Posts tagged ‘Siegel and Shuster’

Detective 29 – Batman vs Dr. Death, Crimson Avenger takes a break, Cosmo vs the Avenger, and Slam Bradley goes to Hawaii

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Batman gets his second cover appearance in Detective 29 (July 1939), and the story even matches the picture!

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Batman is given his first recurring villain, Dr. Death, in this story by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.  He has a stylish monocle, an murderous servant, and a taste for killing people.

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There is no notion of a Batcave yet.  Bruce Wayne appears to keep his gear in a trunk in the living room at this point.  We see the utility belt for the first time, and it gets used later in the story.

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Even in this early, and rough, form, Batman still makes for dynamic reading.  And seems to need exotic villains to balance the extreme look of the character.

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Batman strangles the servant, and Dr. Death appears to die in a fire, but in fact returns in the following issue.

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The Crimson Avenger’s series ends with this story, although it returns in early 1940.  After a kidnapping, Lee Travis learns the details of the sounds the victim heard while captive, and uses those to track the bad guys.

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Wing gets a small role in this one, helping the Crimson Avenger escape the burning building at the end.  The final panel announces more adventures for the hero, and I suspect the series was put on hold because it was felt too similar to Batman; and that the boom in heroes was the cause of it’s return.

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Cosmo is pitted against the Avenger, a mad scientist who has developed a weapon that causes a bell tower to collapse, a ship to sink, a dam to burst, and airplanes to fall from the sky.  Cosmo tracks down the scientist, and claims to be an “electric meter inspector” when he approaches him, but does not disguise himself for that, which turns out to be a bad move, as Cosmo is famous enough that the crazed Professor Salvini recognizes him immediately, and almost kills him.

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In fact, if it were not for a stray bullet causing Salvini’s weapon to explode and kill him, Cosmo would have certainly fallen victim to the Avenger.

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Siegel and Shuster are still credited with this Slam Bradley story, but again it looks unusual to me, art-wise.

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Slam receives a note warning him to stay away from Hawaii, which he takes as a challenge.  He and Shorty head there, and meet Betty Clark, whose uncle has disappeared.  She sent the letter, figuring that he would take it as a challenge and come.

Must be an easier way to hire someone.  Like, offer to hire them.

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They get caught up with foreign spies trying incite native revolts, and creepy looking green lepers.

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It’s also worth noting that Slam and Shorty share a bed in this story.  It’s not the first time we have seen this, either.

 

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 27 – Batman debuts, Speed Saunders and the Red Crescent, Bart go solo in Spy, and Cosmo infiltrates human smuggling

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Detective 27 (May 1929) saw the introduction of Batman, or “Bat-Man” as he is labelled in this issue.  Created by Bill Finger and Bob Kane, the character was close enough to the Shadow or Green Hornet to be on familiar ground, but unlike the Crimson Avenger, not so blatantly a rip-off.

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The look of the Batman was heavily inspired by the popular horror films of the time.  Bruce Wayne is introduced at the top of the story, a wealthy young man with nothing better to do with his time than hang out at the Police Commissioner’s office.  Not that Commissioner Gordon appears to mind this.

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Gordon and the police investigate the murder of the owner of a chemical factory, and the Batman appears, doing his own, more rough and tumble, investigation.

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The car he drives is nothing special, other than being sort of vibrantly red.

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Batman finds a secret contract and figures out part of the crime, though not all of it.  He escapes from a gas chamber death-trap, and punches the villain into a chemical vat, commenting that it is a “fitting end for his kind.”

The final couple of panels are sort of charming in their attempt to use cinematic effects.  Batman is explained to be Bruce Wayne, for anyone incapable of figuring that out.

The series would run in Detective Comics for decades, even with some changes in the identity of Batman along the way, until replaced by a Batwoman series for a year after the Batman R.I.P. storyline.

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Speed Saunders case in this issue is just so obvious.  Too obvious. Shame on Guardineer for this one.  Speed is pursuing a murderous cult called the Red Crescent.

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Along the way he meets a woman virtually covered in red crescents.  What a way to conceal your secret cult!

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And in the end, guess what, she is the evil mastermind and leader of the cult.  Who would have guessed?  Sigh.

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Bart goes solo for the first time in this Siegel and Shuster Spy tale.  No mention whatsoever is made of Sally, nor will one ever be, for the rest of his run.

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In this issue Bart tries to keep a bunch of senators from being poisoned, despite the senators being real dorks whose childish behaviour makes the killers job easier.

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I’m including the Cosmo story in here because it’s so awful it just makes me laugh, envisioning it.  To investigate human smuggling from Asia, Cosmo goes in disguise as a Chinese man.

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Despite the story telling us he can speak Chinese, we read the most insulting and stereotypical version of the Chinese accent, and are left believing this was how he spoke in Chinatown.  Amazing they didn’t slit his throat in seconds.

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There is a page of excellent art in this story, showing the barges being used to smuggle people.

 

Detective 26 – Slam Bradley vs artists, Steve Malone heads out, the Crimson Avenger on the run, and Sally says good-bye

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Once again, the art on the Slam Bradley story in Detective 26 (April 1939) looks different.  Siegel and Shuster are still credited, but something is not the same.

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The story is a dark one.  Artists kidnap people and subject them to horrible tortures, so as to copy their expressions.  Slam and Shorty come across them peddling their art.

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Steve Malone, now with no friends or supporting cast, returns for a one issue story.

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He solves a murder pretty quickly.  No need to call the police when the D.A. is on the scene.  Then he is off…to the pages of Adventure Comics.  His series gets a bit of a reboot there, and then returns to Detective just before the end of 39.

