Posts tagged ‘Ted Knight’

Adventure 102 – Sandman, Starman, Genius Jones and Mike Gibbs end


Adventure 102 (Feb-March 1946) marked the end of an era.  All the series running ended in this issue, with the exception of Shining Knight, and the line-up from More Fun Comics moved over as that book became devoted to “funny” series.

I’m not sure what made the Shining Knight worth keeping.  Few of his stories impressed me to date.  But I’m glad he stuck around, as the best of his run was still to come.


Sandman’s final story deals with an urban planner, Peter Green, who “dreams” of building safe areas for children to play in, but is being blocked by the slum lords who own the decrepit buildings he wants torn down.


Sandman and Sandy come to his aid, defeat the evil building owners, and rejoice with Peter and the kids in their new playground.


Sandman would return in a mid-60s Justice League/Justice Society crossover, but Sandy would have to wait till the 70s, when we would learn that, shortly after the events in this story, Wes was working on a new, silicon-based gun, which exploded.  Sandy was transformed into a monster, and, in grief, Wes ditched the yellow and purple Sandman outfit.  In all later appearances, Sandman is back to his classic look, with the gas mask.



In his final story, Starman deals with some arsonists who try to blame a meteor for the destruction of their building.  It’s not a really great idea, and Starman takes little time to prove that they are lying.


I do like the ironic touch of the actual meteor helping snag the bad guy for Starman, but that’s about the only noteworthy thing in the tale.

Later continuity would demand that this, and the other last couple of years of Starman stories, had all happened earlier, as Ted Knight was one of the developers of the atomic bomb, and had a breakdown after its use.

Starman would return in the second Justice League/Justice Society crossover.



Genius Jones spends his final adventure helping a very confused man about to be cheated out of his inheritance by his foster-nephew (is that even a relationship?), due to his aunt’s complex will, and a belief running through this tale that there is a day of the week called Grunday.


Genius Jones would not appear again for over 50 years, but still looks and dresses exactly the same way when he returns in the Dr. 13 story in Tales of the Unexpected.  He had been in comic book limbo the entire time.  And likely is back there now.




The last instalment of Mike Gibbs, Guerilla sees him parachute into China to help them against the Japanese, still wearing the green coat and fedora.  Thinking about it, that’s actually pretty impressive, I don’t think most people can keep a fedora on while parachuting.


He does look marginally more military by the end of the story, the most he has looked in the entire run of his series.  The war was over by this time, of course, but these stories would have been written before that was known.

Although he is credited with great achievements, that hat and coat just drive me nuts, and as he made no further appearances, I have decided that after the war he opened a men’s clothing store selling only green coats and went bankrupt.

Adventure 80 – Sandman, Starman, Shining Knight and Manhunter


The Sandman story inside has nothing to do with the cover, but it is the lead feature for Adventure 80 (Nov 42), and Sandman had not been in the opening spot since the introduction of Hourman.


Sandman faces off against Felix Black, an insomniac whose ailment embitters him and turns him to a life of crime.  Wes and Sandy help an out of work detective from the “We Never Sleep” Agency track him down.  Meanwhile, the hoods Felix has hired realize how wealthy he is, and turn on him.


Felix even gets a happy ending!  An entertaining piece, one of the few where Joe Simon’s writing is stronger than Jack Kirby’s art.



This is the final Starman story with art by Ray Burnley.  Once again a time machine is at the centre of the action, as hoods use it to recruit, of all people, Shakespeare as their mob boss.


The last couple of pages look rushed and sloppy, I’m not sure they are even Burnley’s work, and the resolution really doesn’t make much of Shakespeare or the time machine.  A great set-up that fizzles out.  Sort of like the Starman series as a whole.



The Shining Knight gets a better story than usual, pitting him against gangsters riding pterodactyls!


Porky Callahan, a pickpocket, ups his game by stealing the eggs for the dinosaurs from a museum and hatching them.  His gang quickly realize the criminal potential of the animals, which are not as difficult to ride as one might think, at least not in comic books.


The aerial battle is better than anything this strip has seen so far, and I forgive the resolution, in which Sir Justin shows up with a band of fire-breathing dragons he got from, ummm, don’t ask.




The Manhunter story is more intense than usual, opening with a prison break somewhere in the south, it seems, as there is a large swamp with natives living in it close to the penitentiary.


Even though the Manhunter series is usually mostly fighting, in this one it is almost frightening.  Manhunter catches up to the men just in time to save a native boy from them.


