Posts tagged ‘Scoop Scanlon’

Action 13 – Superman’s first villain, Scoop Scanlon ends, Pep sails for home, and Marco Polo goes on sale


Superman gets the cover of Action 13 (June 1939), and the story itself, while not having a train rushing into a river, does have the first genuine villain, as opposed to ordinary criminal, that Superman would face.


Siegel and Shuster begin the story much like the earlier ones.  A protection scam is being pulled on cab drivers, and Superman sets out to defend the little guy.


It’s clear the character is not yet able to fly.  While pulling his standard scare-the-bad-guys jump around, the hood tries to break free, making Superman miss the edge of the building, and both plummet towards the ground. Superman manages to stop his fall by grabbing the side of the building.


But aside from that, it all feels pretty standard.  The scam is broken up, the bad guys arrested, and Clark writes a story for the Daily Star all about it.  The story could easily end here – but it doesn’t.


The final few pages see the men freed before they can reach prison.  Tracking them down, Superman meets their leader, a balding genius, whose frail body keeps him confined to a chair. He calls himself the Ultra-Humanite, and plans “domination of the world!!” in bold.


The Ultra-Humanite clearly has no idea what he is dealing with in Superman, and tries to kill him with a buzz saw.  The saw blades shatter when they touch him, sending broken bits around the room.  In that scene, one can see a red-haired assistant to the Ultra-Humanite.  In the Generations miniserieses (a terrible word, but what else is the plural of miniseries?), John Byrne makes this man Lex Luthor.  Indeed, I see no reason it should not be, it helps give backstory to the character, something sorely lacking when he finally shows up.


The Ultra-Humanite tries to escape by plane, but Superman just smashes it to bits.  He finds no trace of the villain, and wonders if the Ultra-Humanite really is dead.  He isn’t.  He’ll be back.


Scoop Scanlon has his final story in this issue.  But rather than write it up the usual way, I feel somewhat inspired to share what I feel was the conversation he had with his editor, right after the events in this story.

Scoop:  Wow, boss, that was quite a case!

Editor:  Scoop, sit down.  We need to have a talk. I sent you to cover a wedding!  A wedding!  And what happens?  You don’t show up, you don’t call in.  You get all mixed up in some stupid story about cursed jewels from India, which is all a cover for a bunch of murders, and do you call the police?  Do you let them know about the murders?  No!  You steal a dead body!  You took a dead man and moved him somewhere and hid behind him to fake his voice and scared the crap out of the killer.  Call the cops in, Scoop!  This is not your job!  I don’t know what to do with you, I really don’t.  You were just shot, Scoop, you spent a month in the hospital getting over it.  You still shouldn’t be back at work.  I put you on the wedding story to keep you out of trouble, but I just can’t manage to do that.  I don’t want your blood on my hands.  You’re fired, Scoop.  Pack your bags.


At which point Scoop pulls out his gun and shoots the editor, and then goes on a mad crazed shooting spree until he is gunned down by the police.

Which is why we never see Scoop Scanlon again.


One issue after accepting the job of bodyguard to a dictator (which this issue openly calls the man), Pep Morgan packs up and heads back to the US in this Fred Guardineer story.  One can only assume the rebels have regrouped, and begun a deadly assault on the capitol, forcing him to flee.


Pep is the only paying passenger on the voyage, but there is another.  A pirate captain, being brought back in the brig.  He gets free, and starts a mutiny on the ship.


It’s kind of refreshing that Pep does not single handedly take down the mutineers.  Rather, he contacts the US navy, who intercept the ship with a destroyer.   But is it not unusual that Pep is so easily able to contact them?  Is this the first contact he had with the navy, or did his days in Latona (they only name the country once he is leaving it) give him connections in Naval Intelligence?


As the Marco Polo story continues to deviate from the source book, it becomes a lot more action oriented.  And that’s the prime reason it deviates, really.


The story still seems to be taking place in Persia, though they have continued east, and now seem to be around people who might look like Asian caricatures.  Very hard to nail down races in that sort of art style.  The Polos are captured and split up, sold in a slave market.