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A group of criminals use a phony Crimson Avenger to help cover their tracks in this story, and the phony winds up killing a cop!

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The Crimson Avenger has to find his impersonator while the cops hunt him.  It’s told fairly well.

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Sally Norris makes his final appearance in Siegel and Shuster’s Spy in this story, though no hint of this is in the story itself.

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Bart and Sally are sent out to stop a mad bomber who wants to destroy Congress.  I have doubts about the art, it really doesn’t seem up to par, but Shuster is credited.

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Sally tied to the rocket just looks silly, though.  At least it was an event that was far more extreme than anything else that has happened to her.  Makes it easier to accept that she must have retired from the service.

I suspect that Sally got pregnant.  You can’t embrace that way in every story without a kid coming along eventually.

 

 

Detective 25 – FDR in Spy, Cosmo goes to Canada, and Slam Bradley goes to college

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Franklin Roosevelt makes an appearance in the Spy story in Detective 25 (Match 1939), by Siegel and Shuster.  Bart and Sally are brought to him, blind-folded, both in gratitude of the service, and to commission them to round up a spy ring.

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Sally once more takes the direct route, getting caught stealing their files, so the bad guys will come to them.

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As usual, the couple operate as an equal team,and Bart goes after the tough guys, while Sally takes down the girl with the gun.  I think it’s cute that Bart is too shy to embrace Sally in front of the President, and the fact that almost every story ends that way highlights it.

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Cosmo heads to Canada in this story.  Note the snow, trees, plaid shirts, trees, Mounties, and trees.

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Cosmo uses a bear skin rug to frighten gangsters who have kidnapped a child, first using the paws of the bear to leave tracks in the snow around their cabin, and then actually wearing the rug as a “disguise” to attack them.

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I find the art on this Slam Bradley story odd.  Shorty seems to look younger than normal, and the narration on the splash seems to imply the reader is being introduced to Slam.

This makes me suspect that this might have been an unused strip, the “pilot” for the series.

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On a whim, Slam decides to go to college, and Shorty tags along.  This is the story in which we learn that Slam did not complete high school (nor did Shorty).  They inform the dean that they are detectives, and, clearly startled, he admits them.

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The story then has Slam avoiding and surviving a number of murder attempts.  The dean turns out to be the culprit.  He had been stealing funds, and when Slam announced he was a detective, believed that he was under investigation.

Detective 24 – submarine warfare in Spy, and a future gone mad in Slam Bradley

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The coming war in Europe, and the neutrality of the US, are central to the Spy story in Detective 24 (Feb 39).  Siegel and Shuster avoid specifying which nation is illegally buying arms, but Germany is the obvious inference.

Bart insists that Sally stay behind on this mission, as it involves him working undercover aboard a ship.

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So Sally just books herself a cabin and comes along anyway.  But on the whole, she is less effective in this story than in previous ones.  She does little except get threatened and cry over Bart.  I think I would have preferred him on his own in this piece.

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Both wind up tossed into the sea when their ship gets torpedoed, and the story climaxes with a submarine battle between the US navy and the unnamed European country with lots of subs.  Hmmmm.  Who could it be?

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Siegel and Shuster conclude Slam Bradley’s trip into the future in this story.  It picks up right where it left off, Slam rushing Shorty for help.  Shorty’s life gets saved, but Slam winds up in a gladiatorial match.

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Slam triumphs, but as he has killed the leader of these people, everyone is out to get him, and Slam and Shorty spend the rest of the story running from everyone, eventually making it back to the present.

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Entertaining and off-beat, but I’m glad the series did not continue in this vein.

Detective 23 – Speed Saunders on skis, the Crimson Avenger vs Zombies, Spy investigate dead celebrities, and Slam Bradley heads into the future

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Speed Saunders gets the cover and the lead story in Detective 34 (Jan 39), as he hits the slopes, finding murder on the way down.

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Fred Guardineer has taken over the art on this series, which improves it a bit, although frankly it’s not Guardineer’s best.  The story is ok, mostly action as opposed to detecting.  This was the only time Speed Saunders got a cover appearance.  Between this, and the Crimson Avenger cover last issue, it seems that Detective was looking for something to draw in more readers, but had no series dynamic enough to carry the cover spot.  One was about to come along.

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As for Lee Travis, this issue sees him, as the Crimson Avenger, fighting zombies!

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They are not the flesh eating zombies we know and love, though.  These are actually much closer to the Caribbean original, mindless people enslaved to a madman.

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Once again, the art seems to go up a notch when a car is involved in the scene.

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It’s another darker, more serious tale for Bart and Sally in this episode of Siegel and Shuster’s Spy.  A number of famous and prominent people are murdered, and our heroes are put onto the case.

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There is a scene of Sally in the shower.  Nothing at all is seen, but I still think this would have been pretty risque at the time, especially as one of the bad guy’s goons is searching her room at the time.

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Less banter, and a more competent villain, but Bart and Sally still function as equals throughout this story, even if Bart gets to save the day in this one.

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Siegel and Shuster give a very unusual adventure to Slam Bradley and Shorty in this issue, the first half of a two-part story.

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It begins simply enough, with a scientist who has invented a “time flyer.”  He takes Slam and Shorty with him on a trip to 2 Billion A.D.

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And then it just gets bizarre, with all manner of weird and dangerous creatures, even a flower that almost kills Shorty.

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And for the first time in Slam Bradley’s series, a cliff-hanger ending, as he races to find a cure for Shorty.

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