug. 48), as Superman becomes a target in  an odd competition.


Various criminals take over an uninhabited island.  They decide to have a competition to determine who gets to rule over them.  The winner will be the one who kills Superman.  But rather than allow each man to come up with his own scheme, they build a giant punchboard, with 50 potential methods of murder.  Each person has to try the method their punch reveals.


After that bizarre premise, the story proceeds with a large number of scenes of Superman surviving various attacks.  At least it’s interesting to look at.  The final attempt involves trying to kill Lois.  Cause that just has to happen somewhere.


At the end, with the final hoods imprisoned in the punchboard itself, Superman flies the island into US jurisdiction, and shows off his camera ring, with which he filmed their murder attempts.


The Rainbow Man is back again, thanks to Meskin and Roussos.  Vigilante must be getting really tired of this guy.  I do like the colour wheel on the splash page, though.


And the Rainbow Man does pull off an impressive “white” escape, blending in with his cell walls.


He uses a colour organ to spin the colour wheel, and later, as a device of, umm, torment?  Vigilante and Stuff look like they were possibly given psychedelic drugs before being put in front of the colour organ’s screen.  Vigilante holds it together enough to throw the wheel into the screen, and save them from becoming hippies.


It’s kind of amazing that this is the very first Rainbow Man story to end on a rainbow bridge, with the villain landing in a pot of gold.


Action 119 – Clark Kent pretends to be Superman, Zatara powers up a piper, and Vigilante rides the jet-aquacycle


Edmond Hamilton and Win Mortimer tell an early version of a common tale, as Clark Kent has to pretend to be Superman, in Action 119 (April 1948).


A series of robberies using a helicopter are the crime motivating this tale.  Superman does not want Lois on the case, figuring it is too dangerous, and lies to her, saying he will be out of town, in hopes that this will discourage her.  After 10 years, you think he would know better.  Lois forces Clark to dress as Superman and accompany her, to scare away any dangerous men they encounter.  The difference in physique between Clark and Superman is addressed in this story, and explained by Superman’s super muscle-control.


Superman gets through the case through a mix of outright lies, and ingenuity. He manages to duplicate a few of his super-stunts right in front of Lois’ eyes, though she gains no admiration for Clark’s resourcefulness.  At the end, she simply condescends that Superman wouldn’t have needed to come up with his clever solutions.


Zatara’s story in this issue, by Samachson and White, is better than the series has been in a long time.


A broke but honest piper uses his music, and some concealed gas, to lure and capture some wanted men.  Zatara is impressed, and endows the man with the power to create “magic music.”  That’s kind of vague, and indeed, the music functions in a variety of ways, creating illusions, even transforming criminals into rats.


Zatara gives the man complete credit for the big criminal round up, and nothing indicates that these powers will wear off.


Don Cameron, Mort Meskin and George Roussos bring back the Rainbow Man for an adventure so demanding, it requires Vigilante to use BOTH his sidekicks!  Yes, Stuff and Billy Gunn, together at last!


To be fair, Stuff falls into the hands of the Rainbow Man right at the top of the story, so Billy Gunn gets most of the actual sidekick time in this tale.  Rainbow Man captures Stuff more or less at random.  He does not recognize the boy, which is very odd, considering how many encounters they have had, and  that Stuff wears no disguise.  Perhaps it’s just that Stuff has become increasingly white which throws him off.


Vigilante’s motorcycle shows itself to be as good as a sidekick, as it becomes a “jet-aquacycle” – capable of travelling on the water.


Rainbow Man? Some more colour crimes, of course, but he almost gets lost amid everything else in this tale.

As the underscript on the final page indicates, Vigilante is also now starring in a series in the new Western Comics.

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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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 96 – Superman vs Mr Twister, Congo Bill gets amnesia, and the Dummy is befriended by midgets


I really love the cover of Action 96 (May 1946), just for the unusual visuals.


The Superman story in the issue, by Sam Citron, is not nearly as interesting.  It happens in a flashback, as Mr Twister relates his criminal career to his barber during a haircut.


This is not Brom Stikk, from the origin of the Teen Titans.  This man just adopts the name as he adds twists to normal capers.  He begins by jumping off a roof to divert Superman from catching three thieves, and later joins their gang.  Why not?  Even if all he is willing to do is jump off buildings to ensure their getaways, what has the gang got to lose?