This issue also features and ad for Superman 1.  This is just barely a year after the character debuted, and shows how wildly popular Superman was.  Up to this point, there had never been a comic book devoted entirely to one character.

Action 12 – Superman smashes cars, Scoop goes to the hospital, Pep stops an assassination, and Zatara visits the 4th Dimension


Zatara gets the cover of Action 12 (May 1939), but despite travelling to the 4th Dimension in his story in this issue, he does not take a cool art deco rocket.  Superman gets his image on this cover as well, in a circle.  This will get re-used a few issues down the road, and shortly thereafter become a regular part of the cover.


After a pedestrian is killed by a reckless driver right in front of the Daily Star, Clark gets so upset that he changes to Superman and goes on a rampage.


He bursts into a radio station, announcing his declaration of war against reckless drivers.  But he doesn’t stop just with them.  The police arrive, but Superman eludes them by smashing through a wall.


He then goes on a reign of terror.  He not only goes after drunken and reckless drivers, he destroys the inventory of a used car dealer.


And Superman demolishes an entire auto plant, because the cars are not safe enough.  He even smashes through the radio station for a second time!


Superman begins to feel his goal has been achieved when he sees a policeman strike a driver, rather than accept a bride from the speeder.  But the cop only does this because Superman is staring menacingly at him.


Even George Taylor is looking more harried than usual at the end of the story.  As a staunch defender of Superman, today’s actions must be difficult to justify.  Clark is happy though, when a policeman tickets him for a parking violation.

The final panel of the story promotes the first appearance of Batman.


Scoop Scanlon’s undercover storyline comes to a conclusion in this issue.  After the gun battle ends, with the bad guys escaping, Scoop is taken to the hospital where he spends a month recovering.


Because his face has been in the papers, Larroway forces a doctor to perform plastic surgery on him, and then kills the doctor.


The doctor got the last laugh, though, as Larroway discovers his face was left hideous and mangled.  Scoop does pop up at the end, when the police arrest the gang, but he’s not very active in the scene.  A month in the hospital can do that to you.


Pep Morgan finds himself adrift in an unnamed, but apparently Central American country.  A friendly and trusting consul gives him some money until his parents back home can wire him some.  Pep sees a parade, and winds up stopping an attempted assassination.


Pep is feted by the president for his actions, but then kidnapped by the rebels.  From the comments the rebels make about Americans, and the actions of the US in Central America, it seems fairly clear that the country is run by a US backed dictator.  But Pep is innocent about politics, and escapes from his captors, warning the president of a new plot against him.


The rebels get wiped out, and the president is glad.  He lets slip that they would have been executed without trial the next day anyway.  Pep gleefully accepts a position as the dictator’s bodyguard.


Zatara returns to the US in this story by Gurdineer, though he spends little time there.  At the Explorer’s Club in San Francisco, Zatara is approached by a scientist who has developed a way to travel to the 4th Dimension, and he invites Zatara to try it out.


Zatara is game, and allows the machine to transport him to a weird realm, where he winds up in the middle of a war between two rival factions.


Zatara manages to bring peace, through a marriage uniting the two peoples, and returns home.



Action 11- Superman drills for oil, Scoop becomes a target, and Pep gets shanghaied


Yikes!  Beware of ship 386!  Nothing can stop it.  Nothing in Action 11 (April 1939), that’s for sure, which is why the deadly cruiser is not in the comic.


Siegel and Shuster give Superman an oil well swindle to deal with in this issue.


Clark Kent goes on the story, talking to the people who bought the stock in the worthless well.  He adopts a phoney identity, Homer Ramsey, to buy the stock, spending his savings.


He goes undercover, trying to get a job at the site, which is not even being drilled.  As Superman, he drills and drills all night until he hits oil.


Hearing of the well’s strike, the con men want it back, and try to buy it from “Homer.”  He refuses, and they send out hit men after him.  Superman has little trouble with them, and returns to the con men, demanding a million dollars for the shares.  They pay him, though it takes all their money.


Superman then promptly heads back to the field, destroying the derrick and setting fire to the well itself, leaving the men nothing of value.

But I wonder, Superman must have made quite a profit on this, unless he spent a million of his own money buying the stock.


