Sunday, December 26, 2010

Retro-Review: Daredevil #9, Part 4!

daredevil09_027Next, London in “The Boar Returns,” pencils by Frank Volp. Like the Daredevil story that led off this issue, the first page of this story is a huge splash that just introduces the tale. The hero of the story, London (in case you can't see from the reduced splash here) wears a blue suit with a blue skullcap mask and green cape.

Now, I don't know anything about the Boar, the villain of the piece... perhaps he'd been in a previous story. Anyway, the story begins behind German lines, as the Boar is preparing to retire for the evening (wearing red pajamas and his faithful pet boar, Tong, laying on the bed) when a message comes in that London is to speak in the House of Commons tomorrow night. The Boar decides he needs to sleep on this news, and snuggles with his boar and goes to sleep. The next evening, at the House of Commons, the crowd is eagerly anticipating London's appearance. Inside, Winston Churchill asks if London has arrived, and is told he hasn't. One of the other men inside (who looks a bit like F.D.R., to be honest) hopes London hasn't been waylaid by Nazi spies. Nine o'clock arrives, and London still hasn't appeared! Meanwhile, at the rear entrance, packages are delivered, supposedly from London himself, and they're brought inside and into the chamber that Churchill and the others are waiting in. Then, London finally makes his appearance!

London warns Churchill and the others that Germany plans an attack on England using diseased bugs! He's asked about the cases that were delivered, but London of course knows nothing about them! Suddenly, one of the cases bursts open, revealing the Boar hidden inside! The Boar attacks London and Churchill, then the second crate breaks open, with Tong the boar inside it! London attacks the actual boar, thinking he's put out the Boar, but he's not successful, it seems. The Boar thinks London will be easy pickings now, but he's got another think coming!

Meanwhile, London is being beset upon by German aircraft! A bomber drops its payload on the House of Commons, and in the resulting explosion, Tong the boar ends up being speared on the top of a fence! Of course, the Boar blames London for this, even though the masked hero is hanging on for dear life up in the shattered building. London can't hold on any longer, and drops, being caught by the Boar, who then savagely attacks London! It doesn't look good for London, but then one of the British soldiers fires a shot with pinpoint accuracy, even though in the process London loses his mask!

Later, London (in his civilian identity of Mark Holes, radio broadcaster) meets up with Leslie (who is she? I don't have any idea... aside from the girlfriend of the strip), and she was apparently a witness to the battle.

So... what do I think about this story? It certainly moves along quickly, and I'd imagine most of the kids reading this when it came out had no questions about it... like how is some guard at the House of Commons going to be an authority on what London's signature looks like? Wouldn't London have told Churchill ahead of time that there were going to be packages? I suppose they needed to get the Boar in there somehow. So far as the hero of the piece, London seems to be pretty ineffective, if you ask me... Tong was killed as a result of German bombing, and it was a British soldier who killed the Boar. All London really did was warn the House of Commons that he had proof Germany was going to use diseased bugs to attack England (something that doesn't pay off at all in this story)... and oh, yes, he manages to lose his mask.

daredevil09_031Following this is Pat Patriot in “Contract on Pat Patriot.” At least, that's the title the Grand Comics Database has for the story... the artist isn't identified, but whoever it is, it's pretty good work! The splash page identifies her as “America's Joan of Arc” – whatever that is supposed to mean – and we learn that she's driving from Hollywood back to New York when an aircraft starts firing upon her!

To avoid the bullets, Pat drives her car into a barn. I feel I should really tell you now what Pat's costume looks like. She wears no mask at all, and wears a pale blue blouse with a V-neck and collar, a dark blue belt with a single white star on it (that looks for all the world like Wonder Woman's tiara enlarged and worn upside down, with different coloring), a red and white striped pleated skirt, a red cape that falls to just below her buttocks, and blue boots. In some panels, she's shown wearing red gloves. Anyway, in the barn, as she's wondering who would want to shoot her, she's confronted by the farmer, armed with a shotgun! Pat identifies herself, and the farmer (named MacDonald, of course) lowers his weapon. MacDonald's planning to head to New York himself, so he hitches a ride with Pat. Meanwhile, the pilot of the plane has reported his failure, and his boss is not happy!

