Posts tagged ‘Wesley Dodds’

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.

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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 90 – Sandman and the Sleepy Time Crimes

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Some of Jack Kirby’s best art on his Sandman run is in Adventure 90 (Feb-March 1944).   It’s not a bad story either.  At a society dinner, Wes and Sandy and all the rest of the guests fall asleep in the middle of the meal, and wake up to discover they have been robbed.

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The food and drinks are investigated, but there is no trace of any substance that could have caused everyone to fall asleep.  Tracking the stolen goods, Sandman and Sandy come across the thieves, but wind up getting put to sleep again.

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This time it’s obvious, it’s the camera that is putting people to sleep.  Once Sandman and Sandy revive they have little trouble dispatching the villains.

Shortly after this issue, Jack Kirby got drafted.  The Sandman stories continue to claim that they are Simon and Kirby creations, and put a bit of effort into duplicating the look, but the change is obvious, and the dream element is completely left out.

There were still a couple more stories that had been written and drawn, as well as a number of covers.  It appears DC held onto a couple of these stories, and printed them later in the run.

Adventure 87 – Sandman helps a narcoleptic

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I’m trying not to include every single Simon and Kirby Sandman story in this, but once again here is one that must be written about, from Adventure 87 (Aug-Sep 43).

A narcoleptic whose disease wreaks havoc with his professional and romantic life blames the Sandman for his illness, for no solid reason.

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He changes his tune quickly after he winds up framed for a murder committed while he was asleep at the scene.  The police do not believe his story, but he manages to convince Sandman when they meet in his dreams.

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He wakes to discover Sandman there, and our hero goes off to prove the man’s innocence.  As with the insomniac a few issues ago, the resolution of the story also cures the man of his ailment.

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Adventure 85 – The best Golden Age Sandman story

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In my eyes, the crowning glory of this run is Adventure Comics 85, (April, 1943), “The Unholy Dreams of Gentleman Jack.”  On the cover, it’s “The Amazing Dreams…”, but Unholy is a much better word.

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This opens with a prisoner dreaming of being waited on hand and foot by the guards, and Sandman bursting into his cell.  Once he is released from prison, he has his apartment made up to resemble a jail, and his servants dressed as guards.  He lures Sandman to his place, so we get the visual from the dream a second time, but just shows him around and gets him off his guard, so his men can capture him.

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Gentleman Jack has Sandman put into a gas chamber to kill him, and goes to bed, unaware that Sandy has been following him.  Sandy frees Sandman as Jack dreams that his servants are now acting like actual prison guards, and just as Sandman appears in his nightmare (the third time for the same visual) he wakes, discovering Sandman in his room, as well as police, playing that same visual for the fourth time in 10 pages!

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Each time we see Jack, the Sandman, the cell and the guards it is from a different perspective, and it is shown from another angle on the cover as well.  This story could easily be muddled or repetitive, but instead is a thorough delight.

Adventure 84 – Sandman vs the Circus and Mike Gibbs, Guerilla begins

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Great cover to Adventure 84 (March 1943).  Shame it has no real connection to the story, which pits Sandman and Sandy against a travelling circus where the performers are also thieves.

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The splash page actually gives a better impression of the gang members than any given panel of the story.  In truth, this is a fairly simply tale, no use of dreams or anything.  After failing to stop some unusual criminals, Wes and Sandy see a sign advertising the circus, and realize that the thieves must be the performers.

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Then, you know, they catch them.  If it hadn’t been for the great cover I doubt I would have included this tale.  Well, maybe for the splash page.

 

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Mike Gibbs, Guerilla begins in this issue.  This series is set right in the midst of World War 2, but it’s very difficult to take seriously, as Mike Gibbs spends the entire run wearing a lime green trenchcoat and brown fedora.  This was not standard garb for guerilla warfare during World War 2, or at any other time in history.

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This story is set in Paris, and has him contacting the leader of the French Underground, which happens to be a woman, to pass information on the Germans.  In other words, he is a spy, not a guerilla.  Of course, few spies went around in lime green trenchcoats either.

 

Adventure 82 – Sandman vs Santa Claus!

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The Sandman story in Adventure 81 (Jan 43), “Santa Fronts for the Mob” was reprinted in a DC Christmas with the Super-Heroes special in the mid-70s, and so was the first Sandman story I ever read, and possibly my first exposure to Jack Kirby’s art.  And it’s a story I love as much now as I did then.

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It opens with the nightmare of the owner of Miller’s Department Store, an overwrought fantasy of the disaster that comes by not having a store Santa with a real beard.  It’s way over the top, unlike the other dream sequences in this series, you simply have to laugh.

A professional wrestler with a criminal past and big beard gets hired, and the mob use him as their inside man to rob the store.

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Sandman and Sandy show up to stop them, and the Santa changes sides, changed by the innocence of the children he has been seeing all day.

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Yes, it’s a sappy ending, but it’s a Christmas story after all.

Adventure 81 – Sandy the Golden Boy to the Rescue!

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Sandy the Golden Boy is not a name to strike terror in the hearts of anyone, but Adventure 81 (Dec 42) gives him his best role of the run, and shows that he has courage, if not a sense of self-preservation.

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The story opens with a great twist, as Wesley Dodds wakes from a nightmare about the Sandman, and Sandy realizes that Wes is being impersonated.  Without giving on that he has figured it out, Sandy manages to track down the captured Wes.

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He storms right on in, pretending that Sandman is following him.  It fails, and the kidnappers toss him and Wesley into a flooded mine pit.  But of course our heroes escape and prevail, defeating the impersonator before he can pull off a stick swindle.

Adventure 80 – Sandman, Starman, Shining Knight and Manhunter

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 78 – Manhunter meets Sandman (on the cover)

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In the 1940s crossovers were very rare, except on covers.  Batman and Superman would regularly hang out on the covers of World’s Finest Comics for well over a decade before meeting in the interior pages.  Flash, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman had fun on the covers of Comic Cavalcade without ever meeting in the stories inside.

So it’s likely that readers of this issue were not surprised that Manhunter and Sandman met only on the cover of Adventure 78 (Sept 42), and that their interior stories had no connection to the image.

 

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Manhunter faces off against the Tiger, a murderer with a taste for striped suits, in his story.

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As with most Manhunter stories, this is simple and straightforward.  Putting the killer in a striped suit is almost daring for this series.

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But with Kirby at the helm, even the simplest action becomes dramatic and dynamic.

 

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Sandman’s adventure is a little more complex. though there is no use of dreams in this tale of Magno, a phony escape artist who uses his elaborate routines as a cover for his gang to commit robberies.

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And while both of these stories have really enjoyable art, neither would actually have merited being included in my blog had the two heroes not been featured on the cover.

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

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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