Posts tagged ‘Three Aces’

Action 63 – Superman loses his memory, the Dummy times 3, the Three Aces end, and Americommando kicks Hitler in the face

act_63

Quite the dramatic wartime cover for Action 63 (Aug.43).

act_63_001

Don Cameron and Ira Yarborough come up with a new way to weaken Superman in this story.

act_63_002

A collision of two stars in space sends cosmic radiation towards the Earth.  When it reaches the planet, Superman is literally knocked off his feet by it.  He falls to the street, and winds up with no memory of who he is.

act_63_003

Some hoods see him fall, but as he is in his Clark Kent clothes, do not realize it is Superman.  But his strength and resilience, and lack of memory, make the hoods convince their hapless victim that he can impersonate Superman.  So Superman winds up joining a criminal gang.  Superman’s ethics do cause him doubts, but he believes he could not possibly be the real Superman, or he would not have lost his memory.

act_63_004

Lois Lane gets involved, distressed to see Superman committing crimes.  A falling meteor, which he shatters, restores his memory.  Superman rounds up the thieves, and pretends that his time with them was  just an act to gain evidence.

A pretty lame explanation, but people are glad to accept it.

With no kryptonite yet, this story was an early attempt at weakening or altering his powers.

act_63_005

Cameron and Meskin bring back the Dummy to pester Vigilante in this story.

act_63_006

The Dummy is now part of an act, with two other identically dressed men – or are they actually dummies?  The story introduces this idea, but really doesn’t play on it much until the last few pages.  The set-up also has the Dummy and Greg Sanders performing at the same venue the same evening, but aside from the Vigilante seeing the three Dummies perform, nothing happens on that night either.

act_63_007

Stuff gets captured, in typical sidekick fashion, and Vigilante discovers that the middle dummy really is a dummy.  The tallest one seems to be a real person, but we never get that confirmed, or find out who he is.  Definitely better in concept than in execution.

act_63_008

The Three Aces have their final adventure in this issue, battling the Japanese.

act_63_009

It’s a serviceable war story.  They hold off a Japanese assault.  All seems well for the three men, but since their series ends here, and they are never seen again, I believe this was their last successful mission, and they died on their next one.  They are all old enough to have fought in the World War 1, so their reaction time would not have been the best. Kind of amazing they survived in the war as long as they did.

act_63_010

After travelling around through occupied Europe and helping out the resistance groups, the Americommando returns to Germany in this story by Greene and Baily.

act_63_011

This story has Americommando’s greatest challenge, to steal plans that Hitler carries on himself at all times.  He succeeds by turning Hitler’s propaganda against him accepting a challenge to fight a Nazi champion in the ring.  Actual German heavyweight champion Max Schmelling appears in the story, although he is not the one to fight Tex.  This is sort of sad, part of the anti-Schmelling view the media played up during the war.  In fact, though he was drafted into the service, Schmelling was not a Nazi, and even risked his life to save two Jewish children.  At any rate, Tex triumphs in the ring, and not only escapes the Nazis after the match, but kicks Hitler in the face while stealing the plans.

act_63_012

Tex gets a new sidekick in this issue as well, a Greek prisoner of war, Poppy, who is his assistant during the match, provided by the Nazis.  Poppy joins Tex on his next mission, in Russia, but is not seen after that.  I expect he returned home and worked with the resistance until war`s end.

Advertisements

Action 60 – Lois Lane – Superwoman, the Rainbow Man’s toy train deathtrap, and the Three Aces in the Philippines

act_60

Superman is busy delivering care packages to soldiers on the cover of Action 60 (May 1943), but that’s ok, as he is not really the lead in his story this month anyway.

act_60_001

Lois Lane gets a chance to shine in the first of many, many, many stories that will see her adopt a Superwoman identity.

act_60_002

Jerry Siegel and George Roussos helm this tale, which opens with Lois getting hit by a car.  She is in critical condition, and Superman flies off to get the best surgeon in the world. And maybe delivers care packages to soldiers on the way?  It’s really not hard to tell that the story transitions into a dream sequence, with Superman giving Lois a blood transfusion, which results in her gaining super-powers.

act_60_003

No one believes her when she announces she moved a huge filing cabinet on her own, and jumping on a chair at the sight of a mouse just further convinces the men that she is lying.  It’s a weird scene, frankly, and out of character for her.

act_60_004

Once Lois discovers that she can fly, she whips herself up a Superwoman outfit and goes out to fight crime.

act_60_005

Who does she happen to run into but Clark Kent.  Kent recognizes her, so she flies him around, threatening to drop him if he ever reveals her identity.

act_60_006

Lois finds Superman, and as they now equals, proposes marriage and he accepts. And then, of course, she wakes up.

