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Black Pirate


The Black Pirate was the perfect series for Sheldon Moldoff to illustrate.  The high-masted ships, the exotic locales, the period costumes and architecture would not have looked as good with any other artist, and nothing else Moldoff drew looked as beautiful as this series.  Jon Valor is cut from the same pattern as Errol Flynn and Douglas Fairbanks, and even resembles them with his pencil moustache.

His run in Action Comics is done as a serial, with cliffhangers and continuous action as he faces off against the kidnapping Captain Ruff, and then his vengeful brother in issues 23 – 28.  Immediately following this he falls into the hands of Captain Treble, who runs a slave galley (white slaves), and uses the men as workers in his underwater phosphate mine. Jon leads a mutiny, tunneling through to open the mine to the ocean and fleeing as the water rushes in.  He kills Treble in a swordfight in Action 32, and then meets a female pirate, who calls herself the Queen of the Seas.

They challenge each other to see who can get the most loot, but when she fails to show up for the rendezvous, Jon goes hunting for her, finding her a captive of chinese pirate Lu Chan.  Lu Chan sets fire to how own ship, intending to kill them both, but Jon and the woman escape, and he kills Lu Chan in a duel.

They sail back to Spain, arriving in issue 36.  Jon runs into an old friend, Don Avila, who invites Jon to a ball at the palace, to which he brings Bonnie.  It turns out to be a trap to capture him, and though Bonnie is held in an underground keep, Jon manages to escape his captors, free her and duel Don Avila to his death.

Issue 41 gives them a bit of a rest, as they put in to a port in North Africa.  Jon goes exploring, finding the albino Amora, the High Priestess of Ora, and her massive and silent black bodyguard.  Jon quickly escapes from them.  Issue 42 features another one-shot tale, that has old enemies plot to capture Jon’s ship, but he gets the best of them.

Throughout this entire run, Jon does not wear any particular sort of costume.  His clothes are usually black, but often all he is wearing is shorts.

As the series moves over to Sensation Comics, he takes to disguising his identity, something that was not a part of the concept in Action Comics.  He now wears yellow tousers and a white shirt, as well as along purple cloak with a peaked hood when being the Black Pirate.  Bonnie turns out to be Donna Bonita, the ward of King Phillip II, and engaged to his eldest son, referred to in the series as Don Carlos (though this must be the same person as Prince Carlos of Asturia, his violent and crazed eldest child).  Jon and Donna marry, and Phillip accepts the Englishman at his court, though charging him with finding and apprehending the Black Pirate.

From Sensation Comics 2 – 4, Jon deals with the vengeful and suspicious Carlos, who finally goes too far, having his father imprisoned and seizing the throne.  With the help of the court jester, Jon frees Phillip, and kills Carlos in a duel.  In reality, Carlos never tried to overthrow his father, but was imprisoned until his death, possibly by poison.

In Sensation 5, Justin is born to Jon and Donna, and issue 6 sees the boy grow to about 12 years old.  Justin kills one of Phillip’s guards, who had been attacking an old woman, and is imprisoned and set to be executed.  Jon frees his son, and with Donna they flee Spain.  The jester joins them in the following issue, and remains a member of Jon’s crew, making periodic appearances through the rest of his run.

Justin learns his father is the Black Pirate, and makes himself a matching costume, though with a purple shirt and red cloak and hood.  The series will occasionally go under the title “Black Pirate and Son” from this point on, but usually is still just “Black Pirate.”

They team up with Sir Francis Drake in Sensation 8, taking part in the rout of the Spanish Armada, and then head to France for two issues, aiding the King of France, an elderly man named Louis.

Maybe this is the point to chime in about the dating problem with this series.  Moldoff has left the strip by this point, doing only occasional splash pages, so I can be more critical of it.

The very first installment gave the series the date of 1600.  Actually, it really looks like it says 1800, but that is so wildly wrong I am assuming the ink has bled into the page over the years making the 6 look like an 8.  The first issue of Sensation Comics makes it 1558, and then one would add roughly 12 years (Justin’s age) to bring it to 1580 – but the battle with the Spanish Armada did not occur until 1588, and Justin is clearly still a child.

