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Posts tagged ‘Bob Kane’

Rusty and his Pals (Early Golden Age)


The second (and last) serial begins in issue 46 by “re-introducing” Rusty and his Pals.  I put that in quotations because they were poorly introduced when the series began, taking a few issues before we learned their names.  And even so, the intro blurbs tell us little. Rusty is courageous, Specs is bookish and Tubby eats a lot.

The story picks up as the boys wander an Engish moor, get lost in a storm and find a huge old house.  Bob Kane does some of his best art on the run with the house.  There is a long hallway, with a hammer-beamed ceiling, and some other great, moody interiors. I would love to say these were the basis of Wayne Manor, but Kane never drew it to look this good.

There is a paranoid old man in the house, and his rude bodyguard, but the bodyguard gets killed by “natives” and the old man has a heart attack, and they seek out his nephew Angus McHeather (which means his father’s name was Heather, which is weird).  They follow a trail that leads them deep below the house, and learn about the old man’s past in a travelling carnival that went broke in Malay (current Malaysia, though that’s probably obvious).  The man and three others killed a tribe of Malay and stole their bejewelled idol, which the old man in turn stole from the other three.

So now Rusty and his pals join Angus on a journey to Malay, where they face not only angry natives seeking vengeance, but also the other three men, determined to find the treasure.

The serial is pretty good, though Angus is a poor substitute for Steve Carter, though he does save the boys in the end, using ventriloquism to make the natives think their killer gorilla, and later the idol itself, it talking.

After all is resolved, the boys journey home in the last two panels of issue 52.  They arrive back home just in time for a Fourth of July celebration, and the parents are so relieved to have them back that they do not seem stressed about the fact that the boys look years older than they did when they left, or that Rusty’s hair changed colour from blond to the more logical red.

The series ends here, but knowing these boys, I have little doubt that when the US entered World War II they would have lied about their ages and entered the forces.

Rusty and his Pals:  Adventure Comics 46- 52 (Jan – July 40)

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“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)

Batman


With the creation of Batman, comics took a leap forward.  The Crimson Avenger and Sandman were not hugely different in conception; like The Shadow, all were simply men with weapons who went outside the limits of the law to pursue criminals.  But as strangely as they dressed, they could not be compared to Superman.  Batman could.  Was it the ears?

Batman’s costume was pretty much the same at the start as it is now.  The cape had some internal supports, to make it stick out at unnatural angles, and the cowl went further down on the face, with the bat-ears much larger, and located over the ears of the person wearing the cowl, but both cape and cowl would be well on the way to their “normal” look by the end of 1939.  But it was a costume, not just an usual assembly of clothing, and that made Batman different.

Even the story was told in a different fashion, more like a mystery.  The reader is not made aware that worthless playboy Bruce Wayne is secretly the Batman until the last page of the debut story (though I don’t imagine it was a huge shock.) Bob Kane took elements of Rusty and his Pals, mixed with the Shadow, the Count of Monte Cristo and Zorro, and distilled comic book magic.

The backstory had to wait a while.  At first, all we know is that Bruce spends his free time hanging out with Commissioner Gordon, then dons a costume he keeps in a trunk in his living room to go battle crime.

Though he is wearing what would come to be called his utility belt from his first appearance, it is not used until his second story, when he carries sleeping gas pellets in it.  His only “weapon” at first is his “tough silken cord.”  He would first use a “baterang” [sic] in issue 31. Batman drives around in a “specially built high-powered auto,” but this looks simply like a large red car.  Issue 31 also introduced the Bat-gyro, called the Batplane in issue 33.  This looked like a giant black bat, with an unusual helicopter-type blade assembly on the top.

It did not take long for Batman to start facing the crazed villains he was known for.  None of the big names debuted in this early period, but he fought Dr. Death in issues 29 and 30, a murderous mad scientist, The Monk in issues 31 and 32, a cloaked and hooded vampire, and a man who dressed as Napoleon, with a death-ray mounted on a dirigible, in 33.

Issue 31 introduces Julie Madison, the fiancee of Bruce Wayne, an actress who falls under the spell of the Monk.  Batman pursues the Monk and Julie to Hungary, and the three issues set in Europe (31, 32 and 34, the last published out of sequence) established the death-traps, castles, and general gothic horror feel of the series.  There was no element of Gotham City yet – indeed, the only time a city is mentioned it’s Manhattan – but over time Gotham would come to take on the atmosphere of these three tales.

