Posts tagged ‘New Fun Comics’

More Fun Comics 7 – a title change


With issue 7 (Jan 36), New Fun Comics becomes More Fun Comics.  Because they thought that was an improvement?

It is invariably stated that the reason behind the title change was to avoid “confusion” with their second title, New Comics.  But one really has to wonder about that.  The cover logos of the two books were radically different.  And up to this point, New/More Fun was always running a strip on it’s cover, which New Comics did not do, so where did the confusion lie, exactly?

As well, the change is subtle.  Just the alteration of the word in the band across the corner, not particularly prominent.

Whatever the logic behind it, the comic would retain the name, More Fun Comics, for the remainder of it’s run, although the logo design, and the format, would undergo changes.

And of all the titles of all the books DC has ever published, I think More Fun Comics is the worst.  Not the book itself, just the title.

I have already discussed the various series that appear in this issue, nothing new debuted in it, but as a recap, the contents included:

Little Linda

Sandra of the Secret Service

Brad Hardy

Don Drake on the Planet Saro

In the Wake of the Wander

Barry O’Neill

Bob Merritt and his Flying Pals


Buckskin Jim

Along the Main Line

Wing Brady

Henri Duval

Dr. Occult

Ramblin Jim

Jack Woods

Magic Crystal of History

Treasure Island

Spike Spaulding

Midshipman Dewey

2023: Super Police














Dr. Occult


Dr. Occult is the earliest DC character that continues to make appearances in the comics, at least occasionally.  Another Siegel and Shuster creation, he is sometimes considered the first super-hero, though he had no powers for the most part, just some intriguing weapons and a lot of attitude.  His series began in New Fun 6 (Oct 35).


Sometimes billed as a “Ghost Detective”, Dr. Occult’s series begins with a three-part story pitting him against the Vampire Master.  He first uses his mystic symbol in this story, which looks quite different from how it would appear in much later stories.  In these early tales it mildy resembles a small crucifix in size, but in shape it’s a little more like the top of a corkscrew.


After a one issue tale that sees him defeat a serial killer who believes he can extend his own life by murdering others, he has another three part tale dealing with a woman who turns the destitute boarders in her rooming house into werewolves.  In this storyline we meet his butler, Jenkins.


Dr. Occult then plunges into his most unusual adventure, travelling to another realm where he aids the mystical beings known as the Seven against Koth, an ancient alien invader.  Dr. Occult is aided by an inhabitant of this realm, Zator, and by the end of the serial is wearing a red cape and tights (looking almost like Superman), wielding a sword and using a belt that enables him to fly, and also to turn people into stone.


With issue 18 he has returned to his trenchcoat, and begins his last, and longest, serial, facing a mad doctor who claims to have invented a ray of life.  He has people killed, then restores them to life with the ray, which must be used each month to keep them alive, effectively enslaving them.  Dr. Occult arranges to be killed himself, and once in the doctor’s clutches figures out that it is all an elaborate scam.  The supposedly dead people have been poisoned into a coma, and the ray has no real effect.  Those who try to defy him are simply poisoned again.  When Dr. Occult reveals this, the slaves turn against the doctor and literally tear him apart.


This storyline sees not only a new butler for Dr. Occult, Custer, but also the only appearances of Rose Psychic in the series.  Here she is simply his girlfriend, in chaste fashion, and despite her evocative name has no powers or real importance.


The Ray of Life serial concludes in issue 23, and for the rest of his run, Dr. Occult has only single issue tales, pitting him against vampires, zombies, a snake god and its worshippers, and other supernatural foes.  In all of these he is accompanied by Detective Captain Ellsworth, a no-nonsense cop who turns to Dr. Occult whenever a case seems to have something unusual about it.


Interestingly, in issue 24 Dr. Occult squares off against a painter who kills people by doing things to their paintings, and whose name is Henri Duval!  No connexion is made between this character and the other Siegel and Shuster series of the same name.


In his last few appearances, Dr. Occult manifests some vague powers.  Simply by waving his hand he can possibly transform objects (although he claims that this was an illusion) and collapse walls.


His series ended in More Fun 32 (June 1938), the same month Superman debuted.  Dr. Occult would next appear in the pages of All-Star Squadron, nearly 5o years down the road, and though he would never (to date) get an ongoing series again, he will have a few one-shot stories that will be covered in the appropriate periods.


Henri Duval


The lesser of the two Siegel and Shuster series to begin in New Fun 6 (Oct 35), Henri Duval is a French nobleman fighting to protect the King at some point in history.  The king’s enemies disguise themselves as musketeers, so let’s guess that his is meant to be set at the same time as The Three Musketeers, and the king is Louis XIII.  Perhaps if the series had not ended so quickly we would have found out for certain.


Henri fights to protect the king, but is captured by the phony musketeers and imprisoned, and the series ends in More Fun 10 (May 1936).  I guess Henri dies in prison.


All the Siegel and Shuster series feature a virtually identical looking hero – you really cannot tell Henri Duval from Dr. Occult, Slam Bradley or Clark Kent, except for what they are wearing.  But I have to say the art style really fails to capture the look of royalist France.



