Posts tagged ‘Sheldon Moldoff’

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


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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.


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


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.


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 41 – Superman and the saboteur, Pep Morgan ends, the Black Pirate chooses to forget, and Congo Bill battles for loyalty


Very nice cover for Action 41 (Oct. 41).  I like the puff of steam at the side of the train, helps convey forward motion.  I can’t draw for the life of me, and spotting those kind of “tricks” always impresses me.


Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy turn out another story about foreign saboteurs in this issue.  The politics and motivation of those behind it are kept muddy, though.


Sergeant Casey is featured again.  He is no longer hunting Superman, and they are buddies again.  Casey tracks down the man who planted the bomb which began the tale, and Superman winds up having to protect him, while tracking down his boss, who is trying to have him killed.


Lois Lane gets captured, and must be saved, but the whole sequence is so quick it seems almost jammed in because it “had” to be there.


Pep Morgan’s series comes to a close with this issue, which follows from the previous story. Don Alvera brings him to his ranch in the country, where Pep is pitted against the local bandit king, Tuerto, whom he kills.  Don Alvera seems to actively be trying to set up Pep with his daughter, though Pep’s first comments to her are about her father’s wealth.


The last we see of Pep he is embracing the prone Juanita, as her father Don Alversa looks on approvingly.  After his failed gay relationship, his failed professional baseball career, and his many failed attempts at college, Pep settles down in Chileanos, becoming the muscle behind the powers the run the country.  And after marrying Juanita, and becoming heir to Don Alvera, Pep was sure to rule like a warlord.

I imagine, in the end, Pep was unable to accept the frailties of age, and attempted some fight or daring act when his body was no longer capable of it, and died stupidly.


The Black Pirate is given a one-issue tale by Moldoff in this issue, which seems derived from Haggard’s novel She.


Jon docks the ship, and goes ashore, discovering an albino “goddess,” and her giant black slave.  He doesn’t have time to do much more than break a jar and run back to his ship.  He decides to forget about the adventure, and never tell anyone about it.  If it wasn’t for Moldoff’s art, I probably would have forgotten about it, too.


I probably should have written about Congo Bill’s adventure in the previous issue, as it introduced Sheila Hanlen, who continues as a supporting character.  The story was a silly one, though, about finding a valley of dinosaurs.  I guarantee it is not going to be the only story in which Congo Bill finds dinosaurs, and I’m sure there are better versions than the one by Fred Ray.  But Sheila is back in this story anyway, which deals with World War 2 again.


Congo Bill and Professor Kent, along with Sheila, return to a British fort, and discover that a German agent is trying to rouse the natives against the British.  Bill goes out to fight the man, as apparently the natives will follow whoever wins.  It’s kind of insulting, really, and ignores the huge reasons the Africans had for not siding with their alien overlords.

Action 40 – Superman digs a ditch, Pep Morgan looks for work, the Black Pirate duels, and a preview of the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripsey


Interesting markings on the tank on the cover of Action 40 (Sept. 41).  They’re just crosses, but somehow manage to convey another symbol quite effectively.


Jerry Siegel and John Sikela contribute this little story, in which a millionaire enlists Superman’s help in reforming his party animal daughter.  Lois has a small role, trying to lay in wait for Superman and find out what the secret meeting is all about. But she gets Clark to go with her, scuppering her own plans.


The story is pleasantly diverting, but with little to it.  The girl appears to be a spoiled brat.  Superman prevents a crooked casino from taking her money, and stops her from eloping with a young wastrel.


Towards the end of the story a dam bursts, for no particular reason.  The girl winds up helping the victims of the flood, which makes her re-evaluate her life.


Pep Morgan is out of school, and looking for work, in this George Papp story.  The text tells us that this is summer vacation, but Pep must have already had seven or eight summer vacations during his run.  How many years has he spent in college?


Pep winds up taking another bodyguard job, this time for Don Alvera, from the South American country of Chileanos, who has come to the US to sell diamonds on behalf of the government.  Impressed with Pep, Don Alvera beings him back to Chileanos, just in time for Pep to rescue the president of the country from being kidnapped.


Moldoff wraps up the Don De Avila storyline in this issue.  Jon Valor waits until De Avila’s men have gone out hunting for him, then sneaks back into the castle and confronts his traitorous former friend.


They duel, though you get the feeling De Avila has given up before the swords are even raised.  And he dies.  The Black Pirate then frees Bonnie from the cell she had been imprisoned in.


This issue also includes a three page preview of the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy, shortly to headline the forthcoming Star-Spangled Comics.  The pair were created by Superman scribe Jerry Siegel (which explains why the preview was in this book), and Howard Sherman.  This marks their debut, although they don’t do much other than introduce themselves, both in their heroic identities, and out of them, as wealthy young Sylvester Pemberton, and his chauffeur Pat Dugan.  Neither had any powers.  The unique thing about this team is that the boy was main hero, and the adult the sidekick.

