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Posts tagged ‘All-American’

Gary Concord, Ultra-Man (Early Golden Age)


Following the two part backstory, Gary Concord, Ultra-Man, tries to find his father’s formula for the suspended animation foam with the help of his chief advisor, named Guppy.  Guppy is not the sort of name I associate with a chief advisor, but it’s 2240 A.D. after all.

Stella Tor, the daughter of the tyrannical leader of an undefined European country, tries to romance Gary, but he has none of it.  Still, she gets wind of his father’s lab in the badlands, and they race there.  Gary finds the formula as Stella bombs the lab with poison, but the foam neutralizes the toxins.  Stella dies in the battle, and her father uses her death as a pretext to invade United America, launching assaults all down the east coast, presumably from the arctic to Argentina.

Gary has lots and lots of foam made, and at the same time develops an atomic ray that melts metal.  He had Tor’s homeland, and all the troops on the flanks, foamed into passivity, and then leads the aerial war against Tor.  These panels are really very good, if chaotic.  Guppy sacrifices himself, and Gary convinces one of Tor’s generals, Alec, to switch sides (and become his new sidekick.)  The atomic ray wipes out Tor’s forces, and Tor is sent to an asylum.

This storyline ran until All-American 13, with an epilogue of sorts in 14, that sees Tor in disguise, operating a machine that uses rays to create poison gas.  Doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it does introduce Carlota Zambezi.  She is effectively written, a red herring to decoy us from suspecting Dr. Stark, who turns out to be Tor.  Carlota becomes Gary’s Chief of Science at the end of the story.

In issues 15 and 16 Gary deals with Dr. Marman’s monstrous creations, that are described much like clones, but look like robots.  Marman has fallen under the control of Gardo, from an underwater city of finned apes.  They steal a big Uranium X power plant, which Marman ultimately blows up to stop Gardo.

Issue 16 also introduces Ginger Jones, the flighty daughter of a senator, who has a huge and unrequited crush on Gary.

Not much is made of the Ultra-Man idea up to this point, but in his final issues, we are told about his “untiring energy and superior mental powers,” and when diplomacy does not get him what he wants, he removes his costume, saying “it’s time for Ultra-Man!” and then goes and beats people up.

Gary’s next appearance is in the first issue of All-Star Comics, and it, and the final serial that runs from All-American 17 – 19 are both extremely isolationist and anti-war.  In both cases nations in Europe have gone to war, and the stories make it clear that the war is having a devastating effect on United America’s economy.  With exports decreased, factories are closing, people are out of work, and poverty is leading to an increase in street crime.  The tale in All-Star makes the bold statement that both sides in the European war are to blame.

This story would have been on the newstands as Germany was invading and occupying France, and I doubt its message went over well.  In fact, I suspect the political slant of these tales is part of the reason the series ended.

Again, in both stories the wars turn out to be caused not by the nations themselves, they are being manipulated into it by evil corporations.  In the All-Star story the main goal of the war in Europe is to depress the economy of United America so much that the powers behind the war can buy up their uranium mines at low prices.

The thing I liked best about this series, aside from the funky art deco futurism of the art, is the wordplay for future inventions.  Elasteel is wonderfully self-explanatory, but my favourite is destroynamite.

Gary Concord, Ultra-Man is not seen again until a Legion of Super-Heroes Annual in the 90s.

Gary Concord, Ultra Man:  All-American 10 – 19  (Jan – Oct 40)

All-Star 1  (Summer 40)

Wiley of West Point (Early Golden Age)


Wiley of West Point concludes after only three more chapters.  Wiley’s court-martial is overturned after he is exonerated by the Lubanians, and he faces off against Baxter in the boxing championship.  Betty arrives to see him victorious, but at the party afterwards she runs into Sylvia King, who Wiley has been seeing since his arrival at West Point.

