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Larry Steele (Early Golden Age)

Larry Steele continues with his private detective cases in this era.  Although we learn nothing more about him, we do see that he lives in apartment on his own, somewhat explaining why his parents no longer appear in the series.  But as a result, he has no supporting cast at all.  The series goes through quite a variety of artists, and, I expect, writers.  The art is mediocre at best, and just awful at times, though the stories are really not that bad for the most part.

The most notable thing about this series is that, from around issue 47 to issue 57, most stories include a black character.  They are always in menial jobs, but are not portrayed in the usual stereotypical fashion, played for comic relief.  And while so many of the black characters have looked less than human, these look authentically like black men and women.  Their dialogue is rendered in dialect, but not in a mocking way.  “Look!  Drivin dat truck! Dere’s de man what give me de ten dollahs!”

Aside from that, there isn’t a lot unique to this series. Larry deals with a rich man who fakes his own death, a vengeful murder for love at a circus, stolen furs and a poisoned racehorse.  He is hired to protect a number of actresses.

He does go on a date in issue 54, with Delia, to her rich Uncle John’s house, where he has to solve the uncle’s murder.  Delia is not seen again, though.

Larry is given a recurring villain just before his series concludes, the Seal.  The Seal is the leader of a gang of thieves, who wears a costume that gives him big flippers over his fists.  Neither of his mass robbery schemes pan out, though the second one, in issue 63, has some creativity to it, as he uses blinding light to disorient the tellers when his men rob their banks.

Issue 63 is also Larry’s final appearance.  I like to think he married Delia at this point, and retired from a life of danger to spend her dead uncle’s money.


Larry Steele:  Detective Comics 43 – 63  (Sep 40 – May 42)

Larry Steele, Private Detective

Larry Steele’s series begins informing us that Larry is a young detective, at the start of his career.  He is living in Hollywood with his father, a retired professor of psychology, and is friends with Bill Graham, a director.  Bill calls Larry in when his new star goes missing.  Larry’s father get kidnapped, to try to force Larry off the case, but despite plane crashes and cars going over cliffs, Larry tracks down the mad scientist working on a perfect man for his wife.

It’s not a great story, and the art on the series is generally as mediocre as the writing.

The debut serial runs from issues 5 – 9, and following that Larry and his parents settle in New York.  His father apparently took a shine to the area while being held captive.  His mother gets him involved in his next case, but then the parents retreat to the background.  The father is the next to make an appearance, in issue 24.

Sent by Mom, Larry spends issues 10 – 12 saving young Laura Wilkes from blackmailers.  He gets no time to rest, as there are two tales in this issue, the conclusion of this serial and beginning of the next.

Issues 12 – 14 pit Larry against a club owner/mobster, Nick Orgatti.  Larry gets a secretary in this issue, Miss West, who is briefly seen twice more.  The story gets gritty, and overall this series seems to be trying to do what Johnnie Law is doing over in More Fun, but failing.  Curious, as this series would outlast that one.

His series would largely be one and two issue stories from here out, few of them memorable.  Bill Graham comes out to make a visit in 17 and 18, bringing Larry to an abandoned castle in Maine he intends to use as a location in a movie, but it just so happens hoodlums are holding a girl captive there when the guys arrive, so Larry and Bill get to work together again, saving her.

Issues 19 and 20 take Larry to the south Atlantic island of Wanatba, populated by natives and criminals, who have been holding a young girl prisoner since her plane crashed there four years earlier.  Larry luckily crashes there as well, and saves her just before a volcano destroys the island.  Some great art opportunities in this one, but it fails to impress.

Larry’s father returns for a three parter, 24-26, with a crazed painter turned murderer.  Larry is captured and drugged, and winds in a fairly intense shoot out at the end.

The only other story in this era worth mentioning is the last, in issue 33, in which Larry gets a new secretary, Brenda Darling, a brunette able to shoot the gun out of a killers hand.

Larry Steele, Private Detective continues in the Early Golden Age

Larry Steele:  Detective Comics 5 – 26 (July 37 – Apr 39),  29 – 33  (July – Nov 39)

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