Posts tagged ‘Congo Bill’

More Fun 67 – The Spectre falls under a villain’s control, Congo Bill ends, Lance Larkin rides a dinosaur, and the origin of Dr. Fate


The final Spectre story to be a cover feature, the Jerry Siegel/Bernard Bailey tale from More Fun 67 (May 1941) has the Spectre at the mercy of Deeja Kathoon.


Kathoon is able to control ghosts, and many appear in the tale, all dressed much like the Spectre, though their robes cloak more of their bodies.  Jim Corrigan is assigned to solve a series of mysterious vanishings, which were also the work of Kathoon.


As the Spectre, he disguises himself as a regular ghost, in an attempt to get near the villain, but his “disguise” is seen through.  Not too hard, as he looks like he has just pulled his cape around himself.  Kathoon takes control of the Spectre and sends him on a destructive rampage.


The Ring of Life seems to have a consciousness of its own in this tale, appearing out of nowhere to free the Spectre, who turns on Kathoon and chases him into another dimension.


Interestingly, when no longer on Earth, Kathoon adopts the purple cloaked garb that has previously signified a vengeful ghost in this series.  Is Kathoon really alive, or some sort of malevolent and powerful spirit?

It’s moot point, as the Spectre hurls him to his death.  Another potentially recurring villain bites the dust.


Congo Bill’s final outing in More Fun has the best art of his run, and one of the most racist stories.  Bill and Professor Kent pursue a diamond thief named Slade, and get captured by Bantu warriors.  Their chief turns out to be Slade in disguise, and Bill is allowed to take him back in exchange for “the secret of eternal fire’ (a lighter).  Oh, those easy to fool Bantu warriors.


At least Slade gets a grisly death.  That improves things a bit.


Congo Bill’s series moves over to Action Comics, with Professor Kent tagging along.


Lance Larkin heads to Saigon in his tale.  While his second story kept him among the Arabs, the previous issue saw him in Rangoon.

He gets his horse shipped to him, but now the horse is called Satan.  Whatever happened to Omar?  Did he rename the horse?  The story makes it clear he has owned this horse before, it is not a new one.


Heading inland, he encounters the neice of a dead explorer. She tells him of a forgotten tribe of dragon-riding cavemen.  The dragons seem to be somewhat evolved dinosaurs.


Together they seek out the tribe, and she and Lance get to ride some dragons.  Then they leave, promising to keep the secret of the tribe.


Dr. Fate is finally given an origin story in this issue, by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman.  Young Kent Nelson accompanied his archaeologist father on an Egyptian dig.


The boy came across what appeared to be a statue, but was actually the form of Nabu, and ancient being from a wandering planet called Cilia.  I always found it weird that there was an alien aspect to this character, and that’s generally ignored, or re-interpreted as a mystical dimension.


Kent’s father dies from poison gas, and so Nabu raises the child, training him in his arcane knowledge and abilities.  Was Nabu responsible for the father’s death?  It is not stated that way in this story, but it certainly seems to be the case, even indirectly, and later stories would lay the blame more strongly on him.


Nabu gives Kent Nelson the garb of Dr. Fate.  At this point, there is no indication of Nabu taking residence in the helmet, that was a much later development.


The last few pages of the story return to the present, as Inza attends a society party at which a man is threatened by shadowy beings.  She calls on Fate, who traces the shadows to the underworld, and takes Inza along because…the party was getting dull, maybe?    There they face off against Nergal, a lord of the underworld who gets cowed by Fate pretty quickly.  All he has to do is threaten Nergal and he backs down.

Still, the origin story is good, the best Dr. Fate story to date.

More Fun 64 – The Spectre fights a shadow, Congo Bill’s chimp returns, Lance Larkin debuts and Dr. Fate fights a Mayan god


Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey craft an almost identical tale to the previous story, in More Fun 64 (Feb 41).


In this case it is the witness to corruption by a political “boss” who gets murdered, with his ghost seeking vengeance on his killers.  I do like the use of the shadow form to show the ghost.


As before, the murderous spirit knocks off a few people before the Spectre gets around to trying to stop him.


And, once again, the Spectre finds that his powers are useless against someone who is dead, and resorts to the Ring of Life to banish the spirit.  And in the climactic scenes, instead of showing the ghost killer as a shadow, he is wearing purple robes, almost identical to “Trigger” Daniels.



Congo Bill’s chimpanzee sidekick, O’Toole, makes his third and final appearance in this story.  Professor Kent is still around, but does little in this tale.


