Posts tagged ‘Speed Saunders’

Detective 58 – the Penguin debuts, Cliff Crosby comes to Canada, and Speed Saunders ends

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The cover of Detective 58 (Dec.41) is an entertaining composition, but has no connection to the important Batman story the issue contains.

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The Penguin gets introduced, created by Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson.  Inspired by Raffles, the gentleman thief, this character would quickly become a staple in Batman stories.

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Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson first encounter the villain at an art gallery, and Dick gives him the Penguin nickname before they have any reason to suspect him of anything.  He uses his umbrella to conceal the stolen art, as well as other items he snags during the story.

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He also uses the umbrella as a gas gun.  It’s a good prop, many uses, and adds to his ensemble.

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The one moment I do not care for in the story occurs when Batman has been captured by the Penguin.  There is a cool cutaway of a communication device in Batman’s heel, but his excuse for using it, “tap-dancing sitting down.” is painful.

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Robin frees Batman, and they take down the Penguin’s gang and recover the loot, but the Penguin himself escapes, hopping a passing freight. The story concludes telling us he will return, and he does, in the following issue.

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Cliff Crosby heads to Canada in this story, taking Kay with him on a skiing vacation, and stumbling into a bizarre set-up.

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A father refuses to let his daughter marry unless someone can beat him in a ski race.  Cliff wins the race, by rigging the father’s skis.

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Speed Saunders has his final adventure in this story.  It’s called “The Cigarette Murder,” and Speed solves it by noticing the ashes left in an ashtray even though the butts were removed.

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It’s late 1941, and it’s safe to say that at this point, Speed goes into the O.S.S.  He does not return again until the late 90s, but is given that bit of backstory to his World War 2 days.

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Detective 54 – Batman sails the Batplane, Larry Steele goes on a date, Speed Saunders solves an in-flight murder, and Cliff Crosby heads to Europe

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No pirates on the cover of Detective 54 (Aug. 41), but lots in the interior as Batman faces off against Hook Morgan in this Bill Finger/Bob Kane/Jerry Robinson tale.

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Linda Page, who has been introduced a few issues earlier in Batman, makes her first appearance in Detective in this story.  A society girl, she is Bruce Wayne’s romantic interest for much of the 1940s.

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Hook Morgan just doesn’t come off as scary as he might, and I blame the hook for that.  It just doesn’t work for me.

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The Batplane demonstrates its ability to become a watercraft in this story.

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Larry Steele goes on a date in this story!  I realize that doesn’t sound exciting, but Delia is the only woman Larry has had in the series since Jeanne left after Big Jim’s death.

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She joins him for a rousing night of violence and mystery solving, but never appears again.  Guess it wasn’t her cup of tea.

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This is one of my favourite Speed Sounders stories, just for the vital clue. After an apparent suicide, Speed deduces it was murder and that the suicide note was a fake by the fact that it was written clearly.  If it had been written during the flight, the words would be jagged and bumpy.

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Cliff has a story where he sort of acts like the newspaper owner he is.  He heads to Europe to report on the bombing there, and remains there for the following issue, solving the theft of a painting.  The war encroaches.

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Detective 48 – Batman in a cave of bats, the origin of Cliff Crosby, Speed Saunders figures out whodunnit, and the Crimson Avenger pulls off an amazing costume change

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The corner inset picture of Batman changes from dark and scowly to happy and smiley with Detective 48 (Feb. 41).  This means the only people on the cover not smiling are the bad guys.

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The story in this issue has nothing to do with the Batcave at all.  Bill Finger, Bob Kane and Jerry Robinson’s tale has to do with a cave located under a gold depository, and the plan to use it in a robbery.

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As with the previous issue, Bruce and Dick merely pass through a tunnel while heading from the Manor to the barn, which is now shown to also house the car.  It’s still not the Batmobile.  This one is back to the awful red colour!

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The climax of the action takes place in the cave, and with all the bats shown, the stalagmites and stalactites, and all the shadows, it’s difficult to imagine this story had no influence on the development of the Batcave.

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This issue serves as sort of an origin story for Cliff Crosby.  We discover that his father was killed by gangsters for exposing them in his paper.

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Cliff and Kay manage to find proof of the killer’s identity, and bring him to justice.  Took the writer an awful long time to figure out who the hero of the series was.

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This issue sees the Speed Saunders stories change their format a bit, becoming more of a whodunnit series..  From here on, each story has Speed come across a murder, often in an unusual location – a train, and airplane, a baseball diamond during a game.