Scoop Scanlon’s undercover adventure continues.  We find out quickly that Rusty did not die.  Scoop shot him in the belt buckle.  Lucky Rusty doesn’t wear suspenders.


The Larroway gang eventually catch on to Scoop, just as the police show up.  They thrust Scoop into the centre of it, and he gets shot, repeatedly, apparently by both sides.

The story continues in the next issue.


Since his series began back in More Fun Comics, Pepe Morgan’s tale have always involved a sporting event, until this one, by Guardineer.  Pep takes a walk by the harbour, and gets shanghaied onto a ship.  The captain is a tyrant, and refuses to release Pep.


Pep discovers that the ship is smuggling guns.  Pep then shoots one, alerting the captain. But Pep does not take the gun with him, or use it to stop the captain.  And Pep thinks he’s a sap for shooting it off.  No, Pep, there are other reasons, too.


Pep jumps overboard and swims to shore, narrowly avoiding a shark.  He informs the authorities about the ship, and they intercept it.  Pep does get to shoot the captain through the hand as they round up the crew.





Action 10 – Superman in jail, Scoop Scanlon in the mob, Marco Polo in Persia and Zatara in Mongolia


A dynamic pose for Superman on the cover of Action 10 (March 1939), though the story itself has no relation to the picture.


The image inside is far more important.  That rendering of Superman would be blown up and used as the cover for the first issue of his own book, later in the year.

Siegel and Shuster’s story takes us back into the realm of social commentary, and the horrifying conditions in some prisons.  I’ve seen the movie “I Was a Fugitive From a Chain Gang,” which deals with similar abuses, and may well have been an influence on this story.  Taylor gets a mysterious phone call at the Daily Star, and sends Clark out to investigate.


Clark meets a chain gang fugitive, who shows off his awful bruises, and tells him about the torture in the camp.  Clark goes to the camp itself to question to question the warden.  He and his men browbeat Clark, and force him to lead them back to the escapee.


Back at the Star, Clark is reviled for his actions.  Jimmy Olsen (not yet named, but now with red hair!) makes his second appearance.  Lois is even more contemptuous towards Clark than normal.  You can tell because her words are larger than normal.  Only when Clark is being yelled at by George Taylor does he come clean.  He intended the man to be taken back to prison, as they need evidence of the warden’s actions.  Clark intends to go undercover into the prison and get that proof.  Taylor is impressed.


The story’s light-hearted moments are a little bizarre.  Basically, humour is found in the ease with which Superman endures the back breaking work and inhuman conditions the prisoners must suffer through.  But it works.


Superman then puts the warden in his own hot box, and grabs the Governor, bringing him to witness a confession clearly extracted under threat of death.  The Governor yells “but, wait!” as Superman leaves, doubtless wanting to explain that the confession was meaningless.  The story Clark writes for the Daily Star was probably of more use in gaining a conviction.


Wow, look at all that text.  Pages like this just beg to be read, don’t they?  Go on, I dare you.

Scoop Scanlon infiltrates the Larrowman gang, along with his faithful photographer Rusty, as this four part story continues.


Scanlon, in disguise, shows off his remarkable shooting skills.  He ought to be skilled, for all the times this reporter pulls out his gun.  Rusty has no dicernable skills to merit inclusion in the gang, but he’s along for the ride anyway.


At least, until the gang find his notes.  Rusty is assumed to be a cop, and Scoop is ordered to shoot him.  Which he does.  Just can’t resist that gun.

The story continues in the next issue.


Marco Polo has an enjoyable one-issue adventure in this issue.  He and his family have been hanging out in Persia on their way east for the last few issues, and get invited to a wedding in this one.


There is an attempted assassination of the prince getting married, and Polo helps get the man.  But the prince decides to spare him, as he can understand the man wanting to kill for the bride.  Which is kind of nice.  The art is a bit above the norm for this series as well.


Zatara finds a book in Shanghai, which gives him information on the location of Genghis Khan’s treasure, in this story by Fred Guardineer.  The Tigress just happens to be close enough to overhear as Zatara explains his plans to Tong.


Then it’s off to Mongolia.  Zatara tries to get more information out of a witch there, and does what I would call a Plastic Man impersonation, except there was no such character yet.


