Posts tagged ‘Sax Rohmer’

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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!”)

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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.

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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.

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

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Dr. Fu Manchu ends its run in this issue.

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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 18 – Sally pops the question in Spy, Steve Malone begins, and Slam Bradley finds a rocket ship

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Sax Rohmer’s Dr. Fu Manchu becomes the first cover feature, in Detective 18 (Aug 38).  The serial would continue, but never get a cover again.  Probably not a bad thing, looking back.

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This issue also contains one of my very favourite instalments of Spy.  Despite having the ominous title “Death’s Ruby,” Siegel and Shuster provide the reader with a story that verges on situation comedy.  Bart almost proposes to Sally, but backs down.

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Despite holding a job generally considered exclusively male, and having worked as equal partners with Bart, even saving his life more than once, it never occurs to Sally that she might propose to Bart instead of waiting for him.  Fortunately, a never-seen-before-or-since friend suggests exactly that to her.

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So as Bart races around working on his latest case, Sally rushes after him, trying to propose, but being cut off.

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Not that she has given up on being a spy.  She helps Bart take down some agents, if only to try to get some quiet time in which to propose, but that just doesn’t happen.

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And as a delightful twist, Bart winds up proposing to her in the final panel.  Made me laugh, and want to cheer.

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Steve Malone is introduced as “a brilliant young criminal lawyer.”  Oddly, at no point do we ever see him in a courtroom, but he’s too busy chasing down bad guys and having fistfights in biplanes to bother with that stuff.

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In his first story he is approached by the wife of the French ambassador as he emerges from the opera house, and he seems to have a well off background and group of friends.  He solves the ambassador’s murder without even needing the police.  When he does deal with them, they are hugely deferential to him.

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Look at that rocket.  Does it look familiar?  As of this time, the rocket that brought baby Kal-El to Earth had not been shown in detail in the Superman series (although it had been drawn, but those pages were not included in Action Comics 1).  But here it is, the identical rocket, in Slam Bradley.  It even lands in a wheat field!

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In the tale, it was stolen by a scientist from a different inventor, both claiming to be the one who built it.  One scientist is lying about building it, who is to say they both aren’t?  That the one scientist found the abandoned rocket and worked to make it function, only to have it stolen by the second scientist.  Yup, that’s my interpretation, so here, in issue 18, is the debut of Superman’s rocket to Earth.

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Of course, that theory does not hold up for the last few pages of the tale, in which the evil scientist and Shorty get into a fight inside the rocket, which is large enough to hold far more than a Kryptonian baby.  And time-wise, it cannot be the same rocket that would have landed in the 1920’s, to give Clark enough time to grow up.  But visually, it’s the same, and I’m sticking to that!

 

Detective 17 – Dr. Fu Manchu begins, Spy takes on the Klan, Bruce Nelson gets caught smuggling, and we meet Shorty’s twin brother

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In Detective 17 (July 1938) a Dr. Fu Manchu serial begins.  It was written by Sax Rohmer, the author of the original Fu Manchu novels, and partially adapts the first book, The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu.  Likely because the author was involved in it’s creation, it both looks and reads better than any of the earlier adaptations.

The character personified the racist idea of the “yellow peril” to such a degree that the name is still known, even though few have read the books.  And in fact, one of the books is titled “The Yellow Peril.”

Dr. Fu Manchu is evil incarnate, basically, a chemist and poisoner out to bring down both “old” and “new” China and rule it himself.  He controls the opium dens of London, but also has palatial countryside estates spread throughout England.  He is pursued by Dennis Nayland-Smith and his sidekick, Dr. Petrie, as he murders men connected to his past in India, and kidnaps engineers.

Because this is so blatantly a serial, I have summarized the plot of its duration in Detective, and will only give it another entry when it ends.

Well, partly because it’s a serial.  Partly because it’s just so racist.

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For a different take on racism, Siegel and Shuster’s Spy tale in this issue has Bart and Sally infiltrating the “Hooded Hordes,” who are pretty obviously meant to be the KKK.

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It’s a good story, more serious than most in this run.  The only real drawback is that we never see the Hordes behaving in a racist way.  Hard to show a group as evil if you don’t show the evil the group does.

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Bruce Nelson finally gets to headline his own series!  And wouldn’t you know it, “coolie smugglers.”  Just can’t avoid racism in this issue it seems.  The story is set in Africa, and Bruce gets set up, unaware that there are dead asians concealed in his plane.

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On the positive side (race-wise) Bruce has a sidekick in this story, a Zulu who is a capable pilot, with a lot of attitude towards the white smugglers.

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Slam Bradley investigates murders at a radio station in this Siegel and Shuster tale.

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Slam also gets to meet Shorty’s identical twin brother, Sporty.  He mistakes the brother, pulling him over his knee to spank him.  Embarrassing!  Sporty doesn’t seem to really mind, though, eagerly helping out on the case.

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Shorty becomes a minor radio celebrity, but it almost costs him his life.

Sporty, who made a much better second sidekick than Snoop, does not make any further appearances.

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