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Flash Picture Novelette

This series begins with a promising first chapter of a story called The Demon Dummy.  There is too much text, but the tale of a ventriloquist framed and imprisoned by a shady cop, so he can steal the other man’s girlfriend, sets up an interesting revenge premise, and the abrasive dummy is always good for creepiness.  But a bit too much happens before the chapter concludes.  The cop gets caught and imprisoned, and the woman dies giving birth to the cop’s child.  There is no one left for revenge to be taken against.

And so the second issue largely consists of the dummy urging the ventriloquist to act against the baby, which is just awful.  The ventriloquist throws away the dummy, adopts the baby, and even winds up marrying a nurse.  Not the ending one was expecting, but a decent enough one.

Sadly, that was as good as the Flash Picture Novelettes would get.  The rest are all one-parters, and though there is a recurring character, Inspector Pierce, the stories themselves are convoluted and tedious.

It really seems that the intention with this series was to have more text than illustration in the stories.  Each novelette has at least four or five panels that are nothing but text, and much of the time we just look at characters talking.  Often they are sitting, frequently they are literally just talking heads.  Nothing to grab the reader.

The bulk of the stories are mysteries, Inspector Pierce appearing in five of them, debuting in issue 4’s Where There’s a Will, and returning in The Money Vanishes (8), Two A.M. (10), The Hooded Horror (15) and the final story, Voice from the Dead, in issue 17.  Issue 8 includes a box proclaiming it “Another Inspector Pierce Mystery”.

Issue 6 has a science-fiction story, Don Fuel and the Mystery Planet.  Ranger Danger, in issue 11 is a western, and though there is a blackmailer in issue 13’s Shadows of the Past, it’s really a romance tale.

The series was replaced by Minute Movies, by the same creator.  I do not have high expectations for it.


Flash Picture Novelette: Flash Comics 1 – 11  (Jan – Nov 40),  13, (Jan 41),  15  (Mar 41),  17  (May 41)


Johnny Thunder

Despite being arguably the most powerful character in the DC Universe, Johnny Thunder’s strip was much more of a comedy series than a super-hero one. His origin story is elaborate to the point of absurdity, as he is kidnapped as an infant and brought to the Pacific island of Badhnesia, where he is given a magic belt to wear for seven years, after an arcane ceremony in a native temple.  Still a child, he sails away from the island and is picked up by a passing freighter, whose captain just happens to bring him onto a streetcar being operated by Johnny’s father, who recognizes his long-missing son.  The end result of all of this is that when Johnny says the magic words “cei-u” (which sounds like “say you” in English), a magic Thunderbolt appears, and makes any wish Johnny has come true.

The series tends towards slapstick, and there are as many tales with no villains as with them.  Often, Johnny misadventures simply play out without having to solve a crime.  Johnny’s honesty and earnestness keep the reader on his side, while his gullibility, and lack of sense, make his use of the Thunderbolt far less omnipowerful than it could be.  I should also mention that for much of the first year the series itself is called Johnny Thunderbolt, though the character is never called this.

The earliest stories are the most fun, as Johnny has no idea that he even has this power.  Throughout his run he is constantly in search of work, hoping to impress Daisy Darling, and one day marry her.  Johnny lives at home on Long Island with his parents.

At first the Thunderbolt is not even seen.  Johnny makes wishes, often unwise, and they just come true, like saying “well, blow me down” and having the person then do that.

While unaware of his powers, Johnny gets and loses a job in a department store, becomes a professional boxer, and then a G-Man.  It only only after he gets fired from that in Flash Comics 7, after helping a foreign spy escape, that we begin to really see and hear the Thunderbolt.  Even still, its progression from a bolt of pink lightning to an anthropomorphic being with a distinct face, three little bolts as “hair”, a human looking upper body and lightning tail takes a very long time.  Each issue the Thunderbolt gets a little more human-ish looking, reaching its final form in Flash Comics 21.

By All-Star 2 Johnny realizes that the things he says come true, but still has no idea that he has to utter “cei-u” first.  He attempts to protect Daisy’s father from mobsters out to destroy the building he is constructing, succeeding only by fluke.  He realizes he can order the Thunderbolt to do specific things, rather than have it act on whims, in Flash Comics 11, and then spends a few issues as a fireman before getting fired from that job for the chaos he (actually the Thunderbolt) causes.

In World’s Finest 2, which pre-dates the attack on Pearl Harbour, Johnny joins the army, but again the Thunderbolt creates such mayhem that he gets kicked out.