Zatara breaches unbreachable gaps, endures challenges and battles Mongol hordes, all the while with Tigress tailing along behind, taking advantage of his work.


Zatara finds the treasure, guarded by an immortal priestess, who will only turn it over if she is killed.  Zatara refuses, which is kind of surprising, but the Tigress is happy to oblige, and blasts the woman, who turns into a giant diamond as she perishes.


They loot the treasure together, and Zatara turns it all into dried peas to make it easier to transport.  What happened to that flying spell?  Could have flown them and the treasure back.  He gives Tigress her share, and turns the rest over to the Explorer’s Club, keeping one chest for himself.  He makes the curious observation that he is wealthier than he’s ever been.  Ever dreamed might have sounded more emphatic.  Anyway, it’s certainly clear that Zatara will never have to worry about money again, and presumably neither will the Tigress.  She disappears for a while now, not returning for almost a year.

Action 9 – Superman hunted, Scoop has a plan, and Zatara and the Tigress in Tibet


Still no appearance of Superman on the cover of Action 9 (Feb. 39), but he does get mentioned, in red yet!  I would like to say that the cover depicts the Pep Morgan story in this issue, but it doesn’t.  Pep is racing sleds on ice.


Siegel and Shuster continue the Superman story from last issue, although in a sort of weird way.  Police Chief Burke returns, but now he is completely against Superman. He brings in a detective, Captain Reilly, to track him down and catch him.  Reilly in turn offers a huge reward for information.


Clark Kent asks Lois Lane for a date, and she rejects him, professing her love for Superman.  Clark has to leave the room before he laughs in her face.


A man sees Superman change out of his clothes, which he leaves in a heap in an alley.  He tells Reilly, but gets no reward from him.  He decides to stake out the clothes himself, and he and Reilly spend so much time fighting with each other than this miss Superman retrieving Clark’s garb.  They almost track him again, through an invitation that was in Clark’s jacket, but again their rivalry gets him off the hook.

Captain Reilly is sent home in disgrace, and I expect Burke is forced out as well, as he never appears again.


Scoop Scalon begins a four part story in this issue, his longest tale.  Scoop and Rusty come across the victim of a mob killing, after seeing two goons they recognized, Mace and Stoop, leaving an alley.


Scoop decides to go undercover and join the Larrowman gang to catch the killers, rather than just writing a story about them, and Rusty tags along.

The story continues in the next issue.


Zatara winds up in Tibet in this story, by Fred Guardineer, where he matches wits with a Lama with magical powers, who intends to take over the world.


His plane crashes, but Zatara demonstrates a sort of long rage vision power, finding the nearest habitation.  He and Tong then fly there!  Presumably Zatara is making both of them able to fly.  Considering that he can do this, you have to wonder why he doesn’t do it more often.


The Lama is having a big dinner party that night, for his lieutenants, who will work to help him conquer the world, in exchange for his vast wealth.  Among them is the Tigress.  Zatara casts a spell on Tong and himself, so that she will not recognize them, although it does not affect their appearance, only her memory.  So it’s kind of odd that the spell was not cast on her.


Once the Tigress realizes how dangerous the Lama is, she joins Zatara’s side, again.  He destroys the Lama’s treasure, and restores the Tigress’ memory.


Zatara’s battle with the Lama results in the villain’s death. The Lama evens begs for mercy, but Zatara still kills him. Zatara has no problems with this.  I guess not, considering he was fine with an entire town being wiped out a few issues ago.  He really mellowed with age.

Action 8 – faster than a speeding bullet, and Scoop Scanlon vs marihuana growers


The two men are clearly fighting over which one gets to read Action 8 (Jan. 39) first.  While they’re distracted, grab the comic and read it yourself!


Siegel and Shuster return to social commentary with this issue’s Superman story, which deals with delinquent youth.


The kids are being used by adult gang members, more than willing to sacrifice them when things get hot.  Superman has no patience for the bad guys, but a lot for the kids.


Protecting the boys from the murderous mobsters, Superman illustrates the saying “faster than a speeding bullet.”