This story, more than most of the others, leaves the reader really rooting for Manhunter.  Possibly just because a child is in danger, but Kirby really does a great job making the cons look threatening.

Unfortunately this story also ends their run on Manhunter, though the costume would be maintained and there would be sort of an effort to keep the look of the series.  At least Simon and Kirby went out on a high note with this one


Adventure 77 – Starman battles The Mist, Genius Jones debuts, and everyone dreams of Sandman


No connection at all between the cover for Adventure 77 (Aug 42) and the Sandman story it contains, which may make it easier to cope with as I discuss the other stories first.



The Mist escapes from prison, having figured out how to chemically treat objects to enable him to mind control people who have touched them.  Pretty impressive achievement.  You’d think there would be endless legal ways to make money off of that, but crime works as well.


It seems like Starman has been doing some research as well, as the gravity rod is now capable of nullifying the effect of the Mist’s invisio-solution.  This second battle between them is a satisfying rematch, but also the last appearance of the Mist until the 1960s.


At the climax of their fight, it almost appears that Starman has some degree of mental control over his rod.  The text denies this, claiming that the rod returns to his hand from the force of the chain that yanked it from the Mist.  Still, in later years there would be some mental connection between Starman and the rod, and this may be the moment he discovers it.



Genius Jones debuts is this issue.  This is a humourous series that I likely would have skipped over, except that Genius Jones would return in the Dr. 13 strip in Tales of the Unexpected early in the millenium, so I am forced to include his original run.

He gets shipwrecked on a deserted island, and spends his time until rescue reading.  As he is still a child, he clearly did not have decades to read, but somehow managed to learn pretty much everything there is to learn.


He opens a consulting booth, charging a dime to adults and 5 cents to children to answer any and all questions.  Can’t help but think of Lucy and her psychiatrist stand from Charlie Brown, which may well have been influenced by this.

Genius Jones answers questions, solves crimes and generally makes the world a better place, all in a very child-friendly looking strip.  But he has no real enemies, or character development, or anything else that might make me reference another one of his stories.  So the only other mention he will rate in this blog will be to mark the end of his run.



The Sandman story opens with a page of wonderful Kirby art, establishing the wealth and position of the victim of this story.  Monroe Alvin is framed for a murder he does not remember committing, despite photographic evidence of his crime.


The dream motif had not been used much in the previous few stories, but in this one almost everyone is having prophetic dreams of the Sandman, usually right before he encounters them.

That’s quite a help, as this is a complex case involving fake doctors and amnesia, but Sandman puts it all to rights.  Pleasant dreams for all.


Adventure 74 – Starman goes animal, Hourman gets a new partner, Manhunter gets a mask and Sandman plays chess


Sandman returns as the cover feature of the book with Adventure 74 (May 42), but is not the lead feature, and I’m just obsessive enough that I need to cover the stories in the order in which they appear, so….


Starman has to deal with another mad scientist, Ivan Karoff, who has developed a machine that transforms men into the animal they most resemble, using them as pawns to commit crimes.   Starman is sent out on the case, but makes a delightful mistake.


Starman believes he is rescuing a woman from a werewolf created by Karoff, but in fact has simply stumbled across a film shoot.

He does manage to find the bad guy, though he gets captured. Karoff stupidly decides to subject the hero to the machine.


All that does is bring out the lion in Starman.  We also get a sense of the unused potential of the gravity rod, as it is capable of easily transforming Starman back to human.


Karoff himself winds up subjected to his ray, which transforms him into a pig.




As previously mentioned, Jimmy Martin no longer appears in the Hourman series.  Thorndyke informs Rex Tyler of this, apparently knowing his identity already, which none of the other Minute Men did.

As well, it had previously been established that Thorndyke and Jimmy were brothers, yet issue 75 informs us that Thorndyke’s last name is Tomkins, which is very unusual if he is the younger brother of Jimmy Martin, so perhaps there is more going on here, with the mother taking off with one of her sons and leaving the other behind.  Did Jimmy and Thorndyke have different fathers?  It’s all very suspicious.


Anyway, with Hourman and Thorndyke both buzzing on Miraclo, they track down thieves Bugs Manders and Gimpty Gowan, getting captured and trussed up for their efforts.  It takes them longer than the hour of power that they have, and Hourman has to bluff his way through the final battle, which is sort of impressive, considering the withdrawl he must be experiencing.




