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Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adventure Comics # 54, September, 1940

Simon and Kirby often get the credit for introducing the so-called "kid gang" to comic books but, as you can see here, there's a kid gang, and S&K were still about six months away from even debuting CAPTAIN AMERICA at Marvel. Maybe the Minute Men of America weren't the most standardized kid gang ever but it definitely amounted to a prototype. And after the previous issue's debut appearance, they were certainly played up in this one.

The Man of the Hour's super-strength and agility come as the result of Tick Tock Tyler's invention of the Miraclo pill. Throughout the series there are a number of panels of him taking or pining for his pill that look more than a tad uncomfortable in the wake of the years of drug abuse. In the more "relevant" era of comics that would follow, I believe it was Roy Thomas who did retcon in an addiction for our hero.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Adventure Comics # 53, August, 1940

 A rather dull cover this time but at least it does, for a change, represent something that actually happens in the issue--the debut of Hourman's first sidekick, a Rick Jones antecedent named Minute Man Martin.
 For the first time, all of DC's regular titles are showcased together in this ad! Well, all except for the new MUTT & JEFF-- given its own full-page ad elsewhere.
 "Tick Tock Tyler," "The Man of the Hour"--What is it with all these nicknames? Why can't they just go with HOURMAN or, at this early stage, THE HOUR MAN? Below are the two pages where our hero teams up with his new sidekick and they create the Teen Brig...I mean, The Minute Men of America!

 Somebody at DC really loved MUTT & JEFF. I think it was M.C. Gaines. The venerable strip appeared in some of the early Dell mags Gaines was associated with and then showed up in small installments in ALL-AMERICAN COMICS before quickly getting their own title! MUTT & JEFF would outlast nearly all the superhero titles before transferring to Dell for a further dozen issues and then finally to Harvey Comics for 33 more as well as several special editions! They really weren't THAT funny! Ever!
 Apparently they had a couple of Alger (Russell Cole) one-pagers left over as JUST FOR FUN and SAM THE PORTER show up for one final appearance here after being gone for months and months.
 Artist Howard Purcell, later known for DOCTOR FATE, premieres the first non-superhero character in ADVENTURE in a while, MARK LANSING. The strip had a definite fantasy air that was unusual for this title.
 FEDERAL MEN soldiered on but without Shuster's not-so-subtle DICK TRACY character homages/rip-offs, it had become just another strip, similar to BARRY O'NEIL with his never-ending fight against the evil Oriental, Fang Gow (and, in this issue, Fang Gow's daughter)

 I believe Kane's GINGER SNAP, here making another of its irregular appearances, moved to MORE FUN COMICS.
 And once again THE SANDMAN brings up the rear, now with former cover artist Creig Flessel on the art making the strip look better than ever. Although he didn't really do the strip for very long, it would become a character for which he would be known the rest of his life.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Adventure Comics # 52, July, 1940

 Hourman's regular artist Bernard Baily turns in a nice, moody cover this time but the feature itself moves to the back this issue while The Sandman retakes the opening spot.
 Baily also provides FARMER DOODE, this issue's only new filler. Baby Ruth candy bars would become major advertisers in comic books throughout the upcoming war years.

 Here we see a house ad for the very first issue of ALL STAR COMICS, literally designed to spotlight new stories of the stars of DC's other anthologies and, in theory, increase sales of the individual titles. Note in the other house ad below that ULTRA-MAN. although still seen here, has already been replaced in ALL-AMERICAN COMICS by Green Lantern. The format of ALL STAR COMICS would change after only one more issue.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Adventure Comics # 51, June, 1940

GCD questions whether this cover is but Creig Flessel or Chad Grothkopf but one can clearly see the top of Flessel's signature right at the bottom of the stairs.
 The villainous Fang Gow has something akin to realistic coloring for the first time this issue in BARRY O'NEILL.
 That did NOT carry over to STEVE CONRAD, ADVENTURER, however, as the Asian characters therein remained colored in a jaundiced yellow.

 Note that the artist gets billing over writer Siegel for the first time in the now rather static FEDERAL MEN.
 And Bob Kane has clearly gone from RUSTY & HIS PALS by this point, leaving it to an anonymous but rather amateurish replacement.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Adventure Comics # 50, May, 1940

Okay, the superheroes are back on the cover beginning with this Bernard Baily Hourman illustration and they will stay there until the mid-seventies.

The Fu Manchu clones continue on in some of the other stories, presaging America's growing fears of Asians in general as World War II approaches.   

 Although only cover-featured intermittently during this period and no longer the book's lead-off story, THE SANDMAN was, as evidenced by the continuing "Big Six" ad, still considered the headliner in ADVENTURE COMICS.
 Interesting that the review here is of THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, one of the closest things to a traditional superhero book one will find in "good" literature.
 How popular was SUPERMAN just about two years after his debut? Popular enough that he was already on the air in his long-running radio serial starring Bud Collyer.

ADDENDUM: Check the comments. A reader pointed out that THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN was sponsored by Kelloggs' PEP and wondered what FORCE was as seen in this ad. The same ad in the same month in ACTION COMICS shows H-O OATS as the sponsor. Were these regionally printed copies after all?