Retro Comics are Awesome

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andersonh1
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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Superman #12
September-October 1941

Peril on Pogo Island
Writer: Jerry Siegel Pencils: Joe Shuster, Leo Nowak Inks: Leo Nowak

Perry White gives Lois and Clark tickets for a vacation cruise. We're long since past those early days where Lois loathes and despises Clark, and it seems that at this point they must be friends at least if she's willing to go on a cruise at the same time as Clark. Drama quickly ensues as a woman falls overboard and Clark dives in after her. Given the state of the ocean and the speed of the cruise ship, they'd both have been goners if he wasn't Superman. They're rescued after he catches up with the boat, and he tells Lois that he "accidentally" fell in after her. The upshot is that Clark and Lois become good friends with Nan and her fiance Niles, to the point that Nan invites them to stay over with her and Niles on Pogo Island, while she has inherited.

From here the story becomes about superstitious natives who think Nan is a worker of black magic. They try to kill her and destroy her plantation house, with Superman intervening to protect everyone. It ultimately all boils down to what I assume are unnamed Nazis (referred to be Lois only as agents of a foreign nation who have a secret submarine refueling base on the island) with Nan's plantation foreman Bogart masquerading as the local witch doctor to stir up the natives. Superman picks up the sub and carries it on to dry land, and then punches out the enemy agents, putting an end to the threat.

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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With all the news about layoffs at DC and changes in the way the company operates, who knows if these books will ever appear. Still, here's hoping. I"m glad to see the solicited then cancelled Brave and the Bold Omnibus 3 back on the schedule, and I'm glad to see Jerry Ordway's Captain Marvel series being collected. Volume 1 is out in a few weeks, and I'll have to buy a copy.

• Batman in Brave & the Bold: The Bronze Age Omnibus Vol. 3
• Power of Shazam! Book 2: The Worm Turns
• Superman by Peter J. Tomasi & Patrick Gleason Omnibus
• Superman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 7 - Action Comics #125-143, Superman #55-65, and World’s Finest Comics #37-47

And I"m not buying this series. After trying volume 1, the character just doesn't do much for me, but I"m glad to see any 1940s DC reprinted. • Wonder Woman: The Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 5

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Re: Retro Comics are Awesome

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Superman #12 continued

The Suicide Murders
Writer: Jerry Siegel Art: Leo Nowak

We have another splash page where Superman is hoisting a car high over some skyscrapers and the crooks inside are shooting at him. If by some miracle they did kill him, wouldn't the car just fall? But that has nothing to do with the story, which begins with three prominent men dying in apparent accidents (or suicide for the third one), but Clark Kent claims that it's murder. Trouble is he's written the story with no proof, and Sgt. Casey threatens him. Clark decides he has to look for evidence (which he should have done BEFORE making the accusation) and it doesn't take long before someone tries to kill him. Clark is of course correct, as the story shifts to a debt-ridden businessman who is blackmailed into committing murder, and then a capitalist who is about to commit suicide but is talked into a scheme to make his death look accidental so his family would get the insurance money for a "small fee". IN other words, the scheme is murder and money via blackmail of desperate people. Superman is able to find and catch the ringleader and turn him over to the police.

This one didn't do a lot for me. The story and scheme are fine, but not all that interesting, and Clark's move to print a story with no real proof isn't very smart and makes the character look bad This is not a bad story, it's just not as engaging as some have been in the past.

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The Grotak Bund
Writer: Jerry Siegel Pencils: Leo Nowak Inks: John Sikela

Superman is now "patriot number one" according to the opening narration. America is rearming, and as this is going on, a chemical factory and a number of steel factories are damaged by fire and explosions, with Perry White saying that it can't be coincidence. Lois and Clark investigate a man in the city jail who was near a damaged plant. He won't talk to them, but Superman thinks he may have more success, only to see the man broken out of jail and Sgt. Casey held at gunpoint. Superman saves his life, but when he finds the man who was broken out of jail and dying of a gunshot, he gets one word from him, "Calden", and is accused of murder by the just-arrived state troopers.

It's times like this that the Clark Kent identity proves its usefulness, and Clark is able to continue investigating. It was sabotage at the steel plants, Superman keeps an eye on an undamaged one, and has to intervene to save Lois from death by dynamite. He grabs the crooks, still in their car, and puts them on a railroad bridge with the train rapidly approaching in order to make them talk. Superman follows them to the hideout of the sabotage gang and rounds them up, all except the leader who escapes. But Superman catches him when Perry mentions that Lois is meeting with a "Calvin Denby", and he guesses that "Calden" referred to this man.

This is not my first time through this volume, and my memory of it is that it hit a slump at some point where the stories started to feel a bit routine and not very memorable, and I think I'm there. Once again there's nothing wrong with the story, but it's all too easy for Superman and pre-wartime saboteurs are not new, so it feels like we've seen this before.