Flash Comics 21 introduces Peachy Pet, a hideous looking obnoxious orphan child that Johnny adopts.  Peachy really takes the series into slapstick territory, pretty much taking the lead in the next few stories.  In issue after issue she causes massive damage, which Johnny consistently gets blamed for. On the plus side, she is a wonderful skewed version of the orphan sidekick boys that had become a must for super-heroes, but even still, she overpowers the stories.  Considering that the all-powerful Thunderbolt didn’t even do that, it’s really saying something.  This is also the issue in which Johnny knows that his magic words are “cei-u.”  There was no moment shown when he figured it out, but really, it had been almost two years, even a boy as dense as Johnny would clue in by now.

In these stories Johnny often forgets that he has the Thunderbolt, until Peachy reminds him towards the end of the tale.  Issues 23- 26 see him get into massive debt to Mrs. Ethelmere Van Der Vander, who has the ability to approve or decline his adoption of Peachy, but this entire plotline simply gets dropped with no resolution.

Johnny and Peachy head to Brazil for issues 26 and 27, and Peachy now has a dog, Snuffles, whose thoughts can be read.  This really seemed unnecessary, Johnny was getting lost amid all the comedic additions to his series, but the dog was apparently left behind in Brazil, as we don’t see it again.

In issue 32, following the attack on Pearl Harbour, Johnny joins the navy.  I had hoped that would reduce Peachy’s role in the series, but she stows away on his ship, and after being discovered becomes the crew’s mascot.  There is definitely more action and less slapstick in the navy stories, which last until Johnny gets an honourable discharge in issue 53.  Peachy usually gets the credit, though Thunderbolt does the work, as they capture Nazi subs and spies.  Johnny is simply treated like dirt by the rest of the crew, and by Peachy, and even by the Thunderbolt.

In issue 42 the Thunderbolt returns to Badhnesia, finding it under Japanese occupation, and brings Johnny along to help oust them.  The Thunderbolt will occasionally obey Peachy as well, particularly if Johnny is not around, or unconscious.

The final two stories of the period are billed “Johnny Thunder and Peachy Pet,” but this is inaccurate, as Peachy gets to go solo in the adventures.  Needless to say, these take the series back to its slapstick days.


Johnny Thunder continues in the Late Golden Age


Johnny Thunder:  Flash Comics 1 – 55

New York World’s Fair 1940

All-Star 2  (Fall 40)

World’s Best 1  (Spring 41)

World’s Finest 2 – 3  (Summer – Fall 41)


The Hawkman series begins with a long flashback prompted when Carter Hall examines a crystal knife amid his ancient weapons collection.  Carter sees himself as a young Egyptian prince, Khufu, who has fallen prey to the machinations of Hath-Set, a priest of Anubis.  Hath-Set uses the knife to kill Khufu and his lover, Shiera.

Carter wakes from his reverie, and crafts himself a costume with a hawk mask and large wings, which are held on by straps across his bare chest.  The wings are made of “ninth metal,” which he also learned about in a dream, another secret of the ancient Egyptians, which allows him to fly.  The subway system is mysteriously burning, and in investigating it Carter finds not only Shiera Sanders, the reincarnation of his former lover, but also the evil Dr. Hastor, a reincarnation of Hath-Set.  Dr. Hastor appears to die at the end of the story, but he returns in the 80s.

Hawkman encounters the god Poseidon in an underwater adventure in Flash Comics 9, and Poseidon gives him the ability to breathe underwater, but it appears this was a temporary power, as Hawkman clearly does not have this ability in later issue.  On the other hand, after getting severely wounded in issue 23, he is saved and tended to by hawks in the hidden valley, and taught the language of birds.  He uses this to his great advantage, both for information, and also to train a bird army that he calls upon when needed.

Big Red is the hawk that becomes somewhat of a sidekick, but that role is largely filled by Shiera.

Shiera’s appearances are sporadic at first, and often she gets kidnapped and has to be rescued.  We learn that she is an archeologist in Flash Comics 16, as she heads to a dig on Mongolia and gets captured by a horde of Mongol warriors.  Her aunt and uncle appear in issue 25, searching for a rejuvenation formula.  Despite being captured so often, Shiera is no wimp.  In issue 20 she attempts to prove her equality to Hawkman by going after a mad bomber on her own, using a rope to swing from rooftop to rooftop.

In Flash Comics 24, December 41, Carter makes Shiera a matching costume, though with a red bra, for a costume ball.  Shiera jumps on the chance to try it out, and offers to help a young couple that have fallen prey to a phony accident scam.  She doesn’t fare very well, getting caught again, and Hawkman does the heavy work himself.  In her next outing she gets shot by hoods who mistake her for Hawkman, but she never gives up, and becomes more or less equal partners with Hawkman by the end of the era.  Interestingly, for a very long time she refers to her costume as her “Hawkman” costume, and its not until issue 30 that she is called Hawkgirl.  Her costumed debut also precedes the first appearance of Wonder Woman by two weeks,  making her DC’s first superwoman.

