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Archive for the ‘Dawn of Comics’ Category

Lance O’Casey

Lance O’Casey is a  young red-headed sailor, who apparently owns only one set of clothing, a red and white striped shirt and some white trousers.  He wears them in every single story.  He lives on Maloana island, in the South Pacific, making a living selling pearls, it appears.  He has a pet monkey named Mr. Hogan, and his schooner is named the Brian Boru.

If this character had not had a cameo in an issue of The Power of Shazam in the late 90s, I could have skipped him over and not thought twice about it; but as he does appear in a DC comic, he merits an entry, however grudgingly.

In Whiz Comics 4, a pirate treasure map leads him to Horseshoe Island, where he finds Captain Daniel Doom, a very old man with a long white beard, the grandson of the Captain Doom who made the map.  Turns out Grampa Doom was a kidder as well as a pirate, as the treasure is worthless brass.  But Doom and O’Casey become buddies, working together to build a new schooner after the Brian Boru is wrecked, and they sail back to Maloana together on the Brian Boru II in issue 6.

In most of the stories, O’Casey and Doom deal with angry natives, who they kill and rob in heroic fashion.  They even make it to Peru in issues 15 and 16, heading inland to steal Inca gold (and of course kill the Incas who do not want their gold stolen.)  The casual racism, and idea that the natives have no right to their own resources, becomes really appalling when you read it in story after story.

Mr. Hogan gets a girlfriend, Mabel, in issue 14.  Mr. Hogan is the monkey, please recall.  Mabel is a female monkey.  Lance and Doom are not getting as much action as the monkey, which may explain why they are so eager to kill the natives.

Issues 18 – 21 follow our heroes to a tropical island in the Antarctic, which they get blown to by a hurricane.  The stories in issues 18 and 19 were printed in reverse order, so they are on the island in issue 18, but the hurricaine brings them to the island in issue 19.

After a few more stories of killing and robbing native islanders, O’Casey winds up facing off against modern pirates (pirates kill and rob white people, which makes them bad) in Whiz 26.  There is a woman with the pirates, Lorela, and though she escapes from them with O’Casey, he is not completely sure he can trust her, until she helps save him from vengeful natives in the following issue.  Doom is not in this story, nor is Mabel.  Neither appears again, and though their absence is never explained, the coincidence of them disappearing at the same time makes me suspect that Mabel and Captain Doom were having a secret romance, and took off together.  Poor Mr. Hogan.

Lorela sticks around through issue 30, but with issue 31, the first after the attack on Pearl Harbour, the series undergoes some changes.  Lorela and Mr. Hogan vanish. We had been lead to believe there might be some romance building between her and Lance, but it seems the monkeys get all the lovin in this strip.

In issue 31 Lance also has a new schooner, the Starfish, and helps two Mikes (Hawkins and Belliw) fleeing the Japanese fleet.  Lance works alongside the US navy in this story, and Mike Hawkins joins the forces at the end of the tale, but Lance decides to fight the Japanese on his own, and Mike Belliw joins him on the schooner.  Mike Belliw is from Brooklyn.  Im not sure that has anything to do with his decision to fight Japanese subs and destroyers on a wooden schooner, but it’s the only information we ever get about him.

So for a while its Lance and Mike against the Japanese, but then it becomes Lance and Mike against the Japanese and evil natives for a few stories, as the asians recruit Dukwadl, the Zombie Maker in issue 44, and an island of cannibals in issue 45.  The stories get further from reality, as Lance and Mike get trapped on an island outside of time, guarded by a giant cyclops in issue 48 and a Sea Dragon in 51.  Issue 49 introduces the descendant of pirate Jean Lafitte, who decides to dress as his ancestor and follow in his footsteps.  He gets captured at the end of the story, but is about the best villain Lance O’Casey ever faces.

In his final story before the series takes a hiatus for a couple of years, Lance and Mike are in India, and take a job as mercenaries, though they wind up fighting the Japanese anyway.  Kip, a young orphaned beggar boy, basically attaches himself to the men, becoming their cook, cleaner and general houseboy (boatboy?)

Lance O’Casey returns in the Late Golden Age

Lance O’Casey:  Whiz Comics 2 – 53  (Feb 40 – Mar 44)

All-Hero Comics  1 (Mar 43)

The Wizard

This post is shameful.  The Wizard was the first of the MLJ line of heroes, debuting in Top-Notch Comics1.  I have not read it.  I have not found any issues of Top-Notch.  I am looking, believe you me.