At the conclusion, Betty has been dancing and flirting with another cadet, Sneed, while Wiley makes a super lame explanation to Sylvia about his past relationship with Betty.  I kind of hope that Sylvia took his explanation at face value and went back to dating Baxter, while Betty found true love with Sneed and two-timing Wiley was left on his own.

But then, a few months down the road, Wiley would have been shipped out to battle in World War 2, so maybe I don’t wish him all bad luck.

Wiley of West Point:  All-American 10 – 12 (Jan – Mar 40)

Ben Webster (Early Golden Age)


Ben Webster‘s series plods along, as he enlists professional athletes as instructors at the boys reform school, which thrills the students, and makes the school a success.

In issue 11 Professor Mattix gets a letter from his brother Abner, who vanished in the southwestern US while prospecting for gold.  Mattix enlists Ben’s aid in finding him, and Ben sets out with Taffy Tate, an eccentric old man with a monkey on his shoulder and a truck converted into a mobile home (which I do not believe existed at this time).

They find a man lying in the desert, and help him.  He gives his name as Sidewinder Pete, and tells them he will bring them to Abner.  Ben is suspicious, but they follow the man deep into a canyon, where he appears to ambush them.  In fact, this was Abner all along, and he was as suspicious of them as they were of him.  Abner has found, not a gold mine, but a spring of magic mud.

Abner discovered the powers of the mud spring after seeing a man shoot himself in the head, but get healed and revived instantly.  Ben and Taffy agree this could be more valuable than gold, but instead of pursuing the medical uses, they decide to market it as a home beauty treatment that will remove wrinkles.

Betsy comes to work for them, as the Magic Mud pulls in lots of money, but Ben gets lured away by Miss Terry, who brings him to her house, where he gets drugged and held captive, in hopes of finding the source of the mud.  His dog, Briarsie, tagged along, and helps Taffy and Betsy track Ben to the house, but they get captured as well.  Nonsensically, this all turns out to be a prank by Abner, who then asks Ben to accompany him to the old family mansion, believed to be haunted.

At the mansion, they appear to be menaced by a robot and a hispanic servant, Pedro, but again all is fine, as their boss turns out to be Bud Mattix, an inventor who wanted privacy so he let everyone think he had been dead for 30 years.  Story after story has these cheerful let-downs.

Ben then finds a lost young boy, Tom Jackson, and helps him find his way home to his young widowed mother, who is being taken in an elaborate phony gold mine scam to get her insurance money.  At least this turns out not to be a harmless prank, and Mrs. Jackson finds herself close to destitute.  Ben moves in, sharing his wages, and she rents a room to a mysterious man, whom everyone winds up believing is a criminal, but who actually turns out to be a playwright.

The series ends at this point, which is great, as it had become such a tedious read.  Ben will probably marry Nancy Jackson, despite the difference in ages, unless he heads off to war in a few months when Pearl Harbour gets attacked.  But as long as I don’t have to read about what Ben Webster is doing, I am fine with it.

Ben Webster:  All-American 10 – 24 (Jan 40 – Mar 41)

Adventures in the Unknown (Early Golden Age)


The serial “A Thousand Years a Minute” concludes after three more installments of Adventures in the Unknown, as Ted and Alan shoot a triceratops, rescue a caveman, fight off a giant snake in a river, and then get captured by more cavemen, but freed by the one they helped.  Not awful, but this is not Rip Hunter, Time Master by any stretch.

Their next serial, “The Infra Red Destroyers,” begins with the following issues, All-American 13, though according to the story a year has passed between issues 12 and 13.  Ted and Alan get a cover appearance with the opening chapter of this serial, which it frankly does not merit.  They story, which runs to issue 18, is an overly complex mess of meteor-missiles from Venus, an invisibility ray, a mad scientist, an innocent man framed for murder, an inquisitive reporter, and giant Venusian snakes who want to take over the world.  The White House, Washington Monument, the Empire State Building and big chunks of New York City get destroyed in this storyline, but the art fails to make any of that look impressive.  The Venusian snakes turn on the mad scientist and kill him just before Ted and Alan wipe them out with poison gas.