The boss explains that the only reason Pat is coming to New York is to speak on “that peace program,” and that Hitler's hired his gang to bump Pat off (for $200,000 – a better rate than Sniffer was getting, eh?). The price of failure? Nazi bullets in the back, they figure! So the search begins. Posing as reporters for the CDS Network, they call around to various hotels before discovering that Pat is registered at the Hotel St. Claire. When Pat arrives at the hotel and enters her room, she's greeted by flying lead!

Once she's determined that the crooks think they got her, Pat emerges from her hiding place behind the couch and starts clobbering the criminals! It's a pretty good fight scene, barely able to contain Pat within the panels!

One of the criminals recovers enough to start shooting, so Pat ducks out to the terrace. The crooks follow her out, and search for her, not realizing that she's hiding above them this time, dropping a garden box on them. She thinks they're done for, and is going to leave them for the police, but one of the crooks clobbers her with a vase. Meanwhile, in the lobby, Farmer MacDonald arrives, and goes up to her room, where he sees that Pat is about to be shot by one of the crooks! Thinking fast, he shoots the crook himself (what a trend... the second time this issue one of the heroes was saved by a bystander). So Pat goes on to make her radio broadcast, and all ends well!

OK, I would have to say that so far, this is definitely one of my favorite stories in this book... possibly the favorite, if only because the story structure worked better than the Daredevil one. The artwork was also very well done... even the coloring is extremely well done!

daredevil09_036Next, Whirlwind in “What Price Fighters?” by Montana. This title is another one that was added by the GCD indexer. “The Blond Bomber,” as Terry Turner is also referred, is a former heavyweight champ who's enlisted in the army. As the story opens, Terry's received an invitation to visit his manager, Jackie Wings, in Hollywood! Jackie's working at Warmer Bros. Studios.

Terry wanders around the studio, and happens upon what appears to be a man beating up a blonde woman. Terry intercedes, punching out the man, but discovers that it's all a scene being filmed by Leo Millstream (“Ze world's greatest director!”), and the woman is a man in drag doubling for the actress. Millstream's not happy about this turn of events, but the producer of the film, George Golden, is impressed by Terry, and wants to sign him up for his new picture! Before Terry can even think about it, he's been signed by the studio (replacing Warren Famen, who was going to be starring in the boxing film “What Price Fighters”). Never mind that Terry's just on furlough from the Army! Terry's manager, Jackie Wings, thinks it's grand that he's been signed, and the next day, shooting begins on the film (amazing, isn't it?). One of the first scenes Terry has to film is a love scene with his co-star, “glamorous Veronica Pond” (yes, not too subtle a pun, is it?). Warren Famon, whom Terry replaced, is definitely not happy about this turn of events – and Jackie is jealous of Veronica! Suddenly... the lights go out!

The sabotage takes two days to repair, but that's far from the only catastrophe on the lot! The picture gets further and further behind schedule, and one day, Golden is called to the film lab to discover that someone put acid in the rinse bath for the film, destroying the entire first real, causing a complete reshoot. But eventually, thanks to speeding up the process, it looks like the film is going to be finally finished! Terry's about to film a boxing scene when Jackie arrives on the set, and overhears someone say, “Remember, you back him over the spot where it will land!” Jackie wonders if what she heard has anything to do with the accidents (not too on the ball, is she?), and as the scene is filmed, she sees that the crane camera is coming loose, about to drop on Terry! Her shouted alert is just in time, and Terry barely avoids the crashing camera.

Jackie points out the men responsible for it, and actually helps delay them by pulling up a cable for them to trip over, while Terry wades into them. Naturally, it turns out that Warren Famen hired the men to cause all the accidents... although the men didn't realize that the last accident was intended to kill Terry. Veronica chimes in, saying that Famen figured if production was delayed long enough, Terry's furlough would be up, and Famen would be starring again. At this, Golden figures he's got the plot for his next movie!

