Friday, September 21, 2018

Crimes for a Penny (America's Greatest Comics #2)

Our latest tale involving the Crimson Crusaders of another world's Gotham opens in a courtroom, where special prosecutor Brian Butler is wrapping up an "airtight" case against a hapless defendant charges with the murder of John D. Rokkafeller. Yep, this wealthy magnate spells his name a bit differently on Earth-S, and apparently is also a magnet of malice directed towards him.

However, when the defendants' daughter Vera Brown (or Hobson, her father's name... the story can't seem to decide what to call her) protests as to her father's innocence, Butler suddenly withdraws his concluding statements pending further investigation, to the bafflement of a clearly bias judge presiding over this legal matter. Concerned, Judge Peabody orders an assistant to follow up with him as to Butler's whereabouts and such. Something is fishy about this guy's jurisprudence, or lack thereof.

Following up on the private investigator which the daughter hired, Mister Scarlet is too late to save the man's life but come across some rent-a-thugs and their hankerchief masked mastermind who evades capture.

Pinky soon learns of what  has transpired and joins his adopted father in following the trail of a mysterious coin which the masked man's hoods tried to steal from the dying detective. However, during the scrimmage with the criminals, the penny is lost.
Butler interviews Mister Hobson in his jail cell, and learns that he and Rokkafeller were business partners which left their joint venture in the alleged murderer's sole possession which gave Hobson motive. It would seem that Mister Butler, Esquire built up his criminal case based solely on circumstantial evidence! In any event, mention is again made of the coin.

Still nervous about the penny for some reason, the "White Hankerchief" (for lack of a better name) decides to kidnap Vera, although he leaves a trails which Scarlet and Pinky are able to track. Rescuing the distressed damsel, she reveals to our heroes that she reconifzes the voice of the malevolent masked man. 

Although not having the coin, with which the true murderer's name was etched upon, Butler is able to bluff to the court the next day that he obtained the coin which reveals the true culprit. Judge Peabody, it would seem, about the inject the councilor with lead from his hidden revolver before a bailiff restrains him. Turns out, the judge moonlit as a counterfeiter, which Rokkafeller discovered leading to his demise. Guess they don't pay Gotham magistrates the going rate afforded their social status as elsewhere!

  • Supporting Scarlet: Pinky is ever ready to evade his ever present arch-enemy, the over-mothering Miss Wade.
  • Red Romance: Those days of implied romantic undertones between Butler and Miss Cherry Wade seem a distance memory.
  • Menacing the Mister: At this point, the biggest adversary in this series is the corrupt establishment of Gotham City elites, moreso then blue collar crooks.
  • Crimson Capabilities: More athletic feats though most this time unseen. Some nice full body tackles.
  • Fawcett Facts: Despite the image of a giant coin which Pinky was chasing, this is not their version of the Penny Plunderer's giant penny which became a prominent souvenir of another Gotham City Dynamic Duo.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fawcett Comics Presents: Scarlet and Gold #4

Earliest assemblage of characters on one page from the Fawcett Comics universe, later known as Earth-S. Featuring the following fearless fighters of fiendish foes:

Captain Marvel [Billy Batson]; Spy Smasher [Alan Armstrong]; Bulletman [Jim Barr]; Bulletgirl [Susan Kent]; Lance O'Casey; Golden Arrow [Roger Parsons]; Doctor Voodoo [Hal Carey]; Ibis; Taia; Dan Dare; Captain Venture; El Carim; Zoro; Minute Man [Jack Weston]; Buck Jones; Devil's Dagger [Ken Wyman]; Companions 3 [Don; Nifty; Spike]

This was prior to the debut of Mister Scarlet and Pinky. While some of the above would later join together as the Squadron of Justice and Crime Crusaders Club, others operated in different eras and locations from those groups.

As such, Bulletman and his partner never had opportunity to work alongside old west hero Buck Jones, 30th century explorer Cap Venture. Nor contemporary crimefighting crusaders El Carim, Zoro, Devil's Dagger... let alone Don Dare, Don, Nifty and Spike. Still, this picture alludes to a potential untold tale still left to be revealed which brought all these heroes together, perhaps during the 1980's reality displacing Crisis on Infinite Earths.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Sabotage at the State Fair (Nickel Comics #8)

As tragedy hits the local state fair, Sgt. Kent is pressed into sending his uniforms into the site to keep the peace while looking for a mysterious menace behind the chaos. It seems that thus far six people have perished at the fair, indicating fowl play of some kind. Seemingly out of character, the police department's "test tube detective" Jim Barr protests Kents' decision to place his brothers in blue at risk. Sarge scoffs at this, while his daughter Susan tips off Jim to a suspect.

Packing away his good guys gear including his patent pending Gravity Regulating Helmet in a satchel, and journeys to the fair to investigate. There he spies the suspect "Ice" Craddock with some hoodlums, and enters a hall of wax figurines where they are meeting to find out details of the sinister schemes.

However, the anti-germ serum flowing through Barr's body doesn't give him the power of stealth, as his loud footsteps are heard by Craddock who orders his men to pursue him. Barr evidently is still not use to having a massive body since ingesting the serum, which due to added weight makes him mir noisy than his scrawny former self. Anyways, not wishing to reveal his identity, Jim dons a mask worn by one of the figurines, to... protect his identity!?! Huh? Since when?

Although the masked man overwhelms the henchmen, Craddock stabs Barr with the pointy side of his cane, with poison that would kill an ordinary man but simply knocks Barr out. Leaving his premumed dead body with his head underneath a gulliotine, the next morning Jim is jostled awake by a noisy crowd just in time before a fair employee attempted to demonstrate the deadly device on what he believes to be another wax figurine.

Donning his superhero spandex and helmet, Bulletman charges towards a bulldozer being steered into helpless fair attendees. Then, our hero saves the crowd from a dirigible set aflame. Meanwhile, the manager of the state fair is approached by a wealthy benefactor offering up his land for  the Fair since this site seems "cursed". Bulletman is able to extract an explanation from Craddock, that the crooks were hired by the wealthy benefactor who wanted the fairgrounds' land for oil reserves he learned it contained. With a poke of a giant statuette rod, Bulletman tapped the oil for all to see.

Bullet Buddies: Well whatever goodwill existed between Jim and Sgt. Kent previously has eroded into mutual content.

Rocketing Romance:  This tale finally reveals the reason... well, the *official* reason... for Susan Kent always being at the police station. She is the chief's secretary! Nepotism much?

Bedeviling Bulletman: Craddock with his elegant suit, top hat and cane is reminiscent of another Craddock who stuck in the craw of Hawkman in the Gentlemen Ghost.

Powerful Projectile:  Bulletman's strength holds steady from his previous forays, where not even bulldozers nor blimps seem to cause him to break a sweat. And perhaps, just perhaps, a side effect of the Gravity Regulator Helmet which manipulates physics is also the explanation as to why the mask less Bulletman is never recognized.

