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Blood Pearls


This short serial, a bloody tale of vengeance and guilt, was written by Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, the owner of DC Comics.  The art is very expressive, to the point of over-wrought, but that really just adds to the story.  One thing you can’t help noticing, though, is that in a book where all the strips are one or two pages long, Blood Pearls gets four pages an issue.  Being the boss helps.

The story deals with Baslyn, a ruthless American who has come to the Philippines to acquire a string of red pearls with seven rubies on the clasp, known as the Blood Pearls.  They are owned by Old Dato, who will only exchange them for a chinese mestiza girl.  Baslyn finds one at the Carnival in Manila, drugs her, and brings her to Dato.  Dato has no sooner handed over the pearls than he is killed by his young nephew, who takes the girl and runs away.

Baslyn attempts to sell the pearls in Manila, but no buyer will even touch them.  Tsao-Chung, the girl’s father, comes to Baslyn’s yacht looking for her, and Baslyn throws him overboard into shark-infested water.

For the rest of the series Baslyn is in flight, believing himself pursued by Tsoa-Chung.  He catches a liner back to the US, makes it to Chicago, then Detroit and finally New York, always seeing a chinese man wherever he goes.  Entering a pearl dealer’s shop, he is confronted and murdered by his pursuer, the brother of Tsao-Chung.

It’s actually a little disappointing that this quasi-supernatural pursuer has such a rational explanation, though the story does end with them discussing the curse of the pearls, and that the brother was merely the tool, the pearls were the killer.

 

Blood Pearls:  New Comics 8 – 11 (Sep – Dec 36)

New Adventure Comics  12 – 13 (Jan – Feb 37)

Golden Dragon


Golden Dragon is, without a doubt, the best serial I have covered so far.  In 31 instalments it tells the story of a group of Americans hired to deliver guns deep into the Gobi Desert, who use the mission to hunt for the fabled treasure horde of Genghis Khan.  And it even has an ending! An actual, genuine ending!

The story opens with Ian Murray and Ken Cockerill lamenting that their days of training Chinese troops has ended, and their decision to seek out the legendary treasure.  They head to Peking, where they run into Doris Willis and her father, and he hires them to bring weaponry to the Ja-Lama, deep in the Gobi Desert.  They put together a team of other former soldiers – Red Reilly, Bob Walker, Lefty Murphy and the Campbell brothers, Don and Sandy.

While loading up the train, they are approached by Pan Chi-Lou, an emissary of the Chinese government, who they rough up and force to accompany them, though he really doesn’t seem to have a problem with this, and helps them throughout.

The train gets attacked by Mongolian horsemen, lead by Torgadoff, who is the Head Priest of the Golden Dragon, but the Americans are aided, and then accompanied, by a group of Cossack mercenaries.  At this point they also run into Doris again, as she has escaped from Torgadoff, who kidnapped her back in Peking to try to get her father to stop the arms deal.  She joins the caravan as they load up onto camels and head across the desert.

Up to this point the story has moved at much the same pace as other serials, but now it slows down, which surprisingly is a good thing.  Instead of overloading us with events and cliff-hangers, the story builds slowly, gives meaning to the actions and allows itself time to explore the characters to some degree.

The caravan reaches a ruined monastery, which appears deserted, although they notice the temple lamps have been refilled.  A couple of instalments are spent just on making the monastery an eerie location, while allowing the characters to interact with each other, and the start of the romance between Ian and Doris.  Pan Chi-Lou goes missing, and then we see Ian and Doris get captured and taken away through a hidden passageway.

They have been captured by the Ja-Lama and his men, who do not want to have to pay for the weapons shipment, and are intending just to steal it, and who send a small army to attack the monastery.  Ian, Doris and Pan manage to escape and make it back to the monastery, which has successfully been defended, largely due to the efforts of the Cossacks.

Ken is jealous of the burgeoning relationship between Ian and Doris, and makes his own play for her while Ian and Reilly head off on a scouting mission, but get severely rebuffed by Doris.  He is then approached by Torgadoff, who tells him he will give Doris to him if he stands down on guard duty that night, which he does.  Torgadoff’s men enter the camp dressed as skeletons (for no apparent reason, but it does look cool), and capture Doris and the rest of the Americans.  Ken joins them, but is trussed up with a bag over his head and forcibly brought along.

When Ian and Reilly return to the camp, they discover not only are their comrades missing, but that the Mongols have stampeded the camels as well.  The Cossacks still have thier horses, which were taken a distance away from the camp to graze during the night, so they proceed on their quest, though have to leave much of their stuff behind.

