Posts tagged ‘Larry Steele’

Detective 63 – Batman vs Mr. Baffle, Cliff Crosby and Larry Steele end


Another generic Batman and Robin cover for Detective 63 (May 1942).  Mr. Baffle was good enough to mention, but not to show.


Mr. Baffle is blatantly patterned after the character Raffles, the gentleman thief.  But it has been stated by one of the Bill Finger/Bob Kane/Jerry Robinson team that the Penguin was based on Raffles as well.  This leads me to wonder if the one time appearance of Mr. Baffle was really a rough draft of the Penguin, printed later.  Either that, or they wanted a version of Raffles that retained the qualities the Penguin lacked.


Mr. Baffle arrives from Europe, and is already notorious.  Batman almost nabs him the moment he arrives.  But he eludes capture, trims his facial hair, and begins moving in high society, while scoping out the sites for his thefts.


Linda Page gets to have significance in the story.  She spots the rough fingertips on Baffle, and doubts he is really part of the upper crust.  Snobbery as a super-power!


When Baffle later tries to wiggle out of things by claiming to be secretly Batman, Linda exposes his lies.


Baffle and Batman have a swordfight battle, and Baffle dives off a tower.  He claims he will return, but as he never did, he must have just gone splat on the ground.

Much of this character, including the swordfighting, would be reworked into the Cavalier.


In his final tale, Cliff Crosby solves the murder of a circus lion tamer, which was done by coating the lion’s mane with nicotine.  Often the crimes were needlessly elaborate that way.


With Cliff’s series ending so soon after the attack on Pearl Harbour, I suspect he joined the army, perhaps as a journalist, but did not survive the war.


The Seal returns for Larry Steele’s final case.  His scheme has some creativity to it, as he uses blinding light to disorient the tellers when his men rob their banks.


As with Cliff Crosby, one cannot help but suspect that Larry’s series ended because he enlisted immediately after the bombing of Pearl Harbour.


Detective 61 – The Three Racketeers, Larry Steele vs the Seal, and Air Wave short circuits


From one extreme to the other, instead of having a generic cover, Detective 61 (March 1942) uses the splash page as the cover.


This would become commonplace, although most had a bit more divergence than the two shown.  Because of this, I will often just show the cover and skip the splash.


Bill Finger scripts a gem of a tale in this issue, with Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson on the art.  Three aging hoodlums sit around a table, playing poker and chatting about great criminal schemes they had, which were routed by Batman.


So it’s basically three brief stories, linked by the hoods.  A Batmobile with a shield, and a weird paint job, appears in this issue.


The final of the three tales involves the thieves using tanks, so Batman and Robin take to the air in the Batplane for the climax.


The story has the perfect coda, the revelation that the men are all incarcerated while their poker game is going on.


Larry Steele is given a recurring villain just before his series concludes, the Seal.  The Seal is the leader of a gang of thieves, who wears a costume that gives him big flippers over his fists. He looks so absurd that he adds no menace at all to the stories.



Air Wave goes up against a man simply called the Professor in this story.  He is part of the mob, wanting vengeance on Air Wave for his exploits in the previous story.


The Professor may not have a decent name,but he does have a mighty distinctive head.  Larry meets socialite Sandra Stowe, who is hanging with his boss, the D.A. Cole.


The Professor builds a machine that shorts out Air Wave circuits, but he also nabs Sandra, who smashes the machine, which lets Air Wave take down the bad guys.  The fight scenes are kinetic, but not impressive.

Detective 54 – Batman sails the Batplane, Larry Steele goes on a date, Speed Saunders solves an in-flight murder, and Cliff Crosby heads to Europe


No pirates on the cover of Detective 54 (Aug. 41), but lots in the interior as Batman faces off against Hook Morgan in this Bill Finger/Bob Kane/Jerry Robinson tale.


Linda Page, who has been introduced a few issues earlier in Batman, makes her first appearance in Detective in this story.  A society girl, she is Bruce Wayne’s romantic interest for much of the 1940s.


Hook Morgan just doesn’t come off as scary as he might, and I blame the hook for that.  It just doesn’t work for me.


The Batplane demonstrates its ability to become a watercraft in this story.


Larry Steele goes on a date in this story!  I realize that doesn’t sound exciting, but Delia is the only woman Larry has had in the series since Jeanne left after Big Jim’s death.


She joins him for a rousing night of violence and mystery solving, but never appears again.  Guess it wasn’t her cup of tea.


This is one of my favourite Speed Sounders stories, just for the vital clue. After an apparent suicide, Speed deduces it was murder and that the suicide note was a fake by the fact that it was written clearly.  If it had been written during the flight, the words would be jagged and bumpy.



Cliff has a story where he sort of acts like the newspaper owner he is.  He heads to Europe to report on the bombing there, and remains there for the following issue, solving the theft of a painting.  The war encroaches.


Detective 33 – the origin of Batman, Larry Steele gets a new secretary, and Speed Saunders heads to Canada


Batman’s back on the cover with Detective 33 (Nov. 39).


