Posts tagged ‘Bruce Nelson’

Detective 36 – Hugo Strange debuts, Buck Marshall and Bruce Nelson end, and Slam Bradley heads to China

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Although the ears on the Batman costume had decreased to their “normal” level by this time, the insert on Detective 36 (Feb 40) still showed the long, pointy-ears.

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Bill Finger and Bob Kane introduce Professor Hugo Strange in this story, a criminal mastermind, who uses a fog machine to allow his men to safely flee their crimes.

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Strange is cut from the same cloth as pulp fiction villains: wealthy, intellectual, but physically inferior to the hero.

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There is not too much else to the villain at this point, but he returns later in the year, in Batman 1, with a monstrous plan.

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Buck Marshall’s series comes to a close with this issue.  Bad guys try to steal a claim to a gold mine and kill the prospector, but Buck saves the day.

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My feeling is that at this point, the Sheriff retires, possibly be awarded a name for doing so, and Buck moves into the Sheriff job.  As this clearly involves relinquishing one’s name, his series ends.

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Bruce Nelson’s series also concludes with this issue.  For the previous three issues, Bruce had been in Africa, but he is now back in the US, skiing.

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He solves a fairly run-of-the-mill murder case.  There is little that remains of the dark and twisted serials that began this series.  I suspect Bruce Nelson himself has grown bored of the ease of his last year or so, and heads to Europe and enlists to fight the war.

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After their harrowing time in the French Foreign Legion, when Slam and Shorty were forced to sleep in neighbouring cots, they are back in bed together at the start of Jerry Siegel’s story in this issue.

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But not for long, as they get hired to retrieve (steal) an idol from deep inside China.  While it’s true they are clearly in a very remote, inland region, it still seems odd that there is no acknowledgement of the war.

Detective 20 – Spy tries to help a senator, Bruce Nelson goes to Broadway, Crimson Avenger debuts, and Slam Bradley learns magic

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Bart and Sally’s marriage is never mentioned in Siegel and Shuster’s Spy story in Detective 20 (Oct 38), but she appears to dress a bit more demurely now.

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Aside from that, there is no significant change in the series, now that the characters are married.  Which is a good thing, overall.  They are assigned to help a senator under threat, but he makes things hard for them.

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Also notable is the final panel, once again of them in their signature embrace.  Also nice to see their married status didn’t change that.

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This issue begins a serial, Bruce Nelson and the Song of Death, a Broadway backstage murder mystery, in which he recruits a socialite, Billie Bryson, to take over a “cursed” role in a musical comedy while he searches for the killer.

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Billie would make brief appearances in two other serials, as his girlfriend, but sadly not help him on any more cases.

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The Crimson Avenger started off as a sort of hybrid of the Shadow and the Green Hornet, both successful pulp heroes.  Lee Travis, the young published and editor of the Globe Leader, would dress up in a dark blue suit with a matching wide-brimmed hat, with a large red cape and cloak, packing two pistols that he would shoot through openings in the cloak.

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He had a faithful Chinese servant, Wing, who knew his identity, and functioned largely as his driver.  Wing was capable of speaking clear English.

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In his first story, the Crimson Avenger goes after a shady defense lawyer, offering to kill the DA for him, but in fact setting him up, effectively entrapping him.

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I’m going to go out on a limb with Siegel and Shuster’s tale in issue 20, in which Slam learns enough magic to be able to become invisible and control what people are able to see.  As he uses his magical powers to take down a gang, they get a different magician, Mysto, so aid them, but Mysto proves unequal to Slam.

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Mysto never does anything villainous, just tries to help the bad guys, and I think Mysto comes to regret his rash behaviour.  I think he is just really young and unwise at this point in his life, and he would grow up, taking the straight and narrow path, eventually becoming the Mysto, Magician Detective that would get a series in Detective Comics in the early 1950s.

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Slam displays an astonishing range of powers in this story.  He can create illusions, but also turn invisible, and intangible, and is immune to bullets shot at him at point blank range.

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At the end, Slam declares that he has no interest in using magic anymore, and prefers his fists.

 

Detective 17 – Dr. Fu Manchu begins, Spy takes on the Klan, Bruce Nelson gets caught smuggling, and we meet Shorty’s twin brother

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In Detective 17 (July 1938) a Dr. Fu Manchu serial begins.  It was written by Sax Rohmer, the author of the original Fu Manchu novels, and partially adapts the first book, The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu.  Likely because the author was involved in it’s creation, it both looks and reads better than any of the earlier adaptations.

