Posts tagged ‘Slam Bradley’

Detective 500 – 4 Batman stories, two of them team-ups, scads of detectives, and Elongated Man and Hawkman end

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Many anniversary issue build themselves up as being something really special, but few live up to their promise.  Detective 500 (March 1981) is one of the rare ones.  It’s not all gold, but enough of it is.

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The first story, by Alan Brennert and Dick Giordano, bring us to a parallel world, where a new Batman is about to be born.

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The Phantom Stranger brings Batman and Robin to this world, seemingly so that Bruce will have the opportunity to prevent his parents’ deaths.

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They find this world similar, but different.  James Gordon is still just a lieutenant, and Barbara , though a librabrian, is his fiancee, not his daughter.  Bruce is hunting for information on Joe Chill, while Dick discovers that this is a world with no heroic legends, no caped heroes, nothing to inspire heroism.

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Observing the Waynes, we see that Bruce is hardly a baby hero, more like a rich spoiled brat, but Batman is blind to this.

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Batman’s pursuit of Joe Chill, who on this world is not even from Gotham, and just arriving in the city, brings him into conflict with Gordon, but Batman manages to convince him that they are friends on another world.

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His search for Chill has raised such flags that the man is murdered by the Gotham mobs.  Batman learns that the planned murder of the Waynes is happening sooner than he expected – he had not counted the extra days from leap years.

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Robin, who has been watching the Waynes, sees the murder about to occur, and struggles within himself, thinking that is might be meant to be; but Batman swoops in saves the day, his parents, and himself.

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The Phantom Stranger takes the heroes back to their own world, and they are left to wonder what will become of Bruce, but the reader gets to see the impact the attempted murder had, and that even with his parents alive, young Bruce is on the road to becoming Batman.

Sadly, this is not a parallel world we ever visit again.

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Slam Bradley gets the billing, but this story, a re-write of a Batman tale from the 40s, by Len Wein and Jim Aparo, is pretty much a free for all with a vast line-up of detectives.

They are all at a celebration for an older detective, who gets murdered in front of them.

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The original version of this story has Batman working with a number of detective based on famous fictional ones from the era.  This story brings Slam Bradley, Jason Bard, Captain Compass, Mysto, Pow-Wow Smith, the Human Target and Roy Raymond together on the case.

For Captain Compass, Mysto, Pow-Wow Smith and Slam Bradley, this the first time the character appeared since the end of their own series.

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There are leads in a number of directions, which allow the detectives to split up and pursue them in smaller groups.  The story gives everyone at least one moment to shine, and they wind up stopping a number of bad guys.

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Slam suspects there is more to the case, and it’s Roy Raymond who provides the real solution, that this was an elaborate suicide, designed to prompt the men to tidy up some hanging cases of his.

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Jason Bard and the Human Target both return in the pages of Detective within the next couple of years, while Roy Raymond pops up in DC Comics Presents.  Many of the rest have their next, and final, appearances in Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Slam Bradley returns a little after Crisis, returning to the pages of Detective for one story.

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The next story in the issue is a wonderful 2-pager, by Len Wein and Walt Simonson, that uses Snoopy’s “It was a dark and stormy night…” as it’s text.  Clever, and visually gorgeous.

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The Elongated Man gets his final solo story in this book, by Mike W Barr and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez.  As well as being a decent mystery story on its own, it delves into the facts around the death of Edgar Allen Poe.

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Chiefly, the identity of the mysterious “Reynolds” that Poe called out for shortly before dying.  The story has to do with a letter explaining who Reynolds was, and leading to an unpublished magazine by Poe.

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Garcia-Lopez’s art is great, and Ralph and Sue are always fun to read about.

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One of his best mysteries, this is also the Elongated Man’s last solo story until his miniseries in the 90s.

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On the downside of the issue, there is this text story by Walter Gibson, with some scattered art by Tom Yeates.  I recall reading this as a kid, but not finding it particularly memorable.  And I dislike text stories like this in comics.  If I’m going to read a book, I’ll read a book.  I read comics for the visuals.

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Hawkman also has his last solo story in Detective in this issue.  Well, kind of a solo, really he and Hawkgirl get equal roles.

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Paul Levitz and Joe Kubert helm this tale, that sees Katar and Shayera trying to solve the mystery of the death of a scientist many years earlier.

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There’s some great Kubert art, and the story itself is not bad, but it’s a bit of a tease.

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At the end, Hawkman reveals that the scientist whose death they were investigating was Dr. Erdel, who had died after bringing the Martian Manhunter to Earth.  J’onn had blamed himself, and Hawkman wanted proof that it was not J’onn’s fault.

