Posts tagged ‘Radio Squad’

More Fun 87 – Green Arrow fires a rocket-arrow, Dr. Fate – doctor, Aquaman meets Atlanteans and Tubby Watts gets paid to do nothing

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Johnny Quick gets his second cover appearance on More Fun 87 (Jan 43).  He still doesn’t get the lead spot, and Green Arrow resumes his cover features with the next issue.  This is also the final issue with a Radio Squad story, the one early series that stuck around.

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Green Arrow and Speedy wind up in a complex case, which builds to a big prison breakout attempt.  But the plot is not the important thing here, it’s the arrows.

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Up until now the arrows have always been used in the acceptable variety of ways arrows are used – like setting them on fire, or shooting them up as signals.  But in this story, it stretches a little further.  In order to sneak into the prison to get information on the villain’s plans, Green Arrow and Speedy shooted hooked arrows at convicts, reeling them in almost like fish.

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Towards the end of the story, the duo fire off rockets, but Green Arrow specifically calls them Arrow-Rockets, name branding them a la Batman.  But also making this the first trick arrow.

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Some really nice art by Howard Sherman on Gardner Fox’s latest Dr. Fate story.

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Dr. Fate is pitted against a rival, but the doctor is a phony, as Kent susses out in his medical day job.  This issue shows him as a doctor, while most of the issues simply refer to his occupation in passing.

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Some of his powers seem to be back, as he is immune to bullets, and he’s pulled his crystal ball out of storage!

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There are even a couple panels of Dr. Fate underwater, drawn in Sherman’s unique way of expressing that.   A better story than most of the late Dr. Fate tales.

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Atlanteans get introduced in the Aquaman story in this issue.  The ark-type ship shown in the splash page is run by thugs in biker jackets, gathering rare creatures from around the world.  They find an Atleantean man, beat the crap out of him, and throw him in a  cage.

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The reader is treated to a fairly standard telling of the destruction and sinking of Atlantis.  The art makes ancient Atlantis look pretty urban and bland.

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Aquaman discovers Atlantis and meets its inhabitants for the first time – the previous notion of him living in a temple in the abandoned ruins can easily be blended with this.  He mistook an abandoned out-lying settlement for Atlantis proper.

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He frees the captured Atlantean, and throws the men in cages to be displayed to the Atlanteans.  Just temporarily.  So he says.

 

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Tubby Watts gets a more important role than usual, in a convoluted story that sees him paid by criminals to do nothing, part of a scheme to steal a farmer’s land that has oil on it.

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Tubby gets the plot-line, but after a page of being Johnny Chambers, Quick gets into action.

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Meskin is now making the most of the multiple images visual, which also appears on the cover.

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Drawn this way, Johnny has finally become a visually distinct character from the Flash.

 

 

More Fun 73 – Dr. Fate vs Mr Who, Green Arrow debuts, Johnny Quick vs the Black Knight, the Spectre vs the volcano, and Aquaman debuts

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With issue 73 (Nov 41), More Fun Comics became almost entirely super-heroes.  The Spectre, Dr. Fate and Johnny Quick were joined by Green Arrow and Aquaman, and the only other series still going were the long-running Radio Squad, and another Clip Carson adventure, this one in Hunduras.  After his debut, Clip had beaten up Seminoles in the Everglades, and actually helped an Inuit man in Alaska.  In the previous issue, he solved a murder while on vacation at a Dude Ranch in Arizona.  From this story till the end of his run, Clip’s adventures would be scattered around the globe.

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Mr. Who debuts in this Gardner Fox/Howard Sherman tale, another mad scientist, but with enough character to be fun.  And a “Z” solution that allows him to grow to giant size.

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I enjoy the page of Fate fighting with the giant spider, Mr. Who heading out to commit a crime, and leave the hero to die.  Dr. Fate is able to emit energy to free himself, but fights the spider bare-handed.

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Dr. Fate hurls him into the water at the end, but the story leaves open the possibility that he survived – and he most certainly did, appearing in the following issue.

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Green Arrow and Speedy debut, created by Mort Weisinger and George Papp.  Oliver Queen and Roy Harper both have brown hair in this story.  The colours of the two heroes hair, as well as their hats, gloves and boots would alter almost regularly all the way into the 1960s.

