Posts tagged ‘Hourman’

Adventure 83 – Hourman’s last case


Even by the weird standards of this series, the final Hourman story is not really up to par.  Crimes are being committed according to the rhyme “one, two, buckle my shoe,”  with the thieves leaving cards behind to draw attention to this.


Thorndyke never acquired a matching costume the way his (maybe) brother Jimmy did.  And though Thorndyke always looked bizarre, I suspect the constant exposure to the Miraclo Ray probably deformed his growing body as well.

Anyway, the thieves are building up to robbing an old lady.  The clues lead to that, but even Hourman wonders why they are making it easy to figure out where they will be robbing next.


The villains are defeated and left to soak in a bathtub, because that’s how things were done in the 1940s.  At least in Hourman’s world.

Hourman would not appear again until the Silver Age, returning in the first  Justice League/Justice Society crossover.  Later stories would be much more open in discussing his drug addiction.  Thorndyke had to wait much longer for his return, until Young Justice in the late 90s.  He came back crusading against children being costumed heroes.  I suspect he spent many years hospitalized, undergoing physical and psychological therapy after his Miraclo exposure, and the motivation behind his crusade was to prevent other children from falling prey to twisted superheroes.

Adventure 74 – Starman goes animal, Hourman gets a new partner, Manhunter gets a mask and Sandman plays chess


Sandman returns as the cover feature of the book with Adventure 74 (May 42), but is not the lead feature, and I’m just obsessive enough that I need to cover the stories in the order in which they appear, so….


Starman has to deal with another mad scientist, Ivan Karoff, who has developed a machine that transforms men into the animal they most resemble, using them as pawns to commit crimes.   Starman is sent out on the case, but makes a delightful mistake.


Starman believes he is rescuing a woman from a werewolf created by Karoff, but in fact has simply stumbled across a film shoot.

He does manage to find the bad guy, though he gets captured. Karoff stupidly decides to subject the hero to the machine.


All that does is bring out the lion in Starman.  We also get a sense of the unused potential of the gravity rod, as it is capable of easily transforming Starman back to human.


Karoff himself winds up subjected to his ray, which transforms him into a pig.




As previously mentioned, Jimmy Martin no longer appears in the Hourman series.  Thorndyke informs Rex Tyler of this, apparently knowing his identity already, which none of the other Minute Men did.

As well, it had previously been established that Thorndyke and Jimmy were brothers, yet issue 75 informs us that Thorndyke’s last name is Tomkins, which is very unusual if he is the younger brother of Jimmy Martin, so perhaps there is more going on here, with the mother taking off with one of her sons and leaving the other behind.  Did Jimmy and Thorndyke have different fathers?  It’s all very suspicious.


Anyway, with Hourman and Thorndyke both buzzing on Miraclo, they track down thieves Bugs Manders and Gimpty Gowan, getting captured and trussed up for their efforts.  It takes them longer than the hour of power that they have, and Hourman has to bluff his way through the final battle, which is sort of impressive, considering the withdrawl he must be experiencing.




Simon and Kirby refine the Mnahunter outfit, giving Pauk Kirk a blue mask as he joins a society party scavenger hunt.  A romantic rivalry at the party is to be decided by the outcome of the hunt, which leads one of the men to rig the hunt, so his rival has to track down and capture a notorious killer.


Paul dons his newly masked outfit and does the boy’s work for him, apprehending Crusher Burns, thus winning the boy the shallow girl who wanted the men to compete for her.




Sandman and Sandy face off against a genius, Hiran Gaunt, who has turned to crime simply for the mental challenge.  This is a man who can deduce the combination of a safe, so he really has an amazing brain.

Playing on his pride, Sandman sets up a chess-playing computer, which is really a machine with Sandy stuffed inside of it, as a lure to draw him out.


Then it’s simply a matter of trailing him and beating up his gang.  Good art on this one, but the dream element does not come into play at all.

Adventure 73 – Simon and Kirby Manhunter begins, and Hourman uses the Miraclo Ray on a child


Dropping the name Paul Kirk from the title, Simon and Kirby took over the Manhunter series, which was covered featured for the first time in Adventure 73, April 1942.

An old police buddy, Donovan, who had not previously appeared in the series, asks Paul for help against a dramatically costumed killer, the Buzzard.


When the Buzzard kills Donovan, Paul loses his cool and decides that wearing a red skin tight outfit would be the proper way to mourn his friend, and hunt down his killer.



Without too much difficulty, he tracks down, defeats and unmasks the Buzzard.  Much later continuity would tie this all in with the Manhunters, but there is no trace of any extra layers here.


There is really nothing more to this.  No deeper origin or meaning for the costume.  The face is not yet masked, as it would come to be.  But the series is still far more readable with Simon and Kirby on it.



Minute-Man Martin gets his name and picture in the logo, as he and Hourman deal with Professor Q, a crime boss with a clear love of radio game shows, as he communicates with his associates and victims in that fashion.