To make matters worse, there was no King Louis at this time.  Sure, it’s a fairly safe guess to call a French king Louis, but the late 1500s were the period of the Valois monarchs, not a Louis in the bunch, these were Francises and Charleses, and most were boy kings with short reigns, not old men.

The dating problem just gets worse as it goes along.  In Comic Cavalcade 1, the Black Pirate is summoned by Queen Elizabeth, to help her fleet fight a sea monster that turns out to be a Spanish creation, but a few months later, in Sensation 18, James I is king of England.  OK, so we must now have just reached 1600, but Justin is still a child.  In issue 21 we are with James I again, as the Black Pirate tries to find a cure for his eldest son, Henry.  In reality, Henry died of a fever, but he gets cured in this story (maybe he died later, Im not going to nitpick on that point), but in Comic Cavalcade 7, right at the end of this era, Queen Elizabeth dies and James is crowned king.  Need I mention, Justin remains young throughout this.

But really, that is the biggest problem I have with the series, and though the dating is a mess, I was impressed that the sons were given the proper names, and their roles are at least analogous to actual history.

In Sensation 14 the Black Pirate rescues an orphan girl, Virginia, and she comes to live with him and his family on Pirate Island in the following story, joining in the defense of the island against some escapees from Dartmouth Prison.  A bit of a romance is built between Justin and Virginia, but she does not often appear.

In issue 20, Jon and Justin are caught in a storm that leads them to Atlantis, where they help Arius regain his throne, and he rewards Jon with Posiedon`s ring, which Jon can use to summon Aruis.  He does this in the following story, to find out where the cure for James` son can be found, but the ring is not used again after this.

As the era comes to a close, the stories become more fantastic, as the Black Pirate battles the Flying Dutchman and lands on a Lilliput-type island of tiny people.

The most interesting story in the post-Moldoff period is in Sensation 17, which opens in the present day (World War II) as the allied forces land on Pirate Island, finding his fortress, paintings of his family, and the Black Pirate`s diary.  We (and they) read a story of him defending the island against Don Muerte and his flying (catapulted) men, and learn the location in which the Black Pirate hid a cannon, to be used when the attackers were too close to retreat, and then the allies put their big guns in the same place to fight off the Germans.

The Black Pirate (and son) continue in the Late Golden Age

 

 

Black Pirate:  Action Comics  23 – 36 (Apr 40 – May 41),  38 – 42  (July – Nov 41)

Sensation Comics  1 – 31  (Jan 42 – July 44)

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

The King


The King is a disguise artist who captures thieves, though is fairly close to being one himself.  His real name is, apparently, King Standish (and his series goes by this name for its first 12 installments), but all we ever learn about him is that he is wealthy, blond, lives on his own in a New York City apartment, and is a member of the Bachelor Club.  He uses wax and dye to alter his appearance, and “voice control” to change how he sounds (and how would we ever have figured that out without an explanation?).  He takes pride that no one knows what he really looks like, and often takes on two or three different disguises during the course of a single story.

When not in an actual disguise, but not just himself, the King wears a tuxedo, complete with top hat and cape, and a domino mask.  In Flash Comics 28 and 29 he wears a green suit and orange fedora with his mask, but then reverts to evening dress for the rest of his run.

In his debut story he goes up against drug runner Boss Barton, who has sent Myrna Mallon to find out who he really is.  The King believes Myrna is an innocent dupe of the Boss, so in his second story she acts as his assistant, but we never see her again after that.  Or do we?

From Flash Comics 5 until the end of his run, virtually every story pits The King against The Witch, a female thief, who also likes wearing evening dress while committing crimes.  The King fouls her plans time after time, but has no interest in seeing her behind bars.  He usually just lets her escape, but in issue 7 actually drives her to her home at the end of the story.  There is openly a bit of romance between them.

