Posts tagged ‘Black Jack’

More Fun 89 – the origins of Green Arrow and Speedy, and the returns of Black Jack and Dr. Clever

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Green Arrow and Speedy have their origins told for the first time, in More Fun 89 (March 1943).  Oliver Queen’s story is very, very different from the later tale, but there are notable points of similarity in Roy Harper’s.

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Lost Mesa is the location that eventually brings the two heroes together.  Roy arrives first, as his father dies in a plane crash, and he is trapped there, along with an old native guide Quoag.  The notion that Roy was orphaned during a fatal accident, and then raised by natives, would remain in every variation of his origin story.

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Oliver Queen is introduced as a wealthy collector of weapons.  Criminals attempt to rob him, but instead succeed only is destroying his collection.  Oliver has heard of Lost Mesa, and intends to re-stock his collection with weapons from there, which he terms “a gold mine.”  The bad guys overhear this, take it literally, and head there themselves.  Lost Mesa is apparently not that lost.

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Entertainingly, the two men do not hit it off at all when they meet, Roy mistaking Oliver for one of the gang.  They both get captured, but free themselves.  In plotting their revenge against the hoods, they adopt the basic guises and nicknames that would define them as heroes.

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As a plus, they discover that there really is a treasure horde of gold in Lost Mesa.  As a minus, Quoag dies trying to help them.

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And though a rope attached to an arrow is not at all beyond the normal scope of archery, the fact that he brands it an “Arrow-line” makes this an early trick arrow as well.

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Black Jack returns again in this story.  He has a modern, oil-burning watercraft as his pirate ship, and that seems enough to warrant a story.  It’s a pretty run-of-the-mill affair for the most part, except when it gets down to the fight.

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Black Jack captures Aquaman at one point, and intends to suffocate him by withdrawing the oxygen from water.  The “scientific” discussion between the men is so awful even I can tell it’s complete nonsense.

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Aquaman uses whales to create a distracting rainfall, as well as to propel him and some eels up to the villain’s lair.

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The eels in turn function as ropes.  From simple commands, Aquaman’s power to control and manipulate sea creatures has jumped to the staggering level it would remain at.

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Mort Meskin brings back Dr. Clever in this Johnny Quick story, but the character really doesn’t have that much to do with the story, and appears only in a few panels.

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Tubby Watts gets a larger than usual role, as he and Johnny Chambers spend some time as guests at a training camp.  It’s really not clear in the story if they are they just in order to make a newsreel, or if visiting the camps was a normal activity at the time, part of the recruitment process?  Certainly Tubby is not treated as a man doing a job by the military at the camp, but more like a potential soldier.

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While Dr. Clever schemes sabotage off to the side, Johnny races around doing all manner of tasks that soldiers in training do.

 

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More Fun 86 – Black Jack puts a price on Aquaman, and Johnny Quick gets a cover story

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More Fun 86 (Dec 42) features the first of two consecutive covers that showcase Johnny Quick.

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Black Jack is back, as Aquaman accepts a challenge for charity to swim around the world.  The middle of a massive war might not be the smartest time to do such a thing, but Aquaman is unconcerned.

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Black Jack puts a bounty on Aquaman, notifying pirates around the world of this, and also of his planned route.  Quite a communications network pirates have in the 1940s!  I also quite enjoy the panels that show Aquaman swimming on (in?) a map.

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The pirates trying to stop Aquaman on behalf of Black Jack are more of a nuisance than a threat, but Aquaman has a bit more trouble when he swims into a nest of Japanese ships.

They drug the waters, and being him on board, but he revives quickly and takes them out as well.

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Johnny Quick gets the cover story, although not the lead spot, in this issue.  The story is average, as Johnny performs years of tasks that have mounted up for three elderly men.

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Meskin’s art is a delight, as always, and the multiple images are used regularly.  The cover even reflects the story, although the men look like villains Johnny has apprehended, rather than men he is helping.  Tubby Watts is also featured on the cover, although his role in the story is very limited.

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More Fun 83 – Dr, Fate fights Fates, Aquaman and Black Jack at it again, and Johnny Quick gets a chest symbol

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The Dr. Fate story in More Fun 83 (Sept 42) has a lot of supernatural trappings to it, destiny and fortune-telling, but Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman still manage to avoid a mystical story.

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As with the issue before, the “two fates” the con men are dealing with is just a scam.  And again, Inza and Kent get involved through their friends.

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I was surprised when the crystal ball was talked about as if it were some sort of ray machine, but that’s just another example of the systematic removal of all magic from Dr.  Fate.  You have to wonder why they stuck with the character for so long, instead of just cancelling his series, when they didn’ t want any element of what the character was.