Hourman uses the Miraclo ray on Jimmy this time.  Hard to tell whether it would be better to bring Jimmy into battle with or without the body-altering ray.  The countdown timer effect is used again.



Professor Q is defeated,and Jimmy never appears again.  In the following issue, we are told that he and his mother went “on a trip.”  Likely she took her irradiated son for medical help, though her disappearance makes me suspect Rex did some covering of his tracks, and maybe his basement should be dug up.

Adventure 71- Starman faces invaders from the future, and Hourman develops the Miraclo Ray


Time machines tend to be spherical in the DC Universe, and the one invented in the Starman story in Adventure 71 (Feb 42) fits the mold perfectly.


No sooner has it been tested than hoods knock out the inventor and steal the machine, using it to retrieve futuristic weapons, like a flaming cloud that emits destructive thunderbolts.  Starman is so busy dealing with these that he has no time to try to figure out who is behind it all.


When the weapons fail to kill Starman, the sphere is sent to retrieve people from the future, who are apparently willing and eager to engage in fist fights with their ancestors.  They wear ugly grey suits that cover their entire bodies.  There is a bit of an explanation for this, when it’s revealed they cannot breathe our air.  Which should be much purer and less polluted, and therefore easier to breathe, than their air, but whatever.


The Light is revealed as the mastermind.  His third battle with Starman, although he seems to have given up inventing things himself, and is now content to steal the inventions of other scientists, present and future.



This issue also sees the debut of the Miraclo Ray, which replaces the Miraclo pills.  Later writers would ascribe the ray’s powers as activating the Miraclo still in Rex Tyler’s system, but no real explanation of the ray is given in these early stories.

This tale also uses the countdown timer to build suspense.  This had been used in some of Hourman’s earlier stories, but hadn’t been featured in quite a while.

Hourman is facing off against Dr. Destiny, a killer for hire who plans his murders according to the zodiac.


Hourman decks Jimmy Martin out in a matching costume.  He does not have the boy stand in front of the Miraclo ray, or even give him a Miraclo pill, so the boy has no powers whatsoever.  Still, Hourman thinks bringing the kid into a fight with a hired killer is a great idea.

Adventure 69 – Shining Knight fights the Red Dragon, Hourman goes through withdrawl and Sandman meets Sandy, the Golden Boy


The Red Dragon is not a really great villain, but his debut in Adventure Comics 69 (Dec 41) is worthy of inclusion simply because the Shining Knight will battle him again in the pages of Leading Comics, as a member of the Seven Soldiers of Victory.  For all his bragging, his main weapon seems to be arrogance, and his goal is simply to kill the Shining Knight.


The Shining Knight has little trouble defeating him, but you have to give the Red Dragon credit for not giving up after such a humiliating defeat.


His kidnapping plot fares no better, but his unmasking scene is dramatic, at least, though clearly stolen from Phantom of the Opera.



Hourman’s adventure in this issue is extremely disturbing.  A very hallucinogenic series of events, it begins with a mysterious being who steals his Miraclo pills.  Hourman feels weak and powerless without them.


The control the other man has over him can also be viewed as a comment on the control the drugs have over Hourman.  We see Hourman get paranoid, believing Bannerman is spying on him, and he lashes out uncontrollably at others.


The revelation at the end that this was just a dream is hardly reassuring.  Either it was a Miraclo-induced hallucination, or his own psyche screaming at him about his addiction.  I don’t think it’s too much of a leap to ascribe this as Rex’s motivation for developing the Miraclo Ray, which would first appear a few months down the road.



The debut of Sandy, the Golden Boy into Sandman’s series is far less disturbing, but no less bizarre.


Sandy leaps onto the page in a costume he claims he patterned after Sandman’s.  This is curious, as his costume does match that of Sandman, but it matches the costume he has just started wearing in this issue, a skin-tight gold and purple outfit, with a purple cape.  Sandy is in gold and red, with a red cape.  He is an orphan, staying at a farmhouse where the owner has experimented with creating giant bees, not thinking about the deadly giant stingers that would come with them.  Wes apparently adopts Sandy at the end of the story, as they live together from this point on.  Sandy’s last name is given as McGann in issue 71, but Hawkins in issue 73, and from then on.


For all the problems with this first meeting, it seems it was destiny, as Sandman and Sandy spring into action like a well-oiled machine, with no practice working together.

Dian Belmont is gone from the series at this point, she and Sandy would not appear in any of the same stories. Iin All-Star Squadron, he was made Dian’s nephew, but there is no hint of that originally.

Sandman’s series in World’s Finest Comics continued to run stories of him in the gasmask costume for another few months, so Dian actually makes her final Golden Age appearance in that book.

Adventure 63 – Starman does not battle The Light, and a check in with Hourman


The cover of Adventure 63 (June 41) clearly represents the story in Issue 62.  A shrunken Starman taking on The Light.  For reasons clear only to them, it was not unusual in the 1940s for comic book covers to represent stories that appeared in other issues.  Perhaps organization had not occurred to them?  It’s difficult to imagine that there was a time when no one expected the cover to connect to the interior pages.