Fawcett Facts: The ad at the end of the tale promotes Nickel Comics #9, which will never be. Instead, Bulletman migrates to his new home in Master Comics.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Fawcett Comics Presents: Scarlet and the Gold #3

By the time that Brian and Pinky encountered was replicas of themselves and other heroes, they had already met Captain Marvel and his sister Mary. However, this brought into their own personal universe fellow Wow wonders Commando Yank and Phantom Eagle, whom they would also share several covers of their mutual comic with throughout the years.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Voice - Murder Without Clues (Wow Comics #6)

Despite his social standing as a special prosecutor a g Gotham City, Brian Butler and his ward appeared not are traveling on a subway when several thugs board the transport to rob from its riders. This distracts them from noticing Butler and son "stripping from action" (terrible battle cry, Brian!) to become Mister Scarlet and Pinky, the Whiz Kid. While the Dynamic Duo are battling the hoodlums, and ominous voice known only as "the Voice" threatens those onboard. He somehow orchestrated not only this attempted heist, but directing another subway train car to head straight for his victims.

Thankfully, the train engineer averts this catastrophe in time. However our heroes track  down the Voicel revealing him the be the owner of the subway now near bankruptcy. Lots of corrupt businessman in this city!

When a threatening call to prosecutor Butler's office was received from a mysterious source, Mister Scarlet investigated further. This phone call was tied to the passing of Thomas Mendel. Encountering the culprit behind the crime by together the clues, the crimson crusader has a couple clashes with the masked menace including on train tracks where the two are nearly run over by a runaway locomotive.

When his foe takes the bait Scarlet left behind, Mister Butler invites several suspects via a newspaper headline to meet and springs the trap on the man behind the mask, an actor named Ked Allen, who had been blackmailing the murder victim for years until Mandel got sick of it.

Some remarkable parallels occur between Scarlet and the sixties superhero sensation in television's Batman. First, a snappy reportoir with their sidekicks Pinky and Robin, respectively. Second, cheesy villains that provide just enough of a challenge for the heroes. Three, awesome sound effects. Just look at that panel!
  • Supporting Scarlet: Once more we witness Butler/Scarlett's detective abilities on display.
  • Red Romance: Imagine if Pinky never entered the picture, then Mister Scarlet would have Miss Wade's undivided attention.
  • Menacing the Mister: The Voice has a cool gimmick but non descriptive appearance when we meet him. Allen's adversarial alter ego has a neat pulp style disguise but nothing special in his technique.
  • Crimson Capabilities: Pinky has become adept at evading the notice of Miss Wade's watchful eye. Although she can't still believe that he isn't making a break for crime fighting at the earliest opportunity.
  • Fawcett Facts: Now only two appearances each issue in Wow Comics and other features are crowding the dynamic duo from the cover! Is a Mister Scarlet and Pinky comic in the horizon? Sadly, no.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Fawcett Comics Presents: The Scarlet and the Gold #2

It is graduation day for Mary Broomfield! But graduating from what... middle school... high school? The date of this story was December 1946, If she, along with her twin brother Billy, were eight years old in 1940 when he first became Captain Marvel, that would make them sixteen years old at the time of this tale. 

Too old to graduate middle school yet younger than normal for a high school graduate. Although, perhaps, Mary was a prodigy. Her brother was employed at WHAM-TV as a news broadcaster, and would have had courses via a correspondence school to fit his busy schedule, so it is not specified when he himself graduated. 

At her graduation, while others may have attended this ceremony, the only ones indicated as having been there were Mary's adoptive mother, and Susan Kent.

Susan was of course the female half of the team of Bulletman and Bulletgirl. Acquaintances through Mary's brother and Susan's boyfriend Jim "Bulletman" Barr, the heroines decided to spend time in their civilian identities. Just then, however, Susan was kidnapped by her old foes the Weeper and Doctor Riddle. Although their main grudge is with Bulletman, seeing his aid and girlfriend nearby is too tempting a target to pass up. However, Mary Marvel attacks the devious duo and frees Susan.

Following a riddle to a local asylum where the fiends indicate they are, the women suspect this is a trap and approach individually. This leads to both being captured by the rogues, and trapped in an airtight room. However, Bulletgirl frees Mary Marvel this time, and the pair intercept another clue leading them to the crooks attempt at stealing gold bullion from an aircraft. While Riddle parachutes to the ground while Weeper awaits him below, Bulletgirl and Mary Marvel outmatch these devious dudes and capture them...retrieving their loot!

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Railroad Saboteurs (Nickel Comics #7)

As alleged accidents occur on the city's transportation system, Jim discovers corrosive acid on a piece of demolished truck indicating foul play. Reporting this first to his number one fan Susan, then officially to her father Sargeant Kent, Jim... and we the audience... are introduced to the owners of two of the city's main transportation companies. Grenville owns the large company, Kort the smaller. Each is panicking over the potential loss of revenue... forget loss of life... that each of these self-centered business magnates is experiencing.

First saving passengers traveling the rails through a tunnel under a river and then a rail traversing above ground, Bulletman is able to save scores of lives while racking up property damage on scale with the saboteurs. It is revealed that Kort was the man behind the scenes manipulating these attacks, in order the cause Grenville's company stock to fall allowing him to buy controlling interest in it. *Yawn*

Bullet Buddies: Jim is in serious need of some male friendships, and this evidently won't come from his police station compatriots. Don't worry Bullet, your buddies are coming here shortly.

Rocketing Romance:  When Barr asks Sergeant and Susan if after seeing Bulletman they've learned who he is, Sarge says "No- I never saw anybody who even looked like him" while Susan replies "Nobody could. He's wonderful!". 

Bedeviling Bulletman: Kort falls into a disturbing trend of fairly obvious criminals masquerading as law-abiding paragons of industry.

Powerful Projectile:  Toppling over a massive clifftop in order to divert the flow of a river, and tearing tracks from their foundation and supporting it while a carriage rolls over it, is impressive.

Fawcett Facts: Wondering if in the Fawcett Universe, vision coverage is carried on insurance plans.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Fawcett Comics Presents: The Scarlet and the Gold #1

In the golden age of comics,  crossovers tales between characters within a publisher's titles was not as frequent as it is today. While DC Comics did have a few such meetings between characters in solo titles, as well as in team-up books such as All-Star Comics and Leading Comics, this was the exception rather than the rule. Fawcett had the Marvel Family alone, with a few notable one-on-one meetings or group cameos within a story spotlighting the lead character.

Mary Marvel was unique in her title as to having a few of these yet not with headliners like her brother and his pals over at Whiz Comics. Instead, it was alongside heroic sidekicks somewhat like herself. The first of these was in her title working with her "old friend" Pinky Butler, who secretly was Pinky the Whiz Kid! 