It’s not a terrible story, and the dream sequence is cued enough to not be a lame cop-out.  But there would be far too many variants on this theme.

act_60_007

The Rainbow Man returns to plague the Vigilante in this story by Meskin and Paris.

act_60_008

This time round the Rainbow Man is using models of the city to plan out his gang’s crimes.  Among the crimes is stealing the things needed to build models of the city, so it’s a bit of a circular thing.

act_60_009

What really makes this story notable is the deathtrap, worthy of the 60s Batman tv show.  The Vigilante and Stuff are tied to toy train tracks, and trains with poisoned needles are approaching them.  Vigilante’s escape from the trap is reasonable, and plays out beautifully.  Better than the rest of the story.

act_60_010

The Three Aces are in the Philippines for this tale, which also serves as a handy guide to Pidgin English.  I had no idea “chop-chop” for “in a hurry” was Pidgin.

act_60_011

The Three Aces are sent out to aid a lieutenant, who turns out to be a woman, Betty Allardyce. Though the men are surprised by her gender, at no point is she made out to be any less of a competent officer because of it.

Action 54 – Superman vs Captain Ironfist, the Three Aces identify aircraft, Americommando gets his commission, and Congo Bill in Central America

act_54

Great World War 2 cover for Superman on Action 54 (Nov. 42).

act_54_001

The story, by Siegel and Sikela, even maintains the maritime theme, if not the actual watercraft or enemy.  Captain Ironfist is the villain of the issue, a really interesting creation.

act_54_002

The story spends a long time setting up Stanley Finchcomb, obsessed with his pirate ancestor since childhood.  The ghost of Ironfist possesses him, and sets him on a life of crime.

act_54_003

Although he captains a sailing ship, he forces his men to take over steamers.  They succeed, though I wonder how they manage to board the much larger ships.  Captured Lois rescued is and be must.

act_54_004

Ironfist is not ultimately defeated by Superman, but by the ghost of Stanley’s father, for bringing shame on the family name.  Stanley dies, and presumably ends the line of descent, as Ironfist never appears again.  His supernatural nature could have made him a really interesting villain.

act_54_005

The Three Aces story in this issue continues to see the flyers fighting the Japanese in the Asian sphere.

act_54_006

The story makes a point of teaching the reader about the Japanese Nakajima plane, and the Allied Wildcat fighter, as well as explaining a fair bit of the lingo pilots used.  The fact that the Japanese plane is credited as “highly maneuverable” while being slower than the US planes I found a striking bit of honesty at this time of patriotic propaganda.

act_54_007

With this issue the series truly does become Americommando. It is also by far my favourite story out of Tex Thompson’s entire run.  Joseph Greene scripted this Bernard Baily tale.

act_54_008

Tex is secretly brought to FDR himself, and ordered to undergo extensive training to become the Americommando, proficient with all weaponry, able to pilot planes and tanks, and multilingual.  Bob is requested to stay behind and fight crime as Fat Man, and this is his final appearance, unless one considers The Golden Age miniseries from the mid-90s as canonical.  Which I do, despite the Elseworlds label on it.

act_54_009

The training sequence is well done, with Mr America’s spinning head helping to convey the massive chore in the brief time span.

act_54_010

The last panel on the page above is duplicated in two other stories, both by Roy Thomas.  The scene is shown as part of the Mr. America story in Secret Origins, and later shown in an expanded form in the pages of Young All-Stars.  Various heroes are added to the shadowy group saluting him.

To Tex’s surprise, his first mission is to impersonate a German officer, and the story ends with him being flown in, to be dropped behind enemy lines.

act_54_011

Joe Samachson and Edwin Small take the reins of the Congo Bill series with this issue, and his wartime adventures abruptly end.  Now, he is in Central America, of all places.

act_54_012

Bill deals with an unknown tribe and a secret idol.  The tribe’s leader is really a white explorer who has been hording the gold for himself. Not a great story.

