Pep Morgan is one of the greatest athletes of all time. In his series, he is a champion at baseball, football, downhill and cross-country skiing, ski jumping, hockey, ice-boating, yachting, race car driving, boxing, basketball, lacrosse, long – distance running, diving and swimming. In fact, the only sport he is shown to not excel at is tennis.
His series in More Fun Comics opens as he subs for a missing player in a baseball game. We get the only bit of information about his life that we will get at all in the strip, that he used to bat corncobs with his brother on his uncle’s farm in Kansas. He lives in Riverdale in these stories.
His entire series in More Fun would be confined to two-page stories, and most of those simply have him win whatever event he is competing in. He is in high school, and the girls all like him. The only two stories during this run that have anything really to them are the cross-country race in issue 24, in which supporters of the opposing team grab him and try to prevent him from completing the race (of course he fights them off and finishes anyway), and the final one, in issue 29, in which he goes on a date with Peggy, but her jealous girlfriends push Pep into a lake and make him think Peggy did it.
When the series moves over to Action Comics it expands to four, and then six, pages in length. Pep now lives in Ardale, and in a number of the stories appears to be in college, though others seem to show him as a professional athlete. The longer stories allow more complexity. In the boxing story in Action Comics #1, his challenger for the light heavyweight championship has drugged needle in his glove, which cuts Pep, but he still wins.
In issue 3 he is race car driving. Gamblers fail to bribe him to throw the race, so they shoot at his car during it. He not only wins, but drives the police in the ensuing chase to capture the gamblers. More gamblers go after him in issue 7, kidnapping and drugging him to keep him out of a football game, but he escapes and fights off the drug, makes it to the field and wins the game.
With issue 11, a serial of sorts begins as Pep is shanghaied onto a steamer. He discovers it is transporting guns to rebels in the South American country of Latara. He jumps ship, swims to shore and alerts the police, who capture Sindara, the ship’s captain, when it docks. In the issues that follow he saves Don Luis, the self-proclaimed dictator of Latara from two assassination attempts before sailing home. Captain Sindara escapes from the Lataran prison and winds up on the same ship as Pep, and tries to lead a mutiny, But Pep stops that and Sindara is taken away again. Pep then leads the rescue efforts when a seaplane crashes into the ocean.
He finally makes it back to the US in issue 15, and Mr. Smith, who owned and was on the plane, hires Pep to solve a series of robberies of warehouses that he owns. Athletes are particularly adept at solving mysteries, it seems, because even though we hear that these have been going on for a while and the police are incapable of solving them, Pep wraps up the case in four pages.
Mr. Smith then hires Pep to be the bodyguard for his daughter, Mary, and Pep stops a kidnapping and murder plan that was in the offing. They all then head out to Mr. Smith’s ranch, where Pep deals with an arson attempt by a fired horse trainer, and stops the lynching of an innocent eccentric framed for murder by the neighbouring rancher, to steal his land.
Issue 19, the last of this era, sees Pep leave the ranch to head home, but he stops a train robbery on the way. The robbers escape and follow him back to Ardale, but their attempt to kill Pep is foiled by the local police.
Pep Morgan continues in the Early Golden Age
Pep Morgan: More Fun 12 – 29 (Aug 36 – Feb 38)
Action 1 – 19 (June 38 – Dec 39)