In this tale, what began as a trip to the museum wherein Mary and Pinky run into each other, turns into a mystery of criminals who appear in the building to rob jewels and other pricey artifacts, then disappear when the kids get close to catching them. 
Twice the two hoods give these crimson crime crusaders the slip, first distracting them with a falling statue, then giving chase in a darkened room to cover their trail.

However, the heroes deduce that the recently donated Trojan Horse is where the crooks are hiding, and although the pair capture them they fail to find their stolen goods.

When Mary Broomfield and Pinky Butler reappear, they are both knocked out by Professor Logan, who donated the false Horse in the first place to give his goons a hiding place. 

Attempting to destroy the evidence and remove the two youngsters aware of his plot, instead Pinky helps free Mary allowing her to become Mary Marvel. Together with the Whiz Kid, she captures the wayward archaeologist and recovers the precious items.

Although the two kids part at the conclusion of the case, later in this issue Pinky would reappear with some of Mary's friends at her dinner, although this cameo was rather brief.

Monday, August 27, 2018

The Moon Torchman / The Boss / The Fire Fiend (Wow Comics #5)

Our first tale of this issue begins on a college campus, where a college professor storms out of the office of his colleague who dispute his theory of harnessing concentrated moon light. Later, as special prosecutor Brian Butler, his adopted son Pinky and personal assistance Miss Cherry Wade are strolling through the same campus, they come up rampaging students effected by the rays emitted from a robes villain's flashlight.

Identified as the Moon Torchman, the fiend turns his attention on Mister Scarlet and Pinky who arrive on the scene. What follows are wild escapades in this collegiate setting.

The madman turns Scarlet into a blithering baby with his celestial green light, while giving Pinky a serious case of head trauma by bashing the kid’s skull with the business end of his lunar flashlight. Initially, Torchman leaves Scarlet in a baby carriage that just happens to be lying around (!!!) in the middle of the road for a truck passing by to run over it. Before that happens, Mister Scarlet shakes off the effects, and the Torchman flees the scene.

Pursued by his opponents, Moon Torchman flashes his mood altering light upon dogs and a football team practicing in the middle of the night (this is one strange college campus).

During a rematch, the pair defeat the robed rogue aka the vengeful professor is cornered by the Dynamic Duo of what will one day become known as Earth-S, and is quickly defeated. Towards the end, Miss Wade oddly bemoans Pinky's well being, while simultaneously attempting to attract Brian's attention!

The next case commences with our three protagonists in the prosecutor's office, discussing a headline about Mister Scarlet having cleaned our crime in the city. No sooner to they pat each other on the back, then a big bruiser known only as the Boss charges into the room. Pushing away both Pinky and Miss Wade, the Boss demands that Butler write out the last will and testament for Mister Scarlet. Meanwhile, Pinky quickly dons his crimson costume, and charges at the behemoth baddie though doesn't knock his foe down. As the Boss leaves, he's pursued by Scarlet and Pinky, leaving a frantic Miss Wade behind to worry over her employer and his son. Mostly his son.

The Boss muscles his way into a wealthy home in order to rob that family, although the Crimson Crusaders track down the thug and his henchmen. Despite the fact that the Boss nearly overturned a car with his massive strength, he and his hoods are overwhelmed by the coordinated attack of our heroes.

Our final adventure opens with Pinky Butler distributing care packages to disadvantaged residents of a poor neighborhood tenement in... yes it a named... Gotham City!

This seems to imply that the lad is returning to where he grew before his mother died, as a local woman knows him by name while thanking him. The fact that the boy has extra money in order to charitably donate to others in need will dramatically shift shortly when his and his step father's financial fortune changes

There in the tenement, he encounters the asbestos-suit clad Fire Fiend, who is attempting to burn down the slums. As the kid is found unconscious on the roadside by Butler and Miss Wade, they revive him and soon after he and his "dad"  changed into their identities as the Red-Robed Knights of Justice, to Miss Wade's dismay. After following a lead to a crazed professor's home whom they believe is the masked marauded, the pair are ensnared but free themselves and defeat the Fiend.

It is then revealed that the daring duo's hunch that Fire Fiend was the slumlord himself... William Wilcox... whom they met earlier. He devised this alter ego in order to cash out of this losing property in his possession. Instead of revealing the man's insidious campaign of destruction, they make him promise to tear down the tenement and rebuild it anew with his own money, which he agrees to.
  • Supporting Scarlet:Pinky several times saves his mentor and charges into action, even when under threat of castor oil! Although she does an attractive pose for Mister Butler at the end of tale #1!
  • Red Romance: Miss Wade shows passing concern for Brian, but her heart is now squarely in the maternal arena these days.
  • Menacing the Mister: Moon Torchman shows promise with his technology but apparently is driven insane from it. The Boss is nondescript. A Fire Fiend would return, though not this one, sadly.
  • Crimson Capabilities: No gadgets at the ready aside from some implied robes, while the duo's acrobatics and routines seem to keep their adversaries on the defensive.
  • Fawcett Facts: This would be Mister Scarlet's last cover of Wow Comics where he was the sole character featured (along with Pinky the past two issues). Next issue, two new heroes will crowd him to the side for head shots only.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Lucifer and the Blue Devils (Nickel Comics #6)

Our sixth tale in the life and times of Jim "Bullet" Barr aka Bulletman starts with a request for him to take a vacation. It seems "Bullet" has been particularly obsessed with his career as a police lab technician ever since he concocted and digested his "anti germ" serum. Perhaps, beside increasing his physical and mental attributes, it has an addictive side effect not unlike another costumed crusader on another Earth at this time in Hourman. Was Jim's serum and "Tick Tock" Tyler's Miraclo pill made of similar chemical properties? While there isn't a record of Barr having to take this sensational solution again, and in fact he destroyed  it in order to prevent it from falling in the wrong hands, it seems to have made him as obsessive as Hourman.

Back to the story, Susan is pleading her boyfriend objection of affection to accept her father's request that Jim take a leave of absence. However, when Barr approached his supervisor, Sergeant Kent is saddened by the news just received of his former patrol buddy Hanigan having been gunned down in Eagle Valley. Sensing a new case, Jim accepts the vacation request.

Arriving in Eagle Valley aka Pleasantville, Jim decides to ask random individuals in the community about a tip the Sarge heard as to the culprits of this heinous crime, the Blue Devil. Yet none have heard of them accept for newspaper editor Elsa Martin and attorney Stuart Vinton, who themselves are threatened by a man who claims association with this crime gang.

Donning his crime fighting costume, Bulletman jets into a fray with the Blue Devils attempting to extort money from residents of this town. However, one of their number corner him with a gun, at which point the hero says he can't dodge bullets! What???
Perhaps he's luring them in a trap, as Bulletman beats his opponents and track down atop a dam the rest of the gang and their leader Lucifer attempting to execute Elsa and other citizens who oppose his Devils. How to safe them? Bust a hole in the dam, so all the water is released. Then the hostages won't drown when they fall into the water. No, instead they will die from sudden impact with an unforgiving ground!