Mr Twister is also willing to put innocents lives at risk to keep Superman at bay -but you know Superman is not going to put up with that kind of crap for long, and catches Mr Twister and his gang.  The barber he was talking to was the prison barber.


Congo Bill has an unusually tense little tale in this issue, courtesy of Alvin Schwartz and Edwin Smalle.  He wakes on a park bench in Hollywood, with no memory of who he is.  Some men are tracking him, but we do not know why.


He winds up at a film studio, and gets hired as a extra, winding up on the lot of a jungle picture, with his trackers close behind.  When they try to kill him, the jungle setting brings his memory back, and he defeats the men. Although the story does not say it, I like to think it was all caught on camera and used in a feature.  There is an explanation about a hidden map in his shoe to a sunken ship, and the men’s previous attack which caused the amnesia, just to round things out.


The Dummy makes his final appearance in the Vigilante series in Action Comics in this Meskin story.


While on the run from the Vigilante and Stuff, the Dummy runs into a troupe of midgets, who work as dancers.  They know who he is, but he manages to convince them that he has been unjustly persecuted, simply for being a midget.  They take him in and hide him.  It’s not long before the Dummy is up to his old tricks, robbing patrons during a performance, and then stealing the box office.


He uses the other midgets as long as they trust him, but has no problem tossing one into a deathtrap, along with Vigilante and Stuff, after he gets exposed.

The Vigilante captures the Dummy, and it’s many years till the character returns. He comes back in the Vigilante series in World’s Finest in the late 70s, and gets his best story to date.



Action 91 – Superman on the Great Lakes, and the Vigilante and Fiddler jam in a big band


When I first saw the cover of Action 91 (Dec. 45), I thought it likely a re-drawn image, intended as a World War 2 cover.  Just change the men’s garb to uniforms, and that’s what it would be.  And though it may have started out that way, it actually turns out to be an image representing a scene in the Superman story!


Shipping problems on the Great Lakes are at the core of this Ira Yarborough story.


Lois and Clark read about ships sinking, and Clark suspects that they may not be accidental.  He flies out as Superman, and accompanies as ship as it passes through Lake Huron, and into Lake Michigan. Sadly, the other three lakes are not really a part of the story, and all of the locations mentioned or shown are on the US side.


There is a mysterious “ghost gun,” which the villains use to give the sinking ships a supernatural air. This is the gun pictured on the cover.


Superman raises all of the sunken ships, carrying them to the various cities they were intended for.


Mort Meskin gives the Fiddler one final story, which sees him and Greg Sanders perform together in the same band.


Big Band music was in its heyday, and the Fiddler, although contemptuous of the music itself, joins one of the bands.  He uses his outrageous musical antics onstage to communicate with his gang, finally hearkening back to his very first story.


Vigilante and Stuff are on the Fiddler’s trail, but cannot figure out how he keeps vanishing after the crimes.  Ultimately, Greg winds up performing alongside the band the Fiddler is in.  He even shares the stage with him, and does not recognize the man until thinking back on it later.  This is also sort of unforgivable on the Fiddler’s side.  After all the times he captured Vigilante, are we supposed to believe he never pulled that handkerchief down and looked at his face.  Or better yet, the handkerchief slipping on it’s own in the heat of battle?  These two men really ought to have seen each other.  I guess they were both too carried away with the music.

Anyway, after the performance, Vigilante figures it out, and the Fiddler is captured.  This is, I believe, his final appearance, and the prominence given to the Flash villain of the same name has pretty much ensured he will never return.


Action 87 – Superman on the highway, and the Dummy opens a gallery


Once again, the cover of Action 87 (Aug. 45) goes for the laugh, while the Superman story inside is more serious.


Ira Yarborough holds the credit for this story, which begins as Clark Kent is assigned to do a story on truckers.


The story does set out giving some of the lingo of the trade, and touches a bit on what the life is like,but quickly gets sidetracked into a complicated story, which involves a former police officer who may be part of a criminal gang.


In fact, the former cop retired after killing a man in self defense, but regains his nerve while helping Superman round up the real bad guys.


Mort Meskin brings the Dummy back for this Vigilante story.


The Dummy meets an experienced counterfeiter and forger while in prison, just before his men arrange a breakout, using a trained dog.


The Dummy then uses the forger as a front, opening a gallery, which really operates to copy famous paintings and sell them, replacing them with the forgery.  As the Vigilante already knows the Dummy is on the loose, it doesn’t take him long to track them down.  And the dog shows itself to be more useful in a fight than the forger.