A plantation owner asks for Bill’s help after a mysterious entity calling itself The Thing repeatedly kills his slaves, I mean, African workers.


In their first encounter, Bill discovers that The Thing is apparently immune to bullets, but figures that it must be someone in armour, rather than a supernatural creature.


So, Congo Bill does the only rational thing, and disguises himself as a black man.  Yup.


Even still, it’s O’Toole that grabs the Thing, although it’s Bill who throws him into a tree, and unmasks him as a speculator who had been trying to buy the land.

Not a terrible story, and not nearly as racist as it might have been, but still uncomfortably close to the edge.


Lance Larkin debuts in this issue, an American adventurer in the Middle East.  Not much is ever established about the character.  He has a horse named Omar.  In his first outing, he is in the middle of a war between rival arab groups.


In some of the panels, Lance looks to be the same colour as the arabs.  Whether this was an accident, or meant to imply a tan, is unclear, though I suspect the former.

While the stories in this short-lived series are not that bad, there is little memorable about the character, simply because there is little that makes him distinctive.


Inza takes a trip to the Yucatan in this story by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman, and encounters Mayoor, a Mayan sorceror,


Mayoor is not shy about letting Dr. Fate know what he is up to, sending him a message in his tower.  It turns out these are old foes, dating back to the 1400s it seems.  Dr. Fate defeated and imprisoned Mayoor long ago, and by implication this occurred during the heyday of the Mayan empire.  Again, later continuity would demand that this was Nabu, rather than Dr. Fate, who was Mayoor’s opponent.


Mayoor entices one of the other people on the expedition into working with him against Fate, but the doctor is forgiving about that.  Not so when it comes to Mayoor, who he incinerates.  It’s a shame that Dr. Fate is so murderous with his enemies, as this one could easily have made a return.

More Fun 62 – The Spectre battles the Ultra-Brain, Congo Bill gets paid, and Dr. Fate fights robots


Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey pit the Spectre against a deadly brain in a jar in More Fun 62 (Dec 40).


Professor Fenton has been working with the brain of a former pupil who died, keeping it in a jar and experimenting with it, creating an Ultra-Brain.


The Spectre gets involved when the professor’s daughter is almost run of the road.  Jim Corrigan saves her, but finds the professor paranoid and secretive.  When he finds the Ultra-Brain, he learns its destructive plans.


The Brain gives commands to a gang of thieves, leading a crime spree through the town.  The professor eventually realizes what he has created, and tries to kill the brain by shattering the jar.


This simply frees it, and the gray gelatinous mass begins its own “rampage” through the streets.  Once again, an event that challenges Bailey’s art.  In true horro movie style, the professor sacrifices himself to stop the brain and save his daughter.


Congo Bill and Professor Kent find themselves running out of money in this story.  A situation one rarely finds in comic books, from any period.  Bill takes on a job as a guide (which he does in many other issues as well, without the money troubles).


This leads to a brief but complex adventure involving a missing steel magnate and a kidnapping ring.  Of course, Bill saves the day.


In the final panel, Congo Bill is rewarded by the entrepreneur with a cheque for $20,000.  Quite a fortune in 1940.  Makes you wonder why he ever went back to being a guide.



Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman give Dr. Fate more science-fiction foes in this story.  It’s curious how many non-supernatural enemies Fate is pitted against in the early days of his series.


In this one, it’s a mad scientist with a small army of robots (or Metal Men, as the story tends to call them).  Fate interrupts the electrical controls for the robots, and leads them into the water to rust away.  He then casually burns the mad scientist alive.


More Fun 60 – The Spectre vs Xnon, Congo Bill finds the lost explorer, and Dr. Fate fights tiny men and giants


The Spectre gets a really good enemy in More Fun 60 (Oct 40), written by Jerry Siegel with Bernard Bailey art.


The story begins with a train carrying a cargo of gold vanishing, and the Spectre being seen at the site, even though Jim Corrigan knows his alter-ego was not involved.  Framing the Spectre is a gutsy move, you have to admit.


He pursues the case, and finds two criminals connected to the robbery, whose car disappears.  The Spectre follows it to another dimension, and meets Xnon, a scientific genius who rules with an iron fist.  I love the little note at the bottom of the page giving the pronunciation of the villain’s name.


Xnon’s super-science is actually more than the Spectre can handle, which is fairly astounding consider the level of the Spectre’s power.  The story also has the absolute best panel of art so far in the run, and he struggles to absorb Xnon’s attack on Earth.