The idea of a strip's hero interrupting a film shoot would be repeated again and again in comics to come, especially stories in which a hero travelled to Hollywood. There really wasn't much of a mystery to this tale... it should've been obvious to everyone that Famen was behind all the “accidents,” but nobody is thinking! Jackie Wings' characterization seems a bit odd... she wasn't quick-witted enough to warn Terry about what she overheard before the scene started, but could react fast enough to help delay the saboteurs! It's a pleasant enough story, though.

The final feature in this issue is The Claw in “The Claw Has Failed!” by Wood. The Claw was the gigantic yellow-skinned, long-fanged, pointed eared Asiatic menace that was one part Fu Manchu with one part Amazing Colossal Man. Interestingly, Daredevil was created to take on the Claw, proving popular enough to be the headliner for Gleason. By this time in the Claw's career, he was battling The Ghost, a guy wearing a white bodysuit and mask with red belt and cape. The Claw hasn't been able to defeat the Ghost, so Hitler's sending along Kloglo to assist!

As the story opens, the S.S. Gigantic is nearing the port of New York, and in the kitchen of the steamer, the staff is amazed at the appetite of one of the guests. The stewards are carrying three trays laden with food to the guest's cabin (apparently these guys never saw “A Night at the Opera,” because even more food was delivered to Groucho's cabin in that film). The stewards are tossed out of the guest's cabin, however, with demands that the meat be raw, the milk cold, and the bread hard! The stewards race to tell the captain, but as if things aren't bad enough on the steamer, the Claw emerges from the water next to the ship, like a Golden Age Godzilla!

The Claw demands that Kloglo be brought to him, and in moments, Kloglo appears! The Claw picks him up and puts him on his back before swimming back to shore. In the city, Brad Hendricks, alias the Ghost, is reading the evening newspaper when he notices the headline on the front page, asking him to show up at the editorial offices (how could he have not noticed it? The headline and sub-head takes up almost two-thirds of the front page!). Donning his costume, the Ghost goes to the newspaper offices, where he's introduced to Mrs. Carter who says she knows where the Claw is hiding out! She says she won't go to the police because the Claw's kidnapped her daughters. She offers to take the Ghost to the Claw's hideout, and the two of them head out to Mrs. Carter's farm. Suddenly, as they near the location, the drawbridge opens, and we learn that Mrs. Carter is really Kloglo, and the Claw emerges from the water (the guy loves emerging from the water, doesn't he?)!

The Ghost reacts to the threat of the Claw immediately, leaping out of the car with a bag (what bag? He wasn't carrying anything when he arrived at the newspaper office). The Ghost leaps into a tree, climbing to the top as the Claw approaches him (for a giant guy, the Claw doesn't cover distance very quickly). The Ghost pulls a tube from the bag and hurls it at the Claw's feet, where it explodes into a blinding gas. Kloglo is surprised at this (“Ach der liber!”). The Ghost tells Kloglo he won't hit him... but he will pitch him into the river the Claw had emerged from (how strong is this guy, and what is the source of his strength? It's not mentioned in the story). The Ghost then goes back to the car and grabs a rope, which he fashions into a lasso. He then hurls the lasso around the Claw's neck, and then ties the Claw up! Later, the police are alerted that the Claw has been captured... but Kloglo vows revenge!

OK, as you can imagine, I have a number of problems with this story... one thing I didn't mention was that the Claw's size does not remain consistent through this tale. When the Claw approaches the steamer, he's Godzilla-sized, but then when he comes out of the river, he's more Kong-sized. Then, as I pointed out, there's that bag appearing out of nowhere with the tear gas... it wasn't established prior to its appearance where it came from! And then there's that convenient rope in Kloglo's car... that must be one strong rope to be able to hold the Claw, eh?

A bit of better plotting in this story would've been a vast improvement... I get the feeling that Bob Wood was literally making up this story as he went along, with no thought in advance as to where it was going to go!

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