Their final storyline, “Rescue on Mars,” runs from issues 20 – 25, and sees the two men return to Mars to retrieve Professor Lutyens, bringing along their new buddy Jack Williams.  Alan has invented a metal that will not melt, and foreign spies are pursuing them, but that’s largely a distraction from the main story.  Jack gets to play the hero, putting a robot head over his own (which works remarkably well at tricking the other robots).  We discover the Lutyens brain is back in his old body, and the professor constructs a robot to help them escape, which they do.  They land on Earth near some Japanese troops, but Lutyens still has his old paralysis ray gun, and uses it on them.

The series ends at this point, as I am sure upon returning to the US the professor and the boys are grabbed by the intelligence services and put to work creating weaponry for the US military.

Adventures in the Unknown:  All-American 10 – 18  (Jan – Sep 40),  20 – 25 (Nov 40 – Apr 41)

Scribbly and the Red Tornado (Early Golden Age)


Scribbly‘s series gets all but taken over by the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids for much of the rest of its run in All-American.  Despite this, it never really turned into a hero series, staying firmly in the comedic genre, and though the Red Tornado fought criminals and Nazis, she spent more time dealing with her chaos-prone family.

Throughout 1940 the series continues much as it had begin, the tribulations of young comic writer Scribbly, his crazy boss Macklin, his annoying younger brother Dinky, and the overwhelming Hunkle family.  Dinky meets his counterpart, Sisty Hunkel, in Issue 11, and its true love from the get-go for the toddlers.

After the two are believed to be kidnapped by gangsters, Ma Hunkle goes to the police in All-American 20 to demand they arrest Tubb Tarponi and his gang, but the police lack any solid evidence.  The Red Tornado then appears, in long red underwear with a pot on her head (though everyone thinks it is a man) and takes down the gang.  There is no need to spell out that this is Ma.

I think if the Red Tornado had been male this series would not have worked as well.  Despite it being all played for comedy, we see Ma beat up and strong arm her butcher, her landlord, Scribbly’s editor, and Dinky and Sisty’s teacher at school, all as the Red Tornado.  In issue 28 she roughs up an actor hired to play the Red Tornado on a radio show, only at the end discovering it was her husband in the costume.

With issue 23 the title of the series became “Scribbly and the Red Tornado”, though Tornado’s name was notably smaller.  They were of equal size in issue 25, and with 26 the Red Tornado’s billing vastly overshadowed that of Scribbly, and the stories reflected this.  Similarly, towards the end of the run, as Scribbly returned to prominence in the strip, the Red Tornado’s billing decreased to equal size in issue 57, and smaller than Scribbly’s in issues 58 and 59.

Dinky and Sisty take on the identities of the Cyclone Kids after Ma briefly succeeds at convincing everyone that the Red Tornado was a hoax, in issue 24.  With no idea of each others identities, Tornado and the Cyclone Kids go into action independently when Scribbly gets kidnapped by hoods who want information on Red Tornado,  but work together to rescue him.  In issue 27 Ma unmasks before the Kids, and reveals she has always known who they were.  Scribbly himself suspects Ma and the kids are the “Terrific Trio” in issue 46, but they use a dummy in Red Tornado’s costume to fool him.

In issue 42 Ma rescues a dog from a hood who was using it in his crimes, and names it Runt, the Mystery Dog, providing it with a cape and a mask.  Runt briefly appears again in 43, but is then allowed to live life as a normal dog.

The series reaches its apex with All-American 45, which opens with Ma complaining about the title credits and logo always being the same, and how boring that is.  She seeks out Scribbly, but it’s Sheldon Mayer himself who breaks the panel boundaries and enters to argue with Ma, and complain in turn about how he “made her famous”, and that Green Lantern and Superman have to do far more than she does, and never complain.  Mayer decides to kill himself, jumping out of the top corner panel.  Ma whines and bitches, but changes costume and emerges from the bottom panel border to catch Mayer.  Brilliant.