Turning to the Voice for help, the Spectre is given the Ring of Life (and of Death, but usually just referred to by the first part).  This ring would only appear in a couple of tales, and then simply dropped from the series, although an explanation for its disappearance would be told many years later in All-Star Squadron.


Using the Ring, the Spectre manages to defeat Xnon and imprisons him within a comet, another cosmic event that challenges Bailey’s art.

It’s a real shame that Xnon never has appeared since.  It’s a rare villain that can best the Spectre, even briefly.


The search for Gloria Desmond’s father concludes in this story, as she, Congo Bill and Professor Kent fall prey to a tribe of money-men, presumably meant to be a sort of “missing link.”


They come across her father, also a captive, but with no memory of himself or his daughter.


Bill escapes and saves the day, and the father bangs his head and regains his memory.  Despite the passionate embrace that ends this story, Gloria Desmond (and her father for that matter) do not return in any later tales.  Congo Bill must be a “love ’em and leave ’em” type.


The Dr.Fate story in this issue, by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman, opens with Inza discovering a ship of very tiny men, who are able to cause massive amounts of destruction despite their size.


We also get to see Fate’s tower in more detail, as Inza attempts to enter, but can find no door in the structure.  Dr. Fate uses an unusual device to see through the walls of the tower.  In later stories he will be able to do this on his own.  He can also pass through the wall, using his own abilities.


Dr. Fate defeats the tiny men, stopping their destructive rampage, and uses his powers to trace their origin, deep in the Catskills.


It turns out they were created by a race of giants, living deep in a cave.  Fate wipes these guys out as well, shooting magical fire.  Finally a foe he defeats using magic, rather than just punching them.

More Fun 59 – The Spectre deals with stolen furs, Congo Bill hunts for a lost explorer, and Dr. Fate battles alien invaders


Jim Corrigan gets put onto the case when a number of fur shipments get hijacked, and the Spectre wreaks vengeance on the evil-doers in this Jerry Siegel/ Bernard Bailey tale from More Fun 59 (Sept 40).


The art is a bit more innovative, playing with the panel lay-out.  The Spectre takes one of the hijackers far into space, where the poor guy just gets “lost in a dimensional current,” and never returns.


Ultimately it turns out the whole thing is an insurance fraud.  Never a good idea to have the Spectre on the case when you’re lying to the police, but the guy behind it does actually survive the story.



The Congo Bill series has avoided some of the pitfalls of racism so prevalent from this period, but once Gloria Desmond shows up, asking for help in searching for her lost explorer father, that comes to an end.  And there’s some strong sexism as well, as Gloria gets distracted by a monkey and wanders off, and into the hands of evil Africans who want to torture white women.


As she, Congo Bill and Professor Kent fly off to begin the search, we also get another little detail of Bill’s past, that he flew during World War 1.  Presumably somewhere in Africa, considering his earlier statement about living there his whole life.


The story culminates with Bill in disguise, convincing the Savage Horned-Tondurs that he is really a god.  One of those white gods, you know.  They free Gloria, and leave the natives behind, as the search continues in the next issue.


Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman pit Dr. Fate against alien invaders in this story, a dramatic change of pace for the series.


Dr. Fate brings Inza along as he investigates the spaceship.  The interior looks quite different than one would expect – kind of cluttered and messy.  And not very hi-tech.


Fate uses his powers to destroy the ship, but his fists to take down the aliens themselves.  His “nine-pins” bowling reference seems a bit out of character for such a mystical being.

More Fun 58 – The Spectre kills lots of people, Congo Bill vs The Skull, and Dr. Fate deals with the Book of Thoth


The Spectre story in More Fun 58 (Aug 40) has little to it, other than violence.


Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey craft this tale, of a warehouse owner victimized by mobsters, although in a way it’s the mobsters that are the victims here, of the Spectre’s wrath.


The betraying butler dies in a burst of fire, caused by the Spectre doing little more than wishing it to be so.


The rest of the gang are hurtled into the sky in their car.  Perhaps it’s a good thing that Bailey’s art is not more explicit, I can imagine this series giving children nightmares.


On the other side, there would be no bad dreams caused by the Congo Bill story in the issue.  While Professor Kent goes off to examine plants, Bill winds up teaming with a Scotland Yard inspector who is hunting down the Skull.  I’m just going to ignore the benevolent Africans who call the hero “Massa Bill.”


There are other, scary, tribesmen, who wear leopard skin robes, and prove more of a danger to Congo Bill, and the inspector, and even to the Skull.