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Green Arrow and Speedy are already operating as a team, and mention is made of a previous case.  They already have what would later be called the Arrowcar, but here is termed the Arrowplane.  There would later be an Arrowplane that was an airplane, not a car.

While the obvious inspiration for the character is Robin Hood, in reality more stories and elements would be drawn from the Batman series.  Already there is a boy sidekick, and a vehicle named for the hero.

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The story is a standard mystery.  Murders among a group of historians, who share names with historical figures.  The archery is all straight forward as well, no trick arrows.

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I really like Ed Moore’s art on this Johnny Quick story that pits him against the Black Knight, who mysteriously goes around destroying statues.

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Johnny and Tubby Watts are filming when the Knight goes on a rampage, and Johnny trails him, but gets captured.

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The glass room makes a great trap, and foreshadows the distinctive way speed would come to be shown in this strip – multiple images of Johnny in the same panel.  He escapes and exposes the Knight as a robot, in the control of an unscrupulous art dealer.

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This is the final Spectre story by Jerry Siegel and Bernard Bailey before the series changes irrevocably.  And it has some weird moments, but is about par for the course.  The Spectre series had been inventive, as it was, but rarely lived up to the promise of its premise, at least partly because that was so grim and disturbing.

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Here wer get a story about giant volcanoes popping up in downtown Cliffland, caused by a mad scientist with a teleporter.

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There is a strange page, in which Clarice Winston tries to get Jim to propose, just a few issues after saying they should not be married.  I think we can add this together, as well as her pursuit of Jim so long after he broke it off years ago, can add to show her unstable mental state.

Being attacked by lions likely doesn’t help her in the long run either.

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In the end, the Spectre doesn’t even save the day.  It’s the bad guy’s assistant who sacrifices himself to destroy the villain and the machine.

And the final panel sees a dark foreshadowing.  Percival Popp – the Super-Cop.

What person, who enjoyed the dark, grisly elements of this series about a vengeful ghost looked at that picture and thought, yes, that is exactly what the series needs.

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Aquaman also debuts in this issue.  He’s just sort of swimming around the Atlantic in the middle of a world war, and is on hand when a ship gets sunk by a Nazi U-boat.

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Aquaman plunges into action, whups them Nazis, and they flee.  Then he gets the lifeboat to safety.

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He briefly relates his origin, which is far different from the one we know.  Here is a human, raised by his scientist father in an underwater city that may have been Atlantis.  The father used the science of that kingdom to alter his son, to make his able to live in the sea.

It’s a really cruel story of child abuse and isolation, so it’s no surprise when Aquaman immediately runs away after revealing it.

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As he defeats the nearby Nazis, we also see him use his ability to communicate with fish.

A barely defined character, but a series with a lot of visual potential, and a good name.

 

 

Radio Squad

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Beginning under the name “Calling all Cars”, this was the fourth series created by Siegel and Shuster for DC, debuting in More Fun 11 (July 1936).  Radio Squad refers to a police car equipped with a police band radio, something I guess was new enough in the 30’s to make it exciting.  Sandy Kean is the hero of this series, another rough and tumble man’s man, like the bulk of Siegel and Shuster’s protagonists.

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For the first two years of its run, Radio Squad just had two-page stories, and developed in a very different direction than Federal Men.  Many of the tales had a light-hearted quality to them.  You can almost hear a “whomp-waa” sound over the final panel.  As an example, in issue 25 they see a box fall from the back of a truck.  Sandy retrieves it, and they follow the truck, turning on the siren to alert it.  The truck speeds away, they chase it and run it off the side of the road.  It turns out the driver is smuggling alcohol, but the box that fell off the truck and started it all contained nothing but aspirin.  Whomp-waaa.

