Posts tagged ‘Jerry Siegel’

Detective 46 – Hugo Strange’s Fear Gas, Spy fights Goldfish-Man, and Cliff Crosby gets an occupation

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Detective 46 (Dec. 40) closes out the year, and despite having another appearance by Hugo Strange, the cover remains a generic Batman and Robin image.

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Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson bring back Hugo Strange, last seen in Batman 1.  This is the first story with Hugo Strange that includes Robin.  In it, Strange develops a fear gas, which causes paralyzing terror in those who inhale it.

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It’s a bit odd to see this gas being invented by someone other than the Scarecrow.  This story predates the first appearance of that villain by a year, and the gas would not become a part of his arsenal until the 1960s. The story culminates in a battle on a cliff between Batman and Strange, somewhat reminiscent of the fight between Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty in “The Final Problem, ” although in this story it is only the villain who falls to their death. Hugo Strange’s death takes a very long time to be reversed.  His character does not appear again until the late 70s.

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Spy was still being scripted by Jerry Siegel, but the stories in it were all fairly prosaic at this point. Bart does get one interesting villain.  He wears a mask but claims he was born deformed, with a goldfish-coloured head.

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The story gets followed up in issue 48 (more illegal immigrant smuggling), but Goldfish Man does not return.

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With this issue, Cliff Crosby’s profession gets clearly stated, and stabilized. He is the owner and publisher of the New York Record, and his ace reporter is Kay Nevers.  We can assume that exploring is just a hobby for him, and that publishing a newspaper is exactly the kind of experience that overseeing airplane construction requires.

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For a newspaper publisher, his work days remain pretty dramatic.  A shipwrecked man turns out to be a killer in hiding, and Cliff nearly dies a couple of times trying to sort out the story.

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Detective 39 – Robin in Chinatown, Red Logan and the snake, Speed Saunders gets a sidekick, Cliff Crosby in Florida, and Slam Bradley in Paris

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Robin joins Batman in action on the cover of Detective 39 (May 1940), although the image does not reflect the story inside.

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The logo is an awkward combination of the one recently being used for Batman, and the Robin logo from the previous issue, with it’s hint of Robin Hood.  The story, by Bill Finer, with art by Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, begins with kidnapped millionaires, and leads to a jade idol in Chinatown.

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Although Bruce didn’t hesitate to bring the boy along to fight armed hoods on a building under construction, in this story he tells Dick to stay behind, that it’s too dangerous.

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Not that it does any good.  Dick gets into the Robin costume and heads down to Chinatown himself.

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Robin gets his fair share of the action, even getting involved in a sword fight with the bad guy’s muscle.  Batman gets to be the one to unmask the killer, who turns out to be a white man in disguise.

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I should also point out the giant jade idol. Huge props would become a staple of the Batman series decades down the road, but they go all the way back to this story!

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Red Logan’s story in this issue is blatantly derived from the Sherlock Holmes tale, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.”

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A series of locked room murders, with a cobra as the culprit.

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The story in this issue sets up Speed to get a sidekick.  He recruits Danny, a street kid, to help him keep an eye on a nest of Siva worshippers, and the boy gets commended by the police chief

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We are told in the last panel that Danny will be Speed’s new assistant, but then never see him again.  And I breathed a sigh of relief over that.

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This story sees Cliff Crosby on vacation in Florida.  So he is taking a vacation from being an explorer?  What exactly is the difference?  Does he travel but not look at or do anything?

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If that’s the case, that’s not the story, as Cliff gets wound up with Seminoles and alligators and thieves and all manner of trouble.

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The primary reason this Slam Bradley story by Jerry Siegel made it into my blog was one terrible panel.

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Slam bouncing off an awning.  Terrible.

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The rest of the story, and the art, isn’t so bad.  Though it’s far from thrilling.  Slam and Shorty are assigned to guard a gem, which is a fake.  They wind up flying over to Paris during the story, but no mention is made of the War.

