Posts tagged ‘Joe Shuster’

Detective 29 – Batman vs Dr. Death, Crimson Avenger takes a break, Cosmo vs the Avenger, and Slam Bradley goes to Hawaii


Batman gets his second cover appearance in Detective 29 (July 1939), and the story even matches the picture!


Batman is given his first recurring villain, Dr. Death, in this story by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.  He has a stylish monocle, an murderous servant, and a taste for killing people.


There is no notion of a Batcave yet.  Bruce Wayne appears to keep his gear in a trunk in the living room at this point.  We see the utility belt for the first time, and it gets used later in the story.


Even in this early, and rough, form, Batman still makes for dynamic reading.  And seems to need exotic villains to balance the extreme look of the character.


Batman strangles the servant, and Dr. Death appears to die in a fire, but in fact returns in the following issue.


The Crimson Avenger’s series ends with this story, although it returns in early 1940.  After a kidnapping, Lee Travis learns the details of the sounds the victim heard while captive, and uses those to track the bad guys.


Wing gets a small role in this one, helping the Crimson Avenger escape the burning building at the end.  The final panel announces more adventures for the hero, and I suspect the series was put on hold because it was felt too similar to Batman; and that the boom in heroes was the cause of it’s return.


Cosmo is pitted against the Avenger, a mad scientist who has developed a weapon that causes a bell tower to collapse, a ship to sink, a dam to burst, and airplanes to fall from the sky.  Cosmo tracks down the scientist, and claims to be an “electric meter inspector” when he approaches him, but does not disguise himself for that, which turns out to be a bad move, as Cosmo is famous enough that the crazed Professor Salvini recognizes him immediately, and almost kills him.


In fact, if it were not for a stray bullet causing Salvini’s weapon to explode and kill him, Cosmo would have certainly fallen victim to the Avenger.


Siegel and Shuster are still credited with this Slam Bradley story, but again it looks unusual to me, art-wise.


Slam receives a note warning him to stay away from Hawaii, which he takes as a challenge.  He and Shorty head there, and meet Betty Clark, whose uncle has disappeared.  She sent the letter, figuring that he would take it as a challenge and come.

Must be an easier way to hire someone.  Like, offer to hire them.


They get caught up with foreign spies trying incite native revolts, and creepy looking green lepers.


It’s also worth noting that Slam and Shorty share a bed in this story.  It’s not the first time we have seen this, either.



Detective 28 – Batman uses his rope, Bart gets a new partner, the Crimson Avenger gets a new secretary and Dr. Fu Manchu ends


While Batman did not get the cover for Detective 28 (June 1939), he retained the lead spot in the book, and his name does appear on it.


There is not much to the second Batman story, by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.  Batman is pitted against jewel thieves, but is mistaken by the police for part of the gang.


His first bit of bat-gear appears in this story, although it’s simply called a “silken rope.”


But what the heck, I’ll still call it the Bat-rope.  It’s also notable how little Batman speaks in this era.  Nor was it felt necessary to have thought balloons explain everything (“I’ll attach my Bat-rope to the other building so I can swing to it and escape!”)


Batman’s car is still the big red roadster in this story.  Commissioner Gordon appears only in the last panel of the story, but even this early, we get the dynamic that Gordon is the only police officer Batman really trusts.


The Siegel and Shuster Spy story in this issue once again shows the US on the verge of war.  Bart is assigned to solve the mysterious bombing of a ship in the harbour.


Bart also gets a partner in this story, Jack Steele, who sticks around for a couple more issue.


No matter how good a spy Bart Regan is, without or without his new partner, it still feels a bit absurd to see a headline in mid-1939 saying “War Peril Banished.”


Lee Travis gets a new secretary in this issue, Miss Blaine.  It’s not clear what became of Miss Stevens.  Miss Blaine seems made of tougher stuff anyway, as she gets captured by jewel thieves in this story, but holds up well under pressure.


Both the Crimson Avenger and his secretary have been set up in the story by the woman whose jewels were supposedly stolen.  She even sicks a cobra on them, but the Crimson remains triumphant.


Dr. Fu Manchu ends its run in this issue.


It’s unclear how far they planned to go with these adaptations, but Sax Rohmer does not even reach the ending of his first book by the time this is cancelled.

Detective 26 – Slam Bradley vs artists, Steve Malone heads out, the Crimson Avenger on the run, and Sally says good-bye



Once again, the art on the Slam Bradley story in Detective 26 (April 1939) looks different.  Siegel and Shuster are still credited, but something is not the same.


