Slam Bradley‘s adventures continue through this era, and by the end of 1942, Slam and Shorty are formally running a detective agency. Despite his many appearances, we learn nothing more about Slam in this era, though we do see that he and Shorty share a home as well as a business, and a bed.
1940 opens with a bang as Slam and Shorty join the French Foreign Legion to bring a killer back to face justice. Their next case takes them to Shanghai, then far into mainland China, and after that Slam inherits a racehorse, and deals with the machinations of gamblers as he takes the horse all the way to the Kentucky Derby.
These and other stories from the period are reliably written by Jerry Siegel, if a tad on the going-through-the-motions level, but the art is not on par. The narration in issue 39 informs us that Slam “bounces gracefully off an awning,” but the accompanying illustration looks farcically awkward.
The only story during the remainder of Siegel’s run (he left the series with issue 54) that shows any of his voice is issue 48, in which the workers who want to unionize are the good guys, and the mine owners are corrupt and exploitive.
Slam appears in the 1940 New York World’s Fair, the first of his stories to be drawn by Howard Sherman. Slam and Shorty are riding the parachute drop, when Slam spies some flashing lights on a boat in the harbour. So once again the story takes them out of the park right away. At least they return at the end to ride the rollercoaster.
Howard Sherman’s unusual art works adequately on Slam Bradley, but really does nothing to add to it, and the 20 or so issues he drew are reliable, but lack spark. The New York World’s Fair story shows his wonderfully odd way of drawing water. I suppose it’s just bad. His water looks incredibly solid, like a field of oddly shaped little pyramids, but I just love it. To me it feels like art deco water.
But while his stylizations helped to create the mood of the Dr. Fate series, here they are just unusual conceits. The elongated crossbar in each letter “E” for example.
Sherman illustrates Slam’s adventures as he and Shorty witness a mob killing, and save a cop from being framed. They deal with crimes at a boxing match, hockey game and baseball game, and also hit an amusement park, and have a backstage murder mystery at a big Broadway musical.
Once Siegel and Sherman were gone, the art varied from decent to atrocious. To me it seems like there was one writer for a while, someone who liked Shakespeare, as over a span of 15 issues or so Slam makes four different Shakespeare allusions (along the lines of issue 62’s “something smells rotten – and not in the state of Denmark”), and even has the bad guys reading Shakespeare in issue 68.
In issue 59 we learn that Slam and Shorty run the Wide-Awake Detective Agency, but in later issues the sign on the door simply says Bradley and Morgan, Private Detectives.
Each story does try to stand out, and Slam has stories at a casino, with a phony seance, at a weight loss gym, a symphony, a dentist and a carnival. There is a missing elephant and a runaway monkey, both involved in crimes (can’t trust the animals). Two of his adventures involve golf courses. One takes them to Hollywood.
But there is little that really stands out, and Slam loses his prime spot at the back of Detective Comics, and moves to the middle of the book. The art in the 1944 stories is, frankly, abysmal.
But nonetheless, Slam Bradley continues in the Late Golden Age, the earliest series to last that long.
Slam Bradley: Detective Comics 35 – 89 (Jan 40 – July 44)
New York World’s Fair 1940