The character personified the racist idea of the “yellow peril” to such a degree that the name is still known, even though few have read the books.  And in fact, one of the books is titled “The Yellow Peril.”

Dr. Fu Manchu is evil incarnate, basically, a chemist and poisoner out to bring down both “old” and “new” China and rule it himself.  He controls the opium dens of London, but also has palatial countryside estates spread throughout England.  He is pursued by Dennis Nayland-Smith and his sidekick, Dr. Petrie, as he murders men connected to his past in India, and kidnaps engineers.

Because this is so blatantly a serial, I have summarized the plot of its duration in Detective, and will only give it another entry when it ends.

Well, partly because it’s a serial.  Partly because it’s just so racist.

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For a different take on racism, Siegel and Shuster’s Spy tale in this issue has Bart and Sally infiltrating the “Hooded Hordes,” who are pretty obviously meant to be the KKK.

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It’s a good story, more serious than most in this run.  The only real drawback is that we never see the Hordes behaving in a racist way.  Hard to show a group as evil if you don’t show the evil the group does.

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Bruce Nelson finally gets to headline his own series!  And wouldn’t you know it, “coolie smugglers.”  Just can’t avoid racism in this issue it seems.  The story is set in Africa, and Bruce gets set up, unaware that there are dead asians concealed in his plane.

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On the positive side (race-wise) Bruce has a sidekick in this story, a Zulu who is a capable pilot, with a lot of attitude towards the white smugglers.

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Slam Bradley investigates murders at a radio station in this Siegel and Shuster tale.

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Slam also gets to meet Shorty’s identical twin brother, Sporty.  He mistakes the brother, pulling him over his knee to spank him.  Embarrassing!  Sporty doesn’t seem to really mind, though, eagerly helping out on the case.

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Shorty becomes a minor radio celebrity, but it almost costs him his life.

Sporty, who made a much better second sidekick than Snoop, does not make any further appearances.

Detective 11 – Speed Saunders vs underwater Nazis, Bruce Nelson hits the Bullseye, Spy arrives in Europe, and Slam Bradley flies solo

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Detective 11 (Jan 38) pits Speed Saunders against some nasty Germans who are destroying ships in the harbour from their U-boat.

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Are they Nazis?  Well, technically, no. The story calls them “anarchists,” but it’s difficult to imagine that in early 1938 they would be seen as anything other than Nazis.

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Bruce Nelson gets a mediocre story, complete in this issue, that really only makes it into this blog because of the development of this strip from a serial to a regular series.  The title of the story is still given prominence, though not an entire page, and Bruce Nelson’s name appears in the splash panel as well.

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Siegel and Shuster’s Spy continues to entertain (me at least), as Bart and Sally arrive in Europe and are kidnapped in the very next panel.

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Not really as auspicious start to their mission, being recognized the moment they land.  But they survive the shoot-out and take down the bad guys.

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Slam Bradley gets an adventure with neither Shorty nor Scoop around.  Siegel and Shuster get Slam involved in a murder story involving the theft of numerous airplanes.

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No mention is made at all of Shorty’s absence.  And I have to say, the story reads better as pure adventure than with the goofy sidekick.

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By the end you have foreign spies, industrial espionage, and Slam flying in, machine guns blazing!

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Detective 10 – Speed Saunders on land, Blood of the Lotus ends, Spy sails to Europe, and Slam Bradley becomes a boxer

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The Speed Saunders mystery in Detective 10 (Dec 37) is a little less interactive than the splash page makes it sound.  It’s not that great a mystery, but it does have one significant panel.

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Speed has just returned home from his latest nautical adventure, and we see that he lives at home, with his unnamed mother.  There was so little background and characterization of heroes in this period even little stuff like this becomes important.

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Speed doesn’t actually even solve the case in this one.  That’s left to the Indian servant.

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The Blood of the Lotus concludes in this issue.  With such an elaborate splash page, I was not expecting such an abrupt ending.

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Bruce Nelson’s pursuit of the runaway niece leads him into Chinatown, synonymous with drugs and white slavery in this pulp era.

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And again, the story culminates in horrific amounts of explanation.  Look at that page.  Over a third is text!  The one unintentionally humourous part is, thankfully, not buried deep in a massive dialogue balloon.  In the lower left panel, the girl remarks about how they tried to make her queer.  Might even mean the same thing.

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Unlike Claws of the Dragon, this story does not end announcing that Bruce Nelson will return.  But he did anyway.