 

Action 52 – Superman vs the Emperor of the US, Vigilante reveals himself to Stuff, the Three Aces get trapped in time, the Americommandos, Congo Bill delivers cigarettes, and Zatara stops a kidnapping

act_52

I just love the cover for Action 52 (Sept. 42).  It is the one and only cover from this era that features the heroes of all the series contained in the issue.  It’s kind of curious that none of the other DC comics from the era ever did this.  And as I always write about the cover featured hero in any blog entry, every series will be covered for this issue.

act_52_001

Siegel and Sikela’s Superman story is set in a possible future, so not actually canonical.  In it, a man decides to proclaim himself Emperor of America – although he only takes over the US, and leaves the rest of the two continents alone.

act_52_002

To Clark’s mystifcation, every seems to support this.  The Daily Planet staff think it’s a great idea, even Lois Lane and Perry White.  Jimmy Olsen can be seen in cameo,with his back to the reader.

act_52_003

As the Emperor’s reign progresses it becomes more and more authoritarian.  As one might expect from a self-proclaimed emperor.  Superman discovers that the man has used a mind control machine to win people to his side, and destroys the machine, freeing the country.

The story is clearly meant to be read as a warning against authoritarianism, which would have been synonymous with the Axis powers at this time.

act_52_004

Mort Meskin and Cliff Young have the Vigilante deal with kidnappers who captures a children’s band in this story, but that’s really just a hook for the true purpose of the tale.

act_52_005

Up to this issue, Stuff had been taken care of by Greg Sanders, and worked as Vigilante’s sidekick, but had no idea the two men were the same.  Stuff is clearly not the most observant boy.  Greg finally reveals his identity to the boy.

act_52_006

This leads, quite logically, to Greg relating his origin.  It does not change anything from the origin related in his first appearance, simply expands on it.  Greg’s grandfather was an “Indian hunter,” who nonetheless was so admired by those he killed that they gave him an honourable burial.  We also discover that Greg had begun his singing career before his father’s death, which makes more sense than beginning it at the same time he became Vigilante.  The earlier version of this tale left that sequence of events unclear.

act_52_007

The Three Aces get a bit of a change of pace from the war stories that had become their meat and potatoes.  They wind up flying into a remote valley to avoid a storm, and get trapped there.  The valley is populated by other trapped soldiers, going back centuries, who continue to fight each other.

act_52_008

This allows the Three Aces to keep fighting the Japanese, even though the Asians got trapped their in the 10th century.  Radium radiation is given as the reason no one can escape the valley. The Three Aces use lead from the armor of the captured Japanese soldiers to protect their plane engines from the radium, and escape.

act_52_009

The logo on this series changes for a second time, becoming the Americommandos, although there is no obvious difference in the strip itself, in this story by Joseph Greene and Bernard Baily.  The story even alternates between calling Tex Mr. America and Americommando.

act_52_010

The story deals with a Nazi soldier who escapes from a Canadian prison camp and heads down to the US to wreak havoc.  Fat Man does appear in the story, but in a small, non-speaking cameo.

act_52_011

Congo Bill is still in China in this Fred Ray story, continuing to help the war against Japan.  It’s an odd mission that he is on, though, having to deliver a pack of cigarettes.

act_52_012

It’s a deadly trek that Bill takes to do this. The cigarettes are an effective decoy, as the Japanese do not question Bill’s possession of them when they capture him. Bill escapes, and makes it to the Chinese lines, where we learn that the rolling papers the cigarettes are in contains the plans for the Japanese attack, which they successfully hold off.

act_52_013

The issue closes with Gardner Fox and Joseph Sulman’s Zatara adventure.  An ice skater gets kidnapped, and Zatara uses his magic to torment the kidnappers.

act_52_014

While he probably could have rescued the ice queen more easily, the Zatara strip has become much more about goofy and amusing magical events than about serious action.

 

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

act_45

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

act_45_001

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.

act_45_002

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.

act_45_003

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

act_45_004

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.

act_45_005

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.

act_45_006

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.

act_45_007

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.

act_45_008

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.

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