Simon and Kirby refine the Mnahunter outfit, giving Pauk Kirk a blue mask as he joins a society party scavenger hunt.  A romantic rivalry at the party is to be decided by the outcome of the hunt, which leads one of the men to rig the hunt, so his rival has to track down and capture a notorious killer.


Paul dons his newly masked outfit and does the boy’s work for him, apprehending Crusher Burns, thus winning the boy the shallow girl who wanted the men to compete for her.




Sandman and Sandy face off against a genius, Hiran Gaunt, who has turned to crime simply for the mental challenge.  This is a man who can deduce the combination of a safe, so he really has an amazing brain.

Playing on his pride, Sandman sets up a chess-playing computer, which is really a machine with Sandy stuffed inside of it, as a lure to draw him out.


Then it’s simply a matter of trailing him and beating up his gang.  Good art on this one, but the dream element does not come into play at all.

Adventure 71- Starman faces invaders from the future, and Hourman develops the Miraclo Ray


Time machines tend to be spherical in the DC Universe, and the one invented in the Starman story in Adventure 71 (Feb 42) fits the mold perfectly.


No sooner has it been tested than hoods knock out the inventor and steal the machine, using it to retrieve futuristic weapons, like a flaming cloud that emits destructive thunderbolts.  Starman is so busy dealing with these that he has no time to try to figure out who is behind it all.


When the weapons fail to kill Starman, the sphere is sent to retrieve people from the future, who are apparently willing and eager to engage in fist fights with their ancestors.  They wear ugly grey suits that cover their entire bodies.  There is a bit of an explanation for this, when it’s revealed they cannot breathe our air.  Which should be much purer and less polluted, and therefore easier to breathe, than their air, but whatever.


The Light is revealed as the mastermind.  His third battle with Starman, although he seems to have given up inventing things himself, and is now content to steal the inventions of other scientists, present and future.



This issue also sees the debut of the Miraclo Ray, which replaces the Miraclo pills.  Later writers would ascribe the ray’s powers as activating the Miraclo still in Rex Tyler’s system, but no real explanation of the ray is given in these early stories.

This tale also uses the countdown timer to build suspense.  This had been used in some of Hourman’s earlier stories, but hadn’t been featured in quite a while.

Hourman is facing off against Dr. Destiny, a killer for hire who plans his murders according to the zodiac.


Hourman decks Jimmy Martin out in a matching costume.  He does not have the boy stand in front of the Miraclo ray, or even give him a Miraclo pill, so the boy has no powers whatsoever.  Still, Hourman thinks bringing the kid into a fight with a hired killer is a great idea.

Adventure 66 – Starman drops his rod again, and The Shining Knight debuts


Adventure 66 (Sept 41) sees Starman face off against another mad scientist with an evil invention, this time a voodoo camera that allows the photographer to control those he has taken a picture of.


The villain goes out of his way to contact Woodley Allen, to put him under his power in order to prevent the FBI investigating him.  That’s a kind of curious way to do things, and it fails significantly, as his niece Doris Lee sees how strangely her uncle is acting, which prompts her to tell Ted, who then becomes Starman and quickly tracks the guy down.


Once again butterfingers Starman drops his rod.  This time he doesn’t even need to the bad guy to try to use it, instead just hitting his hand as he tries to take Starman’s picture, causing him to accidentally take his own photo, which apparently kills him.



The Shining Knight makes his debut in this issue.  Sir Justin was a knight of the Round Table, given enchanted armour and a flying horse, Winger Victory,  by Merlin, shortly before falling into a glacier and being frozen for centuries, emerging  just as World War 2 was in full swing.


As far as concepts go, this was decent, but as the two pages I have copied here show, the art was not impressive in any way.  And for years, neither would the stories be.

Despite the fact that England was already at war at this point, and had been for years, Sir Justin shows no interest in defending his homeland.  He is content to take on an identity as an assistant to a museum curator (who knows who he really is), and for the most part battle run of the mill thieves and robbers.

It was only in the 1950s that this series really kicked into high gear.  So there will be few mentions of his stories until then.

Adventure 65 – Starman faces The Light again


The Light returns, but of course the cover to Adventure 65 (Aug 41) does not reflect this.  Why would it?

After reports of ships losing control of their ability to steer and being rammed against each other, Starman heads out to sea to investigate, and finds a giant submersible laboratory.  Burnley does a great job with it, but it’s resemblance to the underwater lab in The Invisible Empire storyline from Federal Men makes me suspect both Burnley and Shuster patterned the labs on some earlier work.