Now, the Witch is mostly just concerned with stealing jewels, and will even turn on her own hired goons if they want to get violent with the intended victims, but in a couple of her appearances she displays a talent for disguise as well.  From her first appearance, it is implied that she and the King have met before, and I suspect that Myrna Mallon was simply an identity she had adopted while working for Boss Barton, which fits her general M.O., as well as explaining how she and the King met, and why there is already a spark between them in their supposed first encounter.

Because all but a handful of stories feature the Witch, the series is excessively repetitive.  The King seems to have little interest in crimes, other than the ones she is involved with, and admits to following her around, essentially stalking her until he sees she is up to something, and then taking on disguises to protect the victim, recover the jewels and capture the thieves.

The King and the Witch even work together a few times.  This begins with Flash Comics 9, which deals with a horde of jade pursued by the Witch and some chinese pirates.  After defeating the pirates, the King suggests they simply split the jade horde between them.  She joins the King in World’s Finest 3 in stopping a fake food coupon scam.  I don’t fully understand what these food coupons are, it’s not the ration system, as the US is not at war yet, but I guess it’s the forerunner of food stamps?  Anyway, she also helps out the King in other stories against Nazi agents, putting her patriotism over her criminal impulses.

Although we never learn anything about King Standish’s background, we do learn a bit about the Witch, in World’s Finest 2.  She returns to her father in New Orleans, a successful painter, and discover that they are descendants of the pirate Jean Lafitte, which is given as the explanation for her tendency towards crime.

The most enjoyable story of the entire run is in World’s Finest 5, which deals with gypsies and stolen rubies.  The King takes on the identity of suspected thief Johnee, while the Witch disguises herself as the fortune teller Elena.  While both are in disguise, Johnee and Elena confess their love for each other.  After solving the crime, and seeing the real Johnee and Elena become a couple, the Witch comments on the fact that it was really the two of them confessing their love that spurred the gypsy couple to revealing theirs.

The King does not appear again until the 80s, and even then only in cameos set during this era.  King Chimera would appear as his son in 2009, claiming that his father travelled to Asia at some point after the war, but that’s all we ever learn about him.

 

The King:  Flash Comics  3 – 37  (Mar 40 – Jan 43),  39 – 41 (Mar – May 43)

World’s Best Comics 1  (Spring 41)

World’s Finest Comics 2 – 5  (Summer 41 – Spring 42),  8  (Winter 42)

Comic Cavalcade  3 – 4  (Summer – Fall 43)

All-Flash  13  (Winter 43)

Flash


The Flash debuted as the cover feature in the first issues of Flash Comics,  but he was only one of five new characters in that book.  His popularity lead to him getting his own comic, but as Flash Comics already existed, he wound up with the awkwardly titled All-Flash as his solo book.

Jay Garrick was a college student working on a hard water experiment.  He was not the most diligent student, he took a smoke break and unwittingly knocked some of the chemical apparatus over.  The fumes overpowered him, and he passed out, waking in a hospital bed.  Jay discovered that he had gained a speeded-up nervous system as a result of the accident, and in the first issue saves his girlfriend Joan and her father, a retired army major, from Sieur Satan and the Faultless Four.

Jay wore a red shirt with a lightning bolt on it, blue pants, and winged shoes and a winged helmet, making him look like a modern version of Mercury (or the FTD florist).

The series was written by Gardner Fox, and the stories are fairly serious and straightforward, but the art by E.E. Hibbard was critical to the success of the series, adding an almost slapstick feel to it.  There are so many panels of characters with stunned and disbelieving expressions as Flash runs around chaotically.

Aside from running quickly, the Flash can spin so fast he becomes effectively invisible.  Somehow this does not create a breeze, as he stands right next to people while spinning, and they have no idea he is there.  His speed is never clocked precisely, but in issue 9 he runs 2000 miles in 3 hours.  In issue 24 he gets captured and chained up, but rubs his chains together with such speed that the metal melts.

Joan Williams appears in every story, his girlfriend and confidant, aware of his identity from the beginning.  Neither she nor Jay really get developed much though.  We never see her father again after the first issue, and never learn anything about Jay’s life before the accident.  Jay graduates from university, and gets a job at Chemical Research Incorporated, but we never see him at work, or anyone else from the laboratory.  Joan gets a job as Defense Coordination Secretary in Flash 25, investigating gangland influence in the munitions industry, but only for that one story.