They find another monastery deep in the desert, and the only bit of poor continuity occurs.  Oh, sure, there have been a few errors.  At one point there were two Walker brothers, instead of two Campbell ones.  Doris’ last name was Whipple in one chapter, and her hair changed from brown to blonde about halfway through the run, but those are minor.  Pan Chou-Li was established as one of those missing from the camp when Ian and Red returned, but as they reach the second monastery, Pan Chou-Li is suddenly with them, acting as an interpreter.

The abbot of the monastery allows them to stay, though Torgadoff finds out they are there.  We learn that Torgadoff wants to to take total control of the region, known as the Three Don’t Cares, as its an area not claimed by China, Tibet or “sovietized Mongolia”, but the hub of major trade routes.  The Ja-Lama works for him, but wants to overthrow Torgadoff and rule in his place.  Ken gets drugged, and Torgadoff, still promising him Doris, has him write a letter to Ian warning that Torgadoff will make Doris become the “bride of the Golden Dragon” unless Ian comes alone to give himself up.   Red takes Ian’s place, which infuriates Torgadoff,

The Golden Dragon itself finally appears, a giant gilded python that Doris is going to be fed to.  Ian arrives, with the Cossacks, and besieges Torgadoff’s fortress, saves Doris, and throws Torgadoff to serpent, then shoots and kills the monstrous snake.

We learn that Ken has been killed by one of the guards, and discover that Pan Chou-Li is the lineal descendant of Genghis Khan and rightful heir to the treasure, which had been “guarded” by the Golden Dragon.  Pan pays for the arms shipment, and also generously rewards the Cossacka and Americans.  Ja-Lama is allowed to homourbaly commit suicide (though this is not stated outright, you can understand easily what is being referred to), and the story concludes with Doris and Ian in a warm embrace.

Not only is the story above par, the art is as well.  The asians look asian, not like caricatures (ok, the main bad guys do, a bit, but not overly so), the locations are lovely, and I have little doubt that the odd parka-like clothes the Mongolians wear is correct, or at least clearly based on actual clothing.

Golden Dragon:  New Comics  6 – 11 (July – Dec 36)

New Adventure Comics  12 – 31  (Jan 37 – Oct 38)

Adventure Comics  32 – 36  (Nov 38 – Mar 39)

Steve Conrad


Steve Conrad’s series begins with the subtitle “on the Island of Dolorosa”, and the first eight chapters take place on this island.  It opens mid-stream, or mid-tidal wave I should say, as Steve, Myra and Captain Judd get separated from Sam and Keith.  We don’t really learn who these people are until much later in the series, and never learn why they came to the island in the first place.

Dolorosa is populated by a tribe that have ape-like heads, called the Zoanthropis, who are lead by a white man named Devachan.  He has Myra captured, and wants to sacrifice her, but Steve rescues her and they escape from the Zoanthropis by diving into the crater of an extinct volcano.  Here they encounter the “Sea People”, another island tribe who swim a lot, and who are lead by another white man, Professor Bombay of Eton Medical College.  Coincidentally, Sam and Keith are also down in the crater with these guys.  Either Sam or Keith is a black man, but who is who is never made clear.

Professor Bombay enlists Steve and friends in his war with Devachan and the Zoanthropis.  As the fighting is going on, Captain Judd spots a passing ship and gets its attention.  Devachan, seeing that his tribe is losing the battle, has a switch which will somehow destroy the island, and he pulls it just as Steve and his buddies get rescued by the passing schooner.  The island explodes, killing all the tribesmen, and Professor Bombay, but Devachan survives.

With issue 14 the name of the series changes to The Adventures of Steve Conrad, and we are informed that on board the schooner are Steve, Myra Rutherford, Captain Hugo Judd, Professor Bromberg, and a stowaway.

So either Sam or Keith must be Professor Bromberg.  Is the black guy a stowaway?  What was he stowing away on?  Why has he been just one of the gang until now?  None of these questions are answered, as we never see him again, nor is there any further mention of this stowaway.  Also mystifying is that the captain of the schooner, who was seen in the previous chapter bringing them to the ship, is nowhere in sight, and Captain Judd is in charge.

Devachan gets onboard and starts murdering the crew.  Steve fights him, and they fall into the sea.  Myra dives in to help, but they are separated from the schooner, which is never seen again.

They tie Devachan to a mast they find floating in the water, and then spend four days hanging on to it until they all wash up on the shore of Boa Island.

Boa Island is populated mostly by women, though there is a man in charge of them, Tangi.  He has Steve and Myra tied up, but Steve is freed by a helpful monkey.    Steve gets stuck having to fight Devachan, and after he beats him then he has to fight a group of “bronzed men”, the Appolons, from nearby Hercumo Island, who regularly come over to Boa Island to find brides.  Steve defeats the Appolons, but their not-bronzed king, Olam, has already claimed Myra for a bride. Steve somehow has obtained a bow and arrows, and shoots them at Olam.  As he swoops in to rescue Myra, she rebuffs him and has him captured.  Why the heck she does this is never explained.  Not even Steve understands.

