The entire mood and tone of the Clip Carson series changes in 1940, as Bob Kane is replaced by Sheldon Moldoff. Clip looks more like a romantic action hero, less like a cartoon, and the stories become more realistic as well, at least by the standards of the time. Moldoff holds the reins for much of 1940, and the artists who replace him are of lesser abilities, though George Papp`s art would carry much of the series final year at a reputable level.
The subtitle “Soldier of Fortune” is used periodically in Action Comics, but in More Fun when there is a subtitle, it tends to be “American Adventurer.”
The story picks up with Wolf Lupo disrupting the ivory trade. Clip is captured by him and the native tribe he is working with, but uses his harmonica to call the tribe he had befriended last issue, and they rescue him.
The next story takes him to Algiers, and this is when Moldoff takes over the art. The tale itself is mediocre, many of them would be, but at least it is lovely to look at. After accompanying another trade caravan from Algiers, Clip sails across to South America, dealing with a very confusingly written onboard theft before reaching shore. Once there, Clip aids the government forces in Verdania against the rebels. This story runs from Action 23 – 25, and the most interesting element is that the rebels are being funded by an evil American oil man. The last panel, which sees rebel leader Calero hung for his crimes, is very darkly coloured, almost in silhouette, likely to decrease the intensity of the visual.
Clip heads to New York City in issue 26, and from there to Canada to help Miss Trent find her missing father. The man had discovered a mine in “Hudson Bay country,” but been captured by evil metis claim jumper Jacques Frontenac.
From here he heads to Hollywood, where Clip begins work as a consultant on a movie called “Adventure Pictures,” which really sounds like a lame title for a movie. Nonetheless, everyone seems to think it will be a massive success. There is a rival film crew that sets up in hidden locales to film the same action, hoping to release their version first, and a foreign film company trying to delay the shooting so they can release theirs first. Amidst this, actors keep getting murdered on set. Clip solves no less than four different crimes between issues 27 and 31, when he quits his job to head to Mexico and help out an old friend.
Professor Quint disappeared after finding an Incan temple. This really would be quite a remarkable find in Mexico. Clip saves the man, and then is called by another old friend being menaced in Colombia, after discovering a vein of “minelite,” so off Clip heads to Colombia. Moldoff had left the series by this point, and the art is no longer good enough to carry the weak stories.
And the Colombia story is one of the weakest in the run. It runs for three issues, and there is no surprise that neighbour Grasso is the one behind the threats – the dead body wearing a mask of Grasso’s face really only serves to make him more of a suspect, and Grasso turns out to be Mr. Z, as well as Mr. X, and even Agent X-11, a foreign spy.
The relative continuity of location ends at this point, and Clip’s further adventures jump from the Panama Canal to the Everglades, Alaska, Montana and Honduras before he heads back to South America, for stories in Buenos Aires and Montevideo. With the exception of the Alaska story, all are one-shots, as Clip battles rebels and asian spies, rampaging seminoles, bank robbers, kidnappers and gamblers, but none of the stories have much spark to them. The killer plants in More Fun 68 are the most interesting bit, but they are not particularly well-used in the tale, or even well-drawn.
During the Alaska story in More Fun 70 and 71, Clip works with yet another old friend, Bill Weston, who is identified both as a foreign correspondent, and a spy. I find this of great significance, given the final Clip Carson adventure.
In More Fun 76 Clip is abruptly in China, almost single-handedly fighting off the Japanese invasion of a city. He is now a foreign correspondent for an American newspaper. Given that he has never had any experience reporting, that we have seen, I believe it is safe to say that this is another case where foreign correspondent means spy.
Clip is not seen again, and as his series ends in February of 1942, just after the attack on Pearl Harbour, I think his mission in China may have been less of a success than his last story would imply, and we can count Clip Carson among the Americans who died in China fighting the Japanese.
Clip Carson: Action Comics 20 – 36 (Jan 40 – May 41)
More Fun Comics 68 – 76 (June 41 – Feb 42)