Hawkman’s next solo outing is the Shadow War of Hawkman miniseries.

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The final story in this issue was also a let-down to me.  Even moreso, as it’s a Batman/Deadman team-up, and those had been above average stories, on the whole.  But Carmine Infantino’s art is not what it was, and Cary Bates’ story doesn’t help much either.

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Pursuing some criminals, Batman gets killed.  Sort of.  Almost dead.  Robin is really stressed, but Deadman shows up and decides to inhabit Batman’s body to bring his killers to justice.

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Oops, someone spilled a plate of scrambled eggs on the comic.  Oh, wait, that’s Infantino’s art for showing Batman and Deadman conversing on the astral plane.

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Deadman moves Batman around and catches the bad guys, and doing so ignites the spark that brings him back to life.  A shame this story closed the issue.  It would have done less damage buried in the middle.

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Detective 152 – Batman vs the Goblin, Slam Bradley ends, and Pow-Wow Smith’s first case

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It’s definitely Vicki Vale on the cover for Detective 152 (Oct. 49), and she is even in the Batman and Robin story inside!  The scene pictured does not happen, but her photographs are central to the story.

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The Bob Kane story introduces the villain, the Goblin, and then follows Vicki as she attempts to photograph Batman with three men whose lives he saved.  When the photo gets sabotaged, Batman figures out that one of the three must be the Goblin.

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From there it becomes a chase for the negative to the picture, and Vicki getting kidnapped.  Batman gets a severe head injury, but saves her and reveals the Goblin.  I love the last few panels, showing that Vicki has no problem throwing herself at both Batman and Bruce Wayne.

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Slam Bradley’s long running series comes to an end in this issue, and Slam is barely even in the story.  Instead, it’s all about Shorty, and his younger, but taller, brother Tiny.  Howard Sherman provides the art.

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Look, there’s Slam!  Standing around while Shorty commands the story.  This page has the most Slam Bradley on it of any page in his final story.  Shorty’s comic hijinks were the meat of the series now.

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I think Slam must have gone into retirement at this point, leaving the agency to Shorty.  He’d been at it a full eleven years at this point.  Slam Bradley would not return until Detective 500, in 1980.

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Pow-Wow’s first case, with art by Infantino, clearly causes him some inner turmoil.

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He is meant to compete in a sort of native version of the Olympics, but Jimmy summons him to go help round up some train robbers.

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He winds up enlisting the braves of his tribe to help, and the take down of the train robbers is impressively done.  Then, knowing he could win the honour of being the greatest brave, by moving a boulder he had already moved, he declines to do so, choosing to lose.

But why?  The story is mute on this, but the only action he has taken during the course of the story that could account for this is abandoning the contest to go get the thieves.  He must feel deeply torn about this.

Detective 124 – The Joker listens to the radio, Slam Bradley comes to Canada, and the Boy Commandos lose one member and gain another

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A horrible cover for Detective 124 (June 1947), but the Joker story is better than his previous two outings in this book.

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Edmond Hamilton scripts and Bob Kane pencils this story, in which the Joker decides to base his new series of crimes on the top song of the day, as announced on the radio.

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Batman realizes the Joker’s crimes must have been planned before the songs were announced, and that the Joker is having his men send in votes for the winning song.

The unusual thing, for me, in this scene is that the votes are sent in by mail.  I assume this is an accurate detail from how the hit parade was chosen in 1947, but it relies on a really prompt mail service.

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So Batman and Robin try tracking the letters, but fail to stop the Joker, instead having to battle him amidst a huge electrical display, corresponding to the song “Stormy Weather.”

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Slam Bradley comes to Canada in this story.  The only remaining series that began in Detective 1, Slam Bradley’s series has not had any stories with interesting enough plot or story for me to mention for an awful long time.  Shorty’s role in the series increased, to the point where the stories are often more comedic than serious.  But a Canada story is always interesting, in the hopes of seeing something other than snow, trees, mounties and french lumberjacks.

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This story has snow, trees, mounties and french lumberjacks.  Figuring that their chances of catching an escaped felon would improve if they became mounties, Slam and Shorty ask to join for a limited time, and are allowed to.

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So then we get Shorty is the dress reds, which are far too big for him.  While the french lumberjacks are laughing, Slam catches the bad guy.

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The Boy Commandos are asked to be in a movie, filming in England, in this Curt Swan story.

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As soon as they arrive, Alfy gets a letter from his aunt (the one who refused to let him stay with her), informing him that she has enrolled him in Oxford.  He wants to stay with the team, but Rip insists he get an education.  Poor Alfy wanders off, but before the page is done, his replacement, Tex, is being introduced.