The story is a dark one.  Artists kidnap people and subject them to horrible tortures, so as to copy their expressions.  Slam and Shorty come across them peddling their art.



Steve Malone, now with no friends or supporting cast, returns for a one issue story.


He solves a murder pretty quickly.  No need to call the police when the D.A. is on the scene.  Then he is off…to the pages of Adventure Comics.  His series gets a bit of a reboot there, and then returns to Detective just before the end of 39.


A group of criminals use a phony Crimson Avenger to help cover their tracks in this story, and the phony winds up killing a cop!


The Crimson Avenger has to find his impersonator while the cops hunt him.  It’s told fairly well.


Sally Norris makes his final appearance in Siegel and Shuster’s Spy in this story, though no hint of this is in the story itself.


Bart and Sally are sent out to stop a mad bomber who wants to destroy Congress.  I have doubts about the art, it really doesn’t seem up to par, but Shuster is credited.


Sally tied to the rocket just looks silly, though.  At least it was an event that was far more extreme than anything else that has happened to her.  Makes it easier to accept that she must have retired from the service.

I suspect that Sally got pregnant.  You can’t embrace that way in every story without a kid coming along eventually.



Detective 25 – FDR in Spy, Cosmo goes to Canada, and Slam Bradley goes to college



Franklin Roosevelt makes an appearance in the Spy story in Detective 25 (Match 1939), by Siegel and Shuster.  Bart and Sally are brought to him, blind-folded, both in gratitude of the service, and to commission them to round up a spy ring.


Sally once more takes the direct route, getting caught stealing their files, so the bad guys will come to them.


As usual, the couple operate as an equal team,and Bart goes after the tough guys, while Sally takes down the girl with the gun.  I think it’s cute that Bart is too shy to embrace Sally in front of the President, and the fact that almost every story ends that way highlights it.


Cosmo heads to Canada in this story.  Note the snow, trees, plaid shirts, trees, Mounties, and trees.


Cosmo uses a bear skin rug to frighten gangsters who have kidnapped a child, first using the paws of the bear to leave tracks in the snow around their cabin, and then actually wearing the rug as a “disguise” to attack them.



I find the art on this Slam Bradley story odd.  Shorty seems to look younger than normal, and the narration on the splash seems to imply the reader is being introduced to Slam.

This makes me suspect that this might have been an unused strip, the “pilot” for the series.


On a whim, Slam decides to go to college, and Shorty tags along.  This is the story in which we learn that Slam did not complete high school (nor did Shorty).  They inform the dean that they are detectives, and, clearly startled, he admits them.


The story then has Slam avoiding and surviving a number of murder attempts.  The dean turns out to be the culprit.  He had been stealing funds, and when Slam announced he was a detective, believed that he was under investigation.

Detective 23 – Speed Saunders on skis, the Crimson Avenger vs Zombies, Spy investigate dead celebrities, and Slam Bradley heads into the future


Speed Saunders gets the cover and the lead story in Detective 34 (Jan 39), as he hits the slopes, finding murder on the way down.


Fred Guardineer has taken over the art on this series, which improves it a bit, although frankly it’s not Guardineer’s best.  The story is ok, mostly action as opposed to detecting.  This was the only time Speed Saunders got a cover appearance.  Between this, and the Crimson Avenger cover last issue, it seems that Detective was looking for something to draw in more readers, but had no series dynamic enough to carry the cover spot.  One was about to come along.


As for Lee Travis, this issue sees him, as the Crimson Avenger, fighting zombies!


They are not the flesh eating zombies we know and love, though.  These are actually much closer to the Caribbean original, mindless people enslaved to a madman.


Once again, the art seems to go up a notch when a car is involved in the scene.


It’s another darker, more serious tale for Bart and Sally in this episode of Siegel and Shuster’s Spy.  A number of famous and prominent people are murdered, and our heroes are put onto the case.


There is a scene of Sally in the shower.  Nothing at all is seen, but I still think this would have been pretty risque at the time, especially as one of the bad guy’s goons is searching her room at the time.


Less banter, and a more competent villain, but Bart and Sally still function as equals throughout this story, even if Bart gets to save the day in this one.


Siegel and Shuster give a very unusual adventure to Slam Bradley and Shorty in this issue, the first half of a two-part story.


It begins simply enough, with a scientist who has invented a “time flyer.”  He takes Slam and Shorty with him on a trip to 2 Billion A.D.


And then it just gets bizarre, with all manner of weird and dangerous creatures, even a flower that almost kills Shorty.


And for the first time in Slam Bradley’s series, a cliff-hanger ending, as he races to find a cure for Shorty.