But whatever prompted Myra to do this, she clearly regrets it as in the next chapter Steve escapes from his captors and once again gets Myra away from Olam, though this time she is happy about it.  As they flee by vine, Devachan cuts it, sending Steve falling into an alligator pit, and Myra into quicksand.  Steve eludes the alligators, but gets stuck in the quicksand as he tries to rescue Myra.  The helpful monkey sees all this, and throws a coconut to get the attention of a geeky and never-before seen explorer, who runs away.

The strip takes a bit of a hiatus at this point.  Will Steve and Myra survive?  Do they spend nearly two years in quicksand waiting to be rescued?

Steve Conrad returns in the Early Golden Age

Steve Conrad:  New Comics 6 – 11 (July – Dec 36)

New Adventure Comics  12 – 20 (Jan – Oct 37),  23 – 25 (Jan – Apr 38)

She


Another adaptation of a classic novel I have not read. This is well told, but the art is really pretty awful.  There are only two good panels in the entire run, both of the title character.  The first is in issue 14, the first time we (and the main characters) meet her, and despite being shown completely wrapped in robes, she looks pretty naked.  In issue 18 we see her without the robes for the first time – not nearly as naked looking, which is odd.

Perhaps because She was originally a magazine serial, it fits this format much better than many of the other adaptations that have been run.

The story follows three men, one of whom was orphaned, but left a chest with a scarab ring and relics pertaining to his lineage.  Following the trail of this, they head to Africa and encounter a two thousand year old woman of ethereal beauty, who lives in an elaborate series of caverns in a mountain, around the ruins of the city of Kor.  The orphan, Leo, is the descendant of her long dead lover Kallikrates, and She believes him to be Kallikrates reincarnated.  It is primarily an adnventure story, but there seems to be more depth to it than usual, with themes of love and sacrifice that make me suspect the novel would really be worth reading.

 

She: New Comics 6 – 11 (July – Dec 36)

New Adventure Comics 12 (Jan 37), 14 – 22  (Mar – Dec 37)

Sandor and the Lost Civilization


Set in northern India, this is a Tarzan take-off, more or less, with Sandor, a white man raised by wild dogs.

The Rajah Marajah is out to kill him, though we never find out why he hates him so.  There may have been a reason in the writer’s mind, there is a mysterious letter in the Rajah’s vault that has something to do with Sandor, but despite 21 issues, no one ever finds this letter or reveals its contents.

Sandor has a number of animal allies who fight for him.  Eleka the dog, Agra the lion and Awla the elephant all play a part in his adventures.  He also has a number of human allies – Benar the fakir, Jadev the spy, as well as the High Priest and Leopard Tamer.  In fact, the Rajah only has nameless soldiers and guards fighting for him, everyone else is on Sandor’s side.  We never find out what Sandor has done to gain such loyalty, though the Rajah’s tendency of throwing people who displease him into the crocodile pit may have something to do with it.

The art is quite good on the strip, and the story starts pretty strongly.  Sandor gets captured briefly by the Rajah, but is freed by his dogs.  Elaka and Benar are captured and brought to the palace in issue 7, and the action moves there from the jungle, but gets bogged down in an endless series of thefts, disguises, trap doors, secret passages and plots.  One keeps hoping for that damn letter to be read so that all of this will take on meaning, but that just doesn’t happen.

The series ends without even a good cliff-hanger I can make fun of.  I guess Sandor just gets bored of it all and sneaks out of the palace through one of the many secret passageways and goes back to the jungle, living out his days with his animal buddies and never learning what was in the letter or how a white kid wound up getting raised by dogs in northern India in the first place.

 

Sandor:  New Comics 5 – 11 (June – Dec 36)

New Adventure Comics  12 – 26  (Jan 37 – May 38)

Dale Daring


I really do not understand how this series lasted as long as it did.  The only explanation I can think of is that the publishers felt “Dale Daring” was a great name for a series, and kept with it.

It begins with a four-part serial, The Drew Mystery.  There are many mysteries about this serial, not the least of which is why it is called the Drew Mystery, as no one named Drew ever appears.  Dale is introduced on the phone with police lieutenant Dick Sparks, telling him that she is following a lead on the Drew mystery, which takes her to plastic surgeon Dr. Millard.  Millard warns her that she is in danger, and he is right about that, as men burst in and capture her (but not the doctor) and take her to a cabin in the woods which they set fire to, in order to kill her.  Dick tracks her, but it’s a mysterious bearded man with an eye patch who rescues both of them from the bad guys, bringing them to the cave he lives in with a variety of exotic animals.

And the first serial ends there.

What?  What the fuck was that?  Is Dale a policewoman?  Is she a private detective?  Is she just really nosy?

