Posts tagged ‘New Comics’

New Comics 10 – Federal Men

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A giant robot destroys a city!  This is a job for Superman!  Oh, crap, he doesn’t exist yet!

By far my favourite single page from the entire run of Federal Men, New Comics 10 (Nov 36) has the amazing payoff to the Invisible Empire storyline.  Steve manages to take control of the killer robot, and sends it back to destroy the villain’s base.  They send out two more robots to battle it, but Steve’s robot wins and the bad guys apparently perish as their lab gets pulverized in the battle.

The following issue is a much more straightforward, one issue story, of a gangster on the run who tries to hide out by being an actor in a gangster movie, and Steve and Ralph head to Hollywood to track him down.

Federal Men would take one further leap into science-fiction with issue 12, but then settle down to more “realistic” adventures for the duration of its run.

New Comics 9 – Federal Men

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In New Comics 9 (Oct 36) this Federal Men serial gets a name, The Invisible Empire.  Although it ran from issues 4 – 10, only this chapter gets a title.  The things we take for granted now were by no means a certainty then!

Steve infiltrates the underwater base, and the villains unleash giant killer robots!

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Siegel and Shuster had been writing and drawing these kinds of stories since high school, but none of their previous published work had been allowed to venture into this territory.  Even Dr. Occult, running in More Fun Comics, never had anything on this kind of scale.  And the Superman concept they had been trying to sell was “too unbelievable” for comic books.

The Invisible Empire, although all but forgotten now, was almost as groundbreaking as Superman would be.

New Comics 8 – Federal Men

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New Comics 8 (Sept 36) sees Steve finally get a partner, Ralph Ventnor.  Ralph will get occasional moments of glory, but for the most part is simply a sidekick and foil for Steve Carson.

Jean Dennis also debuts in this story, a strong-willed, no-nonsense reporter for the Tribune, and very much a foreshadowing of Lois Lane.

Plot-wise, Steve has discovered the the villains behind the attacks are operating out of a secret underwater base, and decides to infiltrate it in disguise.

New Comics 6 – Federal Men

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New Comics 4 saw the start of this story in Federal Men, as Steve stops a foreign spy from infesting the reservoir with a bacteria, and moves on to a plot to torpedo the president’s yacht by submarine.

In New Comics 6 (July 36)  it starts to really kick into high gear as giant tanks invade Washington D.C. None of the other series have shown anything so wild or dynamic as these pages. Siegel and Shuster are taking this strip away from the world of the FBI and forcing it toward the superhero universe they are chomping at the bit to create.

In the following issue Steve takes down the villains manning the tanks with a radium-gas bomb, and his superiors think the case is over, but Steve correctly believes the masterminds have not been caught.

Blood Pearls

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This short serial, a bloody tale of vengeance and guilt, was written by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, the owner of DC Comics.  The art is very expressive, to the point of over-wrought, but that really just adds to the story.  One thing you can’t help noticing, though, is that in a book where all the strips are one or two pages long, Blood Pearls gets four pages an issue.  Being the boss helps.

The story deals with Baslyn, a ruthless American who has come to the Philippines to acquire a string of red pearls with seven rubies on the clasp, known as the Blood Pearls.  They are owned by Old Dato, who will only exchange them for a chinese mestiza girl.  Baslyn finds one at the Carnival in Manila, drugs her, and brings her to Dato.  Dato has no sooner handed over the pearls than he is killed by his young nephew, who takes the girl and runs away.

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Baslyn attempts to sell the pearls in Manila, but no buyer will even touch them.  Tsao-Chung, the girl’s father, comes to Baslyn’s yacht looking for her, and Baslyn throws him overboard into shark-infested water.

For the rest of the series Baslyn is in flight, believing himself pursued by Tsoa-Chung.  He catches a liner back to the US, makes it to Chicago, then Detroit and finally New York, always seeing a chinese man wherever he goes.  Entering a pearl dealer’s shop, he is confronted and murdered by his pursuer, the brother of Tsao-Chung.

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It’s actually a little disappointing that this quasi-supernatural pursuer has such a rational explanation, though the story does end with them discussing the curse of the pearls, and that the brother was merely the tool, the pearls were the killer.  And the line about “smuggled coolies” being left to drown ends it on a creepy note.

Blood Pearls ran from  New Comics 8  (Sep 36) – New Adventure Comics 13 (Feb 37)

Golden Dragon

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Golden Dragon is, without a doubt, the best serial I have covered so far.  In 31 instalments, from New Comics 6, July 1946 –  Adventure Comics 36, March 1939, it tells the story of a group of Americans hired to deliver guns deep into the Gobi Desert, who use the mission to hunt for the fabled treasure horde of Genghis Khan.  And it even has an ending! An actual, genuine ending!

The story opens with Ian Murray and Ken Cockerill lamenting that their days of training Chinese troops has ended, and their decision to seek out the legendary treasure.  They head to Peking, where they run into Doris Willis and her father, and he hires them to bring weaponry to the Ja-Lama, deep in the Gobi Desert.  They put together a team of other former soldiers – Red Reilly, Bob Walker, Lefty Murphy and the Campbell brothers, Don and Sandy.

While loading up the train, they are approached by Pan Chi-Lou, an emissary of the Chinese government, who they rough up and force to accompany them, though he really doesn’t seem to have a problem with this, and helps them throughout.