Detective 22 – the return of Fui Onyui, the Crimson Avenger shoots from the car, Spy become firefighters, Cosmo as a farmer, and Inspector Kent ends


The Crimson Avenger gets his first cover, although he does not get the lead spot in Detective 22 (Dec 38), remaining buried deep in the middle of the book.


Slam Bradley leads off the issue, as Siegel and Shuster bring back Fui Onyui, who had vowed vengeance against Shorty in the very first issue.


Shorty gets kidnapped, and Slam follows his trail, leading to the almost mandatory opium den.


The story avoids explaining exactly what has happened to Shorty, leaving him in a deathlike trance, but opium would be the obvious answer.


Slam forces Fui to inject something into Shorty that revives him, and Shorty joins in the fight that brings the bad guy to heel again.  This was Fui’s last appearance.


Lee Travis, though his paper, begins offering a $5,000 reward for the Crimson Avenger, dead or alive.  Life just isn’t providing enough danger and thrills, it seems.  He actively wants to encourage people to kill him.


Corrupt cops are at the root of the story in this issue, as the Crimson Avenger has to track down missing papers.  By far the best scene is a car chase, with the Avenger shooting out the window.  This shot would be used for the issue of Secret Origins that told his story, in the mid-80s.


Bart and Sally are assigned to root out spies and secret info at a foreign embassy in this chapter of Siegel and Shuster’s Spy.


Once again, it is refreshing to see that being married to Bart has not changed the dynamic in the relationship between them.  Sally still speaks her mind and goes her own way.


The story gets a bit silly, as they disguise themselves as firefighters after they bomb the embassy, to gain entrance, but it’s all fun.


I haven’t mentioned any of the Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise stories so far because none really grabbed me.  Lack of character development is one thing, common to series from this era, but Cosmo’s lack of using or really playing with his central concept just becomes tedious.


In this story, dealing with stolen gems, there is a scene with Cosmo disguised as a farmer.  This is the first time in the strip that we do not see Cosmo get into his disguise first, and his identity is sprung on the reader.

Seems like a basic idea, but it took them 22 issues to use it.


Inspector Kent of Scotland Yard has his second, and final, story in Detective Comics, once again pitted against the Raven.


Once again Kent does a less than impressive job.  It takes him far too long to realize the Raven is impersonating his partner, Sergeant Willy Wiggbert.

Inspector Kent had one final story, appearing in Adventure Comics the following spring.

Detective 21 – Speed Saunders deduces well, Buck Marshall fights the deputy, Spy become double agents, the Crimson Avenger gets a secretary, and Steve Malone avenges his buddy



Speed Saunders gets the story I like the most from his run in Detective 21 (Nov 38).  He has to solve the murder of a writer who was exposing gangsters.  The woman appears to have been killed by a poisoned drink, but Speed figures out it was in her cigarette.



Thoughout Buck Marshall’s run, the sheriff of Sage City, where many of Buck’s tales brought him, was never called anything other than Sheriff.  In this story, he gets a deputy, who is only ever called Deputy.


The Deputy eventually turns out to be the mastermind behind the bad guys.  I believe he was frustrated at his lack of name and so  he turns to the dark side and used his position of power to run the largest rustling operation in the region.


Bart and Sally are ordered to become double agents in this Spy tale, by Siegel and Shuster.  They are to give harmless and misleading information to Baron Von Muldorf.  They fulfill this task, but once the Baron realizes he has been used, he seeks revenge.


The story gets far more intense at this point, Sally almost getting shot, and the brake lines on their car being cut.  Still, our heroes triumph, and embrace at the end.


Many Crimson Avenger stories would begin like the one in this issue, with the first panel a close-up of a newspaper, the headline of which would be the basis for the story.  We also meet Miss Stevens, Lee Travis’ secretary at the newspaper.


The plot has to do with the Crimson Avenger (called simply Crimson in this, and other tales) breaking up a group of criminals who hang out in the city’s cemetery.  Apparently the cops find that too creepy to go in and do anything about them.  At the end, the police find the bound felons, with a note the Avenger left claiming responsibility, but they still don’t trust him.


Steve Malone gets a call informing him that Big Jim has been killed, though he finds him barely alive, and has to fish him out of a river.  Ferrini was part of an opium smuggling mob, and they are seeking vengeance, but Steve tracks down and captures them all.


Neither Big Jim nor Jeanne appears again, and I think it’s safe to say Jim dies of his injuries, and I think Jeanne leaves afterwards, so upset about Jim dying, they must have had something going on.



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