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Black Jack makes another appearance in More Fun in this story, strongly cementing his position as Aquaman’s arch-enemy of the Golden Age.

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The story has to do with a lost treasure from the time of the Louisiana Purchase.  The best part of the story has Aquaman imprisoned in a chest by Black Jack.  He summons a variety of sea creatures, not just fish, who manage to open the box and free him.  Another boost to his powers.

Black Jack returns in a couple of months.

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The Johnny Quick story in this issue has Johnny filling in for a delivery boy who is being harassed by crooks.  But it also is the story in which Johnny displays a chest symbol for the first time, and his costume is finally “complete,” thanks to Mort Meskin.

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The main part of the story is not Johnny and crooks, rather, it’s Johnny doing delivery boy stuff at super-speed.  This kind of story would become more and more frequent as his series went on.  I call them “task” stories, as its all about doing the tasks of a given profession, or variety of professions, rather than about solving crimes.

More Fun 80 – Green Arrow plays William Tell, Dr. Fate vs the Octopus, Aquman talks to fish, Johnny Quick loses his voice, and the Spectre vs the King of Color

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The cover of More Fun 80 (June 1942) actually corresponds to the story inside!  It was not standard practice yet, but always a pleasant surprise when it does.

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The story is the first of countless Green Arrow tales that play on the William Tell idea.  I suppose they could be counted, but even I am not inclined to do so.  This tale has Green Arrow and Speedy hired to be stunt archers in a film on that topic.

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Oliver Queen and Roy Harper apparently lounge around the balcony to their apartment in suits when not on a case.  They head to Calfornia by Arrowplane.  Which still means the Arrowcar at this time.

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The film set is plagued by “accidents,” and the archers discover that there is a gold mine on the property, and the crimes were intended to drive the crew away before they could discover it.

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Dr. Fate is pitted against a large, green mobster, called the Octopus, in this Gardner Fox/ Howard Sherman tale.

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There is nothing nautical about the Octopus’ criminal endeavours.  He leads a gang who run a carnival, at which they rob the patrons.  Kent Nelson and Inza come to visit, and get caught up in taking it down.   Howard Sherman really seems to have given up on this series.  Inza, hanging for her life, looks completely resigned to dropping to her death.

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The Octopus tries to gas Fate to death, but fails, and Dr. Fate beats the crap out of him.  A disappointment.

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Black Jack returns, getting a job on a pleasure yacht, and then convincing the rest of the crew to mutiny and hold the guests for ransom.

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But it’s not the plot or the villain that makes this story mandatory for inclusion in my blog.  We see Aquaman still needs to beat up sharks to make them do what he wants.

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But we also see him converse with a fish for the first time, getting the information needed to track down Black Jack.  This scene is very casually introduced, as if it were no big thing, but it’s a major development in the scope of his powers.

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Aquaman catches up to Black Jack and beats the tar out of him and his men.  No fish for the final battle.  Black Jack is not done, though, and returns a few months later.

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Johnny Quick deals with a crooked gambler, the Adder, who tries to manipulate a charity event Johnny is racing in.  Once again, it’s the superb art by Mort Meskin that makes this tale.

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The whole things plays out almost like a situation comedy.  Johnny innocently agrees to take part in the race, unaware of the villain’s schemes.

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But on the day of the race, he wakes up with laryngitis!  Oh, no!  Clever Johnny uses a loudspeaker to broadcast his speed formula loud enough that it can be heard, though he disguises it amid gibberish.  And of course, he triumphs.

But the story does raise a curious point.  Why is the volume the speed formula is said at significant?  Is there a “speed god” who needs to hear it?

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Percival Popp faces off against the King of Color in this Jerry Siegel/Bernard Bailey story, and the Spectre is kind of involved as well.

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I like the bizarre globe helmst the King of Color wears, and although it’s exact attributes are never specified, it can create hypnotic effects, and also read emotions!  Could have been an interesting villain.  Clarice Winston returns in this story.  Earlier I said she made no further appearances in the strip, but obviously I was mistaken.

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It’s Jim Corrigan who saves the day, really.  Not the Spectre or Percival Popp.  Corrigan simply goads the King of Color, pretending to get captured in order to learn his plans.  Jim almost falls under the color spell, but the Spectre force enables him to resist and escape.

More Fun 77 – Green Arrow in Gayland, Dr. Fate fights a giant, Aquaman splashes Black Jack, Johnny Quick messes up names, and the Spectre vs Maligno

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Green Arrow and Speedy get the cover, and the lead spot, beginning with More Fun 77 (March 1942).