But after that, the series just seemed to pale.  The joke has been taken as far as it could, and now Scribbly started to take the series back.  In issue 52 Macklin gives up ownership of the paper to enter the army, and Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids run it until Scribbly persuades Ma and the kids to also chip in, and she makes an excuse to get the Trio out of there. In issue 57 Scribbly imagines them all in the Middle Ages, and in 59, the final installment of the series in All-American, they are all shown as barnyard animals.

Scribbly appeared in three issues of Comic Cavalcade, though the first was just a reprint of his debut in All-American.  The second, in Comic Cavalcade 4, is another Red Tornado story, as she protects her brother-in-law Gus from an insurance scam.  The third, issue 7, which came out just as his All-American series ended, has Red Tornado billed, but only appearing as Ma.

In the fall of 1944 Scribbly would appear in the Big All-American one-shot, with the Hunkle family, but the Red Tornado had been left behind, and would not be a part of Scribbly’s solo book, which would run through the late golden age, but which I am not going to cover in my blog.

It would take decades before Ma Hunkle would return to the pages of DC Comics, though her next solo story would be written and drawn by Sheldon Mayer.  In the meantime, a completely different Red Tornado would debut in the Silver Age, and get his own series in the Bronze Age.

Scribbly/Red Tornado:  All-American 10 – 59 (Jan 40 – July 44)

Comic Cavalcade 1 (Winter 42),  4  (Fall 43),   7  (Summer 44)

Big All-American

Hop Harrigan (Early Golden Age)


Hop Harrigan was a hugely popular character in the the 1940s.  From his series in All-American he spun out into a daily newspaper strip, a radio show and even a movie serial.  The ease with which the series adapted to World War 2 undoubtedly worked in its favour, but by and large the series continued its hallmark of serializing relatively realistic adventures of the young hero.

I will admit I was wrong about Maurice, the French poet, who had nothing to do with the illness the man suffered, but continued to be a romantic rival for Hop for a few more issues, though we see that Geraldine has no genuine interest in Maurice aside from using him to make Hop jealous.

Hop becomes a celebrated hero after test flying Prop Wash’s new long range plane, rescuing Chinese threatened by floodwaters.  He is given a parade in New York City, and Prop capitalizes on the publicity, as he, Ikky and Hop open the All-American Aviation Company.  But the news also brings back Hop’s former guardian, whose name we learn in Crass.  Crass heads to court to regain custody of Hop, but Ikky finds evidence that Crass stole the money from the sale of Hop’s lands, and forged the will of Hop’s father, on which his custody was based.  Ikky brings Miss Snapp, Hop’s old school teacher, to give evidence, and Miss Snapp decides to stick around after, being retired.  At first she cooks and cleans and generally mothers the three men, but after getting a reward for stopping a bank robbery, she invests in the company and becomes its treasurer.

Hop and Ikky do a barnstorming tour of the US, selling planes along the way.  They manage to run out of planes, selling the one they are flying, just as they encounter payroll robbers who have taken Geraldine and her father captive.  A couple of issues play this out, with a useless sheriff who dreams of being a Hollywood cowboy.

In issue 25 Prop and Ikky are approached by the Secret Service to become air pirates, taking out spies who are not in US territory. Hop is kept out of the loop, they feel he is too young to take part in such dangerous activities, but he finds out and follows them.  Hop puts on an elaborate headgear, and wears a costume with glider wings attached, calling himself Guardian Angel.  For four issues he saves Prop and Ikky and defeats the spies without anyone figuring out who he is.  He reveals his identity at the end of the story in issue 28, and in issue 29 Ikky tries the flying costume out.  Unfortunately, Miss Snapp has made friends with a local archaeologist, Professor Twink, who terrifies her with stories of pterodactyls, and that night a dazed and confused Miss Snapp destroys the costume, thinking it the prehistoric bird.

