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Posts tagged ‘Barry O’Neil’

Barry O’Neil (Early Golden Age)

Barry O’Neil‘s series continues, but now is all one-issue tales.  Fang Gow remains the major villain, almost the only villain, but never approaches the degree of menace that he was during the longer serials.  Far from it, he becomes almost a ridiculous figure, as in story after story Barry and Le Grand quickly end his plots and plans.

Picking up from where it left off (or where I left off), Le Grand’s daughter Jean has been kidnapped by Fang Gow yet again.  Barry goes to try to save her, but gets captured as well, and Le Grand is the one to save the day.

With issue 47, Barry and Le Grand are recruited to French Intelligence, and clearly excel at it, as in the very next issue they are called the “ace spy-smashing team of French Intelligence.”  Of course, their missions are always related to Fang Gow, who is apparently a bigger threat to France than Nazi Germany.

Fang Gow’s plans range from messing up the food rationing system, to mind controlling Jean to kill Barry, to devising a formula that will shrink people.  He falls for a ridiculous ploy, being “hired” by undercover French Intelligence operatives to kill Barry, as a plot to capture Fang Gow.  Why they simply don’t take him into custody when they meet with him is beyond me. We meet Fang Gow’s daughter in issue 53, though she is never given a name.

With issue 55 Barry and Le Grand relocate to French Guyana.  The reason is not given, but the fall of France to the Nazis in the spring of 1940 is clearly behind it.  Curiously, Jean does not come with them.  She does not appear again, nor is she ever mentioned.  It’s hard to believe Le Grand would have casually abandoned his daughter to the Nazi occupation, so I fear that Jean must have been killed suring it.

Fang Gow heads to French Guyana as well, creating giants, using a special sub to sink allied ships, and plotting to free all the prisoners from Devil’s Island.  This last plot backfires big time, as Fang Gow winds up imprisoned there himself.

In issue 58, Barry and Le Grand sail to England with Fang Gow in custody.  Fang Gow plots to kill himself, then be revived by a sea burial, but this backfired on him as well when his coffin hits an undersea mine and explodes, finally putting an end to this menace.  Barry comments that he “will miss him,” and as overdone as his appearances became, once Fang Gow is gone, the series loses its purpose.

In 59 Barry and Le Grand sail to the US, and solver murder and diamond theft on the way, then in 60 Barry learns that a wealthy uncle died leaving him everything, including the deciding votes on unifying the New York subway system. Barry escapes death at the hands of those who want to keep the subways private, and his long run ends with the formation of the public subway system.

Barry was now extremely wealthy, and on the board of the new subway, so I expect he settled down in New York City at this point.

Barry O’Neil lasted longer than any other series that began in New Fun #1, but ended as a pale shadow of what it was.

Barry O’Neil:  Adventure Comics 46 – 60  (Jan 40 – Mar 41)

Barry O’Neil

Barry O’Neil’s series begins as a very long running serial (the first storyline lasts until April 1939), very much in the style of Fu Manchu.  In fact, most of his stories in 1936 and 37 are titled “Barry O’Neil and Fang Gow of China – The Inscrutable Enemy of  the Human Race”  Despite this, the series is not as racist as it might be (certainly not as racist as many other series).  Barry is aided periodically by Ling Foo, an operative of the Chinese government, which is also threatened by the actions of Fang Gow.  The most embarrassing stereotype in the series is Barry’s sidekick, the French Inspector Le Grand, who is prone to such utterances as “Paree ees saved!  Look zere eez zee sweetch!”

The art is also really beautiful, at least for the New/More Fun issues of the run, and the story features non-stop action, but Barry has virtually no character beyond being a heroic American, and the endless stream of people being captured and tortured, then escaping or being rescued does begin to pale after a while.

Fang Gow is built up very nicely.  We meet only his operatives at first, who gets messages through a statuette, which also fires paralysis beams through it eyes, and Fang Gow himself does not appear until issue 12.  At first he plots to blow up Paris, but Barry foils that plot and shoots Fang Gow, leaving a bullet lodged in his spine.  So Fang Gow kidnaps not only Dr. Bonfils, the best surgeon in France, but also Jean, the daughter of Inspector Le Grand.

Now, every other French character in the series has their named rendered in French (like Pierre for example).  So Jean really ought to be Jeanne, if its his daughter.  Makes me wonder if Le Grand really just has a shemale lover he passes off as his daughter?  But she is little more than a plot device anyway, getting captured, tortured, rescued, captured again, sold to a sheikh, escaping through the desert, and finally making it back to Paris.

The first part of the serial takes place in France, but after getting shot Fang Gow flies to Port Said, in Egypt, shooting down Barry’s plane as he follows.  In the most absurd moment of the run, Barry is rescued from drowning by a passing ocean liner, which happens to have Le Grand on board.

This serial lasts throughout Barry’s run in More Fun Comics, and picks up mid-storyline when his series moves to Adventure Comics (New Adventure for the first installment).  While his strip was only one, and then two pages in More Fun, his Adventure stories are all six pages in length, though the art is never on par with the earlier tales.

Fang Gow is finally defeated and left for dead in Adventure Comics 37, though the reader gets to see that he is still alive, though needing major surgery.

Barry heads back to Paris with Le Grand and Jean, and issue 38 jumps to six months later, when one of Le Grand’s military friends has apparently committed suicide.  Barry takes only two issues to deduce that the man was murdered at the orders of spymaster Count Duniff, who he tracks down and kills.

Issues 40 – 43 see Barry head to Tunisia to stop a plot by another spy, Krull, to destroy the French fleet.

Fang Gow returns in issue 44, now perfectly healthy but being held in a French prison.  How he got there from an operating table in Port Said is never explained.  He escapes from prison, devises a formula for turning humans into wax, and launches a scheme to smuggle French criminals into the US by turning them into wax and shipping them as pieces of art.  Barry discovers and dispatches this plan in one issue, and kills Fang Gow at the end, though in issue 45 Fang Gow is dug up from his grave and revived by his men, and then kidnaps Jean, for old times sake.

This takes the serial up to December 1939, my cut-off point for this era.  Barry’s series runs another full year, but I will be discussing those stories when I get to my next section, the Early Golden Age

Barry O’Neil:  New Fun 1 – 6 (Jan – Oct 35)

More Fun 7 – 29 (Jan 36 – Feb 38)

New Adventure 31 (Oct 38)

Adventure 32 – 45 (Nov 38 – Dec 39)

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