Detective Comics #211

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September 1954
Editor: Whitney Ellsworth
Cover: Win Mortimer (Pencils and Inks)

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1. The Jungle Cat Queen!

Script: Edmond Hamilton
Pencils: Dick Sprang
Inks: Charles Paris

Catwoman steals some diamonds and flies away in her Cat-plane. I love that she can pilot her own aircraft. It’s unusual during this time period for a female character to be so empowered, but sister is doing it for herself!

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Robin can’t believe Catwoman used a panther for her robbery. In fact, even as the Dynamic Duo pursue her in the Bat-plane, he’s still going on about it two panels later.

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Which leads us to this fantastic panel:

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Catwoman uses the Cat-plane’s claws to rip the Bat-plane’s wings and force it to land on her secret island hideaway—which Robin notices is also home to a diamond mine.

Batman and Robin are quickly caught by Catwoman’s associates, but instead of killing or unmasking them, Catwoman would rather play a game. She strips them of their costumes (but not their masks) and dresses them in “jungle clothing”. Coincidentally, these clothes are identical to the outfits they wore in “The Jungle Batman” published in Batman #72 two years earlier.

Our heroes are then turned loose so Catwoman and her cats can hunt them down and unmask them. As they are pursued, Robin can’t stop thinking about Catwoman’s big cats.

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Soon, Batman figures out that the cats are trained, obtained from a circus. Or maybe he’s just saying that so Robin will shut up about them.

At any rate, Batman is caught while Catwoman mistakenly believes Robin is killed in a struggle. In all the excitement, she forgets to unmask Batman—in fact, she gives him his costume back before tying him up and throwing him in the river.

But what’s this? Did Catwoman make a mistake?

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So Batman escapes—avoiding drowning and going over a waterfall. Reunited with Robin, they round up Catwoman’s cohorts who were “laundering” stolen diamonds, pretending they came from their mine. Catwoman, however, gets away.

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But “next time” wouldn’t come for another 13 years. In a few months the Comics Code Authority would impose guidelines on the comics industry requiring a more black-and-white approach to criminals. For a while, there would be no room in comics for an ambiguous character like Catwoman.

FUN FACT: The Cartoon Network show Batman: The Brave and the Bold  has a 2011 episode, “Shadow of the Bat”, that starts with a teaser loosely based on this story.

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2. Menace from Outer Space!

Script: Unknown
Pencils: Ruben Moreira
Inks: Ruben Moreira

Roy Raymond hosts the show “Impossible—But True!” on TV. Before anyone can appear on the show, Roy and his assistant Karen must investigate the claims of prospective guests and expose any hoaxes. Strange premise for a comic book series, but it had been going on since 1949.

Beginning their day’s work, Raymond informs Karen about some guest in the studio.

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As the screening for the show gets underway, he easily debunks a couple of hopefuls. At least he thinks so at first—but each time, a member of the visiting scientists contradicts him, making him look foolish.

The next day, he gets a call from the Association to help investigate a downed spaceship. Each time Raymond finds a reason to believe the spacecraft is a fake, one of the scientists contradicts him again—just as the did back at the TV station.

When four-armed aliens with rayguns arrive and start tying everyone up, all seems lost until Raymond reveals the aliens are just masked men. Roy figured four-armed creatures would never think to tie people’s arms behind their backs as the “aliens” had done. He jumped to that conclusion without even using a net!

Roy and his friends were never in any danger. It was all part of his initiation into the National Science Association. Who knew scientists could be such comedians? It’s always a barrel of laughs thinking you’re about to die. What a fun group to join.

I’m not sure why, but Roy Raymond’s feature would last for three more years.

3. The World’s Deadliest Cargo!

Script: Otto Binder
Penicls: Joe Certa
Inks: Joe Certa

Captain Compass was a former private investigator hired by a shipping company as a trouble shooter. Somehow, they thought of something to keep him busy from 1941-1955. We’re catching up with him near the end of his career.

We begin with Captain Compass accompanying a shipment of atomic waste as it is disposed of by being dumped in the ocean. Not very environmentally friendly. I wonder what Aquaman would think of this.

Before the dangerous cargo can be unloaded, the ship is hijacked, and the pirates use the threat of radiation exposure to pillage others ships. However, nothing can stop Captain Compass from apprehending the criminals—not even smashing the containers of lethal freight on the ship’s deck.

That’s because there was no atomic waste. Captain Compass knew all along this was just a dry run for training purposes with no dangerous cargo. The problem was solved by showing there was no problem to begin with. Isn’t that the best kind of story?

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4. The Forbidden Trick!

Script: Bill Woolfolk
Penicls: Leonard Starr
Inks: Leonard Starr

Mysto, Magician Detective was introduced in Detective Comics #203 but he wouldn’t be around for long. However, this episode starts with another magician.