In the end it’s the chimpanzee, O’Toole, who gets the best of the Leopard Men, allowing the others to escape.  This is the Skull’s last appearance, which is a good thing.  It would be hard to continue to view him as a threat after he promised to buy O’Toole a bunch of bananas as a reward for saving him.



We get to see Dr. Fate’s mysterious tower home in this tale by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman, though really only as an inset at the start.


Dr. Fate and Inza discover that an ancient Atlantean book of spells, the Book of Thoth, has fallen into the hands of a British magician, who has been using it irresponsibly.  They pursue him, and he uses the book to bring trees and animals under his control, to battle Fate.  The climax is a bit of a let-down again, some physical fighting, and Fate grabs the book from the man, who simply falls to his death.


Interesting mention of “atomic power” at the end (remember, this is 1940, long before the first atomic bomb), which Dr. Fate uses to destroy the book.  And cause lots of fish to die.  I feel really bad about the fish, although neither Fate nor Inza seem much concerned.

Kind of a shame that the book was destroyed, it could have easily served in more stories.


More Fun 57 – Zor returns, the Skull returns, and Dr. Fate is menaced by the Lambent Flame


Zor makes his second, and final, golden age appearance in the Spectre story in More Fun 57 (July 1940), by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey.


He lures a scientist into freeing him, and then sets out for vengeance against the Spectre.  Once again, he kidnaps poor Clarice Winston.  The girl just can’t get a break.


The battle between Zor and the Spectre goes cosmic, as they grow to giant size and hurl stars and planets at each other.  Sadly, Bailey’s art is just not up to the challenge of this.  It’s not that it looks bad, just not as mind-blowing as the events it relates.


The Voice informs the Spectre that Zor can be defeated using “ectobane,” and the Spectre hurtles around the globe looking for it.  At least, I assume that is meant to be our planet.  Bailey also might have wanted to consult an atlas, and is apparently unaware that North America and South America are joined.


Zor has sent the bound Clarice over a waterfall, but the Spectre displays yet another amazing power, reversing time, to save her.

Zor does not return until the 1980s, in an All-Star Squadron Annual, which is a shame, as it is clearly not easy to go head with head with the almost omnipotent Spectre.



Conge Bill’s second outing is also a revenge tale, as the Skull kidnaps Professor Kent.


While tracking his buddy, Congo Bill comes to the aid of a chimp being attacked by a large snake.


No sooner has he freed the chimp than a lioness attacks him, and Bill once again saves the creature, naming him O’Toole.  Because being attacked by two wild animals in the space of a few minutes reminds Bill of Irish people.  Somehow.  Perhaps that says something about the Irish people Congo Bill has come across in Africa.


Congo Bill and O’Toole then rescue Professor Kent, and sail off, leaving the Skull behind to fume, and plot another revenge, which comes in the next issue.




The Dr. Fate story,  by Gardner Fox and Howard Sherman, once again is carried by the art rather than the plot.

After a number of people are found mysteriously burned, Dr. Fate, the master of knowledge, turns to Inza, society girl, for insight.  Mind you, it’s a good thing that he does, as a burning ball of fire, the “lambent flame” shows up trying to incinerate her.


The villain is called Mango the Mighty.  Yup, that’s his name.  I wasn’t kidding when I said the art was better than the story.  Thankfully, the bad guy gets defeated by Dr. Fate, who just punches him and knocks him out, and there was never a “Revenge of the Mango.”

More Fun 56 – The Spectre shows off his powers, Congo Bill debuts, and Dr. Fate battles Wotan



The Spectre story in More Fun 56 (June 1940), by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey, is a bit less involved than previous tales.  But the Spectre does demonstrate some new powers in it.  A department store is being threatened, and Jim Corrigan is put on the case.  Just in time, it seems, as a bomb goes off while he is talking to the manager.  We see his spectral form emerge (in costume) from his body.


The Spectre had grown to giant size while fighting Zor in the previous issue – but Zor had grown as well.  This story makes more of the Spectre at a great height.


And at a little one, as he shrinks down, small enough to enter a telephone and ride the conversation through the wires.


The Spectre also demonstrates his total control over others, rendering them motionless as he reads their minds.

It’s difficult to imagine any villain from this early era who would be much of a challenge for this hero, whose powers put even Superman to shame.



Congo Bill makes his debut in this issue.  The explorer and adventurer and his friend Professor Joe Kent get caught up in a tale of an ancient lost city.  Although Kent appears to be from the US, Congo Bill reveals that he has lived all his life in Africa.  The character never gets much background story, but I’m glad he is African by birth.  Gives him a bit more legitimacy.