However, it appears that the gangsters are a bit slower at the uptake than Bulletman himself, as they flee and find their roadsters drowning in the flood torrent the hero unleashed. As to any downstream who may be affected due to our Fawcett Fighter's folly, there is no indication of any deaths or property damage. So apparently, the dam was just there to store water for the town, perhaps?

Cornering Lucifer himself, Bulletman unmasks the crimelord as... Vinton himself! What, the attorney is the crook? Wonder if this was something unexpected back in the 40's? 

Returning to his hometown, Barr resumes his civilian career and mentions to Susan that his vacation was nothing out of the ordinary.

Bullet Buddies: We are starting to see a crack in the sarcastic demeanor of Sergeant Kent, as he confides in his underling whom he once mocked and ridiculed. Perhaps his daughter's obvious flirtations of his employee is starting to wear him down and accept the meek scientist.

Rocketing Romance: Susan appears to have a scheme whereby if she can just draw Jim away from the lab, maybe he will begin to notice her? Guess her crush on Bulletman has worn off.

Bedeviling Bulletman: Lucifer and the Blue Devils are one-and-done gangsters with only stylized costumes to distinguish them from more common crooks.

Powerful Projectile:  Ripping a tree from the ground! Smashing a whole into several feet of concrete, bursting a dam! His strength continues to ramp up steadily episode by episode. However, the bullet bouncing abilities of Bullet's Gravity Regulating Helmet are not fully defined as yet.

Fawcett Facts: These stories were published in late 1939/early 1940. Thus the art and print quality are not up to bar, and are still a year ahead of the Mister Scarlet tales we've also been chronicling. Once Bulletman makes the jump to his new publishing home magazine, this will improve greatly.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Death Battallion (America's Greatest Comics #1)

With America's Greatest Comics #1, history was made, as the first team of supervillains... all of whom had previous appearances separately... joined forces as the Death Battalion. Consisting of Mr. Scarlet's adversaries in Wow Comics #2 of Doctor Death, the Ghost, the Horned Hood, and his opponents in Wow Comics #3 of Black Thorn, Black Clown and the Laughing Skull, together with mastermind the Brain formed a true challenge for the crimson crusader.

While there has been acknowledgement that before the Injustice Society of Earth-Two, before the Monster Society of Evil on Scarlet's Earth-S which faced his pal Captain Marvel, and even before the Five Fingers of the Hand who met their match versus Law's Legionnaires on Earth-Two, there were a triad of terror that faced Bulletman, the Revenge Syndicate. However, that would occur in 1942, while this tale predates all of these problematic paladins. And does so early in Mister Scarlet's career, shortly after he picked up his trusty sidekick to help him thin out the herd of heinous heretics in this hideous hive.

Our tale commences when six of the worst criminals in Gotham City, which Scarlet protects, escape their prison and are assembled by the mysterious helmeted Brain. Meanwhile, prison warden Loomis resigned out of failure for allowing these dangerous dudes to escape his grasp. We will see him again.

In order to strike terror throughout America through coordinated attacks on five key men. While each of these criminals had their own agendas based on greed, they willingly submit to their new master's orders. Pledging allegiance to Brain, it becomes apparent that he holds some sway over the sextet. What that is is untold.

The first target, Senator Dean, is removed by Doctor Death... although this leads to a confrontation with Mister Scarlet who learns about the Battalion before his old foe escapes. The Brain then sends his new henchmen on their individual missions of chaos. Kudsen (head of a defense program) whom the Black Clown tries to eliminate with the aid of a trained gorilla, F.B.I Chief Doover is scared near to death by the Ghost.  a cabinet of politicians zapped by Black Thorn's mummy ray (wasn't that thing destroyed, and Thorn wasn't it's original designer so how did he rebuild it from scratch?), armory General Dodd whose guard is taken out by the Horned Hood, and the dynamic duo itself by the Laughing Skull. 

Mister Scarlet and Pinky each take separate targets, and help each other out when the other is captured at different points during this adventure. They are able to capture Laughing Skull and Horned Hood, while the other four retreat to the Brain's hideout.

As such, when the pair of missing felons arrive at Brain's lair... somehow they obtained the location of it, perhaps from their captured foes... Scarlet and Pinky make short work of the remaining crooks. And in the end, learn that mastermind the Brain is in reality Warden Loomis, a plant from Nazi Germany sent to sow discord in America at this critical juncture during World War II.

This decisive defeat is such that none of these villains will return for later a rematch with the crimson crime fighters, falling into obscurity. So much so that they are all but forgotten in the annals of history as being history's first team of supervillains, a template that would repeated multiple times thereafter.

  • Supporting Scarlet: Pinky shows his mettle facing off against a few of the Battalion on his own, and coming the his mentor's rescue.
  • Red Romance: None this go around. Miss Wade only appears trying to dissuade young Pinky from his costumed career.
  • Menacing the Mister: The Death Battalion are the culmination of a gaggle of gaudy greedy goons, who repeat their mistakes and end up on the business side of our Dynamic Duo's fists.
  • Crimson Capabilities: Mister Scarlet's massive might versus Black Clown's gorilla, and Pinky's effortless gliding through the air as if flying, are inexplicable and unbelievable.
  • Fawcett Facts:Once more to repeat.... before the Revenge Syndicate, the Sivana Family, the Monster Society of Evil... there were these guys. One and done, but historical nonetheless.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Gotham City... and the All-Stars of Earth-S

In the spring of 1942, the Crisis on Infinite Earths invaded both Earth-S and Earth-Two, with the former world being a special target for minions of the anti-matter universe. Drawn to that planet from their native universe, a trio of heroes encountered Captain Marvel, helping him to combat the massive shadow creature.

Following this victorious battle, Cap commented on the interesting names of these visiting members of the  All-Star Squadron, comparing them to Bulletman, Spy Smasher, Mister Scarlet and Pinky. In turn, the three members All-Stars noted the unique Fawcett City where Marvel lived, and asked if his world has versions of their Metropolis and Gotham City. Cap hadn't heard of either, no doubt his City substitutes for Superman's. But Gotham was an actual city on Earth-S, as it was home or Scarlet and Pinky, which Marvel visited recently in pursuit of a criminal! Apparently, geography was not his strong point. But we know better!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Case of the Crooked Contractor (Nickel Comics #5)

As so often happens in these early tales, Jim is toiling away in his lab as part of the "police research bureau" of his unnamed city, accompanied by his top fan Susan Kent and number one detractor Sergeant Kent. At the beginning, it is noted that Sarge's sentiments as to Jim being a useless weakling is a view shared with most of the force. 

Be that as it may, Susan becomes witness to a hit and run just outside the police station. Tim Strange is run down by an unknown assailant while walking towards the station, and Jim notices some concrete that tips him off to go to the victims work. There, he is almost clocked by a falling girder, impelling Barr to change his attire and ferret out who is behind these "strange" goings on as Bulletman.