Detective 38 – Robin debuts, Spy contends with a lightning gun, Red Logan begins, Steve Malone exposes the Commissioner, and Cliff Crosby finds Arctic Africans

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In Detective 38 (April 1940) Bill Finger and Bob Kane introduced one of the most influential characters of the Golden Age, Robin, the Boy Wonder.  Within a year every super-hero had to have a sidekick, and most were cut from largely the same cloth as Robin.

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The story begins with young Dick Grayson at the circus, performing as an aerilalist with his parents, John and Mary Grayson.  Dick overhears some gangsters threaten the circus owner, and then watches in horror as his parents fall to their deaths.

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Batman then swoops in and takes Dick away with him, informing him that Boss Zucco was the force behind his parents deaths.  We can assume he came to the circus as Bruce Wayne, and saw the accident, because the car he is driving is red.  This is his earlier car, which he likely kept to drive as Bruce, reserving the costume matching car for Batman.  He trains the boy, and there is a scene by candlelight in which he makes the boy swear a vow, similar to the one young Bruce swore.

The similarity in their origins helps make this sequence plausible, without the need for explanations.  It is easy for the reader to see how Bruce viewed the boy, and their connection.

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Dick is frequently smiling as Robin in tales from this era, it is clear the boy is having the time of his life, and he functions to a degree on his own in this story, with Batman watching off to the side.

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Unlike Bruce, Dick gets to bring his parents’ killer to justice at the end of the story.  Bruce gives him the option of returning to the circus, but it must have been a formality.  It was clear Dick had found a new home, Batman had found a sidekick, and a trend had been born.

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With Jerry Siegel still writing the series, Spy stayed largely within the realm of the possible.  The story in this issue pushes it about as far as it will go at this time, with a lightning gun, developed by a mad scientist.

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He is another one-shot character, though, and once Bart disposes of him, the lightning gun is never seen again.

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Red Logan begins in this issue of in Detective Comics, nearly a year after his series ended in More Fun.  Red is in England, working out of an office in the Daily Mail in London as a foreign correspondent for the Times Courier, still with Ivan as his massive sidekick.

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His case involves what appear to be vampire murders, but are actually deaths caused by a mad scientist stealing people’s blood.

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Steve gets one of his edgier cases in this issue, as he goes after the man behind the gambling rackets, and discovers that it’s the Police Commissioner.

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The art on the series has improved dramatically since it began, but the stories remain short and simple.

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Cliff Crosby, now with his friend Dr. Broussard, are abruptly “famous explorers” in this tale, set above the Arctic Circle.  They discover an African tribe there, with a “formula” that allows them to survive the cold.

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Cliff makes a deal with Aga, to restore him to what he claims is his “rightful throne,” in exchange for the formula.  Or, to put it another way, an American installs a puppet monarch in exchange for trade goods.

 

Detective 37 – almost the Batmobile, Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise ends, the Crimson Avenger returns, Cliff Crosby debuts, and Slam Bradley inherits a racehorse

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Detective 37 (March 1940) contains the final Batman story before Robin shows up.  Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s story loosely resembles the movie The Old Dark House, and overall the feel is of a horror movie.

The Batmobile is almost in existence at the start of this tale.  While there is still no emblem (or name), The way the car is drawn and coloured emphasizes it as an attribute of the man.

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Batman shows off another bit of gear, infra-red lenses to allow him to see in the dark, which come in useful in a fight scene.

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Batman never cares much if the villain dies in these early stories.  While the man impales himself, Batman still shows no remorse.  The end of the story promotes the next Hugo Strange tale, but it appears instead in Batman 1 – a solo tale, pre-dating Robin.

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In his final story Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise goes undercover as a sailor on the Sea Swan, investigating a series of ships that have gone  missing while crossing the Atlantic.  It turns out the vice-president of the line is selling these ships and their cargo to the Nazis.  Some of the crew are in on the scam, and lead a mutiny, then turn the ship over to the Germans, who arrive in a u-boat.  Cosmo infiltrates the mutineers and ruins their plans, and when the u-boat surfaces, Cosmo and Captain Barker have it shot at, blowing it up.

