Posts tagged ‘Bruce Nelson’

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


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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



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


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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



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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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


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.




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


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.


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




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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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


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


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.


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

Detective 8 – Claws of the Red Dragon ends




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


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.


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.


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