After leaving several of contractor Durgan's employees hanging on another girder after their attacks on our hero fail, this catches the attention of Sgt. Kent and Susan who stop to confront Durgan himself. This leads to their capture, on board a ship that Bulletman damages in order to save the pair and confront the crooked contractor.  Remarkably, after bringing the Kents back to shore, they are speaking to him face to face. Unmasked face, that is!

However, Durgan is at the newly minted city hall, which is made of the same shoddy materials that Tim Strange saw on the construction site. Rocketing off to the new structure which is being inaugurated before a crowd in front of it, Bulletman decides to push on beams in order to demolish it before any innocents enter the faulty facade. Exposing Durgan for his money hording practices, he jets off.

Bullet Buddies: It was said previously that Bulletman has "telescopic vision", thanks to his miracle serum. The Sarge and Susan could use some of it themselves, as they can't recognize that the helmeted hero they are speaking to is the same man in the lab coat they see every day! However, Sergeant Kent acknowledges for the first time that Jim Barr's observation of the concrete was correct, which indicates that he is at least becoming aware that the lab tech is m ore than meets the eye.

Rocketing Romance: Susan now has a new man in her life, and one she appears to be interested in. Or at least someone she can fawn over as leverage over Jim to get him to finally notice her.

Bedeviling Bulletman: Durgan is by far the least imaginative of the featured foes thus far. *Yawn*

Powerful Projectile:  Wrenching a propeller with his bare hands! Tearing down the new city hall, like a modern day Samson! Is there a cap to his strength, or is the "sky the limit"!

Fawcett Facts: The format of Nickel Comics, being produced less often with a greater page count for half the price, is not a sustainable one. We are entering into the final days of this title.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Plentifully Prodigious Plastic Men

Although this blog primarily focuses on the red and yellow clad crusaders of Fawcett Comics, a special exception could be made for today’s entry. Tied to an honorary member of the Fawcett Family, as we shall see.

One of the iconic heroes in comic book history has to be the stretch sleuth known as Plastic Man, created by legendary writer Jack Cole. And from his initial 1941 appearance in Police Comics #1 through that series' conclusion and that of his own title published during that decade, the former Eel O'Brien became a legend. And a desired property for other publishers, particularly DC Comics which acquired the Quality Comics character.

So in 1966 Plas was reintroduced, or rather it turned out to be his son. Then, the original turned up in a couple of early 1970's Brave and the Bold issues teaming up with Batman. But was this the original? And what became of his son? Well after his own revitalized mid-70's series had concluded, he had a string of Adventure/Super Friends/Worlds Finest Comics solo tales. Intermixed, he was affiliated with at least three teams of champions of three Earths!

Once the dust cleared and time helped place things in perceptive, a few facts were made somewhat clear. The initial incarnation of Plastic Man resided on Earth-Two, home to most golden age heroes. Joining the All-Star Squadron as their FBI liason, he would stick around. During this period he met Captain Marvel from Earth-S, and Uncle Sam who moved to Earth-X. Around this time, an inventive crook created synthetic Plastic Men to bedevil the original. Even Woozy Winks became a stretchy sidekick accidentally and helped his pal to defeat them.

It was the latter that finally motivated Plastic Man to journey with fellow heroes from Earth-Two to this hero-less world to protect it from the Nazi hordes. Sadly, this journey was not kind to this incarnation of Plastic Man, as alluded to by Uncle Sam's cryptic comments decades later. And yet, acording to his "Who's Who" entry, this golden age Plastic Man still survived into the present day even though he was thought deceased on Earth-X!

During the Convergence event that pulled various cities and their heroes to a planet outside space and time, Plastic Man along with you fellow Freedom Fighter battled the Nazi villain Silver Ghost. During the conflict, Plas and the Ghost formed an uneasy alliance to track down the origin of deadly cyborgs threatening the citizens of their displaced New York City. After a final battle when the Ghost betrayed his foe turned ally, Plastic Man was left outside and separated from the Fighters. Where this version of the hero ended up in the multitude of cities on Telos is hinted at in an encounter Plas would have with Kid Eternity. He didn't return to Earth-Two, as the Senate hearing that tried the Justice Society in the 1980's said that Plastic Man disappeared in the 1940's. He would travel to a city originating on an Earth where he settled down and sire a son in his image!

The Earth-One Plastic Man first appeared chronologically alongside the Justice League of America in their origin story and later team up with that world's Batman in Brave and the Bold, then would go on to have solo tales in the 1970's in his own title, Super Friends Adventure and World's Finest Comics! This pliable protector found a foe in the young Robby Reed, the possessor of the H-Dial, enabling him to "Dial 'H' for Hero" which he did over a dozen times in his brief career. Twice Robby become a clone of Plastic Man. Robby's Dial-generated Plas was similar to the faux Plastic Men created on Earth-Two by Doctor Gleason for crime lord Pinky in order to battle that world’s Plas. The extra Plastic replicants mirrored those created by Doom Patrol adversary Gaurgax.

Then there was the wacky 1960's son of the original, Eel O'Brien Jr. and a Plastic Man who had teamed up with the Inferior Five in their issue #6. This Eel existed contemporaneous to the Inferior Five, who were said to reside on Earth-Twelve, on that parallel world prone towards comedic circumstances. However, despite being a second generation hero like the Five (who themselves were the offspring of the golden age Freedom Brigade) Junior did not deem it worthy of joining them.

Another Plastic Man who appeared alongside Kid Eternity on Earth-S. While this may, on the surface, seem similar to when Earth-One's Robbie Reed used his Dial "H" for Hero device to transform into the malleable manhunter himself on two occasions, this was the Eel O'Brien from the Kid's Eternity dimension attached to Earth-S. It was this Plastic Man's exploits in the middle to latter part of the 1940's that were being chronicled in his own self-titled comic and in Police Comics, as mentioned in this particular story... on the Kid's Earth. Additionally, Blackhawk had tales in his own series during this time and also aided Kid Eternity on occasion. As with Plastic Man, it seems Blackhawk... and by extension his six teammates...migrated from Eternity to Earth-S. These heroes continued to operate into the mid 1950's on this world as chronicled in their Quality Comics tales.

Indeed, this legend stretched himself quite thin, in a sense... as five versions of him helped to protect five worlds! So in the end, there was Plastic Man of Earth-Two who was a founding member of the All-Star Squadron and later moved to Earth-X thanks to Uncle Sam, then due to the Convergence moved to Earth-Twelve where he sired that universe's native version of Plastc Man, the Plastic Man from Eternity that Kid Eternity brought to Earth-S where he remained, the Earth-One Plastud Man and his Robby Reed clone. And we aren't even counting the dozens of synthetic Plastic Men that one of the original's foes created in the early 1940's on Earth-Two. Whew!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mr. Hyde - The Hummer - Mr. Scarlet Meets Blackbeard (Wow Comics #4)

With this issue, Mister Scarlet joins a large fraternity of superheroes with a sidekick. The first, of course, was Batman, who was joined by Robin in March of 1940. Then, there was Speedy, who debuted alongside his mentor Green Arrow in September of 1941, and Sandy, whose first case alongside Sandman was in October 1941. Of course, Wing was the junior chauffeur of his employer, both in his boss's civilian and costumed identities, and would later adopt a uniform like that of Crimson Avenger's. Star-Spangled Kid was already around but since it was his adult chauffeur who was his sidekick, that doesn't exactly count.