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Finishing up Superman #12:

The Beasts of Luthor
Writer: Jerry Siegel Art: John Sikela

An old man, Dudley Barnes, tries to convince Perry White of a terrible menace to humanity on Baracoda Island, but Perry throws him out. Clark and Lois overhear and take Barnes to lunch to hear his story. Barnes was kidnapped and taken on a long sea voyager, where he met "famous biologist" Stephen Cardine on an island. Cardine recruits Barnes to help with breeding giant animals. Barnes helps at first, but rebels at the idea of his unseen employer who wants to conquer the world and set up a "scientific dictatorship." Barnes escapes and returns to Metropolis to warn someone. Clark and Lois believe him, but Perry still thinks it's a waste of time and sends them to interview big game hunter Allen Masters. Masters is intrigued by the story and wants to go to the island to check it out, but when they all go to find Barnes, he's been killed by a massive does of "ant poison". Perry lets Clark and Lois head off to the island to investigate since Masters is paying for the expedition.

This is a dense story with a lot of plot and a lot of setup, as you can tell. We get a new device that Superman invented himself, a portable lock that allows him to enter and leave a submarine while i'ts underwater. We have trouble on the island from a thug who has taken it over. There's a chase at sea and a giant octopus. And the hidden employer turns out to be Luthor, who throws all his underlings to the giant animals when he has no further use for them (I feel bad for the poor guy who is trapped beneath the paw of a giant lion!), and who temporarily stops Superman with a paralysis ray. It's a story with a busy setup and a lot of opportunities for action by Superman. Luthor destroys his entire complex rather than be captured, leading Superman to declare "the end of Luthor!", but of course we all know he'll be back. And the story is still not quite over, because a giant dinosaur has been sent to attack Metropolis and Superman has to stop it. And once again, in the end Clark scoops Lois and writes up the story before she can. This was a good one.

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Action Comics #41
October 1941

The Saboteur
Writer: Jerry Siegel Art: Paul Cassidy

It's more than a coincidence that Clark Kent is never around when Superman makes his appearance. One of these days, Lois is going to put two and two together...

Clark and Lois accompany Sgt. Casey on a tour of the Gargan factory, where Clark spots a time bomb beneath some machinery. Switching to Superman he rips the bomb out of the floor and gets it clear. A list of men absent from work that day leads to possible sabotage suspects, which Casey goes to investigate with Superman following. This is the most page time Casey has ever had. I'm pretty sure entering and searching without a warrant is illegal, but he does it anyway and finds the saboteur, Steve Grant, who hits him on the head and throws him out the apartment window. Superman saves his life of course, and takes a direct hand in saving Grant from his own criminal employers. Despite taking Grant to jail, Grant is still not safe as an attempt is made on his life and then he's captured by some thugs who bust into the jail with an armored car. Superman follows again and rounds up the sabotage gang but does not catch the leader of the sabotage ring, who has gone to destroy the Daily Planet. That's convenient since Superman is returning there anyway. He saves Lois and the Planet building from the bomb and finally catches the lead saboteur, who is motivated by money from an unnamed foreign country.

Sergeant Casey is one of those early supporting characters who is little more than a plot device. He barely gets any character development, and eventually just stops appearing. He's around a lot in these early storylines though, and this is probably the most we ever see him in action in any given story. He's willing to resort to intimidation to catch a crook, and he doesn't have a high opinion of marriage. The sabotage storyline is decent, and I like a villain who is motivated by nothing more than greed.

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Action Comics #42
November 1941

City in the Stratosphere
Writer: Jerry Siegel Pencils: Leo Nowak Inks: Shuster Shop

I really like the splash page for this issue with the city in the clouds (which I thought was Metropolis on a foggy day the first time I read the story). The panel with the four prominent Metropolis citizens who have disappeared is a nicely done concise bit of plot setup. Clark thinks there is something unusual about the kidnappings, and Perry tells him to pursue the story. He switches to Superman and follows a man picking up a ransom demanded for one of the missing men, but when he interrogates the pickup man, he's killed by a green ray from the clouds (Superman's shocked expression is great). The ray kills a second man when Superman moves up the villain chain of command, and he cannot find the source. It's only when Clark Kent is kidnapped while asleep (still wearing his glasses, oddly) that he learns the truth: he and the other missing me have been taken to a strange city floating in the stratosphere, ruled by Zytal, interplanetary explorer. He claims to have selected "a group of the world's most superior men" to join him in his quest for knowledge.

Clark is suspicious, and when he switches to Superman and spies on Zytal, he spots... Luthor in disguise as Zytal! When Superman confronts Luthor, Luthor uses electricity to put a "mental compulsion" on Superman and sends him off to wreak havoc. It's at this point that Luthor's men kidnap Lois (we're on page 11) only for Superman to take her instead. He throws off the mental compulsion just in time to preserve his secret id, only for Luthor to drop both Clark and Lois in a pit with a monster of his own creation. Of course at this point it's a simple matter for Superman to stop the creature. Luthor sends the city plummeting to the ground and escapes while Superman stops it, saving the lives of everyone on board.