Action 39 – Superman vs a radioactive killer, Pep Morgan changes schools, the Black Pirate escapes, and Congo Bill patrols the coast


Another militaristic cover for Action 39 (Aug. 41).


Jerry Siegel and Leo Nowak craft a decent tale, pitting Superman against a radioactive murderer.


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.

Action 36 – Superman fights saboteurs, Pep Morgan doesn’t want to kiss in public, the Black Pirate duels for the ship, and Clip Carson ends


While the cover to Action 36 (May 1941) is not militaristic, the Superman story inside is. No robots 😦


Jerry Siegel, Paul Cassidy and Paul Lauretta do a story about “fifth columnists,” saboteurs and spies from a foreign nation, plotting against the US.


It’s a middling story at best, and it hardly helps that the enemy is identified only as “Nation X.”


Forthe last few issues, Pep has constantly been in the company of his wealthy roommate, Slim, who has taken him flying in his new plane, and spent time together at his house. In this one, Papp opens the story by having Slim say he could kiss Pep, and Pep replying that that is “just like him.”  Pep’s main objection seems to be to kissing in public, which could well have proven fatal at a hockey game in 1941.


The rest of the story has to do with Pep stopping some fur thieves. But one of the thieves is female, and contrary to most stories, there is no hint of romance redeeming her.  Nothing sparks at all between her and Pep. So is she just around to confirm what the first page seems to be implying?


The Black Pirate looks quite dandified in the first panel of Moldoff’s story in this issue.  Quite a change from the shorts he has been stuck in for the last few issues.


The crew that has stolen his ship wake up to discover that he has steered it back to their old one, and as Jon Valor fights the captain, the two crews take each other on. The Black Pirate triumphs, finally getting his ship back.  He intends to sail to Barcelona and leave Bonnie there, as he does not feel the ship is an appropriate place for her. But Bonnie has other plans…


Clip Carson has his final adventure in Action, courtesy of George Papp, and it’s one of his greatest successes.


Clips’ plane gets brought down by Central American revolutionaries, as they overthrow the president, and take his daughter hostage.  In a few pages, Clip saves the daughter, defeats the revolutionary general, bombs the rebel base and re-installs the president.  Whew!

Clip Carson moves over to More Fun Comics for the remainder of his run, a final year of largely unremarkable stories.

Action 35 – Superman and the gold mine, and Black Pirate puts out the fire


Action 35 (April 1941) has the first of a number of militaristic covers on the book this year.  But strict neutrality is maintained, the attacking armies are never identified.


Jerry Siegel is joined by Wayne Boring and Don Komisarow on the art, as Lois Lane investigates a worthless gold mine, the stock of which is being bought up, even if the owners have to be forced to sell.  It’s the third story in a row to deal with natural resources, following the coal mine last issue, and the lumber camp before that.


Superman is clearly flying in this issue. No amount of leaps or streaks could explain the control over direction and speed that he demonstrates.  So far as I have been able to determine, there was never a specific story in which his ability to fly was revealed, as there were with so many of his other powers.  It was simply a natural outgrowth of what was being shown on the page.


The story is a bit more complex than the last two, with the worthless mine being used to store stolen gold, and the shares bought up to ensure no one came around.  But mostly it’s Lois Lane getting into trouble and needing to be rescued by Superman.


Jon Valor is stuck in his tighty whiteys in this Black Pirate chapter, by Moldoff.  The Black Pirate does manage to put out the fire consuming the junk, but the Asian crew has taken over his ship in the meantime.


The Queen of the Seas is finally given a real name in this issue, Bonnie.  She doesn’t get to do much. After seeming so tough in her debut, the character has quickly degenerated to the clinging romantic interest.  The Black Pirate swims out to take his ship back that night.  He sneaks aboard and kills the man at the wheel, steering the ship back towards his men.


Action 34 – Superman and the coal mine heiress, and Black Pirate to the rescue


Superman comes to the rescue of some incredibly stupid villains on the cover of Action 34 (March 1941).  Had their plan to blow up the dam succeeded, they would have died almost immediately.


Siegel and Burnley provide a villain with a bot more intelligence in the story inside.  Perry White sends Lois and Clark out to get a story about a woman who inherited a coal mine. Lois doesn’t think it much of a story, and when they are rebuffed at the gate, she chooses to sit this one out.


Clark is far more determined, and a good thing, too. The woman’s shady lawyer tries to arrange her death, after failing to persuade her to sell the mine.


Burnley’s art is excellent.  And while the story is not bad, it’s also not much of a challenge for our hero.


The only other story in this issue I find notable is Moldoff’s Black Pirate, but I’m such a sucker for this series.  I love Moldoff’s art on it.


With virtually nothing to guide him, Jon Valor tracks down the junk, on which the Queen of the Seas is being held.  He rescues her, although the ship gets set on fire while he is doing this.