Other prominent sidekicks were Buddy in  July 1940 (who aided Uncle Sam), Toro in September 1940 (alongside Human Torch), Roy the Super Boy also in September 1940 (mentored by the Wizard), Dusty in January 1941 (assisting the Shield), and Bucky in March 1941 (side-by-side with Captain America. And these were only kids who teamed up with older established heroes. Many costumed and non-costumed adults also befriended costumed crusaders during this formative era in superheroics.

While Pinky first appeared in October 1941, as he and his guardian took on the Death Battalion of Mister Scarlet's former foes, the lad's chronological first appearance was in Winter of 1941.

In this origin tale, Pinky seems to be living a happy childhood raised by his widowed mother, until a madman named Mister Hyde breaks into their home and slays her. Immediately thereafter, special prosecutor Brian Butler and his secretary Miss Wade are charged with finding him suitable guardianship, initially with an orphanage. However, after several days there, one of Pinky's instructors... a man named Mister Jelke... had an odd reaction to a book which transformed him into the villainous Hyde.

The man-monster's next prey was Gotham City's mayor within his home, although Mister Scarlet corners the bestial baddie. Chasing him to the nearby orphanage, when Scarlet leaps over the home's wall in pursuit of Hyde, instead he finds Jelke who states he saw no one rush by him. However, Pinky lives up to his future nickname as the Whiz Kid, piecing together from a monocle left behind that his instructor secretly is carrying on another life.

Assembling a remarkably similar costumed to that of his hero, Pinky seeks to track down Mister Hyde and avenge the death of his mother. But he is delayed by Mister Scarlet himself, who joins him in battling the villain. Together, after an initial reversal, this new Dynamic Duo defeat Mister Hyde. Reverting to his true identity as Jelke, he drinks poison rather than be captured.

Towards the end of this initial adventure, Pinky deduces that Butler and Scarlet are one in the same, which the attorney later accidentally confirms. Miss Wade forms a motherly attachment to the lad, and will frown on his costumed career.

On their next case together, Pinky already wants to becoming his mentor's full time sidekick. Of course, Miss Wade chastises the boy as being a mystery man is a dangerous occupation for someone of his age. 

Meanwhile, a convicted killer is released from prison, and seeks revenge on the attorney who locked him away. Soon after, he seeks out that attorney's former secretary, Miss Wade herself. Mister Scarlet saves her life, although when Miss Cherry sees the lad she makes him promise not to pursue the criminal known as the Hummer.

However, Pinky is not dissuaded from trying to bring in the Hummer whom he runs across on the street, although the villain is able to overpower the lad and then holds he and Mister Scarlet hostage as a result. Escaping a near watery death, tied to the base of a pier at high tide, the crimson crusaders tackle Hummer together... bringing him to justice. Although Miss Wade pieces together that Pinky is disobeying her!

For their third tale, Brian and Pinky are at a costumed party at the Van Hoff estate, along with Miss Cherry Wade. When the evil Bluebeard and his pirate gang attempt to kidnap Mrs. Van Hoff, their plans are disrupted by the actual Scarlet and Pinky who are still wearing their masquerade gear. After pursing Bluebeard, with Pinky saving a captured Mister Scarlet before the pair overpower the scurvy dog, it is revealed that the arch pirate is the Van Hoff's cousin Tom!
  • Supporting Scarlet: Pinky becomes a fully functioning assistant to Mister Scarlet, seemingly achieving ace acrobatics and determined deductions without any training! A true prodigy.
  • Red Romance: Miss Cherry Wade seems to have shifted her attention from a hot/cold love/hate relationship with Brian and his colorful alter ego, to being a mother figure for Pinky.
  • Menacing the Mister: None of the villains our pair faced were notable, except to provide Pinky with a motive to be a mystery
  • Crimson Capabilities: As mentioned, Pinky is perfectly suited for Scarlet as to both physical and mental abilities.
  • Fawcett Facts: While his appearance as a sidekick was towards the end of the initial wave of such justice juniors, Pinky is notable as the first... and most prominent... of Fawcett's sidekicks. Unless you count Captain Marvel Junior, who was a junior partner but had mostly his own adventurers. It would be quite sometime before a second sidekick would appear.. aiding our other crimson crusader on this blog.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Fight To Rescue Tanner (Nickel Comics #4)

A new adversary catches the attention of police scientist Jim Barr and his alter ego. Sergeant Kent is sure that a man named Tanner, who is scheduled for execution, is not guilt of the crime. Although Jim agrees with his supervisor, Kent scoffs at any aid that Barr may give him. However, Jim's number one cheerleader Susan is very confident that the object of her obvious affection is astute enough to provide convincing evidence. And sure enough, Jim discovers that blood on Tanner's clothes did not originate from the murder victim. But the clock is ticking...

Donning his costume and trademark helmet, Bulletman rockets across the state to the governor's house in order to present this evidence to him. After an initial shock, the governor reviews the materials provided to him by the "Robin Hood of Crime", and verified Bulletman's claim. However, the politician is unable to contact the prison warden where the innocent man's execution is to take place.

Jetting to the prison, Bulletman leaves the evidence with an official there, but since the falsely accused man is already strapped into the execution chair, there is no time to waste. Ripping metal bars of solid steel from a window to enter the facility, then bursting through a metallic door, yanking the electrocution chair from its foundation, then breaking through another high security door, Bulletman and Tanner escape. 

But why was this man framed?

Bulletman decides to leave Tanner out in the open in order to draw out the culprits behind the scenes of these strange circumstances. Realizing that the mayor of the city is acting odd of late, Bulletman deduces that this will reveal not only who is behind this crime but their motive.

However, the mystery mastermind is one step ahead of his aerodynamic adversary, and lure the hero to a dead body dressed up as Tanner tied to some explosions. The detonation drops Bulletman into a deep well, which the hoodlums fill with rocks to bury him alive. Turning on his Gravity Regulator Helmet, Bulletman frees himself from his underground tomb. Forcing a confession from one of the hoods, he is led to an abandoned house where Tanner is being kept. Once more, a trap is set wherein some more henchmen spray our hero's face with gas that knocks him out. 

Frozen within a block of ice, Barr hears the plaintive cry of the framed victim who is tied to a furnace that is slowly burning him alive! Nudging his helmet controls against a hose through supreme effort, Bulletman frees himself and Tanner, ripping the massive furnace from the floor! 