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With the title of the story, and a huge devil over the Gayland sign on the splash page, I was expecting to have a lot of fun with this Green Arrow story, finding unmeant innuendos in the dialogue.  But alas, that was not to be.  After this first page, the name of the park is never referred to again.

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It’s a decent enough tale.  Criminals dressed as red devils are plaguing an amusement park, so Green Arrow and Speedy battle them.  The roller coaster sequence is the only part that uses the rides as backdrop.

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Green Arrow infiltrates the gang, disguising himself as a devil.  So much red on that page, with Speedy in the mix.  No trick arrows or anything special about this one, though.

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Dr. Fate moves a little towards the mystical in Jerry Siegel’s story, and Howard Sherman does a good splash page.

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Inza functions to draw attention to the problem, her usual role.  Dr. Fate is dealing with a painting that is a portal to another realm.  Sadly, despite it being called strange, it looks pretty much like the world around us.

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At least Dr. Fate gets to fight a giant, although he just resorts to punching him, as he tends to these days.

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Black Jack makes his third appearance in this tale.  For a recurring villain, he never seems very competent.

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This story sees him running a crooked casino on a ship outside the legal limits.  Aquaman has his first scene out of his costume, and he’s in a snazzy white suit!

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Black Jack’s plan go haywire, and his ship sinks.  He survives the disaster, and is about to take vengeance on the heroine of the story, when Aquaman swoops in to the rescie and defeats him by…

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Splashing him in the face!  Yup, one good splash is all it takes to bring this villain down.

Remarkably, Black Jack returns in a few months.

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There is some nice Mort Meskin art on this story, and a significant development in how Johnny Quick’s powers are shown, but the main thing I want to talk about with this story is the screw up with the names.

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OK, so here is Tom Mason.  See, he calls himself that.  Poor kid was trying to kill himself when Johnny intervened, and learns how he killed another boy in a duel.

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And in flashback, here is the duelling master (and real villain in the story), Mr. Douglas.  The apparent duelling death is in the last panel.

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And then, on the very next page, the duelling master is now called Mr. Mason, and will continue to be called this for the rest of the story.  Really bad error, shame on the editor for not catching it.  Unless secretly the duelling master is Tom’s real father, banished from the family long ago.  He changed his name, lost and eye, and became a duelling master simply to pull this evil scheme on his unknowing child.  Yeah, let’s go with that.  Improves the story.

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An enjoyable fight between Johnny and Douglas/Mason, but no strong visual for the super-speed yet.

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And then, amidst some clever stylization of words and images, Meskin first uses the visual that will come to define this series – a panel that shows multiple images of Johnny at once.  Here that is mixed with speed lines, and likely was not intended to inaugurate a new way of showing speed.  But it was the start.

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The Spectre story in this one is a welcome change.  It’s back to the old for Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey, and there is no Percival Popp in sight.  Great splash page, showing the Spectre off better than most issues do.

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The story is a bit of a let-down, only in that is so much of the formula of Spectre stories before the change.  Maligno is another malevolent spirit, once again wearing the purple robes that are the mandatory garb for nasty ghosts.

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There is a touch of cosmic stuff, but nothing huge or dramatic.  A step back to the better days, but only a baby step.

More Fun 75 – Dr. Fate gets physical, Green Arrow vs Merlin, Black Jack returns, Johnny Quick vs Mr. Zero, and Percival shoves his way in

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The Dr. Fate story in More Fun 75 (Jan 42) is by the original team, Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman, but little of the original feel of the series remains.

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It does open as a typical story.  Inza needs Dr. Fate’s help with a friend imprisoned for a crime he did not commit.  Dr. Fate uses his crystal ball to learn of Inza’s need, but from there on this is pure down to earth stuff.

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Fate tracks the gang, beating up all the members along the way. The story is nothing but a loose frame work on which to hang scenes of Dr. Fate hitting people.

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Nor does the mastermind require anything magical to take him down.  Dr. Fate flies, but shows off no other degree of special powers.

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Green Arrow gets his first recurring villain in this issue, who goes  by the name of Professor Merlin, but also calls himself simply Merlin.

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He runs a crime college, sending his “students” out to steal cars.

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His men capture Green Arrow and Speedy, but Professor Merlin is impressed by the archer, and asks if they can join forces.  Pretty foolish, really.  Of course Green Arrow agrees, but simply sets him up and takes him down.

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Merlin does manage to escape, vowing revenge.  And he returns, the following month, in Leading Comics 1, the first story of the Seven Soldiers of Victory, to fight Green Arrow.

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Aquaman’s story has him aiding some south seas islanders whose home has been conquered by Black Jack.

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The area is rich in pearls, but Black Jack also has designs on Loana, the girl friend of Keiko.  Keiko is the guy Aquaman rescued from the giant clam, and learns all the backstory from.