At least the fact that he is being enrolled in Oxford indicates that the “boys” are now adult age, despite not being drawn that way.

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Rip, Pierre and Brooklyn wind up stopping a plot to steal the crown jewels, aiding by Tex, a rodeo rider who also happens to be in England, and Tex is invited to join the team.

Alfy does appear again, in the following month’s issue of Boy Commandos, which retells the change in team membership.

Detective 68 – Two-Face – part 2, evil Japanese in Boy Commandos, Air Wave gets promoted, and Slam Bradley reads Shakespeare

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The saga of Two-Face continues in this Finger/Kane/Robinson collaboration from Detective 68 (Oct. 42).  The story picks up immediately after the conclusion of the story from issue 66, as if there had never been an issue 67.

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A policeman bursts in, interrupting Batman as he tries to talk Two-Face back to sanity.  Harvey flees, and continues his crime spree.  In this story, he goes after people who use doubles, such as a reclusive millionaire who uses a double to handle social functions.

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Harvey takes a break from this to attempt to re-unite with Gilda.  He pretends that his face has been cured, but is simply using make-up, and when it begins to run he goes berserk and attacks the make-up artist, whose son then seeks vengeance on Harvey as well.

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So it becomes quite a complicated story by the time it reaches an end, and Harvey is apprehended by Batman.  The saga is not quite done, though, and there is a third, and final, chapter to this within a year.

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A very anti-Japanese piece of propaganda in the Boy Commandos tale from this issue.  Simon and Kirby open the story at sea, as the Boy Commandos and Rip Carter survive their ship being bombed by Japanese fighters.

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The boys rescue a Japanese pilot, and together they all land on a Pacific island with really clued out natives. The pilot and the Boys then become rivals for the loyalty of the natives.

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While the pilot uses science to convince the natives he has magic powers, the Boys decide to put on a show instead.

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Broadway is not for them, and the natives side with the Japanese, until Rip shows up leading a rescue/assault.

The story closes with the edifying moral – the only good jap is a dead jap.  No grey areas here.

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Air Wave gets a promotion in this story.  While a mere two issues ago Larry Jordan became an assistant D.A., as of this story he is the District Attorney himself!  Quite the rapid rise for a clerk.

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For what must be his first case in his new position, he prosecutes an old childhood friend for murder.

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Only after he has obtained a conviction does Larry get into his Air Wave outfit, round up his parrot sidekick Static, and set out to find information that will clear his friend.

Although on the surface it would appear that Larry should have done this before bringing charges against the guy, on reflection we can see that Air Wave had a more elaborate plan in mind, proving to everyone that he is above corruption as a D.A. and willing to send his friend to prison.  Shame that an innocent man had to sit in prison while the scheme was in play.

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The Slam Bradley story in this issue, with art by Howard Sherman, has the hero and Shorty stumble across hoods using notes in margins of books to pass each other messages.  Their larger scheme is to rob a diamond exchange next to the book store.

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The reason I have included this story is that the criminals use, among other things, a Shakespeare play to write their notes in.  Many Slam Bradley stories from this period have him quoting Shakespeare.

This might seem like an unusual habit for a tough guy hero like Slam Bradley, but in fact it simply shows the influence of Raymond Chandler, whose tough guy hero, Phillip Marlowe, often quoted Shakespeare as well.

 

 

 

Detective 62 – the Joker goes vaudeville, Air Wave vs Mr. Mystery, and Slam Bradley goes to the fair

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Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson put together a tale in Detective 62 (April 1942) that likely was more fun when it came out.

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An aging comedian has died, and left clues to his fortune to a number of his comedian friends.  The way they are all introduced, in the long panel, indicates that they must have been based on real comics of the time, now forgotten.

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The Joker starts killing off the comedians and stealing their clues.  The Bat Signal, still new, gets a prominent place in the page it’s used on.

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The Joker has the opportunity to unmask Batman in this story, but chooses not to, so that the game will go on.  That same scene will play out many time over the decades.  This is also one of the last stories with a murderous Joker, until the 1970s.

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The splash page to the Air Wave story in this issue appears to be at least partly done after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, with the “America at War”  blurb along the side.  But I have no idea what to make of Uncle Sam pouring out a bag of money.  Neither the image nor the statement have anything at all to do with the story.

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Instead, Air Wave contends with Mr. Mystery, a gang leader who turns out to be the one-legged mayor of the city Larry Jordan lives in!

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Some very nice Howard Sherman art as Slam Bradley and Shorty head to a fair run by an old friend, who is being forced to use unionized clowns.

Yes, unionized clowns are the root of this story.

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As one might expect, the union bosses are all gangsters, but the clowns themselves turn out to be criminals as well.