The train gets attacked by Mongolian horsemen, lead by Torgadoff, who is the Head Priest of the Golden Dragon, but the Americans are aided, and then accompanied, by a group of Cossack mercenaries.  At this point they also run into Doris again, as she has escaped from Torgadoff, who kidnapped her back in Peking to try to get her father to stop the arms deal.  She joins the caravan as they load up onto camels and head across the desert.

Up to this point the story has moved at much the same pace as other serials, but now it slows down, which surprisingly is a good thing.  Instead of overloading us with events and cliff-hangers, the story builds slowly, gives meaning to the actions and allows itself time to explore the characters to some degree.

The caravan reaches a ruined monastery, which appears deserted, although they notice the temple lamps have been refilled.  A couple of instalments are spent just on making the monastery an eerie location, while allowing the characters to interact with each other, and the start of the romance between Ian and Doris.  Pan Chi-Lou goes missing, and then we see Ian and Doris get captured and taken away through a hidden passageway.

They have been captured by the Ja-Lama and his men, who do not want to have to pay for the weapons shipment, and are intending just to steal it, and who send a small army to attack the monastery.  Ian, Doris and Pan manage to escape and make it back to the monastery, which has successfully been defended, largely due to the efforts of the Cossacks.

Ken is jealous of the burgeoning relationship between Ian and Doris, and makes his own play for her while Ian and Reilly head off on a scouting mission, but get severely rebuffed by Doris.  He is then approached by Torgadoff, who tells him he will give Doris to him if he stands down on guard duty that night, which he does.  Torgadoff’s men enter the camp dressed as skeletons (for no apparent reason, but it does look cool), and capture Doris and the rest of the Americans.  Ken joins them, but is trussed up with a bag over his head and forcibly brought along.

When Ian and Reilly return to the camp, they discover not only are their comrades missing, but that the Mongols have stampeded the camels as well.  The Cossacks still have thier horses, which were taken a distance away from the camp to graze during the night, so they proceed on their quest, though have to leave much of their stuff behind.

They find another monastery deep in the desert, and the only bit of poor continuity occurs.  Oh, sure, there have been a few errors.  At one point there were two Walker brothers, instead of two Campbell ones.  Doris’ last name was Whipple in one chapter, and her hair changed from brown to blonde about halfway through the run, but those are minor.  Pan Chou-Li was established as one of those missing from the camp when Ian and Red returned, but as they reach the second monastery, Pan Chou-Li is suddenly with them, acting as an interpreter.

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The abbot of the monastery allows them to stay, though Torgadoff finds out they are there.  We learn that Torgadoff wants to to take total control of the region, known as the Three Don’t Cares, as its an area not claimed by China, Tibet or “sovietized Mongolia”, but the hub of major trade routes.  The Ja-Lama works for him, but wants to overthrow Torgadoff and rule in his place.  Ken gets drugged, and Torgadoff, still promising him Doris, has him write a letter to Ian warning that Torgadoff will make Doris become the “bride of the Golden Dragon” unless Ian comes alone to give himself up.   Red takes Ian’s place, which infuriates Torgadoff,

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The Golden Dragon itself finally appears, a giant gilded python that Doris is going to be fed to.  Ian arrives, with the Cossacks, and besieges Torgadoff’s fortress, saves Doris, and throws Torgadoff to serpent, then shoots and kills the monstrous snake.

We learn that Ken has been killed by one of the guards, and discover that Pan Chou-Li is the lineal descendant of Genghis Khan and rightful heir to the treasure, which had been “guarded” by the Golden Dragon.  Pan pays for the arms shipment, and also generously rewards the Cossacka and Americans.  Ja-Lama is allowed to homourbaly commit suicide (though this is not stated outright, you can understand easily what is being referred to), and the story concludes with Doris and Ian in a warm embrace.

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Not only is the story above par, the art is as well.  The asians look asian, not like caricatures (ok, the main bad guys do, a bit, but not overly so), the locations are lovely, and I have little doubt that the odd parka-like clothes the Mongolians wear is correct, or at least clearly based on actual clothing.

 

She

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“She” is an adaptation of the classic novel (which I have never read) by H. Rider Haggard. It is well told, and manages to reach the end of the story, running from New Comics 6 (July 1936) – New Adventure Comics 22 (December 1937).

Sadly, the art is really pretty awful.  There are only two good panels in the entire run, both of the title character.  The first is in issue 14, the first time we (and the main characters) meet her, and despite being shown completely wrapped in robes, she looks pretty naked.

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In issue 18 we see her without the robes for the first time – not nearly as naked looking, which is odd.

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Perhaps because She was originally a magazine serial, it fits this format much better than many of the other adaptations that have been run.

The story follows three men, one of whom was orphaned, but left a chest with a scarab ring and relics pertaining to his lineage.  Following the trail of this, they head to Africa and encounter a two thousand year old woman of ethereal beauty, who lives in an elaborate series of caverns in a mountain, around the ruins of the city of Kor.  The orphan, Leo, is the descendant of her long dead lover Kallikrates, and She believes him to be Kallikrates reincarnated.  It is primarily an adnventure story, but there seems to be more depth to it than usual, with themes of love and sacrifice that make me suspect the novel would really be worth reading.

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