Along the Main Line


This series features two engineers for the Red Island Railroad, Ed and Jake.  Their first five stories, beginning with New Fun 5 (Aug 35), are all simply one-issue long, most only one page long.  Despite a strong start, in which they get a derailed boxcar off the tracks before an express train collides with it, they are more likely to have adventures along the lines of milking a goat so a woman can get milk for her baby.  Yes, that happens.  That’s the whole story.


With issue 9 a serial begins that continues through to the end of the run.  Ed and Jake are captured at a station, forced to use the telegraph to pass a message to bank robbers, tied up and thrown in a cave.  They escape before the dynamite in the cave explodes, but fail to stop the robbery.  When they go to the owner of the railroad, they get fired, but they are surprised that he knows about the robbery so quickly after it happened.


So Ed and Jake set out to clear their names, and get a federal agent, Malvern, working with them.  The story winds up with a fairly exciting chase with two trains and a biplane involved.  They capture two gunmen, but the main bad guy, Slick Carter, still gets away.  The fed follows them to a tramp steamer, and joins them, but Ed and Jake have been left behind on shore.


As the series ends at this point, in More Fun 19 (March 1937), it seems poor Ed and Jake do not get their jobs back, and do not even get to be around to see what happens when Malvern confronts Slick Carter.  Maybe Malvern should have had a series instead of Ed and Jake.



Treasure Island


OK, I should start by saying this is another classic that I do not know, although I do believe I started to read it once.  I remember something about apples, and that you come to your destination when there are no apples left in the barrel.  But as far as I recall the story began on a ship, and this adaptation certainly doesn’t.


Beginning in New Fun 5 (Aug 35), it spends most of its length on land, at the Admiral Benbow Inn.  There is a treasure map, and Long John Silver, and Jim Hawkins.  In the second last instalment they all finally get onto a ship, and in the final one they sight land just as Jim gets an apple from the bottom of the barrel (which makes me think I did start reading the novel).  But that’s it.  They see Treasure Island and they are done, in More Fun 11 (July 1936).


Which leads me to think (nay, hope) that the novel continued past this point, and the serial was just abandoned.


As with Ivanhoe, there are pictures with narration across the bottom, not real dialogue.  The art is not bad, but the artist chose very dull stuff to illustrate at times.  There is one page, shown above,  that consists of nothing but people walking and meeting each other.  No wonder they don’t even land before it ends.


Bob Merritt and his Flying Pals


Bob Merritt is definitely the star of this serial, which began in New Fun 5 (Aug 35).  Of his “Flying Pals”, only the youngest, Dicky Saunders, gets a significant role.  Buzz, Shorty and Tex are quite interchangeable. It took me an embarrassingly long time to notice that Bob flies an early version of a jet, while everyone else is in biplanes.  I think that is because his jet, the Bumblebee, is such a weird looking craft.  It’s just far too short for an airplane.

The series opens as Bob signs a deal with financier Cyrus Campbell to build more of these weird new planes.  Cyrus promptly gets shot, and at the same time evil asians capture Prospector Jake, and send an impersonator to Bob to tell him of Jake’s gold mine.  Considering that the evil asians want the mine to themselves, I really have no idea why they bothered with the impersonator, and just didn’t let Bob know about the mine at all.  But they did.


Once the real Prospector Jake gets free, the impersonator tries to kill Bob, aided by Bob’s houseboy Fernando.  Fernando’s complicity in the attack is not uncovered, and Bob merrily reveals his plans to pursue the asians back to the mine that he wouldn’t even know about if they hadn’t told him in the first place.

Perhaps I should interject here that the art on this series is just stunningly beautiful at times.  Which makes up for a story that is just going to get worse.


Bob and his Flying Pals head north to Alaska, stopping briefly in Edmonton, Alberta.  I was thrilled about this, though a little dismayed that the city is shown with mountains towering behind it.  You cannot see the mountains from Edmonton.  Not even if you’re Bob Merritt.

Bob and crew are also being trailed by gangster Monk Morton, who wants the mine for himself.


In Alaska, they find a volcanic crater topped by a huge cloud that can emit tendrils that will bring down a plane.  How this works is never explained, but apparently the evil asians are behind it, as they grab young Dicky Saunders when his plane is destroyed by the cloud.  The asians have been inside the volcano for quite some time, it seems, as this is the location of the gold mine and they have huge piles of it already mined.


Bob finds a way into the dormant volcano, and is briefly captured by the asians before he can free himself and Dicky.  Meanwhile, Monk Morton has decided to blow up Merritt’s base camp.  Dicky heads though a tunnel to cut the wires on the explosives while Bob heads back to camp to warn his men, while the asians take to the air to bomb the camp.

The aerial battle scenes are disappointing, visually.  The stuff in the caverns is so much more interesting to look at.  Bob wins the day in the air with his weird little plane, while Dicky succeeds in defusing the bombs.  Bob flies back into the crater, avoiding the cloud tendrils, aiming to stop the asians from leaving with the gold, but gets shot.