He also gets an enemy in this story, The Skull.  Hard to tell what race the Skull might be.  He looks a bit more alien than human.  He is using the lost city as his base, and wants to kill Bill and Kent for intruding.


It’s straight out hand to hand combat that decides their battle.  There really is nothing in this first story to make one expect that this series, which will move from comic to comic, would last all the way until the 1960s.



Dr. Fate gets the cover for his second story, which is really a continuation of the first, as he brings Inza across the River Styx and through the gates (of heaven?) to make sure Wotan is really dead.  As before, this is a Gardner Fox/Howard Sherman tale.


In the afterworld, Fate and Inza see that Wotan is still alive, and living in a classy art deco house, which he has turned into a laboratory.  Wotan seems as comfortable with science as he is with magic, as he has invented a device with which he intends to blow up the world.


The story fizzles out a bit in the end, as Dr Fate simply uses his powers to render the machine inoperable, and then punches Wotan into submission.  He does imprison him in a creepy underground cell, which is sort of neat.  Still, Wotan does return later in the run.


Adventure 283 – Superboy discovers the Phantom Zone and Congorilla ends


Unlike so many stories that retroactively put people and items from the Superman series into the Superboy one, Adventure 283 (April 1961) really is the first appearance of the Phantom Zone, which would quickly become a major element throughout the Superman books.

A box of deadly Kryptonian weapons lands on Earth, just outside Smallville (where else?), and Superboy discovers that it was Jor-El (who else?) who sealed them away.

Superboy examines the weapons, including a disintegrator gun and an enlarging ray, but its the Phantom Zone projector that is the important one.


We learn, in flashback, of Dr Xadu, the first person sentenced to the Zone for failed experiments on suspended animation, and of General Zod, who attempted to overthrow the government of Krypton with a Bizarro army.  This is the first appearance for both characters.

Superboy then accidentally sends himself into the Phantom Zone, so we get to see how they exist as insubstantial beings who can see and hear what is going on in the real world, but cannot be perceived themselves.


Superboy manages to escape by mentally causing a typewriter to work, detailing his situation, and Pa Kent uses the projector to free him.  Never again would anyone in the Zone find it so easy to affect real objects.

While Dr Xadu would appear rarely, General Zod would become one of Superman’s greatest foes.



Congorilla’s final story gives him a decent villain, so it’s sort of a shame that it ended here.

A greedy scientist finds King Solomon’s Mines, and wants to keep the treasure for himself.  He devises a way, much like the magic ring, to transfer his brain into a lion’s body.  As the lion he scares off anyone who approaches.

Congo Bill at first believes he is facing a nasty lion, but eventually realizes there is a human mind behind it all.

At the end, he raises the possibility for the lion to return, and if the series had not ended at this point, I expect he would have.  It’s not like Congorilla had much of rogue’s gallery.


Congo Bill and Congorilla would both return a few months later in a story in Action Comics, and continue to appear on occasion throughout the DC Universe.  Janu would have to wait until the 1980s, and Swamp Thing Annual 3, for his return, as an adult.

Adventure 278 – Supergirl comes to Smallville, and Janu becomes Janurilla


At the time of this story, Supergirl had her own series in Action Comics, but was still living in an orphanage, forbidden by Superman to use her powers publicly.  He was afraid she would give away her identity, or his.  Determined to prove herself, Linda travels back in time and heads to Smallville, in Adventure 278 (Nov 60).


She reveals her identity to Ma and Pa Kent, and enlists their aid in attempting to fool Clark, figuring that if she can conceal it from Superboy, Superman will have to agree she has proved herself.


She does a pretty good job of it, and succeeds in fooling Superboy the first time they meet.  It’s pesky Lana Lang that has the suspicions, but a little aid from Krypto and Ma Kent helps Linda con her as well.


Supergirl figures she has it all down pat, but I guess this makes her less cautious, and she makes a completely stupid mistake.


Distressed, she heads back to her own time, concluding that she is not “ready” to be adopted.  Which is kind of awful.



Janu winds up becoming Congorilla in this story.  He resents Congo Bill getting all the ape action, so puts on the ring himself.

He ties his body to a tree, so the mind-transferred gorilla will not run off with it, but he gets mistaken for a missing boy, and in the gorilla body has to chase his human body.

This could be fun, but the way Janu’s speech (or thoughts) are written are so idiot-ish that there is little fun to be had at his expense.  Nor is the art on the story particularly appealing.

But it was enough of a change of pace that I felt like including this story.


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