The series began with a four part serial dealing with the Purple Tiger Gang.  Sandy pulls over a speeder, who turns out to be the daughter of the Police Commissioner, and spanks her by the side of the road.  She complains to her father, who thinks that she really liked it and probably now has a crush on the cop.  As creepy and disturbing as that all is, it’s also fairly typical for the era.  Anyway, she gets kidnapped (her father likely thought she was super in love with that), and held by the Purple Tiger mob, who are willing to exchange her for all the info the police have on them.  Which, in fact, is nothing.  They’ve never heard of these guys.  But then you wouldn’t expect a criminal organization that would call itself the Purple Tiger Gang to be too on the ball.  Sandy puts together some fake evidence, rigged with an “electrical signalling contrivance” that allows him to follow and apprehend these losers.  The electrical signalling contrivance seems a ridiculously complicated way of saying a bug, but I doubt those even existed at this time, and it would have seemed like something from James Bond.  If he existed at this time.  Which he didn’t.

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Issues 17 -22 (with a gap in issue 20) see a story that expresses a lot of frustration with the legal system.  It begins with a woman calling the police because she is upset that her son gambles.  Sandy responds to the call by physically threatening the boy, and then they head to the casino he frequents and arrest the man who runs it, Dan Bowers.  His lawyers get him off, and he has Sandy brought up on charges of false arrest.  There are a couple of chapters devoted to trials of Sandy, and then Bowers, that are laden with perjury and faked evidence.  Finally the governor himself intervenes, sickened by it all (and Sandy is just as bad as Bowers in the trials), announcing that the legal system is a joke and Bowers should just go to jail anyway.  I’m not sure that having the governor just call off trials and ship people off to prison is an improvement, but Sandy seems happy.

He also gets a partner in that serial, named Jimmy Trent, though his first name would change to Larry after a year or so.  Maybe one of those was a middle name .

From issue 23 on the stories would be all self-contained, leading the series more towards the light-hearted style I mentioned previously.   But issue 23 would also have a greater significance, or so I will argue.

I hereby declare that the Radio Squad story in More Fun 23 (Aug 37) is the first appearance of Lex Luthor.

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The story deal with a red haired scientist who creates giant armoured radio-controlled cars that he smashes into other cars to kill those inside.  He does this out of a twisted sense of vengeance, as his son was killed by a reckless driver, though he kills people at random.  Sandy catches him at the end of the story, but at no point is guy ever given a name.

Lex Luthor would officially debut a few years later, a red haired evil scientist seeking world domination, and never given any back-story at all.  The bald version, with the grudge against Superboy, was the Earth – 1 Luthor, the Earth -2 version only met Superman when they were both adults.

As both the character in More Fun 23 and the original Lex Luthor were drawn by Shuster, it’s not that surprising that they look virtually identical, and I will happy concede that I do not believe Siegel intended them to be the same person when he created the two men, but comic book history is all about filling in the blanks.  This was Lex Luthor, a scientist who went mad with grief over his son’s death, and after a brief prison term after being caught by the Radio Squad, emerged with plans to control all of society, which brought him into conflict with Superman.

OK, back to Radio Squad.

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With issue 33 the stories expand to 6 pages in length, and become more serious, though the series never really reaches the level set by Federal Men.  Sandy and Larry deal with an embezzling banker, a corrupt cop, a pyromaniac fireman, even the criminal son of the Chief of Police, as well as the usual lot of murderers and jewel thieves and such.  They have to disguise themselves as women to catch a man who mugs women – though Larry had to go in drag in a earlier story as well, to catch a man robbing couples on Lover’s Lane.  Larry is so good at doing this he is ordered to do a female impersonation at the Policemen’s Ball.

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Sandy is reckless to a fault.  In issue 40 he rams the police car through two cars set up as a roadblock, to Larry’s horror, and justifies his action by saying “what difference does it make if we die now or forty years later?”  I would not want to be Sandy’s patrol partner.

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In issue 44 they have to deal with a thief who has devised a method of becoming invisible, and cleverly put dye into the sprinkler system, hooking it up to go off when the jewels are removed from their base, exposing the thief.

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In issue 45 Sandy is framed for murder by Dirk Stevens, convicted and sentenced to death, but freed by other policemen on his way to the electric chair.  He tracks down the actual Stevens, who gets mauled by a bear.  Sandy shoots the bear, and in recognition of his attempt to save his life, Stevens writes out a confession before he dies.

With issue 49 Shuster left the series, though Siegel would continue as the writer.