A comedic romance between Miss Snapp and Professor Twink builds over the next few issues, and we also learn that Ikky is really His Grace Tutankhamen Anastasius Augustora Ichabod Tinker, his family holding a barony.  Ikky hates his name and background, and is much more interested in the new tank he is devising.  In issue 32 Ikky gains the new nickname Tank, likely because the radio series was getting started and “Ikky” sounds terrible as a name.

Geraldine returns briefly in the story in World’s Finest 4, a one-off that largely consists of numerous girls getting jealous over Hop, and cat-fighting.

Tank, now that he has a better name, also falls for a young blonde physician, Doctor Bradley, as he and Hop escort a medical team to Alaska.  Tank’s compass goes awry, and he is forced to land in an inuit village.  He is happy to spend some time with the doctor, but at her request heads out to find some way to communicate where they are, dealing with blizzards and polar bears.  He manages to find Hop, who has been looking for him, but upon returning catches Dr. Bradley in the arms of another man.

At this point it seems like the series is degenerating a bit into soap opera, but the next issue, All-American 38, was the first one written after the attack on Pearl Harbour, and Hop decides to join the army air force.  He is accepted, but Tank gets rejected.  As he enrols for training, he runs into Geraldine and her new boyfriend, Cecil Giltedge, who has also enlisted.  “Sure-Bet” Booker, a former reporter, is their roommate, and knowing Hop’s background makes a bet with Giltedge about who will fly solo first.  He also volunteers to help Hop with math, his weakest area in the training, but finesses the whole situation so that Giltedge must tutor Hop, who makes his solo flight first, so Booker gets the money to take Geraldine out on a date.

The next few issues deal with the training of air cadets, and displays a remarkable amount of detail.  If the stories were not so well written, one would think this whole series had become a training manual.  Much of the cast is relegated to the sidelines, reading Hop’s letters as he recounts the stories.

Giltedge is determined to be too tall to fly fighter planes, and is sent to train as a bombardier, while Hop gets two new roomies, a former farmer named Spud, and a Brit whose family died in a German air raid, Limey.  Hop does his best to help both of them, but while Limey succeeds, Spud is dismayed that he has no skill at flying, until Hop convinces him to become an aircraft mechanic, which he excels at.

With issue 41 Hop graduates and heads to Randolph Field, described as the “West Point of the Air.”  An actual building is replicated in one panel, so I believe this must have been a well-known place at the time.  Hop now is training with goof-ball Billiken, and they are known as “dodos.”  Hop is put through the wringer by Captain Knuckduster, but only because they expect great things from him.  Hop heads out on furlough, and winds up having to save Tank’s life.  He had been sent to deliver plans to San Antonio, but had fallen for a pretty nazi spy girl.  Hop fears severe disciplinary action when he is late returning to the base, but his reputation and connexions precede him, and instead he gets commended.

Hop wants to be a pursuit flyer, but his skill in formation flying keeps him from that goal, so he enrolls in artillery training to improve his marksmanship.  See, I knew none of how this kind of stuff happened.  There is even fascinating story detailing the challenges of formation flying.  At any rate, in issue 45 Hop graduates from Randolph Field as an Air Lieutenant, but to his dismay is made a junior flight instructor, rather than being sent to the front.

With issue 46 we and Hop learn that the situation is not as bad as he feared.  Captain Knuckleduster has brought in Tank, who is now an airforce mechanic, and Prop, who is now a major.  Prop is to design new planes, Tank will build them and Hop will test fly them.  Even Geraldine returns, now a mechanic as well (though we also discover she is the Governor’s daughter, which comes somewhat out of the blue).

For a few issues they work on a small one-man glider-fighter, L’il David, taking it on tests until launching it as part of an assault on a Japanese destroyer in the Aleutians.  It works well, though eventually gets shot down.  This has the incredibly unfortunate consequence of introducing Hippity, in All-American 49, a mute boy, who I think is autistic, as he just stares pathologically at people, but nevertheless becomes Hop’s sidekick for the next few stories.