B-Man flies Tanner to the rooftop of city hall. in order to keep him safe this time, Bulletman connects the dots to this case and realized that Mayor Scott is not who he pretends to be. Meanwhile, Susan Kent has inexplicably been asked to deliver a message to the man she believes to be the Mayor. Undoubtedly, this is a message as to Tanner's innocence, sent by her father. Though why the Sarge sends his daughter rather than one of his officers or himself is mystifying, and indicates that she has some official capacity in the police force. Probably explains why she's always hanging out at the police lab.

Sure enough, busting into his office, the Scott that is sitting at his desk is in a drugged and lethargic state. In an adjacent room is the fake Scott is holding Susan hostage, although he isn't fast enough for his opponent as Bulletman quickly separates him for Miss Kent and knocks him out. Then, he finally asks Tanner why this faux-mayor wants him dead as he knows too much. 

Turns out, Tanner is a plastic surgeon forced to make this crook look like the politician in order to assume his identity, thereby obtaining power in the city which is gang would benefit from. The criminal verifies this claim, but won't admit to not being the real Scott.

Rashly, Bulletman rockets his foe to a large clock tower high above the city, hanging by the hour hand. Then, he jets down to the streets below and interrupts a broadcast while grabbing the reporter. Bringing him up to the clocktower as well along with the journalist's radio transmitting equipment, Bulletman records a confession given by not-Scott for the world to hear. Bringing both men back to city hall rooftop, Bulletman speeds away as Susan cries out "Wait a minute! Who are you?"  A better question, "Susan, do you need an optical prescription?" As she was standing close by the mask-less gliding guardian, the fact that she can't identify him is remarkable.

Back at police lab, a fawning Susan and her father are both glowing in their praise of Bulletman, while Jim states his doubt in the existence of the hero as having never seen him. He can get away with this defense, as even those who do see Bulletman don't recognize his real identity.

Bullet Buddies: Slowly, Sergeant Kent is mellowing as Bulletman is the type of protector his approves of, and will soon equate Bulletman with Jim 'Bullet" Kent.

Rocketing Romance: Susan continues to give off signals yet Jim fails to response. Will this continue, or is change in the air?

Bedeviling Bulletman: Not-Scott is a typical crook yet has some impressive technology

Powerful Projectile: Bulletman's massive strength continues to grow, as well as impressive endurance. Still not clear indication as the the Gravity Regulator Helmet's mystery controls. And now he has telescopic vision? Guess the germ fighting serum works wonders on 20/20 acuity. 

Fawcett Facts: At this point, Barr is still roughhousing his heroics such as ripping through prisons and kidnapping reporters. Expect this to tone down soon.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The Mummy Ray - The Black Clown - The Laughing Skull (Wow Comics #3)

Our first of three tales involves a crackpot inventor who invents a powerful weapon he labels a "mummy ray". Why? Well, as he zaps a poor carousing cat outside his window, it turns into a lifeless skeletal mass. Excited as to he prospects of this new deadly device, the inventor.. Phineas Cox... approaches Henry Hewitt, manager of the Defend America League (whatever that is). Hewitt chases his volatile visitor away, impelling Cox to cry out that he will show the country the power of his device.

Later, we see a poor damsel strolling on the way to who knows where, and gets zapped by the mummy ray, held by the masked marauder known as the Black Thorm. Why her, why there, why at that time... none of these questions are answered. However, this makes him a threat which Brian Butler hears broadcast over the radio. Through some unspecified detective work, the prosecuting protector of the powerless tracks Black Thorn first to a bank housing defense funds and an armory, each guarded by the next victims of the Ray. In the first confrontations, Black Thorn uses his headpiece to knock the wind out of his adversary. It appears during their next encounter that Black Thorn has slain the crimson crusader, but in actuality it was a spare costume draped on one of the former guards which Scarlet uses to lure the villian out in the open. A rematch leads to Mister Scarler knocking out his opponent. Unmarked, the Thorn is revealed as Hewitt, who stole Cox's ray to use against America. This will be the core concept of Black Thorn's return, alongside other freakish foes.
The next malevolent maniac that Mister Scarlet faced would remind one of another caped crusader's arch-enemy. This tale begins with, could it be, Brian and his sassy secretary Miss Cherry Wade on a date at the circus. There, the couple meet its owner, Harry Parish after which the pair see some slithering snakes that get under Miss Wade's skin.

Jump to the home of banker George Reardon, who while going over financials gets a big slimy python gives him his last ever hug. When news of this is broadcast on the airwaves, Butler changes into his ever handy superhero spandex and races to Reardon's bank, where a couple of hoods of making off with some funds therein. Battling the dastardly duo, he faces their boss the Black Clown, who has a python... perhaps the same one that made George's acquaintance, to likewise show our colorful crusader some animal affection. Instead, Scarlet bursts from its grasp, and tracks the Clown and his minions to the apartment of Petrie, business associate of Reardon.

Foiling these plans as well, Scarlet still can't corner the slippery Black Clown who lunges out of the window into the night air. Suspecting that the snakes which his foe uses originated from the circus, Scarlet calls Miss Wade to inform her of this to likewise let the authorities know. Instead, she shows up at the circus and becomes a captive pawn of the Black Clown, who sends out his muscleman from Borneo to tackled Mister Scarlet. Our hero beats this bruiser, then acrobatically grabs his secretary whom the villain threw down from above as a distraction. Overpowering the Black Clown, Mister Scarlet discovers he was really Parish. Miss Wade ascertained that Parish was going bankrupt, sought a loan from the bankers and when failing to get it, hatched this scheme. He is the fifth of six returning rogues who will plague Scarlet again.

This last man to vex Mister Scarlet is the so-called Laughing Skull. He first appears tormenting a man named Jones with threatening letters, then kidnaps him, burying him alive! Somehow, word of this gets out into the newspapers, catching our legal eagle's eye and attention. Brian Butler is on the case.

However, before that can happen, a "queer nut" according to dutiful dotting damsel Miss Cherry Wade bursts into the special prosecutor's office, admitting to Mister Butler, Esq. and his secretary that he is fact that mastermind behind this crime. Escorting him out, Brian and Miss Wade discuss the need for Mister Scarlet to enter the fray. And so, later that evening, it is that caped crusader who is copping a squat on top of a tombstone in Hillside Cemetery, where Jones disappeared, and witnesses Skull and his thugs to push their next victim Henry Mize into a grave. Inexplicably, Scarlet hides behind one tombstone in front of two hit-men, then reappears behind them!

Though Mister S. makes short work of these two thugs, their boss chucks a brick from above at Scarlet's head, knocking him out, then get away. Waking up, our colorful crimefighter is once more approached by the odd man stating he is the Laughing Skull, although Scarlet asks questions of a nearby owl as to "who" is the Skull rather than inquire further of this strange fellow.