Action 33 – Clark Kent becomes a lumberjack, Black Pirate has a drink, and Tex Thompson becomes Mr. America


The growing boom of super-heroes hits Action Comics with issue 33 (Feb. 41), as Superman is no longer the only masked hero in the book.


Siegel and Burnley open the issue with a story about a lumber millionaire, who intends to leave his fortune to fund a home for underprivileged youth.  He gets murdered, and though it is fairly simple to figure out that his assistant is behind it, the story carries itself along well.


Perry White makes his first appearance, although one might note that he looks very much like George Taylor has come to look.  And though both Taylor and the Daily Star had ceased to appear by the end of 1941, they would retroactively become defining features of the Earth-2 Superman, and return decades down the road.


Lois and Clark head out to the lumber camp to investigate the murder.  Clark takes on a job as a lumberjack, while Lois becomes a camp cook.  The camp is plagued by “accidents,” and while Clark easily survives these, Lois winds up once again in deadly danger, and must be rescued.


The Black Pirate gets a bit of a rest in this Moldoff story.  The Queen of the Seas stays in his mind, and he hopes to encounter her again.


He doesn’t put much effort into it, though, preferring to hang out at an inn with his men and drink.  Meanwhile, the Queen of the Seas takes on an Asian junk, and loses.  She gets captured.  And though Jon Valor cannot possibly know this, he sets out in search of her anyway as the story ends.


Tex Thomspn resigns from Maloney’s staff when he is given a special assignment by the war relief commission, to accompany a ship across the Atlantic, and prevent a plot to blow it up.  He fails at that, the ship gets sunk and Tex is believed dead.  Later, a black haired man wearing a red cape, white shirt and blue trousers, a domino mask and carrying a whip tracks down those behind the explosion and brings them to justice.  He calls himself Mr. America, but Bob almost immediately recognizes him as Tex.


Tex decides to maintain the Mr. America identity, for some reason feeling that it’s important that the world believe Tex Thomson to have died when the ship sunk.  In reality, of course, this simply reflects the growing popularity of costumed heroes.  And the change in Bernard Baily’s series is really just on the surface.  With no powers, there is little that makes a Mr. America story different than a Tex Thompson one.

Action 32 – the Krypto-Ray Gun, Pep Morgan gets a friend, the Black Pirate vs Captain Treble, and the Three Aces find the Dalai Lama


Boy, the cover of Action 32 (Jan. 41) really really looks like a scene from a story, doesn’t it? Well, it’s not.  Nor will any of the 1941 covers reflect the Superman story inside.  So I’m going to stop pointing that out.


Jerry Siegel and Jack Burnley tell a story in this issue that begins by resembling one of the early social commentary stories, before become just a gigantic ad.


A gambler’s attempted suicide is prevented by Superman, and Clark takes his story to the Daily Planet.  George Taylor assigns him and Lois to get the goods on the Preston Gambling Club, but that is easier said than done.  The mayor is on the side of the club, and gives them advance warning before Clark arrives.  Lois manages to get in, but is discovered to be a reporter, and given a drink that removes her memory.


The super-hypnotism that Superman uses to restore Lois’ mind will pop up occasionally over the years, often as a deus ex machina.  But more significant (for this story) is Clark’s creation, the Krypto-Ray Gun.


It’s basically a camera than can reverse and also project pictures, and though it is used to show proof of the club’s crimes, it’s a pretty limited invention.


But look, you can buy one yourself!


The name of the device is also a bit of a problem.  At this point, Superman had no idea where he came from.  He would not learn about Krypton for another 8 years!  So his use of the word “krypto” in the name of the gun is meant to be a total coincidence.  Although if he had never heard of Krypton, one wonders why he would use part of its name in the first place.


Pep Morgan’s college roommate, Slim, is introduced in this George Papp story, and will stick around for a while.  Slim is also an athlete, and comes from a very wealthy family.


Slim invites Pep to join him at his uncle’s cabin in the country, where they can hunt down escaped convicts.  That’s not actually part of the invitation, it’s not a regular weekend hunt or anything.  Just what happens in the story.


Sheldon Moldoff keeps the Black Pirate hopping in his adventures.  In a few pages, Jon Valor finds and defeats Captain Treble, frees his enslaved miners, and makes them his new crew.


The first ship they attempt to takeover turns out to be run by a woman, who simply refers to herself as the Queen of the Seas.  The Black Pirate has too much chivalry to take her ship from her.  Besides, she looks like she could be (and will be) a more interesting recurring character.


The Three Aces are in Tibet in this issue, preventing a kidnapping of the new Dalai Lama, in a story that must have been very timely.  The Dalai Lama had been “found” in 1937, not too much earlier.


The art on the series definitely goes up a notch with this story.  One subtle note about this strip. Up to this point, the characters would refer to their days fighting in the Great War, but as the Second World War grows, those references get dropped.  Likely because it makes the characters seem too old.

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