At first she cannot speak to the birds, but somewhere along the way she does learn their language, and even gets her own bird sidekick, Kitty Hawk, though this bird only appears in Flash Comics 37.

Sheldon Moldoff does the art on much of the run, coming on with issue 4, and sticking around until late 42.  The stories after this are signed by him, but clearly are not his art.  That being said, many of the later 1942 stories look partly like his work, but also partly not.  Perhaps he was getting sloppy, even by 1941 we stop seeing the fabulously rendered mythical cities high in the hills and tribesmen of different nationalities in full dress.

There are no villains who make more than one appearance during this era, but a few of them return in much later times.  Alexander the Great debuts in Flash Comics 2, a wanna-be world conqueror with a giant bulbous bald head, he invites Hawkman to a sumptuous dinner and explains all his plans before the two fight it out. Nyola is an Aztec priestess of the god Yumm-Chac, who seeks out perfect young women to sacrifice to her god in All-Star Comics 2.  Like Dr. Hastor, Alexander the Great and Nyola would have to wait until the 80s to be seen again, all of them returning in the pages of All-Star Squadron.

Satana the Tiger Girl puts human brains into the bodies of animals, who act as her slaves, in Flash Comics 13.  She next appears in 2009.

There are many fascinating one-shot villains, who easily could have returned, as Hawkman tends to fight talking alligators, fake mummies, or talking killer plants more often than simple robbers or murderers.  Father Time appears in issue 33, a mad scientist with a mountain castle as his base, he develops untraceable poisons and melting metals, but dresses as the character he names himself for, with a large scythe that he uses in his battle with Hawkman.  The Human Dynamo is scientist Danford March, who gains the ability to shoot electricity from his body after an experiment goes wrong (because his cleaning lady spilled water on the machine).  His powers drive him mad, but his sanity is restored at the end of the story as his powers get drained.

The Hummingbird is noted ornithologist Hester Morgan.  Greed prompts her to develop a pair of wings that allow her to fly and a magnesium flare gun to blind those she is robbing.  Carter uncovers her identity in Flash 52, and tries to reform her.  Shiera gets jealous of the attention she is receiving from Carter, and as Hawkgirl threatens her, insisting that she is still a criminal.  This stresses Hester out so much that she does return to crime, but even after catching her a second time, Hawkman lets her go free again.

Hawkman’s use of ancient weapons in battle is tied to Carter’s collection, but in no story in this period is Carter called an archeologist.  He is independently wealthy, and in one story is credited as the inventor of a new gun.  He is shown to live in Hall Manor, a large estate, but in other stories clearly is inhabiting a high-rise.  Flash Comics 9 has him operating in New York City, issue 37 says Gotham City, and its Keystone City in issue 49.

I prefer to see these not as continuity errors, but reflecting his ultra-rich status.  Carter has his family estate, but also apartments in a number of different cities, which he and Shiera travel to.  I mean, really, if your power is to fly, why wouldn’t you travel a lot?

Hawkman continues in the Late Golden Age


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

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

Cliff Cornwall, Special Agent

Cliff Cornwall is an FBI agent, whom the US army “borrow” to hunt down spies and saboteurs.  In Flash Comics 16 we learn that Cliff is a reserve army air corps officer, which may explain why they chose him.  He is a skilled pilot, and also shows familiarity with deep-sea diving.

Sheldon Moldoff lends his beautiful art to a few of the early stories, but his work is really just wasted here.  The series is not bad, but hardly memorable.

His first case takes him to Alaska to discover why a number of pilots, and their planes, have gone missing, and he meets Lys Valliere on this case, bringing her back to Washington DC with him at the end.  She never formally enters the FBI or military or anything, but accompanies Cliff on a number of his cases, and proves herself a useful partner – something he is always keen to point out.  You can tell he has the hots for her.

Lys is in the first three stories, getting very jealous in the last one as Cliff appears to fall for a foreign spy, but it turns out he is just playing with her, setting her up to deliver false information back to her superiors.

Lys does not appear again until issue 11, long enough that I thought we would never see her again, but she gets one more appearance after that, in issue 15.  Cliff has no other supporting cast, just a long series of foreign spies, about half of whom are female seductresses.