I could nitpick a bit here and wonder why Clark sleeps in his glasses and wears his Superman costume beneath his pajamas, but this story is too much fun to hold that against it. Luthor remains consistent in his traits: he comes up with technology that temporarily defeats or controls Superman, and he's mutating animal life to create monsters. After the way Lois gave him trouble on Baracoda Island the last time he showed up, I guess Clark and Lois are on his "must kill" list now too, otherwise there was no point in even bringing Lois into this story at the last moment.

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Superman #13
November-December 1941

I had read the first two stories of this issue years ago in "Superman from the 30s to the 70s", so they were immediately familiar to me the first time I read through this omnibus.

The Light
Writer: Jerry Siegel Pencils: Joe Shuster, Leo Nowak Inks: Leo Nowak

Superman is being marketed more and more as a patriotic figure, becoming a "defender of democracy" in this issue's opening narration. Clark and Lois are assigned to cover a speech by Senator Billingsley, with Perry noting that someone called "The Light" has said he will never speak. When Billingsley is late, Superman goes to look for him, only to find that the Senator has been taken when everyone in his car was temporarily blinded by headlights from an oncoming vehicle. Despite being blamed for the kidnapping, Superman finds and returns the Senator and captures the men who took him. But other prominent men have been kidnapped by the Light, who also orders Clark and Lois captured. Now, if all of this seems somewhat familiar, think back no further than the previous story in the omnibus and you might correctly deduce that the Light is actually Luthor, who once again manages to temporarily stop Superman with his technology, in this case his light-hypnosis that he's been using on the kidnapped men. Superman breaks free of his control of course, but once again Luthor escapes, with his plan to control the nation by controlling the kidnapped men foiled by Superman.

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The Archer
Writer: Jerry Siegel Art: Leo Nowak

Superman vs. evil Green Arrow! Okay, not really, because the Archer is nothing like Oliver Queen, but I couldn't help but make at least a visual connection given that the Archer dresses in all green, wears a mask and of course uses a bow and arrows as his weapon of choice. But the Archer is a killer, not a crime fighter, and he extorts money from the wealthy under threat of death. He kills Thomas Gayford right in his own home in the midst of a party on page 2.

The most significant aspect of this story is that it's Jimmy Olsen's first named appearance (though just his first name) as he offers to cover the story for Perry White. We've seen this young office boy before, but he's never played a significant part in a plot until now. Perry tells him to come back in ten years and he'll give him a shot (and Jimmy really does look about 13 years old here, he's very young) before sending Clark and Lois to cover the murder story, where they encounter Sgt. Casey as usual. Someone attempts to kill them both by sabotaging the brakes on Clark's car, and he gets to prevent disaster and render Lois unconscious via hypnotism without ever putting on the costume, which is fun. The story follows the investigation for a while, and ends with Superman saving Lois and Jimmy from the Archer, uncovering his identity as Quigley, a famous big game hunter who was in it for the money.

So the story has a villain that's more memorable than he probably should be, and Jimmy gets his first by-line. I know Jimmy won't appear all that often during this era, but I think this series could have used an expanded cast of characters, so any addition is welcome. As is often the case, the villain is physically no match for Superman, with the challenge being to figure out who he is and to locate him. It's a well-worn formula by now, but used to good effect here.

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The Batman Golden Age Omnibus vol. 8

Detective Comics #174
August 1951

The Park Avenue Kid
Script: Bill Finger Pencils: : Lew Sayre Schwartz, Bob Kane Inker: Charles Paris

From Upper-Crust to Uppercut!! Socialite signs fight contract!

Bruce Wayne becomes a boxer. While walking to a Citizen's Committee meeting he stops a mugging, knocking the guy out with one punch. It's just his luck that one of the people in the park who witnessed this is fight promoter H. J. Morrison, who happens to know that the would-be mugger is "Slug" Dooley, a former heavyweight fighter who no one had been able to knock out during his boxing career. Yes, it's a lot of coincidence, but the economy of storytelling in this era often includes a certain level of coincidence. Bruce of course does not want his civilian identity connected in any way with the ability to fight, but he's big news in Gotham, and Morrison won't take no for an answer.

The boxing plotline runs alongside Batman's attempt to capture his latest foe, a masked criminal known as the Dagger, who is deadly when throwing a knife. It's not hard to figure that both plots will likely intersect before all is said and done. Morrison sets up a charity fight with proceeds to go to the Gotham Children's Hospital, so of course Bruce can't refuse. So he "trains" for the fight and pretends to get in shape, not showing off his already superb physical condition which he maintains as Batman. When Bruce wins the fight it appears that it has gone to his head and he decides to stick with boxing, much to Robin's dismay. But as usual, Bruce has worked a number of things out, and when gambling czar Ned Brann steps in and demands that Bruce throw the fight, Bruce goes along with it, only to show up between rounds as Batman and capture Ned, revealing that he is the Dagger. Bruce went along with the crooked fight just so Ned would lead him to the gang's hideout. Needless to say, with the crook caught, Bruce Wayne's boxing career ends as well.

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