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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.”


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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?


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.


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.


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.


Wolfingham is always a con artist, but usually a better one.  The look of his character is based on W.C. Fields.


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.


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.


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.


And finally, in this issue I find somewhat disappointing, comes a Zatara story by Fox and White that almost makes me angry.


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.


Zatarais mystified, but shows off some other abilities, which he uses to make some deadly dogs turn into friendly and helpful allies.


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 77 – The Prankster’s newspaper stand, the Rainbow Man goes colour-blind, and Zatara vs Pan


Don Cameron and Ed Dobrotka give the Prankster one of his more devious schemes in Action 77 (Oct.44).


The Prankster takes over a newsstand in the business centre of town, and makes a deal with a failed entrepreneur.  The Prankster sells men fake copies of the Daily Planet, with news of the destruction of their factories or resources, and the businessman then quickly buys their company at a low price.


Of course, it’s not long before the Planet gets involved.  Lois Lane and Clark Kent both have their names attached to phony stories.  Superman figures out what has happened, but the Prankster has another twist to his plan, forcing his dupe to sell the companies to him for pennies, so the Prankster can then sell them back to their owners at hugely inflated rates.

Superman then steals what the Prankster has bought, making everything worthless again.  It takes a while, but Superman finally makes sure that everyone owns what they did at the start, and the Prankster is back in prison, for a few months at least.


Mort Meskin gives the Rainbow Man a really hard time in this month’s Vigilante story.


The Rainbow Man’s men take advantage of the lax security when their boss is taken to the hospital, and break him out.  Vigilante and Stuff learn from the doctor that the Rainbow Man really is quite sick, but doesn’t realize it.


In an enjoyable twist, Rainbow Man’s illness gives him colour-blindness.  Ignoring his own men’s objections, Rainbow Man wears a green suit to match others wearing red.  Vigilante spots him immediately, but wonders what his motive is in wearing the wrong colour.


Eventually Vigilante figures out the colour-blindness, but Rainbow Man basically does himself in, stopping his car at a green light, thinking that it’s red.


In the best Zatara story in a long, long time, Gardner Fox and William White pit the hero against the Greek god Pan. For his own amusement, Pan creates a coin that makes the owner’s every wish come true.  Pan ensures that the coin eventually winds up with criminals.


For a while now, Zatara has been casting complex spells simply by saying them normally, and the “be it so” backwards.  Kind of a cheap shortcut.


Still, Zatara does an impressive job outwitting Pan and the gang of thieves.

Action 75 – the power of super-massage, the Dummy goes straight, and Congo Bill’s urban adventure


Ira Yarborough gets the credit for the Superman story in Action 75 (Aug. 44), which pits the hero against Johnny Aesop.


This guy really ought to have been fighting Batman.  Inspired by his last name, he sends fables as clues to the Daily Planet.  Perry White and Lois Lane help interpret them, and Clark dashes off to become Superman, and foil his plans.  This happens a couple of times before the final confrontation, where things go very weird.


About to shoot Lois, and confronted by Superman, Johnny Aesop suddenly gets a headache.  Superman massages his head, with the result that Johnny loses all his criminal tendencies.  And Superman KNEW this would happen!

It’s a shame we never got to see him super-massage other villains into submission.  With Luthor’s bald cranium, I’m surprised Superman could resist.


The Dummy returns in this Mort Meskin Vigilante story.  He gets released from prison after announcing that he will go straight.  For some reason, Vigilante gives his ok to this.


A series of robberies promptly begin, committed by a shadowy man called the Lash, who steals old blunderbusses.


We discover that the Lash is working for the Dummy, but Vigilante and Stuff still accept his help in tracking down the Lash.  Once the Dummy leads him to where the villain is hanging out, he reveals his true colours, as they try to kill Vigilante.  Vigilante triumphs, of course, and learns that stolen money was hidden in a blunderbuss, but the Dummy didn’t know which one it was, so they were stealing all they could find.


Edwin Smalle gives Congo Bill a completely city based adventure in this issue.  Bill is in Metro City, hired to guard a fur shipment.  But hoods are hot on his trail, and try to get him out of the way by framing him for theft.


So Congo Bill spends the adventure fleeing the police while tracking down and stopping the fur thieves.  It’s a decent story, but I could have used some jungle skills or something.


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