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)