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Interestingly, to get to Black Jack, Aquaman has to fight and kill a shark.  He does not even attempt to mentally control the creature.  Of course he succeeds, and frees the island from Black Jack’s control, although the villain returns a couple months down the road.

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Johnny Quick faces a mass murderer in this story, with great art by Jerry Robinson and Mort Meskin.  Mr. Zero has a skeletal face and head, and a tendency to kill of even his own henchmen.

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Johnny Chambers and Tubby Watts are filming at a baseball game when one of Mr. Zero’s men kills a guy, getting Johnny onto the track of these guys.  This brief scene pretty much establishes the way they will often be introduced into the story, the matching green suits.  Tubby’s hair has changed colour from dark brown to red, and his face altered slightly as well, into what would become his standard appearance.

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Lots of speed action, but still a costume that lacks a defining symbol.

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Some more big changes occur in this story by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey.  Percival Popp is still trying to worm his way into Jim Corrigan’s life.

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The Spectre finally gets fed up with it, and takes Percival off to a different planet to threaten him, but that does no good.  Percival decides to hone in on Clarice Winston in an attempt to get closer to Jim.

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Clarice winds up in a coma, Percival thinks it has to do with a statue, but the Spectre realizes Percival is going to be diving near his corpse, still sitting on the bottom of the harbour.

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The Spectre goes to the Voice, who returns Jim’s body to life, with the Spectre now residing inside it.  He saves the day, and Percival’s life, and ends cuddling with Clarice.

It’s questionable whether Jim Corrigan really returned to life, or the body was simply freed from cement, and the Spectre force allowed to possess it, and have it act independently.  This story was completely ignored in the Ostrander/Mandrake series, in which the body is still encased in cement in the harbour.

More Fun 74 – The Spectre meets Percival Popp, Green Arrow fights in silence, Aquaman vs Black Jack, Johnny Quick vs Dr. Clever, Dr. Fate vs Mr. Who, again

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Percival Popp, the Super-Cop is introduced in More Fun 74 (Dec 41), by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey.  They seemed to feel that a humourous sidekick was needed for the strip, and went whole hog with this character.

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Jim Corrigan is on the case of some missing men, but discovers Percival in the trunk of his car.  Percival admires Jim, and is following him.

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This adds “humour” to the story, as Jim must keep Percival safe, while taking down the mad scientist.  You’d think the Spectre would be annoyed by this useless tagalong, but it doesn’t seem to bother him that much.  Certainly not as much as it bothers me.

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Green Arrow and Speedy deal with a gang leader called the Voice, who has created a machine that nullifies all sound.

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His men rob banks while the sound is blocked, so no alarms or screams can alert the police.  Green Arrow does not use an actual trick arrow, technically.  He and Speedy shoot flaming arrows into the sky as an alert to the police, but flaming arrows do exist anyway.  Still, it’s a baby step in that direction.

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Aquaman gets his first recurring foe in this story, a modern day pirate named Black Jack.

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Aquaman happens to swim by a ship that Black Jack is robbing, and climbs aboard to fight him.  He subdues Aquaman, but clearly has no idea who he is dealing with, as he has him bound and forced to walk the plank.  May as well shoot at Superman with a sun-powered ray gun.

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Aquaman escapes, rassles a torpedo, and stops Black Jack’s crime spree, but the villain vows vengeance, and in fact will return next issue.

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Johnny Quick also gets his first recurring villain in this issue, Dr. Clever, a mad scientist but a natty dresser.

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Johnny disrupts three different schemes of Dr. Clever in this story – an extortion scheme, poisoning diners and making their skin change colour, a fake machine that draws gold from seawater, which is really a cover to sell stolen gold, and finally just stealing other people’s inventions.

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Johnny’s costume looks a bit more coherent in this story, although fairly generic.  It cries for a chest symbol.

Dr. Clever returns a couple issues down the road.

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Dr. Fate uses his crystal ball, and determines that Mr. Who survived their encounter in the last issue, in this Gardner Fox/Howard Sherman tale.

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We learn that Solution “Z” is eve more potent than thought, as it enabled Mr. Who to grow gills and survive being underwater.  He returns to the city, and goes after the mayor.  Solution “Z” also allows Mr. Who to shape change, and he tales the mayor’s place.

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Once again it is Dr. Fate’s need to breathe that causes him problems, while bullets are no threat.  Fate does expose Mr. Who’s impersonation of the mayor before being taken down.

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The story concludes with Fate capturing Dr. Who, but the narration at the end implies that Mr. Who will escape prison anyway, and be back next issue.  In reality, it took him a few issues to return.  The prison was a bit better than the narrator thought.

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