I could wiki him, and pretend I got the information from reading his series, but aside from being cheating, as I saw with Blue Beetle, a first appearance can be very different than a second one.

So this entry is a place-holder for the character, and when I do finally get to read Top-Notch 1, I will write it up here.

MLJ, by the way, created a line of heroes in the 1940s that bounced around over the years with a number of revivals.  DC has twice attempted to use them as part of their line since acquiring them, but neither attempt really caught on.  MLJ continues to this day, but has changed its name to that of its most successful and longest running series, Archie Comics.

Leaving the rest of that, but now I have read the first issue of Top-Notch Comics, which is almost entirely background on the character.

Blaine Whitney is the great-great-grandson of one of George Washington’s aides, and we get almost two solid pages detailing various ancestors who fought in the various wars the US was part of.  Blaine himself was a child prodigy, inventing a liquid that could melt metal when he was only a teenager, and also devising a super-fast car, which can go 300 miles an hour, and which he still drives.

Blaine is considered to have “the greatest brain power on earth,” by which they mean he is really really smart.  Not telekinetic or anything though.

Blaine lives in a posh Park Avenue apartment with his butler Jeeves, and pretends to just be a society playboy, but undertakes missions in conjunction with his brother, Grover, who is the Chief of Naval Intelligence.

As The Wizard Blaine wears a blue suit with a white cape and red mask.  The costume, along with the name The Wizard, certainly makes one expect something along the lines of Zatara, rather than an inventor.


The Wizard continues in the Early Golden Age, and I sure hope I have read some of his stories by the time I reach him.

The Wizard: Top-Notch Comics 1  (Dec 39)

Doll Man

Doll Man debuted in the Quality Comics book Feature Comics 27, in a four page story.  His character was one of the longer running in the Golden Age, but all I’m going to talk about in this post is that one four-page story, cause it’s the only one in this era.

Darrel Dane is a young scientist, working with Professor Roberts on a shrinking serum.  The only ingredient we hear about is aqua regia, which is an acid, but Darrel decides to test in on himself, drinking it and shrinking down to 6 inches in height.  He briefly goes violently crazy, but the Professor talks him down.

The Professor’s daughter, Martha, is being blackmailed, though she doesn’t tell either her father or Darrel, her boyfriend, about it.  But Darrel suspects something is up and tags along when she goes to meet the man, and then trounces him, all while 6 inches high and wearing blue shorts.


Doll Man continues in the Early Golden Age


Doll Man:  Feature Comics 27  (Dec 39)

Gary Concord, Ultra-Man

The first two issues of this science-fiction serial have an engrossing backstory, complete unto itself, really.  In the year 2239, in the United States of North America, Gary Concord has been elected High Moderator, the position of greatest power.  He is the son of the man who “brought peace to the world,” and Gary is given a letter by his father, discussing his life.

The story jumps back to the “Great War of 1950,” and Gary’s grandparents dying young in the bombing in France.  Gary’s father (also named Gary, so I will just call him Dad to avoid confusion) grows up vowing to stop all war.  He becomes a great scientist, working on a “peace formula.”  His laboratory gets bombed, and his experiments and chemicals crash to the floor, and combine to create a growing foam.  Dad frantically writes out his peace formula as the foam seals him in suspended animation.

224 years later, another war cracks open the lab, and Dad emerges in the year 2174.  He is taller and more muscular than he was, and proves his worth to the future government by creating a flame pellet gun that they use to defeat Rebberizan, who seeks to take over the world himself.  We hear briefly of repeated battles between Rebberizan and Dad, while at the same time he falls for, and marries, Rebberizan’s daughter, Leandra.  After the birth of Gary, Rebberizan murders Leandra, and Dad strangles Rebberizan to death with his bare hands.

Aside from his murderous rage, he has brought peace to Earth with the suspended animation foam.  They simply fly overhead, spray the foam, wait until everyone has passed out in it, hose it off and toss everyone in jail.

So Dad lived another twenty years as High Moderator, and then died.  Gary ascends to this apparently democratic but monarchial appearing position, and is almost immediately attacked by people who want the secret of the foam.  He fights them off,but ponders his fathers last words in the letter: “in your hands lies peace over the world, before your eyes lies the goal.”  Must be right in front of him.