For some reason the series returns a few issue later, but now she is in China with her father, worried about General Tsin Lee, and friends with US marine Captain Dan Brewster.  Her father gets captured by the general, for no apparent reason.  Dale and Dan pursue him, aided by a “native” guide named Ali (so he is not a native to China, that’s for sure).

It seems DC was not 100% certain about continuing this serial at first.  It debuts in issue 11, has its second chapter in issue 13, but doesn’t become a regular feature until issue 17.

But continue it they did.  Dan, Dale and Ali find and rescue her father, but wind up in a shooting stand-off with Tsin Lee and his men.  Our heroes are trapped in Tsin Lee’s arsenal, which conveniently has a radio Dan uses to contact the marines, who come flying in and machine gun Lee and his men.

With issue 23, Dale, her dad , Dan and Ali are back on the coast of China, and think their troubles are over.  While Dale and Dan have a dinner date, her father gets kidnapped again, and off we go back to the interior to rescue him again, this time from Tsin Lee’s father, who is seeking vengeance for the death of his son.  Dale gets captured as well, and Dan Brewster becomes the unquestioned main character in this serial, as there are chapters of him tracking them and battling “celestials” (which I guess means evil Chinese people) before finally rescuing Dale and her dad.  Conveniently, as they are trying to make there way back to the coast another US marine comes flying overhead and saves them

There is some very nice art in this, when Dan cuts a rope bridge to stop the pursuing “celestials.” That’s really the only positive comment I have about the series.

In issue 32 Dale accompanies her father to his rubber plantation in South America  (Brazil I would assume), and Dan quits the marines to go with her, likely hoping he would finally get his name on the series.  He tells Ali he is going to bring him along, but since Ali vanishes from the strip, I imagine he failed to get him through customs.

The rubber plantation is run by a new and sadistic foreman, and Dale and Daddy get there just in time for a native uprising.  Dan shows up to join the fray, but once the natives have killed the foreman they give up, happy to be working for Mr. Daring again, who promises better conditions for them.

So they hang out in Brazil now.  Dale gets a big picture of her face next to the title logo, in a failed attempt to convince the reader that she is the heroine of the series and not just the woman Dan Brewster will rescue over and over again.  Dale and Dan go exploring in a haunted cave, looking for treasure, but after some cool stuff with time-lost Spanish pirates we find out that was just a dream.

Then Dale and Dan head to an island, where they come across ivory smugglers whose boat crashed.  The boat the smugglers are using is fairly small, not practical for an ocean crossing, so I guess they were getting the ivory tusks from those famous Brazilian elephants we hear so much about.

Dale and Dan get captured (of course), and escape (of course) and find a military base, and lead the troops back to where the smugglers are.  The smugglers mine the river, planning to destroy the boat Dale and Dan are on, but in fact wind up sailing into the mines and killing themselves.

And finally the series is done.  I would have cancelled it after the eye patch guy with his cave of exotic pets.

 

Dale Daring:  New Comics 4 – 8 (Apr -Sep 36),  11 (Dec 36)

New Adventure Comics 13 (Feb 37), 17 –  31  (June 37- Oct 38)

Adventure Comics 32 – 37 (Nov 38 – Apr 39)

Maginnis of the Mounties


Constable Dan Maginnis of the Mounties is sent undercover to aid trappers whose traps are being raided.  This means he is only in his dress reds for the first two panels of the first instalment.  He is sent to “St. Pierre country.”  I have no idea where this is, but it gets repeated three times, and is defined as the area beyond the St. Pierre River, so perhaps the author had some actual location in mind.  The people he goes to help, Dubois and his daughter Yvonne, are both French so I’m thinking northern Quebec.

There is little point to his being undercover, as the raiders, Kenyon and Barton, somehow know he is a constable, and attack him and Dubois immediately.  After getting the worst in a fist fight, they shoot the old man, and then get into a shoot out with the mountie, and also gun-toting Yvonne.  They capture Yvonne. Dan makes sure Dubois has food and firewood, and leaves the wounded man to track them.  He finds their cabin, but they capture him, tie him and Yvonne up, and set fire to the cabin.

Maginnis impressively sticks his bound feet into the fire, holding them there until the rope burns and he can free himself, and Yvonne.  They escape the cabin, but the burning building has started a forest fire, which traps them, and the bad guys.  Maginnis captures them (which isn’t too hard since they have been overcome by smoke), leaves Yvonne to guard them at gunpoint, and heads back to get Dubois and bring him to safety, hoping that he hasn’t burned or suffocated by now.

And the story ends here.  It clearly was not intended to, but remarkably this interrupted serial  gets a happy ending.

 

Maginnis of the Mounties:  New Comics 4 – 11  (Apr – Dec 36)

New Adventure Comics 12 (Jan 37)

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