Issue 33, the Dirigible of Doom, gave the first telling of Batman’s origin.  This is likely the reason it was moved ahead of the story in 34, which directly follows the events in 32.  And I suspect, the change in publication order is the reason that the cover for issue 35 reflects the story printed in issue 34.  One little change tends to spiral that way.

At any rate, in the first two pages of 33, we get the tale of young Bruce Wayne seeing his parents both shot in front of him, after a hoodlum tries to steal his mother’s pearl necklace.  The boy makes a tearful, bedside vow to avenge his parents’ deaths, and then spends years training himself for the task.  We get the classic panel of Bruce sitting in the dark, alone in his house, saying “criminals are a superstitious, cowardly lot, so my disguise must be able to strike terror into their hearts.  I must be a creature of the night.  Black, terrible.  a…a… ” and then the bat comes flying through the open window.  “A bat!  That’s it!  It’s an omen!  I shall become a bat!”

The origin is so simple, really, and though the bat coming through the window is almost laughable now, those two pages have a darkness and a power to them that even the eeriest of Sandman stories could not touch.

Later in that story, Bruce presses a panel on the wall to open a secret passage to his laboratory.  The Batcave was far in the future, but at least he started storing the trunk with his costume in the lab, instead of his living room.

Batman continues in the Early Golden Age.

Batman:  Detective Comics  27 – 34  (May – Dec 39)

Rusty and his Pals


Rusty and his Pals was the first series Bob Kane did for DC.  It serializes the adventures of a young blond boy, Rusty, and his friends Tubby and Specs, but by the end of it’s first storyline (conveniently the end of this era) it has laid the basis that the Batman series will be built from.

Rusty and his Pals appear to be about 9 or 10 years old as this begins.  After reading a book about pirates, the three boys build a raft, and sail out to find some and have adventures.  Remarkably, they do run into a masted schooner with a crew all dressed as pirates, but these are performers, and the ship is used for entertainment.  They bring the boys aboard, and continue sailing to England, unaware that the ship is also transporting opium to Chen Fu.

On board, the boys meet Steve Carter, and American man who will look more and more like Bruce Wayne as the series progresses, and also effectively become the action hero of the strip.

One of Chen Fu’s operatives, Long Sin, leads an attack on the ship, and Rusty, Steve and the the rest flee, making it to a tropical island run by counterfeiter Ichabod Slade.  He has a giant, sword-wielding assistant, Omar, and a beautiful female accomplice, the Duchess.

A storm forces Long Sin and his men to abandon the pirate ship, but the lifeboat is overloaded, and Long Sin has his own men thrown into the ocean to ensure his survival.

Rusty, Steve et al escape from Slade thanks to the Duchess, who has fallen for Steve and regrets her evil ways.  Long Sin and his forces arrive on the island for a big climactic battle, which also sees a volcanic eruption devastate the island, just as our heroes manage to fly away.

They finally arrive in England, where Chen Fu has Rusty kidnapped, seeking vengeance on Steve.  Steve rescues the boy, bringing him to safety by hiding out in an opium den.  With the aid of a gun-toting Scotland Yard inspector they have a big shoot out with Chen Fu’s men, Fu is captured, and Steve and the Duchess, now using her real name, Diane, plan to get married.  The boys feel they would be in the way, and head off in search of new adventures.

The art on this series improves dramatically as the run progresses. The early chapters show an impressive attention to details, but the details overload the panels, the art is not in a strong balance.  Kane gets much better with this over time.  Steve starts off with a poorly proportioned body and some really awkward stances, but moves like Batman by the end.  The villains look extremely cartoony, but the stylization works well.

In occasional panels you get a taste of how Kane would draw Batman.  The shot of a man smoking opium, in issue 29, is the first of these, and really stands out.  A motorboat/seaplane chase in 34 similarly captures the action very well.

The Duchess bears more than a passing resemblance to Catwoman, both physically, and character-wise, the bad girl with a crush on the hero.  The Scotland Yard inspector is short and fat, wearing a deerstalker, much the way Alfred would appear when introduced.  The boys appear much older by the end of this era, fully teenagers, and Rusty goes into fights alongside Steve with much the same camaraderie as Robin would with Batman.

Rusty and his Pals continues in the Early Golden Age.

Rusty and his Pals:  New Adventure Comics  26 – 31 (May – Oct 38)

Adventure Comics  32 – 45  (Nov 38 – Dec 39)

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