He attempts to scare the kids straight, taking them on one of his dangerous leaping excursions, but the boys enjoy it instead of being frightened.  So he does the reasonable thing, and destroys their homes.


OK, it’s not entirely as insane as it sounds.  He sees news coverage of the government building new housing after a hurricane.  He blames slum life for the problems the kids have, and figures that if he destroys their buildings, the government will build them new ones.


It works, I guess, but only after the army sends out planes to bomb Superman, and destroy even more of the slum.

And while his intention is good, it completely fails to address the poverty the boys live in.  And the fact that Superman would also have destroyed everyone’s furniture, clothing, mementos and such.

Oh, the final panel introduces Police Chief Burke, who will appear again, but never quite become a regular supporting cast member.


A tip from federal agents sends Scoop, and his photographer Rusty, right into the hands of marihuana growers in this story.


It’s always a bit of a surprise when these old stories mention the drug, which they insist on spelling with an h instead of a j.  But this issue pre-dates the Comics Code, when such things got banned.

Scoop and Rusty have their car shot at, but that doesn’t bother them much.  Scoop is eager to join in the gun play, as usual, and takes down the farmers before writing his story.

Action 3 – Superman helps the miners, Scoop Scanlon checks out a dance hall, Pep Morgan burns rubber, Marco Polo in the desert, Tex Thompson vs the Gorrah, and Zatara visits an escort agency


It’s another generic image on the cover of Action 3 (Aug. 38), and a curious one at that.  I wonder what is upsetting the man so much?


Superman appears for only one panel in costume in this story, by Siegel and Shuster, part of the first page of the story.  Clark hears about a mine collapse, rushes there as Superman, but then disguises himself as a miner, and stays that way for the bulk of the story.


Unsafe working conditions are the basis of the tale, but once again, the social commentary is integral.  The mine owner spends his money on parties, instead of maintaining a safe workplace.  He and his friends get lured into moving their party down into the mine itself, and Superman causes a collapse.


The lack of safety features now imperil the owners life, and the wealthy dilettantes have to try to dig their way out. Once Superman hears the owner admit he ought to improve things, he digs a tunnel and frees them all.


Scoop Scanlon heads to check out a murder at a dance hall in this story.


It really doesn’t take much to understand that the dance hall is a prostitution ring, even though that is never stated, or shown explicitly.


The dance hall girl is part of the ring, not merely being used by them, as is common in stories of this kind.  She has no trouble pulling a gun on Scoop, but his photographer grabs her and saves the day.


Pep Morgan has more problems with professional gamblers in this issue, as he shows off his skills as a race car driver.


When he refuses to throw the race, the gamblers try to run him off the road.  Pep not only wins the race, but also causes the bad guys to crash their car.


Marco Polo’s tale is continuing to adhere to the book.  The art is not the greatest, though.  The black cat’s night attack is a bit of a waste.


What makes this installment worthy of inclusion is that it relates Polo and family getting trapped in a sandstorm in the desert.  This the Desert of Lop, and Neil Gaiman will also handle this episode in Polo’s life in the pages of Sandman.


Bernard Bailey continues his story of Tex and Bob’s encounter with the Gorrah.  You may notice that the series itself spells his name Thomson, while I am insistently using Thompson.  Later continuity would add the “p” to his surname, and I am simply using it throughout for clarity.


The Gorrah story is a bit confusing, with real and fake ones, and underground tribes.  But the Gorrah would be Tex’s main adversary throughout his run.


The Gorrah appears to die, but as I just mentioned his status as an archenemy, you know he will return.  Bailey’s art is shockingly poor in this one, compared to his later work.


Guardineer brings back the Tigress in Zatara’s adventure in this issue.


She has been romancing wealthy men, getting them to put her in the will, and then killing them.  Not even bothering with the classic black widow marriage step.


In a suggestive panel, Zatara heads to an escort service, and finds that the Tigress is employed by them.  They give him her location, probably figuring she could do two dates in one night.


Zatara uses a “hypnotic stare” a few times in this story.  He teleports a dance hall girl to her home in this scene, and uses it to make villains see things that are not there later on.  With powers like these, it can hardly be a surprise that the Tigress’ plot gets foiled.

Tag Cloud