Returning to his office the next day after the police apparently save Mize, he is notified by Miss Wade that John Dodd has also been threatened by the Skull. Dodd is a banker. Apparently, Gotham is an unsafe place to live if you are a banker. Donning is cape and cowl, Butler heads over to Dodd's home and is confronted by the Skull, then shortly thereafter yet again by the weirdo once more professing guilt. Our Laughing larcenist and is men get the drop on Scarlet, and when he regains consciousness he if face to face with the Skull. However, a hand from an open window... another open window in this city... passes him a knife allowing Scarlet to tear free from his ropes. Oh and catching the plummeting body of Miss Wade, who adopted her employer's modus operandi and breaking in open windows but not keeping her balance.

Meanwhile, back at the cemetery, Skull and his men are planning to abscond with their "third victim" (wait, wasn't Dodd the third one?) named George Brown. Before they can do this, Mister Scarlet overwhelms the crooks and unmasks the Laughing Skull... as the strange fellow who kept approaching he and Miss Wade. Turns out, he was Dodd who was blackmailing his victims into helping him out of debt.
  • Supporting Scarlet: This is the last solo tale of Mister Scarlet, as he will soon be joined by another caped crusader. Wanna guess his age? Remember, this is the age of Robin, Speedy, Sandy, Bucky, Dusty... boy wonders all.
  • Red Romance: At least now we have Brian and Miss Cherry going to the circus together, presumably on a date (their first?). Butler is on his best behavior lately, not bursting into her apartment unannounced. Mister Scarlet chastises her for following him to Dodd's digs as a "disobedient secretary", worried for her safety. Her reply? "Oh, just wait till I get my breath back!"
  • Menacing the Mister: We now have six costumed creeps from the last three tales and these three: Doctor Death, the Ghost, Horned Hood, Black Thorn, Black Clown and the Laughing Skull. When we see them, and their enemy, again... we will see their tenacity.
  • Crimson Capabilities: So Mister Scarlet seems to glide effortlessly through the air, though not a solid indication of his rumored "flying abilities" as yet. Definitely has a sturdy skull, to absorb multiple flows to the head without losing a step.
  • Fawcett Facts: Soon...the above sinister six will assemble... on October 15, 1941. A landmark issue and historical first as we will discuss.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Marvel Comics... Before there was "Marvel Comics"

At the present time, the powerhouse in comic books is Marvel Comics, in no small part due to their dominating box offices in theaters around the world. But there was a time when a different "Marvel Gang" gave Superman and his Super Friends a run for their money, from printed page to studio serials.

Beginning with Whiz Comics and its most famous creation, dozens of series were spawned from this success, each capitalizing on masked mystery men. Two of those heavily featured in the early days were Bulletman and Mister Scarlet. The former headlined Nickel Comics and moved over to Master Comics when his first title folded, while the latter headlined Wow Comics with multiple tales each issue at the start.

Though neither of these colorful crusaders had a movie serial of their own, like others in their fictional universe such as Captain Marvel, Spy Smasher and Captain Midnight, there presence was still strong. More so with Bulletman, whose popularity spawned a self-titled comic of his own.

Were it not for a war between their publisher, Fawcett Comics, and their main rival in National DC Comics, it could have been these two heroes and their partners whom you would see in movie near you. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Showdown with Blackmask (Nickel Comics #3)

Once more, Jim "Bullet" Barr is keeping a keen eye on potential or realized crimes... rather on the dashing damsel that seems to habitually hover around him. It seems both he and his arch-enemy read the same paper, since they each draw the same conclusion that each other will be present for a diamond shipment, Blackmask to steal it and Bulletman to stop him. But since the former is really Steven Doone, publisher of that's paper, there is no reason for him to pursue such ill-gotten gains as he would be wealthy as is. See, Blackmask is all about power and gaining it through his underworld activities. But Bulletman wouldn't know that, or would he? He would become known as the Flying Detective eventually, so he could piece it together. But not quite yet as he is a social crusade at this point.
Throughout this tale, Blackmask's goal is to eliminate the mystery man who twice crushed his crooked capers. To that end, Bulletman is led through a series of tests to his endurance and will. First, at the locale of the diamond shipment, our flying friend sees a seemingly lifeless body dresses as a guard outside. In fact, it is a dummy that lures him close enough to breath in knockout gas which knocks him out. Awaking to new shoes on his feet, made of concrete, he is hurled over the side of a ship into the ocean. Yet with a combination of his miraculous Gravitu Regulating Helmet and his sturdy physique, he is able to propel himself out of the drink and onto the autogyro that his adversary's hoods are piloting. Grabbing a radio receiver from one of them, he locates Blackmask's lair.

However, Blackmask had planned for this contingency, and has poison gas flood the room they are in, which temporarily effects Bulletman while the arch criminal escapes. Seeing that this likewise has no lasting effect of the hero, the mastermind removed his hood and as Mr. Doone tricky Sergamt Kent and his daughter to join Jim for a car ride, kidnapping them.

Again, using the radio antennae he grabbed from that henchman, Bulletman followed Blackmask to another site also laid with snares for the superhero. First hydrochloride acid. The electrical shocks transmitted from a hanging device. When neither of these stopped the Avenging Artillary, Blackmask used a tank! That's okay, Bulletman trumped him with a tower of cars he stacked on top of it. Finally capturing and unmasking Blackmask, the world  now knew of Doone's criminal enterprises. Although maybe not if they got their news from his paper, the Trumpet. Whatever Doone's endgame was, it was never revealed to the reader.

Bullet Buddies: To focused on his crime fighting careers, both inside a lab coat and inside spandex, Jim is to oblivious to notice the two forces that pull him towards and away from self-confidence. On one hand, is her pop her mercilessly heckles the young man for his... well... lack of manliness? Wondering how Kent treats the rest of his officers?

Rocketing Romance: And on the other hand, there is a perpetually adoring Susan who seems to center her life on hovering around the police lab, Really, doesn't she have anywhere else to be? Or a personal life of any sort? Soon, she will.

Bedeviling Bulletman: For his third and final felonious foray, Blackmask goes all out this episode. With a poison gas, an autogyro, hydrochloride acid, electrical stun projectors, our villain really tries three times to risk himself of his foe. Alas for our antagonist, not only are his schemes squashed but his civilian identity is revealed. 

Powerful Projectile: The germ destroying serum is amping up Bulletman's strength big time! Despite being fitted with concrete goloshes that sink him into the sea, he is able to lift them aloft partially due to his helmet. Still, the stress that would out on normal legs would've torn them clean in two, hence some significant bone and muscle mass is evident. And the stack of cars he lays in a pyramid is a testament to his treatment. The Gravity Regulator on his helmet apparently is controlled by a control panel on the front plating. This would change over time, and would his strength (or lack thereof) to fit the story. 

Fawcett Facts: We are only months away from Bullet meeting some of his contemporaries. Surprisingly, this occasion will be the first time he is seen alongside his future sidekick/partner, before she even dons her own super-suit.