Starman discovers that The Light survived being shrunk, and is the one behind the secret lab and ship destruction.  In their battle, The Light manages to retrieve the gravity rod after Starman drops it.


The backlash effect is basically identical to Green Lantern’s ring, although it makes an awful lot more sense with a magic ring.  Starman will drop the rod a couple more times in early stories, but finally learns to keep a grip on it.

The Light gets sent to prison, but you can never keep a good mad scientist down.

Adventure 63 – Starman does not battle The Light, and a check in with Hourman


The cover of Adventure 63 (June 41) clearly represents the story in Issue 62.  A shrunken Starman taking on The Light.  For reasons clear only to them, it was not unusual in the 1940s for comic book covers to represent stories that appeared in other issues.  Perhaps organization had not occurred to them?  It’s difficult to imagine that there was a time when no one expected the cover to connect to the interior pages.


So instead of The Light, Starman faces off against another mad scientist, Captain Vurm, with his deadly “shock-dynamo” that can create earthquakes.  Vurm has also captured Woodley Allen and Doris Lee, because, why not?  Gives Starman more motivation.

And while I am being supercilious about this issue, let’s check and see how Hourman is doing at battling his Miraclo addiction.


Nope, still reliant on his illicit drugs.

Adventure 62 – Starman battles The Light and Mark Lansing says goodbye


Starman faces off against The Light in Adventure 62 (May 41), a mad scientist who has developed a shrinking ray.  Burnley’s art is even better on this issue than on the previous one, and though the Light is simply a balding bearded man in a white coat, he looks far more menacing than most of the villains that have appeared in this book so far.


After being shrunken, Dr Selby heads to the FBI, but the Light is not concerned about that.  He captures and shrinks Woodley Allen, as well as Doris Lee and finally Starman as well.


But size is not a problem when it comes to handling the gravity rod, it appears, and Starman triumphs.  The Light appears to die at the end of the story, shrunk to nothingness by his own invention, but will return.



Mark Lansing’s series comes to and end, and the best thing that can be said is that is actually does end.

This serial played out as so many do, endless battles and cliffhangers with very little characterization and meaning.  Over the past few issues Mark defeated Costa, who was trying to overthrow King Talon.  He beat the burly Lishak, but showed him mercy, so Lishak wound up sacrificing himself to save Mark.  He makes it back to Mikishawm to free Jada, and then, with Tony and Kit, heads back to the surface world.

With a little fudging, one could argue that Mark’s adventures took him to Skartaris, decades before the Warlord ventured there.  But it barely seems worth even that effort.


Adventure 61 – Starman debuts and Sandman gets the wire-poon gun


Figuring they had their quote of creepy heroes already, with the gas-masked Sandman and pill-popping Hourman, Adventure Comics 61 (April 1941) went the other way, to clean and bright and shining like a Starman.

Ted Knight was a wealthy socialite and amateur astronomer, who in his first story had not only already invented the Gravity Rod, capable of enabling flight and emitting energy, but also contacted the FBI to inform them of his weapon and readiness to use it at their command.

Clean and bright, but something is lacking.  There is no deep motivating factor in becoming a hero, just an invention and a desire to help out.


Along with his frequently ditched girlfriend Doris Lee, FBI chief Woodley Allen would be the only supporting characters in this series.

The art by Ray Burnley was graceful and detailed, perhaps too much so.  Starman certainly would never seem menacing.


It didn’t help that his costume covered everything except his face.  Perhaps they were trying to imply an absent-minded genius (oh, concealing the identity, THATS what the costume is for!) but it’s never written that way.

In his first adventure, he is summoned by Allen after a series of blackouts and weird electrical events.  The FBI has received information that the Secret Brotherhood of the Electron is behind things, and Starman uses the gravity rod to track the energy, leading him to Dr. Doog and his deadly ultra-dynamo!


Starman succeeds at defeating Dr. Doog, who appears to die, but was brought back in All-Star Squadron.



In the Sandman story, Wesley faces off against Borloff, who has created a deadly aircraft he calls the Cylidricraft.  Its rays are capable of killing millions, but fortunately Wes has an invention of his own!


A wire-poon gun.  Like a harpoon, but with a wire.  As silly as it sounds, it actually turns out to be pretty useful.


Sandman is able to use it to board the Cylidricraft and defeat Borloff.  It would remain in his weaponry, along with the gas gun, which was rarely used anymore.

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