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They stand on deck rejoicing over their victory, but I think this is short-lived.  The sub would certainly have been in contact with the rest of the fleet – more than one sub would be needed to deal with the ship and its crew and prisoners.  I fear that though they blew up one sub, there were more around, and the Sea Swan was torpedoed and sunk, killing Cosmo and all the others aboard.

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The Crimson Avenger returns, with no significant change to the series.  Lee Travis still runs the Globe-Leader, Wing is still speaking decent English and driving the car.

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The story sees him pursue and capture some kidnappers.

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Cliff Crosby’s series languished amid the back pages of Detective Comics for the entirety of its run.  The art managed to reach a passable level, but the stories, often only 5 or 6 pages long, never achieve anything memorable.

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The series begins without making it clear what Cliff does for a living.  He helps a reporter friend, Terry Jensen, find a kidnapped judge in his first tale, but there is no indication of anything really definable about the character.  Little by little, over the few years the series ran, the picture would get drawn.

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Slam inherits a racehorse in this Jerry Siegel tale.  There are drugged animals, fixed races, and blackmail at the root of the tale.

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The story climaxes with Shorty filling in for a murdered jockey, and winning the Kentucky Derby.

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 35 – Batman and the Ruby Idol, Steve Malone gets a new secretary, and Slam Bradley joins the French Foreign Legion

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Batman is back on the cover for Detective 35 (Jan 40), but the picture seems to show him fighting the Duc D’Orterre, from the previous story.

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Batman clearly has no problem with guns at this point.  Oddly, this story, by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, does not have Batman involved in any big gun fights.

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The story all deals with a stolen ruby idol, and a very mysterious murder.  Commissioner Gordon, who has not been in the last few European stories, is back in this one, in a very small role.

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The one significant development in this story is the car.  Still not a Batmobile in any sense, this “high powered roadster”  is now blue, matching the highlights in Batman’s costume, personalizing it a bit.

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In this issue, Steve Malone gets a secretary, Nancy.  He sends her out as bait for a kidnapping ring, and though she gets freed, we never see her again, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she gave her notice after that.

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Jerry Siegel sends Slam off to Africa to hunt down murderers in this issue’s tale.  Slam and Shorty wind up enlisting in the French Foreign Legion in order to find they prey.  One of the men they are hunting winds up being their sergeant, so the usual tale of the brutality of the Foreign Legion gets used as an attempt to kill Slam.

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Detective 34 – Batman in Paris, Steve Malone returns, Speed Saunders goes flying, and Slam Bradley gets torpedoed

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The looming image of Batman from the first page of the story in Detective 34 (Dec 39) would be merged with the origin story, and reprinted in Batman 1 a few months down the road.

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Bruce is still in Paris in this story, which pits him against the Duc D’Orterre, a torturer with an unusually shaped head.  The Duc stole the face of a man whose sister he was interested in.  The man is bandaged, so presumably the Duc flayed him.

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Some nicely dynamic action by Bob Kane, and a decent tale by Bill Finer, once again reminiscent of the horror movies of the era.

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Steve Malone’s series moves back to Detective after its reboot in Adventure Comics, and he brings his new blond assistant Happy with him.

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They break up a protection scam in this story, which, as usual, has no elements of being a district attorney in it whatsoever.

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Fred Guardineer’s Speed Saunders story in this issue has the army request Speed’s help after sabotage to their weapons.  We learn in this tale that Speed was “one of the best pilots in France,” which would seem to imply that he is old enough to have fought in World War I.

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In this Jerry Siegel story, Slam and Shorty head off on a round-the-world cruise, but war between Tweepon and Luthoria (!) sees their liner get torpedoed by a submarine.

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But that’s little problem for Slam, who takes over the submarine himself.

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