Sunday, April 24, 2011

Retro-Review: Startling Comics #10, Part 1!

Startling Comics was published by Better from June 1940 through September 1948, with 53 issues in the series. This issue, #10, was edited by Ned Pines. The cover is credited to Elmer Wexler, and features the Fighting Yank, whose debut was this issue!

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The first story is the origin of the Fighting Yank, written by Richard Hughes, art by Jon Blummer. The tale opens in 1776, where Bruce Carter is assigned by General George Washington to get a dispatch through enemy lines. When he stops at a wayside inn, British agents see their chance and Bruce is attacked by a trio of men! When Bruce says the Brits will have to kill him first, they shoot him, but his ghost rises from the corpse, vowing to wander whenever his country is in danger!

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We flash forward to 1941, the ancestral home of the Carters, where we meet Bruce Carter's descendant, who doesn't do anything but read history books. Bruce's father is disappointed in him, and so his Joan Farwell, Bruce's fiancee. With the US in danger, all Bruce does is dream, because he strongly resembles the first Bruce Carter. Joan tells him goodbye, and Bruce breaks down and cries. Then, the ghost of the first Bruce leaves the portrait and tells his descendant that he will have great strength and defend the US against evil, so long as he seeks out his cloak! Bruce is convinced it was just a dream, though.

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Thanks to a cryptic clue by the ghost, Bruce goes to the attic and discovers a secret panel, inside which is his great-great grandfather's green cloak! Donning it, Bruce suddenly has great strength, able to bend a steel bar and smash a brick fireplace with a single blow. Meanwhile, Joan hears a radio news program announcing Senator Walton being named defense administrator. Joan decides to volunteer her services to him.

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Joan arrives at Senator Walton's house and happens upon a kidnapping attempt! She's spotted, but as she flees, she's able to tangle up the kidnappers with a length of garden hose and gets away. Meanwhile, Bruce has put together the rest of his costume from items that were around (“Lucky the rest of this getup was around—I'm all set now!”) the attic. He makes an oath to smash America's enemies, and then below, Joan arrives, but her car is hit by another vehicle!

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Bruce smashes out of the attic and to the ground, and he immediately starts to battle the four men threatening Joan, bullets bouncing off of his cloak. The men flee the scene as the Fighting Yank checks to see if Joan is all right. Joan immediately recognizes Bruce, and tells him those men were plotting to kidnap Senator Walton. As they get in Bruce's car to try to prevent it, the Senator is being snatched! The Yank and Joan arrive just as the kidnappers are leaving the Senator's property, and the cars crash. Then, the Yank starts chasing the kidnappers on foot, but that's still not fast enough, so he hops a ride on a convenient passing train!

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Catching up with the men, he grabs onto the back of the car and rides along with the kidnappers. When the car stops, the Yank waits until the kidnappers get the Senator inside a home, and then he smashes in, battling the criminals. The Yank finds Senator Walton tied and gagged, and rescues him. That night, Bruce tells Joan how he became the Fighting Yank before they listen to Senator Walton's speech on the radio. Oddly, the Senator's speech enjoins Americans to cooperate with the dictators! Bruce decides to look into this as the Fighting Yank. When he arrives at the Senator's house and confronts Walton, Walton pulls out a gun and shoots at the Yank!

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The Yank isn't dead, so the crooks take him to the basement (which is equipped with a jail cell) to finish him off, first removing his cloak so they don't trip on it (simultaneously removing Bruce's powers, although they don't know that). Instead of killing him immediately, the henchmen leave him in the cell to get a drink first. Then the ghost of the first Bruce appears before the henchmen return, and they mistake him for the Fighting Yank, even though they're not dressed exactly alike. When they machine gun the ghost, of course, there's no effect, other than the ghost vanishing. Then, from the other side of the room, the ghost reappears and kills the henchmen before reviving the Yank! Back home, Bruce doesn't know what to do next, until he gets a hunch that he follows up on in the Senator's home town!

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Armed with the knowledge that Walton has a twin brother who's the opposite of the Senator, Bruce heads to the Senator's old house (which rumor has it these days is haunted), changes into the Yank, and finds the house is guarded! The Yank makes quick work of the guards, and finds the real Senator Walton tied up inside. The Yank gets Walton and heads back to New York. Later, in Madison Square Garden, the fake Senator starts to make another fascist speech when the Yank and the real Senator show up! A fight breaks out!
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The impostor is revealed, and the real Senator takes the stage and delivers the kind of speech that one would expect from a true patriot! Later, Bruce tells Joan that he's chosen his path, and it'll be a dangerous one, to which Joan replies that she'll be with him!

This was a pretty good origin story, in my opinion, although it did suffer from what felt like padding for padding's sake at times. When the ghost appears before Bruce, why doesn't he just give Bruce the cloak, rather than having him follow clues to find it? Why did the Fighting Yank wait so long before rescuing the Senator from the kidnappers (other than to give them a chance to swap Waltons)? In the cell, why did the ghost take the Yank's place in the execution, and then kill the henchmen? Still, I suppose this isn't any “worse” than most stories of this era.

Next time around, it's Captain Future!

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