In All-Flash 5 he gets sidekicks, in a way.  Winky, Blinky and Noddy are three somewhat shady wanna-be inventors, who accidentally create things that work: a personality-switching ray in All-Flash 6’s “The Ray That Changed Men’s Souls,” and an invisibility vitamin in All-Flash 12’s “Tumble In to Trouble.”  Blinky hypnotizes himself into gaining super-strength in All-Flash 13’s “The Muscleman, the Djinn, and the Flash.”  Most of their appearances, as you may have guessed, were in the pages of All-Flash.  Unlike the Superman and Batman solo books, All-Flash tended to run full-length stories, rather than having four shorter ones, and Winky, Blinky and Noddy helped expand the stories out to their desired length.

The gambler Deuces Wilde would also become a minor supporting character in the Flash series, again appearing in All-Flash, issues 10 and 14.  Deuces Wilde is the only positive portrayal of a gambler I have come across in 1940s stories so far.

The Justice Society of America make an appearance in the first issue of All-Flash, rewarding him with his own book, as Johnny Thunder excitedly points out that he will be taking the Flash’s spot on the team.  The rule at this time was that Justice Society members had to move to honourary membership when they got their own series, but Green Lantern, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, the Sandman, the Spectre, the Atom and Hourman all rejoice at the Flash’s success.

Four of the Flash’s major villains also debut in this era.

The Monocle appears in All-Flash 1, a criminal with upper-class pretensions, he has his men steal jewels that he uses in his “garden of gems.”  He does have the wit to use a strobe light against the Flash, making it easier for his goons to see the hero, though it doesn’t help much overall.  The Monocle does not return until the 1980s.

The Shade debuts in Flash Comics 33’s “The Man Who Commanded the Night.”  He wears all black, with a top hat and black glasses, though in this story he has long white hair.  He had created a machine that spreads darkness throughout the city, a blackness that absorbs all light, but arms his men with special guns that shoot a reflective dust so they can see.

Rag Doll is a circus contortionist who turns to crime in Flash Comics 36, “The Tale of the Treasure Hunt.”  As with the Shade, there is no hint of the character development that would come later, these are just simple, straightforward bad guys.

The Thinker makes two appearances in the era, and even has his true name, Clifford DeVoe, revealed at the end of his first story, All-Flash 12’s “Tumble in to Trouble.”  In this story he has spent ten years working out crimes in elaborate detail, accounting for all possible scenarios, at least until the Flash shows up and messes up his schemes.

He returns in All-Flash 14’s “The Man Who Unleashed the Past,” which is easily my favourite story from this era.  It opens with Winky, Blinky and Noddy at the offices of DC Comics, discovering that All-Flash 14 has not been finished, and taking over the writing and drawing of the series.  The Thinker cons them into believing they have created a machine that pulls creatures from the past into the present, but that’s inconsequential compared to characters escaping situation by breaking panel boundaries, Winky,Blinky and Noddy asking Gardner Fox and  E.E. Hibbard for help in catching the Thinker, and editor Sheldon Mayer freaking out over where the story is going.  Doiby Dickles almost helps them fight the bad guys until Green Lantern pops in points out that they are in the wrong comic.

Those who know the Barry Allen Flash may see some foreshadowing here of the use of editor Julius Schwartz in stories from the 60s and 70s, and there are a number of elements that would return in much later stories – alternate dimensional versions of the Flash and his friends and foes, as well as time travel, but none of it is dealt with very seriously.  Jay Garrick always has a big smile and a cheerful insouciance when fighting crime.

The Flash continues in the Late Golden Age

 

A few of the Flash’s major foes appeared in this early part of his run.  The Monocle, The Shade, Rag Doll

 

Flash:  Flash Comics 1 – 55  (Jan 40 – July 44)

All-Star Comics 1 – 2  (Summer – Fall 40)

All-Flash 1 – 15  (Summer 41 – Summer 44)

Comic Cavalcade  1 – 7  (Winter 42 – Summer 44)

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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