Radio Squad continued, but Sandy Keane was no longer the star of it.  Larry Trent is often given top billing, and was just as likely to save the day as Sandy was in this period.  Jerry Siegel continued scripting, though I am not sure he lasted till the end of the series.  The art was shuffled to different people.  Chad does a few issues, but most are unsigned, which is frustrating. Some have very good art, some have passable, and some are just downright awful.

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The stories remain in the realm of reality for the most part, as Sandy and Larry deal with murderers and thieves.  They get a handful of “creative” villains, such as The Cloak, who is secretly the victim of his bombing and theft campaign, out for insurance, or the Ghost, who uses a glider to rob warehouses from above.  The only one to appear twice was the Leopardess, a jewel thief, though she was never played up as a romantic interest for either of the men.

There is little acknowledgement of the war.  A few stories touch on it, with foreign spies, or a theft of drugs intended for the military.  In one case they prevent the hijacking of relief supplies being shipped to Europe, but that’s the extent of it.

A few of the villains have weaponry that is a little beyond the norm.  The Storm Raiders have a gun that shoots bolts of electricity, and the Evil One has a paralysis ray gun.  Satan, who named himself that because of a facial disfigurement, devises an arsenic gas gun.

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Larry, not Sandy, is the one to get a girlfriend during the run.  Issue 64 deals with the sinking of a pleasure boat full of children.  Larry rescues young Timmy, and meets his sister, Lorna Drake.  The next issue has a tale about juvenile delinquents being used by mobsters.  Timmy falls into danger, and Lorna calls on Larry for help.

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In the following story in which they get a new radio car.  Up until now their car was designated  “X-7,” but it gets rammed into a telephone pole during the course of the tale, and at the end Sandy is driving a new car as Larry and Lorna flirt.  Later issues will reveal that they are now in “Car 54.”

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Anyway, back to Lorna.  Issue 67 has a complicated but rewarding tale, which opens with a drive-by shooting of an FBI agent.  It’s Lorna’s birthday, and while investigating the shooting, Larry buys a curio from a reluctant antiques dealer, whose shop the murder occurred outside of.  The curio contains stolen plans, and we are suddenly immersed in international espionage, with the Evil One and his paralysis ray gun, attempting to find and murder Prince Ivor, the exiled ruler of his nation.  It turns out Timmy is really Prince Ivor, and Lorna has been sheltering him.

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Issue 68 reveals that Lorna works at a “settlement house,” which seems to be a place for troubled kids.  Larry beings her Teddy, an orphan boy hanging out at the waterfront (and witness to a crime) to take care of.

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Lorna’s final appearance is in issue 73, as we meet her friends, Sparky and Emma, brother and sister rodeo riders.  The story has Larry briefly get jealous of Sparky, so it’s safe to assume his relationship with Lorna is continuing solidly, if off-panel.

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In their final appearance in More Fun 87 (Feb 43) they deal with a sound effects man and his ventriloquist partner, who use phony radio dispatches to take the police far from the sites of actual crimes.

Neither Sandy Keane nor Larry Trent make any further appearances after their series concludes.  But I think these guys did a bang-up job in their seven years patrolling the streets, and I’m sure they were promoted to detectives at this point.

More Fun Comics 11 – a cover change

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With issue 11 of More Fun Comics (July 1936), the cover changes from having a strip to a generic image.  That had evolved over the previous two issues, but with this issue the lettering on the logo changed slightly, and the three horizontal bars became the defining style of this, and all other, DC books from the Golden Age.  The cover would continue to display generic imagery until the debut of the Spectre in1940.

Two new series would also debut in this issue, which will be the subjects of my next two blog posts.

So as of More Fun Comics 11, the line-up consisted of:

Sandra of the Secret Service

Spike Spaulding

Jack Woods

Ivanhoe

Don Drake on the Planet Saro

Barry O’Neill

Wing Brady

Along the Main Line

Dr. Occult

Buckskin Jim

Brad Hardy

Midshipman Dewey

The Three Musketeers

Little Linda

2023: Super Police

In the Wake of the Wander

Treasure Island

Radio Squad

Bob Merritt and his Flying Pals

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