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Sally and Bart are sent to Europe in this chapter of Siegel and Shuster’s Spy.  They cross on the Atlantis, and Sally winds up running into foreign plotters during the cruise.

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Shorty and Snoop are both back, giving Slam Bradley two sidekicks in this Siegel and Shuster adventure.

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It’s a typical boxing mystery, with gamblers and fixed matches, but it takes Slam into the ring, and I do like the page with the montage of papers showing his rise.

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Shorty and Snoop are almost too busy squabbling to be of any help.

Detective 9 – Larry Steele and the mad doctor, Blood of the Lotus begins, Sally turns the tables in Spy, and Slam Bradley gets a new sidekick

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Larry Steele’s first serial concludes in Detective 9 (Nov 37).

Larry’s father had been kidnapped, to try to get him off the case of the missing. star. Despite plane crashes and cars going over cliffs, Larry tracks down the mad scientist working on a perfect man for his wife.

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The art is never strong, but the series continues anyway.  Larry and his family stay in New York City from this point on.  I guess the father took a liking to it while being held captive.

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Blood of the Lotus begins in this issue, continuing Bruce Nelson’s adventures after the conclusion of Claws of the Dragon.

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In this story he has a devoted Chinese servant, Sing Lee, a former soldier in the Chinese army, and a nifty device to spy on people coming to the door of his apartment, concealed in a large urn. Neither Sing Lee or the spying device would ever appear again.

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The story deals with the runaway niece of a millionaire, and takes Bruce to Chinatown at the end of this chapter.

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Siegel and Shuster change things up a bit in this instalment of Spy.  Bart is the one who runs off unprepared and gets into trouble.

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So Sally gets to be the resourceful one who saves HIS life for a change!  They still end up in that same embrace, though.

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Siegel and Shuster also helm Slam Bradley, who gets a new sidekick in this issue.

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Snoop makes his debut.  Even shorter than Shorty, he has a sort of nasty, aggressive personality.

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While the two vertically challenged characters spat with each other, Slam hunts down a Human Fly burglar, culminating in a battle on the exterior of a skyscraper.

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Slam decides that Snoop can stay, but as Shorty’s sidekick.  How utterly demeaning Slam is.

Detective 8 – Claws of the Red Dragon ends

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Claws of the Red Dragon comes to a conclusion in Detective 8 (Oct 37).

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Sigrid is threatened with dismemberment if her father and Bruce refuse to reveal the whereabouts of the Dragon.  Bruce Nelson somehow manages to elude his captors, pulls out a gun and begins a shootout, as the Republican chinese also attack.  Amidst the bloodshed, Bruce, Erick and Sigrid escape the house, with most of the remnants of the Dragon.

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The story concludes with Bruce and Sigrid in an embrace, and an announcement that Bruce Nelson’s series will continue.  Or begin, depending on how you want to look at it.  He would have stories ranging from one to three chapters from now on (mostly three-parters), but never again a serial as long as this one.

 

Detective 7 – Rat torture in Claws of the Dragon, the Hindenburg in Spy and in Buck Marshall goes CSI

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The penultimate chapter of Claws of the Dragon, which appeared in Detective 7 (Sept 37) has the gangster, Stucchi, being tortured by the evil Mongols.

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Although we do not actually see him being eaten alive by the rats, it’s unmistakable what is occurring in the scene.  There was even another page of build-up to the event, showing rats scurrying everywhere.  I suspect this would have been censored by the Comics Code as well, had it existed in this time.

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As the story moves to its conclusion, there is a panel of explanations that really defies the reader to peruse it.  I mean, seriously, does that page make you want to read it?  You really have to be invested in the tale to approach that black mass of tiny words.

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The Hindenberg disaster occurred on May 6, 1937, and for this Spy story to have been published by August of that year, it must have been drawn almost immediately afterwards.  The dirigible is called the Colossus in this story, but there is no doubt that the Hindenberg was in the minds of Siegel and Shuster, as well as every reader.

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Again, this is only a four page story, with very little space for development.  Sally suspects the destruction of the ship was part of a conspiracy, and turns out to be right, as the first person she talks about it to is the man behind it all.  Bart saves the day, and Sally’s life.

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In the Buck Marshall story from this issue, a Texas Ranger is murdered in his hill-top cabin, and Buck does some impressive observation and deduction with the state of the bullet, the nature of the injury, and angle of entry to determine the killer.