Detective 59 – the Penguin returns, Wing gets a costume, Steve Malone ends, and Slam Bradley gets an agency

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Robin is really happy to not be involved in the action on the cover of Detective 59 (Jan. 42).  Perhaps he was tired from the events of the Batman story in the issue.

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The Penguin returns in this story by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson.  The story picks up immediately after the conclusion of last issue’s tale, as the Penguin meets the various other companions of the boxcar he escaped town in.

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When he realizes that so many of them have rewards out for their capture, he devises a scheme to turn them in, collect the reward, and then have other members of the group break them out of jail.

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Batman gets onto his scheme and breaks it up.  He uses a crime file in this story, very rudimentary, though of course snazzy for the era.  Batman also relies on the normal radio for news alerts.

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In this instalment of the Crimson Avenger Wing suddenly gets a costume as well, if not a codename.  His outfit matches the Crimson Avenger’s though with the colour scheme reversed, much like the way Kid Flash’s reversed the Flash’s colour scheme.  As his crest he has something stylized, which for many years I thought might be a “7”, or perhaps a question mark.  Now I realize it is a letter, probably Chinese.  I wonder what it means?

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Crimson Avenger and Wing started appearing in Leading Comics as part of the Seven Soldiers of Victory at this time.  His team would never get mentioned in the pages of his own series.  Odd, considering that Batman was mentioned in this strip, along with the Joker and the Penguin.

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As well as a costume, Wing seems to have changed his body, as well as his ability to speak English.  He is shorter and thinner than he used to be, and his face now an Asian caricature.

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In his final story Steve is called to the home of a wealthy retired judge with a gambling son and a niece begging for money for her husband.  When the judge is killed, Steve figures out that its the jewelled-earring wearing nurse who was the killer, not the money hungry youths.

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Steve Malone’s series ends at this point, and his character is never seen again, but after such a high-profile career I would expect that Steve went into politics and had a long and lucrative tenure in Washington D.C.

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Howard Sherman has been doing the art on Slam Bradley’s series for a while now.  The stories have been decent, but none had anything that made them stand out.  Slam continues to frequently take on manly jobs as he solves crimes with Shorty providing comic relief.

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In this story, we are told, for the first time, that Slam and Shorty work for the Wide-Awake Detective Agency.  It is never given that name again, though.

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The story involves a casino that has its winning patrons robbed on the way home.  Slam is hired by one of the victims, and infiltrates the casino, causing a big ruckus and bringing down the house.

 

 

Detective 39 – Robin in Chinatown, Red Logan and the snake, Speed Saunders gets a sidekick, Cliff Crosby in Florida, and Slam Bradley in Paris

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Robin joins Batman in action on the cover of Detective 39 (May 1940), although the image does not reflect the story inside.

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The logo is an awkward combination of the one recently being used for Batman, and the Robin logo from the previous issue, with it’s hint of Robin Hood.  The story, by Bill Finer, with art by Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson, begins with kidnapped millionaires, and leads to a jade idol in Chinatown.

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Although Bruce didn’t hesitate to bring the boy along to fight armed hoods on a building under construction, in this story he tells Dick to stay behind, that it’s too dangerous.

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Not that it does any good.  Dick gets into the Robin costume and heads down to Chinatown himself.

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Robin gets his fair share of the action, even getting involved in a sword fight with the bad guy’s muscle.  Batman gets to be the one to unmask the killer, who turns out to be a white man in disguise.

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I should also point out the giant jade idol. Huge props would become a staple of the Batman series decades down the road, but they go all the way back to this story!

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Red Logan’s story in this issue is blatantly derived from the Sherlock Holmes tale, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.”

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A series of locked room murders, with a cobra as the culprit.

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The story in this issue sets up Speed to get a sidekick.  He recruits Danny, a street kid, to help him keep an eye on a nest of Siva worshippers, and the boy gets commended by the police chief

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We are told in the last panel that Danny will be Speed’s new assistant, but then never see him again.  And I breathed a sigh of relief over that.

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This story sees Cliff Crosby on vacation in Florida.  So he is taking a vacation from being an explorer?  What exactly is the difference?  Does he travel but not look at or do anything?

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If that’s the case, that’s not the story, as Cliff gets wound up with Seminoles and alligators and thieves and all manner of trouble.

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The primary reason this Slam Bradley story by Jerry Siegel made it into my blog was one terrible panel.

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Slam bouncing off an awning.  Terrible.

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The rest of the story, and the art, isn’t so bad.  Though it’s far from thrilling.  Slam and Shorty are assigned to guard a gem, which is a fake.  They wind up flying over to Paris during the story, but no mention is made of the War.

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