Will Gary Concord figure out how to get the peace foam?  Stay tuned until I reach him in the Early Golden Age (cause the series continues there.)


Gary Concord, Ultra-Man: All-American  8 – 9  (Nov -Dec39)

Three Aces

The Three Aces are Fog Fortune, Gunman Bill and Whistler Will,all pilots who bonded while fighting in the Spanish Civil War (which side is not mentioned). They are now US navy reservists, travelling the world in their biplanes, seeking out adventure.

The first story sees them in Baghdad, where they learn of a number of planes that have gone missing while flying over the desert.  A distraught young woman enlists them in flying over the desert in search of her father, Inspector Higgins of Scotland Yard, who had gone missing while looking into the case.  They fly out, and spot a lost caravan, land, and are ambushed.  Gunner manages to get back in the air, calls for the British airforce, and circles until they arrive to rescue his comrades and the inspector.

The second story is quite different.  They are flying in formation with their fellow reservists, when one dies mid-flight.  They discover his widow in the arms of one of their buddies, and fake them out into confessing murder.


Three Aces continues in the Early Golden Age


Three Aces:  Action Comics  18 – 19  (Nov – Dec 39)

King Carter

These last few entries in the Dawn of Comics are awkward, in a way.  Three series begin in November, and two in December, so I am discussing and evaluating these on very little.  I had to draw a line somewhere, and I stand by Flash Comics 1 as the divider, but these guys get a short shrift.

So anyway, King Carter.

He is a “wealthy oilman, adventurer and collector of precious stones and gems,” who we meet in China, as he is searching for jade.  He gets buzzed by a plane, but it’s not the threat he thinks, it’s an old friend, Red Rogers, now a photographer for a newsreel, out on assignment.  They hook up to take aerial pictures of a secret military base, get shot down, and and escape when the chinese choose to drive their jeep off a cliff.  Both this and the following story are so racist, but it’s just so prevalent in this time period.

In issue 50 King and Red are in India.  Red gets hit by a car while saving a boy in the street, and King tracks the car to its owner, an Indian prince trying to overthrow the British.  Of course, the Prince Ali Ghazi is made as evil as possible, walling King up alive (but doing such a poor job that King pushes his way through the wall, with his hands tied behind his back.) Cheer as the American helps the Brit defeat the native fighting for his land!


King Carter continues in the Early Golden Age


King Carter:  More Fun Comics  49 – 50  (Nov – Dec 39)

Blue Beetle

The original Blue Beetle bears little resemblance to those would would carry the name later.  In fact, he bears little resemblance to how later continuity would portray him, as well.  Dan Garret is a police officer, who gets dressed up in costume to catch the crooks he cannot get while on the beat.  There is no beetle “scarab,” at all, though he does occasionally leave blue beetles to warn criminals, or as a calling card after apprehending them.

The costume alters hugely in the first few issues.  In his debut, Dan wears a blue suit with a black fedora and a mask, and a tie with a big blue beetle on it.  More than anything he resembles the Green Hornet, and based on the names of the characters, this is clearly who he was derived from.  In his second appearance he wears dark blue tights and a matching top, with a covering over his head, but not his face. Issue 3 replaces the top with a short sleeved tunic, and gives him blue gloves and a yellow belt.  Finally, in issue 4, the sleeves return to their previous length, his costume now has the texture of metal scales, and he is wearing the tiny eye mask that completes his look.

Blue Beetle has no special weaponry, aside from a “wireless phone,” though even that is only used once.  He relies on his fists, courage and bravado to take down kidnappers, murderers, armed robbers, loan sharks and a protection scam.

His beat cop partner, Mannigan, has no idea of his double identity.  Blue Beetle is wanted by the police, and Mannigan almost captures him once, leaving Dan feeling bad for having to fight his partner to escape.  In the last issue of this era, we meet Dr. Franz, who knows Dan is Blue Beetle, and who makes him up an old man disguise, to allow him to approach a gang of hoods trying to kill Beetle.

Although this character is very different than how Dan Garret would retroactively be portrayed, he is very close to Hollis Mason, the golden age Nite-Owl in Watchmen, which was based on the Charlton heroes.  Perhaps I should add that Blue Beetle would move from Fox to Charlton by the Silver Age.