So instead of The Light, Starman faces off against another mad scientist, Captain Vurm, with his deadly “shock-dynamo” that can create earthquakes.  Vurm has also captured Woodley Allen and Doris Lee, because, why not?  Gives Starman more motivation.

And while I am being supercilious about this issue, let’s check and see how Hourman is doing at battling his Miraclo addiction.


Nope, still reliant on his illicit drugs.

Adventure 57 – Hourman battles Gombezis and Socko Strong says goodbye


Adventure 57 (Dec 1940) does not have a very impressive cover, but the Hourman story does pit him against his best villain, Dr. Toog.  On the other hand, the fact that Dr. Toog is his best villain does not say much for Hourman.


A mad scientist who has created “gombezis,” Dr. Toog uses his weird, mutated animals to commit crimes.  On his trail, Hourman summons the Minute-Men.


His addiction is beginning to cause problems, as Hourman arrives late for the big meeting, though his adoring Minute Men have no problem with this.

Hourman defeats Dr. Toog, this time without the Minute Men engaging in a street brawl.  The bad doctor would not appear again in Hourman’s original run, but would be revived in the Hourman comic in 1999.



Socko Strong’s final tale has him chatting with Jerry, relating a tale about how having bad friends can turn a good kid wrong, and the importance of education.

Thinking about what must have happened to Sock after this, I conclude that he next went to defend his title, and lost the match.  That lost him his series.  This is foreshadowed in the story in 56.  In that story Socko get hired as a bodyguard for customs inspector Joseph Meek, scared of being attacked by smugglers.  As things pan out, Sock gets captured by the bad guys, and Meek not only saves him, but beats up the smugglers as well.

The final story, and its talk about college, I extrapolate into Socko heading to university after losing his title.

Adventure 55 – Hourman


Thorndyke joins his brother Jimmy and Hourman in the logo for the story in Adventure 55 (Oct 1940), which also gives the name of the city Hourman operates out of – Cosmos.  That’s a fairly unusual name for a city, and likely had the Hourman series not be cancelled relatively early compared to the other heroes of the Golden Age, it would have become an evocative location in the DC Universe, rather than just an obscure bit of trivia.


The story in this issue is fairly simple, involving “sleeping gas” stolen from Bannerman Chemicals.  Rex pops a pill and rallies his youthful supporters.


They help him track down the thieves, and Rex decides to act like a responsible adult for once.  Just kidding!  Instead he tells the kids to gather a bunch of sticks and meet him where the bad guys are, so that the boys can beat the hoods senseless.


Adventure 54 – Hourman leads urchins in street brawl


Jimmy Martin has succeeded in enlisting his HAM radio friends as the Minute-Men, and Hourman rewards him by including Jimmy’s name and image in the new logo for the series in Adventure 54, September 1940.


And though Rex is still popping his Miraclo pills, at least he does so after meeting with Jimmy.  One of the boys in the group has been kidnapped, so the first thing the Minute-Men do is help one of their own.


Most of the members of this team will never get named. Many of the stories deal with other Minute Men, who get into trouble, or the family members do, or they witness a crime, which winds up bringing Hourman into the tale, but none of these kids are featured in more than one story.

The one who is significant is Thorndyke, who debuts in this story, but is not named until Hourman’s adventure in All-Star Comics 2.  Visually Thorndyke is the most distinct, with his turtleneck sweater covering most of his face, and a giant cap covering much of what little is left.  Later we will learn that he is Jimmy Martin’s younger brother.


A drug addict leading a group of children into a public brawl.  That heroism for ya.




Adventure 53 – Hourman recruits a child, Mark Lansing debuts, and Federal Men doesn’t suck


After some preliminary action fighting an escaped lion, Hourman’s story in Adventure 53 (Aug 40) settles down to being about overworked child factory staff.  Jimmy Martin is introduced, the brother of an employee who died.


But as the cover suggests, there is more to this story than the evils of making children work at factories.  Jimmy Martin is a HAM radio operator, and Hourman instantly sees the potential uses of this for crime fighting and/or drug dealing, so immediately recruits Jimmy for the Minute-Men of America.


At the moment Jimmy Martin is the only member of this team, but others would soon appear, a small army of children lead by a drugged up hero.




A new series begins this issue, Mark Lansing of Mikishawm.  Mark is a soldier of fortune, travelling through the African jungle with his native guide Koba, when he stumbles upon Kit and Tony, two Americans on safari who in turn have stumbled upon Vas Onga, an evil blue skinned alien from the inner Earth land of Mikishawm who has invented a machine that uses “internal vibrations”, with which he plans to conquer the world!

Holy cow!  Well, Mark defeats Vas Onga pretty fast, but the machine does bury them, and the opening chapter ends with the group following Jada, a friendly blue skinned alien down into Mikishawm.

This serial would run only 10 chapters, though on the whole it’s not bad.


Federal Men gets an above par story in this issue.  Usually the art is mediocre-awful, but the splash page of this story about derailing a train to steal the radium being transported is a pretty good 4-pager.


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