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Speed investigates for a couple of pages, and in many issues (though not this one) there is box informing the reader that the clues are all there, and challenging them to determine the identity of the killer, which Speed reveals and explains on the final page.

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The costume changes in the Crimson Avenger series are not always well-handled.  In a number of the stories we see that he wears his costume under his normal clothing, but in this story Lee Travis is captured by hoods, tied up and thrown into the river.

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He emerges from the river in full costume (which still included the cape at this point), miraculously having changed underwater.

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And still, despite the costume, there is nothing of note to distinguish this from any non-costumed hero.

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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.

Detective 34 – Batman in Paris, Steve Malone returns, Speed Saunders goes flying, and Slam Bradley gets torpedoed

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The looming image of Batman from the first page of the story in Detective 34 (Dec 39) would be merged with the origin story, and reprinted in Batman 1 a few months down the road.

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Bruce is still in Paris in this story, which pits him against the Duc D’Orterre, a torturer with an unusually shaped head.  The Duc stole the face of a man whose sister he was interested in.  The man is bandaged, so presumably the Duc flayed him.

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Some nicely dynamic action by Bob Kane, and a decent tale by Bill Finer, once again reminiscent of the horror movies of the era.

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Steve Malone’s series moves back to Detective after its reboot in Adventure Comics, and he brings his new blond assistant Happy with him.

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They break up a protection scam in this story, which, as usual, has no elements of being a district attorney in it whatsoever.

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Fred Guardineer’s Speed Saunders story in this issue has the army request Speed’s help after sabotage to their weapons.  We learn in this tale that Speed was “one of the best pilots in France,” which would seem to imply that he is old enough to have fought in World War I.

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In this Jerry Siegel story, Slam and Shorty head off on a round-the-world cruise, but war between Tweepon and Luthoria (!) sees their liner get torpedoed by a submarine.

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But that’s little problem for Slam, who takes over the submarine himself.

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Detective 33 – the origin of Batman, Larry Steele gets a new secretary, and Speed Saunders heads to Canada

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Batman’s back on the cover with Detective 33 (Nov. 39).

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Batman’s origin is told for the first time in this story.  The basic elements of Bill Finger and Bob Kane’s story have never really changed.  The parents gunned down on the street, right in front of the boy.  The text informs us that the mother was shot, as well as the father, though we do not see this.  That would be changed, down to the road, to her dying from a heart attack after Thomas gets shot.

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The rest of the origin is simple and straight-forward, and in its direct narrative line makes it all seem within the realms of possibility and rationality.  Batman’s intelligence and fighting skills are explained, as is his eternal goal.  The bat flying through the window as inspiration gives it just the touch of strange/supernatural that it needs.

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The story then shows us that Batman uses a secret passage to get at his gear, and the trunk containing his costume is in this room.  The ears on the suit are almost down to what would become their normal level.  The car is still described as being special, but nothing visually stands out about it.  It’s really long.

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The villain in this issue patterns himself on Napoleon, and has a dirigible he is using to terrorize people.  The story is set in the US, but comes between two stories set in Europe, and I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to include this tale in Bruce’s time in Europe.  Certainly a Napoleonic villain would fit very well in France, where the following issue’s story is set.

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The Batgyro sees some more action, getting into a fight with, and destroying, the dirigible of doom!

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Larry Steele gets a new secretary in this story, Brenda Darling. She’s a capable brunette, able to shoot the gun out of a killers hand.

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Speed heads to Canada in this story by Fred Guardineer, helping the Mounties catch a man who murders fur trappers and steals their pelts.  Trees, rock, moose, canoes, Mounties, this hits almost all the Canadian stereotypes, though no one speaks french.

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Detective 32 – Batman and vampires, Speed Saunders and Skull-Face

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Batman gets his head on the cover of Detective 32 (Oct 39), even though the main picture is a generic image.  This is the last cover not to feature Batman.

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Bill Finger and Bob Kane pick up the story from last issue, with Batman and Julie Madison now in Eastern Europe, encountering a mesmerized woman, Dalla.

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This entire story reads much like one of the Dracula movies from the era.

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The Monk retains his hypnotic control of Julie, drawing her to him, but Batman has no qualms about executing him and Dalla.

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Speed gets a real villain, of sorts, in this Fred Guardineer story.  Skull Face wears a cloak and a skull mask, and poisons bathing beauties after forcing them to give their money to charity.  Why exactly he wants to do this in not clear.

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