The stories in issues 10 and 11 are set in the Philippines, and Cliff has to find foreign spymaster Goldie, who has had the natives stirred up against the Americans, hoping to make them pull out their bases.  Goldie gets captured by Cliff after he saves her life, which makes a big enough impression on her that after her men grab Cliff and free her, she winds up changing sides and helping to bring down her comrades.  She gets pardoned and released into Cliff’s custody, but gets shot and killed at the end of the story.

Not a lot else to say about this series.  In issue 13 Snowland gets invaded.  From the map they display, this is clearly Greenland, which makes it very odd that Cliff cites the Monroe Doctrine as a reason to invade the country.

Cliff’s series ends mid-1941, and I expect he fell foul of some foreign spy.  Probably a guy, he always was suspicious of the women.


Cliff Cornwall:  Flash Comics 1 – 17  (Jan 40 – May 41)


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)

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)

Three Aces (Early Golden Age)

Three Aces is another of the series that improved hugely after the start of World War 2.  Up until then, it was merely the adventures of three friends, all of whom owned their own planes.  Once the war broke out, the strip changed gears and became a war series, which really suited the idea better.

Of the three men, Gunner Bill and Whistler Will usually play the hero roles, while Fog Fortune is there for comic relief.  Perhaps because of this, though we get some background on Gunner and Whistler, we never learn anything about Fog’s past.

Gunner was an orphan boy, apparently named only Bill.  The orphanage being so poor they couldn’t give kids last names?  At any rate, he joins the army and fights in World War 1, gaining the nickname Gunner.  Whistler is another orphan, from Arizona, found as a babe in the desert and taken in by a wealthy family, the Saunders.  He is raised with their daughter, Sally, and though she views him as a brother, it’s fairly clear that he sees her as something more.  Still, he does save the life of Perry Laverne, the man she marries.

For the first part of the run there are occasional mentions of their fighter pilot days in World War 1.  There is never any explanation of how they got the planes that they fly, though as they spend the first couple of years of the series seeking out buried treasure and gold mines, presumably they have a small horde of cash already.  Once the World War 2 stories begin, there is never any mention of them fighting in the previous war, probably to keep them from seeming too old.

The art on the series is pretty good for most of the run.  The stories in the early period are not bad, but typical of the adventure format.  They jump around a fair bit, now in Alaska, now in California, now in Africa, but that may not have been the fault of the writer so much as the publisher.  I noticed that in issue 30 they had just finished the adventure on Easter Island, but that took place in issue 28, with an African tale in 29, so clearly the stories were not all published in the order they were written.

The Easter Island story is one of the more entertaining, as they discover an ancient city under the island, and discover that the original islanders were giants who became fossilized after a comet passed close to the earth thousands of years ago, and the mysterious heads on the island are the actual heads of the giants who lived there.

They are in Tibet in issue 32, preventing a kidnapping of the new Dalai Lama, in a story that must have been very timely, as the current Dalai Lama would have been “found” at around the time the story was written.  In issues 38 and 39 they discover Atlantis, accessible through a cave on an island in the Azores.  They also find the survivors of the sunken city of Lemuria, living in a golden city on a mounaintop in California, in issue 45, and prevent them from destroying the world.

Issue 47 sees the big change.  Now they are part of the US airforce, operating off of the carrier USS Roosevelt.  The magic carpets, lost civilizations and Mongol treasures are shoved to the side as they face the Japanese fleet and airforce.  The heroes get shot down a fair bit, being taken prisoner by the Japanese a few times, though they always manage to escape.

Issue 54, “Fire Over Yumanafu Road,”  makes a point of teaching the reader about the Japanese Nakajima plane, and the Allied Wildcat fighter, as well as explaining a fair bit of the lingo pilots used.  “The Lieutenant from Corregidor,” in issue 60, does a similar thing, but with the “pidgin english” dialect of the Philippines.  Interestingly, the lieutenant they come to aid is a woman, Betty Allardyce, and though they are surprised by her gender, at no point is she made out to be any less of a competent officer because of it.

This part of the run does suffer a bit of the same jumping around.  They start in the Pacific, fighting the Japanese, but then jump to California, Algeria, Norway and Malta before heading back.  In the two stories set in north Africa, the arabs are shown as treacherous liars, eager to help the Germans.  There is never any acknowledgement that from the arab view the Germans were helping them overthrow their occupiers.  On the other hand, Pacific islanders are always shown eager to help the Allies against the Japanese invaders.

The series ends during the summer of 1943, and there is no other ending I can possibly put on this other than to have them shot down and killed.  They came close to it too many times.

Three Aces:  Action Comics 20 – 63  (Jan 40 – Aug 43)

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