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From then on the story sort of becomes CSI: Sage City.  His tales were only 6 pages long, and generally the middle two or three would be Buck noticing footprints, clay residues, damaged plants, torn clothing, or other physical evidence, from which the crime would be solved.

Detective 6 – An opium den in Claws of the Red Dragon, equality in Spy, and Mr. Chang ends

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I didn’t cover the last couple chapters in Claws of the Red Dragon, because not an awful lot happened in them.  Bruce Nelson managed to find Sigrid, and they hunt for her father.  But the episode in Detective 6 (Aug 37) is noteworthy.

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The search leads them to an opium den, quite openly stated to be so, complete with an illustration of a man smoking opium.  This is obviously before the Comics Code came into effect.  No way would that be allowed to be shown a few years down the road.

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Bruce and Sigrid fall into the hands of Lu Gong, a descendant of the Mongol kings of China, and the one behind the kidnappings.

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The Spy story in this issue runs only four pages, but manages to set the pattern for how the Siegel and Shuster series will run for the next little while.  Bart and Sally get an assignment.  They each do their own thing, usually fulfilling standard gender roles.

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Then they work together, defeat the villains, and in the final panel, embrace in the bosses office.  That shot of them is repeated more times than you can imagine.  And if you recall, a few issues ago, I drew attention to a similarly laid out final panel, although they were recoiling in fear.

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Mr. Chang has his final story, pitted against a mad scientist.  It says so right in the title.

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Overall, the short-lived Mr. Chang series was a little above the average for this book.

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DC would runs a short-lived Charlie Chan comic, in conjunction with a 50s tv series, but never again would Mr. Chang grace its pages.

Detective 3 – Hope Hazard, G-Woman, a Tong War, and Sally at the chapel in Spy

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Although the Hope Hazard story came sequentially before the other two stories from Detective Comics 3 (May 1937) that I am going to discuss in this entry, I am putting it last.  This is because of the peculiar nature of the entry.  Nuff said.

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Claws of the Red Dragon picks up as Bruce Nelson manages to get through the walled and gated entry. He runs into an American gangster, Joe Stucchi, and discovers they are in the midst of a Tong war between Imperial and Republican Chinese, both of whom want the remnants of the Red Jade Dragon.

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Bruce searches the house and sees quite a few murders before finding Sigrid, but as they try to find her father, they fall into the hands of Lu Gong, a descendant of the Mongol kings of China, and the one behind the kidnappings.

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Siegel and Shuster’s Spy really features Sally Norris this issue.  She has the title box all to herself!  The marriage is called off, as Sally is stolen from the chapel.

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The spy ring want to question her about Bart Regan’s true identity.  Serves her right for exposing him, but when Bart finds out he rushes to her aid.

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This just means the two of them are in danger as the chapter ends.  But take note of the position Bart and Sally are in, and remember it for the endings of later issues!

 

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This series is a puzzlement.  Hope Hazard, G-Woman begins as a serial about an FBI agent, but runs only one instalment in Detective Comics.  When it returns, nearly a year later and in the pages of More Fun Comics, Hope Hazard is the daughter of a retired secret service agent, and an amateur sleuth.

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The first story has missing airplanes and a mad scientist, Xavier, King of the Underworld in a beautifully drawn cave with all his followers.

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Hope and her pilot, Bill Littlejohn, are in danger of being caught by them, but this cliffhanger is just dropped when the series returns.

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Her second and final story was in More Fun 30 (April 1938).  But had I just entered it there, the contrast with this one would not have been clear.

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Here, Hope has inherited a  manor house, and is content to live a placid life, mostly sitting around watching while other people get involved in kidnapping, torture, theft and murder.

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This one page shows her at her most active, wandering around like a gothic heroine.  Hard to accept that this is the same woman from the caves.

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And though she finds the stolen jewel at the end, this feels more like a romance story set-up with her and the cop, rather than a “G-Woman.”

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To make things even more curious, in December of 37 (between the two stories), in New Adventure Comics  22 there was a one-issue tale,  G-Woman, about a blond FBI agent.  Given the change in artist, this could be meant to be Hope Hazard, but her name is June Justis.  She is also described as the “only female agent” on the force.

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This one fights dirty and shoots to kill.  Much harsher than either of the Hope Hazard stories.  But she is more suited to the “G-Woman” name than they were.

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So here we have Hope Hazard, G-Woman and not G-Woman, with a pilot or with her dad, who maybe is also Justine Justis.

And if you can make more sense of this than I did, good for you.

 

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