Blue Beetle continues in the Early Golden Age



Blue Beetle:  Mystery Men  1 – 5  (Aug – Dec 39)

Invisible Hood

The Invisible Hood is the earliest character from the Quality Comics stable that has been integrated into the DC Universe.  Kent Thurston wears a long red cloak and hood, with a mask, and carries a gun that fires sleeping gas, as he aids police inspector Bill Blake when sacred Indian sapphires get stolen.  In this first outing, he is not hugely different from the Shadow or the Crimson Avenger, and one has to wonder why he calls himself Invisible Hood.

This gets addressed in the second issue.  Kent laments that he is only “invisible” because no one knows the identity of the Invisible Hood, and wishes he had true invisibility.  Fortuitously, at the point he gets a call from Professor Van Dorn, a friend who has just perfected an invisibility serum.  Kent douses his costume with the serum, and gets to play super-hero.

In issue 2 we see Kent, in costume, fade to invisibility in the way that would become standard in comics – dotted lines for the outline of the figure, pale colouring of the figure itself, a see-through effect.  But once he gets into the action, battling thieves who want the formula, he is simply not drawn at all into the panels.  We are meant to imagine him there, just seeing the effects of his actions.

Not a good idea.  It just looks strange.  And this was obvious enough that by issue 3 the dotted line, pale colour, see through effect would be used consistently.

Hood deals with pirates, gangsters and a blackmail ring lead by the Green Lizard, who turns out to be Inspector Blake’s servant.

We learn almost nothing about Kent Thurston in these five issues, only that he used to be a private detective, which just makes you wonder what his day job is now.


Invisible Hood continues in the Early Golden Age


Invisible Hood:  Smash Comics  1 – 5 (Aug – Dec 39)

The American Way

I have covered a number of novel adaptations, and film adaptations were already being done, but so far as I know, The American Way is the first Broadway play adapted for a comic.  Serialized into 6 chapters, the play spans from 1896 until the late 1930s, following a German immigrant family who settle in Ohio.

Each installment opens with a blurb announcing that it is based on the Kaufman and Hart script of “a Samuel Harris and Max Gordon production, now playing at the Centre Theatre in New York City.”  The play was apparently a huge success for actor Frederic March, and the main character, Martin Gunter, is drawn to resemble him.

The story itself is kind of rah-rah-americana.  They come to the US, get rich through hard work.  World War I brings the family to crisis, unsure about fighting against other Germans, but the father gives a big speech about the wonders of being American, so his son goes off to fight and dies.  The grandson grows up and flirts with nazism, but the dad gets another big speech about the glories of the US, and the kid relents.

I can understand how it would have been popular at the time, but it’s so overdone it makes Forrest Gump look anti-american.


American Way:  All-American 5 – 10 (Aug 39 – Jan 40)

“Clip” Carson, Soldier of Fortune

Clip Carson was created by Bob Kane, debuting less than a month after Batman.  Clip travels to exotic locations, fighting even more exotic villains.  This should have been a big hit, but maybe it’s the giant grin always on Clip’s face, or his constant upbeat chatter, but he fails to be a hero you are interested in.

Not that we find out very much anyway, at least in these early chapters.  His first three-parter sees him in Egypt, meeting archaeologist Jim Blake, on the track of buried pharonic treasure.  There is some great art in this: the sandstorm, the bandits on horseback, both the exterior of the pyramid and its internal traps and chambers.  Clip shoots a robot mummy. The villain passes himself off as Cheops, but Clip unmasks him as police Captain Beatty, tricking the arabs into helping hunt for, and steal, their antiques.  Clip literally throws him to the angry mob at the end.

Clip is in India for the next two issues, protecting a man from a Tiger Cult.  Clip shoots a tiger. There is a Tiger-Man that Clip has a great fight with, a human sacrifice and ancient temple.  Again, a lot of fun, and both these stories could easily have been re-written as Batman adventures.

Clip is in Africa as the era comes to a close.  He is recruited in Kenya by Colton to protect his ivory shipments from the dreaded raider Wolf Lupo.  Wolf does not appear in this chapter. Clip shoots a cobra.  He heads inland and falls into the hands of cannibals (in Kenya?), but befriends them by sharing his harmonica with them.  He heads off to hunt down Lupo as it ends.

Clip Carson continues in the Early Golden Age

Clip Carson:  Action Comics  14 – 19  (July – Dec 39)

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