Batman’s origin is told for the first time in this story.  The basic elements of Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s story have never really changed.  The parents gunned down on the street, right in front of the boy.  The text informs us that the mother was shot, as well as the father, though we do not see this.  That would be changed, down to the road, to her dying from a heart attack after Thomas gets shot.


The rest of the origin is simple and straight-forward, and in its direct narrative line makes it all seem within the realms of possibility and rationality.  Batman’s intelligence and fighting skills are explained, as is his eternal goal.  The bat flying through the window as inspiration gives it just the touch of strange/supernatural that it needs.


The story then shows us that Batman uses a secret passage to get at his gear, and the trunk containing his costume is in this room.  The ears on the suit are almost down to what would become their normal level.  The car is still described as being special, but nothing visually stands out about it.  It’s really long.


The villain in this issue patterns himself on Napoleon, and has a dirigible he is using to terrorize people.  The story is set in the US, but comes between two stories set in Europe, and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to include this tale in Bruce’s time in Europe.  Certainly a Napoleonic villain would fit very well in France, where the following issue’s story is set.


The Batgyro sees some more action, getting into a fight with, and destroying, the dirigible of doom!


Larry Steele gets a new secretary in this story, Brenda Darling. She’s a capable brunette, able to shoot the gun out of a killers hand.



Speed heads to Canada in this story by Fred Guardineer, helping the Mounties catch a man who murders fur trappers and steals their pelts.  Trees, rock, moose, canoes, Mounties, this hits almost all the Canadian stereotypes, though no one speaks french.


Detective 12 – Speed Saunders goes west, Larry Steele goes twice, Spy goes to Paris and Slam Bradley goes to the forest



Speed Saunders has an adventure in Texas in Detective 12 (Feb 38), aiding natives against an oil company illegally tapping their pipeline.  Far from the coast, this story is explained by having Speed drive across the country after helping out in a case in California, and stumbling across it, but it really sort of marks the end of his harbour police days.


As usual, natives are shown with feather headdresses, irrespective of whether it was appropriate or not.


Larry Steele gets two chapters in this issue, concluding one serial and starting another.  The concluding storyline had to do with saving a young woman, Laura Wilkes, from nasty blackmailers.


Larry gives his all in this case, getting shot and winding up in the hospital at the end of it.  Ironically, considering he is told he needs recovery time, he isn’t really given any.


Sure, the text at the start says it’s a week later, but it’s on the very next page!


This storyline lasts until issue 14, and pits Larry against a club owner/mobster, Nick Orgatti.  Larry gets a secretary in this issue, Miss West, who is briefly seen twice more.


Bart and Sally are in Paris in this chapter of Siegel and Shuster’s Spy.  Blending in means wearing berets and looking like the Hollywood version of French people.


But this is Spy and it never takes long to get right into the action.  Sally is outed as a spy pretty quick (the beret didn’t work), and Bart seems to ditch her.  In fact, he is just laying in wait to take down the bad guys.


Shorty returns in Salm Bradley’s story in this issue.  There is no sign of Snoop.  He never appears again, nor is he even mentioned.  There can only be one explanation.  Shorty murdered him, and was absent last issue because he was hiding the body.


Slam and Shorty head into the “north woods”, investigating a murder among lumberjacks – which of course Slam winds up working as.


The climax of the story begins on a logjam, and winds up heading over a waterfall.  Siegel and Shuster really make the most of the fall, the scene extends over three pages.  I particularly like how the fall is used to shape the panel borders on the page above.


Slam’s rescue of Shorty gets a full page panel devoted to it.  And yeah, it deserves it.


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 5 – Slam Bradley goes to school, Bart Regan stops an assassination, and Larry Steele begins


In Detective 5 (July 1937), Siegel and Shuster give us the tiniest bit of background for Slam Bradley, as we meet his old grade 6 teacher.


In a later story, we will learn that Slam never finished school, so he left somewhere after 6th grade.


Nonetheless, to help solve some strange robberies, Slam goes undercover as a teacher at his old school.


The story chooses not to follow Slam, despite the situation rife with possibilities.  Instead Shorty gets ahold of the satchel containing the papers everyone wants, and we get pages of slapstick-ish chase scenes.


At least Shorty gets a kiss from the fair damsel in the story, usually that’s just for Slam.


The serial that launched the Spy series comes to a close with this issue.  Bart is eager to catch up to the spies and foil their plans, but Sally just wants clarity on their relationship.  So she continues to tag along.


It’s a good thing Sally does, as she is the one to spot the villains, and give Bart the info on them, so he can do the man thing and beat them up, stopping their assassination attempt.


Siegel and Shuster save the ending for the real kicker, as Sally gets accepted to be a spy as well!


Larry Steele’s series begins informing us that Larry is a young detective, at the start of his career.  He is living in Hollywood with his father, a retired professor of psychology, and is friends with Bill Graham, a director.  Bill calls Larry in when his new star goes missing.  Larry’s father get kidnapped, to try to force Larry off the case.


It’s not a great story, and the art on the series is generally as mediocre as the writing.  Some pages, the one right above as an example, seem to demonstrate almost a contempt for the reader, challenging them to find interesting what the artist found so static and tedious.

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