Hiipity saves Hop a few times, and even forms a band of ‘para-rompers and paratots” out of children from a refugee camp, communicating with them through morse code.

But as Hop’s series in Comic Cavalcade begins, the series takes a slight shift into more front line combat stories, and Hippity gets lieft behind, Tank becoming Hop’s partner in the air.

In his last three stories from this era Hop is stationed in India.  The two All-American stories are very much in the Tintin genre, with a dastardly villain, Naja Hana, the Cobra, working with the Japanese and making incredible escapes, by the climbing rope trick and disappearing into a basket.  The Comic Cavalcade story, on the other hand, is a far more serious war story, pitting Hop against a Japanese plane, the Bloody Dragon, which looks like a giant green dragon that spits fire as it flies.

Hop Harrigan continues in the Late Golden Age

Hop Harrigan:  All-American 10 – 59  (Jan 40 – July 44)

World’s Finest Comics 4  (Winter 41)

Comic Cavalcade 3 – 7  (Summer 43 – Summer 44)

Red, White and Blue (Early Golden Age)


Red, White and Blue proved to be a very  popular series during these years, appearing not only in All-American throughout this period, but also in the 1940 New York World’s Fair, the first two issues of All-Star Comics and the first six issues of World’s Finest, before settling into Comic Cavalcade.  Doris is never specifically demoted from being their boss, but we never see her function in that capacity, and she appears to be equals with them, until close to the end of the period.

The stories themselves tend heavily toward repetition.  Over and over scientists discover some new weapon, or a prototype plane/tank/sub has been constructed, and Red, Whitey, Blooey and Doris are assigned to protect them/retrieve them/save the kidnapped scientist.  The only major variation to this is when they need to find out who is sabotaging munitions factories, and they do that an awful lot as well.

As the series progresses, Red ceases to be the hero in each and every tale, and Blooey gets a few stories as the lead.  Whitey is made the muscle of the group, and gets to be the hero a few times.  Doris is generally the one to figure out the bad guys plans, although in All-American 33 she is the only one to elude the nazi spies who have been sent out to capture the four.  She defeats her enemy, disguises herself as the woman and takes down the spy ring, freeing the boys.

There is a rivalry between Doris and Red, both trying to show the other that they are the better spy, but there is clearly also some romance between them.  That being said, Doris does kiss Blooey in more stories than she kisses Red.

There are a few stories without Doris, but in most of them she shows up before the end, usually having been in disguise, appearing in the tale as some other woman.

By 1942 the stories are picking up some of the paranoia that pervades other series, with anyone and everyone possibly being a nazi spy.  Our heroes encounter them at a roller skating rink, a Hollywood film set, a Texas oil facility, a scrap yard, a coconut warehouse, even a laundry.  Still, this does get balanced somewhat by the tale in All-American 52, in which neighbours who become suspicious about a man living on their street cause more problems through their gossip that is necessary, and the end of the story reminds them to leave the spying to the professionals.

As 1944 begins, the series takes a definite turn.  Doris has stopped going on cases with them, now simply baking pies and acting like a jealous girlfriend.  She does not even believe Red when he explains his flirtations with a German spy as part of his job, as if she had never done the same thing herself!

And then the group gets split up.  Red is sent with the army to fight the Japanese in the Pacific, Whitey joins the forces in Europe, and Blooey goes off with the navy.  Each story deals with only one of the characters, who relates his adventures in a letter to the other two.  Their stories alternate in issues of All-American, but Whitey is the star of both the Comic Cavalcade adventures that end this era.

Red, White and Blue continue in the Late Golden Age

Red, White and Blue:  All-American  10 – 59  (Jan 40 – July 44)

New York World’s Fair  1940

All-Star Comics 1 – 2  (Summer – Fall 1940)

World’s Best Comics  1  (Spring 1941)

World’s Finest Comics  2- 6 (Summer 41 – Summer 42)

Comic Cavalcade  1 – 2  (Winter 42 – Spring 43),  5 – 7  (Winter 43 – Summer 44)

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