And that’s it.  The final instalment, More Fun 30 (April 1938),  ends with Bob being shot.  So much for Bob.

There aren’t many of the nebulous asians left at this point, and their planes have been shot down.  Bob’s Flying Pals seem mostly useless, so I’m wagering that its Monk Morton and his men who triumph in the end, wiping out the asians and the Flying Pals, grabbing the gold, and heading south as millionaires.



Ramblin Jim


This brief series is another in the Little Orphan Annie style, though with a very young boy as the protagonist.  Ramblin’ Jim debuts in New Fun 3 (April 1935), and appears to be no older than 5 or 6, and lives in a shack in the mountains with an old man.  He likes to exclaim “jumping jelly beans” – like Annie’s “leaping lizards”.

In the first six instalments the two of them subdue a gangster, Fishy.  This storyline ends in More Fun 8 (Feb 36), and then it seems they weren’t sure where they wanted to put the series.


He next appears in New Comics, meeting a reporter, Click Allen, and the following month, back in More Fun 10 (May 1936), Jim relates his backstory to Allen.  We learn he is the son of a widowed explorer, Craig Hunter, who ran away from an abusive guardian while his father was off on a long expedition.


Ramblin Jim’s final appearance, almost a year later in New Adventure Comics, has already been covered in this blog.


Brad Hardy


Brad Hardy is what I would term fantasy, or sword and sorcery, though I don’t think either of those terms existed at this period.  I am sure it follows some theme of pulp novels of the time, though I am not familiar with any that are like this.  It started its run in New Fun 3 (April 1935).


After Lorraine Lewis is kidnapped by the forces of the Underground Kingdom, Brad goes to rescue her, finding an ally in Prince Karados.  Together they wind up in the midst of a battle between Snake Men and Rat Men, find Lorraine in the hands of the Black Magician of Dre, free her but lose her again when she is captured by Wicked King Marius of the Grey People.


Their quest for Lorraine gets delayed when they wind up in the hands of Claudia, Queen of the Underwater City of Melronia.  She forces Brad to do battle to prove himself worthy of being her king, and though he succeeds, he and Karados escape as soon as they can, and finally make it to the castle of the Grey People.


The serial ends in More Fun 31 (May 1938), just as Brad is about to kill Pongo, the leader of their army.  So perhaps he succeeded in killing Pongo, but I guess the guards burst through the door and killed Brad and Karados, and Lorraine was forced to marry King Marius and become a Wicked Queen.


The oddest thing about this series, for me, is that although it begins with Brad heading underground, and he continues from place to place without ever ascending back to the world we know, he winds up in forests and mountains and underwater cities, all apparently still underground, though it never actually appears that way.  The spare art – and the fact that most of the series is in black and white, makes it easy to forget this oddity.




In the Wake of the Wander


In the Wake of the Wander, which begins in New Fun 3 (April 1935),  features Captain Grim and his present day adventures in the south Pacific.  He appears to be in the US navy, though we will eventually learn that his seafaring days began in British navy.


Issues 3 – 15 relate a tale of tribal warfare and “the death that leaves no mark”, on the island of Nessing.  Captain Grim learns of an entire crew that has gone missing on the island, and heads to investigate.  There is a white trader, Filson, working with the under-chief, Kango, to overthrow Djenal, the leader of the island, but the reasons behind the actions of the characters is never really explained.


The series changes title somewhat for its last few instalments, becoming Sea Gold, as Captain Grim recounts a story from his youth on a British masted ship.  It builds towards a mutiny story, but the series concludes before the storyline does, in More Fun 19 (March 1937).


A shame, I really like the title In the Wake of the Wander.  Wish I could rave about the series itself, but I can’t.



Spike Spaulding


Spike Spaulding is a very Tintin-like series, marred irrevocably by extremely racist art. It began in New Fun 3 (April 1935). Spike’s best friend, Pincus, looks more like an animal than a human being.  It’s truly unfortunate, because aside from the art, the two boys deal with each other as equals – in fact no one treats Pincus any differently than they treat Spike.


The series has only long story, a Prisoner of Zenda tale that sees Spike kidnapped by Count Alex and Ruppo and brought to Patrania as part of a plot to overthrow King Philip (who looks exactly like Spike, if you aren’t familiar with the Zenda plot).  Pincus follows, and stows away on the ship to help his friend, and an unnamed sailor in a red and white striped shirt helps the boys get to shore, disguise themselves, make it to the castle and destroy Count Alex’s plot.  He even manages to get King Philip’s sister to fall in love with him, and stays behind, presumably to marry her, when the boys leave to return to the US, all without ever getting a name.


Spike and Pincus are rewarded with $10,000 for foiling Count Alex’s plans, and return home to their relieved families.  In the last instalment, in More Fun 30 (April 1938),  the kids head to school (and it appears they attend the same school, which I didn’t think was done at this period in the US).  Spike’s uncle George receives a letter he finds surprising, but as the series ends here, we never know what that was about.


Still, at least the series ended on a positive note, and Spike wasn’t sacrificed like poor Midshipman Dewey.


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