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Jarko, a fellow magician is down on his luck. To increase his profile, he attempts to escape from “The Pharoah’s Urn”. According to legend, no one locked inside has ever come out alive.

Just to make things more interesting, Jarko attempts the escape with the urn attached by rope to an airborne plane. When he doesn’t emerge in a reasonable amount of time, Mysto rescues him in mid-air. Mysto’s kind of a badass magician.

Obviously, Jarko’s publicity stunt has backfired big time. He wants to attempt the escape again, but Mysto won’t let him. After overpowering his rival, Mysto disguises himself as Jarko and takes his place in the urn—this time dropped into the ocean.

Mysto discovers when the lid is sealed, some kind of gas is released into the urn that affects nerve and muscle control. Don’t ask how how there could still be gas in there after so many centuries or you’ll just make the whole thing look silly.

Covering the vent, Mysto is able to escape—still dressed as Jarko. No one realizes Mysto deserves the credit and he’s not going to tell.

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Awww. He’s a badass and a nice guy. Too bad his next appearance (in Detective Comics #212) would be his last.

Action Comics #196

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September 1954
Editor: Whitney Ellsworth
Cover: Win Mortimer (Pencils and Inks)

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1. The Adventures of Mental Man!

Script: Bill Finger
Pencils: Wayne Boring
Inks: Stan Kaye

A new comic strip runs in the Daily Planet featuring Mental-Man, a superhero who uses his mind-over-matter powers to fight crime. The new strip is so popular no one notices Superman anymore. 

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Strangely, a cartoonist named “Inky” who is part of a criminal gang, claims he can tell that Mental-Man is traced from photographs and not drawn freehand. This leads the crooks to conclude that Mental-Man is real. This all seems very farfetched but somehow Superman knew this is exactly what would happen. 

It’s all part of an elaborate plot he’s concocted with the aid of an artist at the newspaper and editor Perry White in order to catch the head of an international gold racket. Defying all logic, the plan works and the Mental-Man comic is retired. This is all fine with Lois Lane as she wasn’t a fan anyway. 

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2. The Jungle Circus!

Script: Unknown
Pencils: Ed Smalle
Inks: Ed Smalle

Congo Bill’s long-running adventure series debuted in 1940, detailing his escapades in the jungles of Africa. He was popular enough that Columbia Pictures released a 15-chapter Congo Bill film serial in 1948.

In spite of this, his comic series was never a huge success, running consistently as a secondary feature in the back of comics headlined by bigger names. Early in 1954 Congo Bill acquired a sidekick, Janu the Jungle Boy and shortly after that, his own comic that lasted for only 7 issues (drawn by future Aquaman artist Nick Cardy).

Even while starring in his own title, Congo Bill didn’t lose his spot in Action Comics—making him one of those few characters at the time, besides Batman and Superman, to have stories published more than once a month.

This time, Janu is asked to join a circus traveling around Africa because of his talent with animals. Congo Bill forbids this and is shocked when Janu defies him and runs away. 

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This banquet is more important than going after Janu? Maybe Bill needs to have a talk with Bruce Wayne about raising a youthful ward. 

As the the circus travels, they stop at a new village called Zumbasi. The night they arrive someone releases all the animals and the town is evacuated. Janu discovers the circus owner is really a diamond thief in disguise and it was his plan to empty the village because it was built on the spot he buried some loot. 

Before the criminal can shoot Janu, Congo Bill shows up. 

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Now where have I seen that thing Congo Bill threw at the bad guy’s head?

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Oh that’s right, Bill received it at that super-important banquet he attended a few nights before. Apparently that cup was so important, he’d been carrying it around for days—never putting it down, as he searched the jungle for Janu. Luckily, it was in his hands when he found Janu in danger or who knows what might have happened. 

It turns out, Janu recognized the diamond thief from the beginning, and only joined the circus to track down the hidden jewels. So why didn’t he tell Bill about his plan? Because he didn’t want Bill to miss the banquet! 

3. The World Series of Tomorrow!

Script: Unknown
Penicls: Jim Mooney
Inks: Jim Mooney

Tommy Tomorrow was a science fiction series that ran from 1947-1962, mostly in the back of Action Comics and World’s Finest. In 1962 and 1963, a revamped version appeared in 5 issues of Showcase, as a tryout for his own title but nothing ever came of it. In fact, he was dropped completely from publication after that. 

Tommy Tomorrow, colonel of the Planeteers, travels through space in the 21st century wearing purple shorts—which must be one of the most ludicrous uniforms of all time. When he comes across some martians playing a dangerous sport, he suggests they learn the safe, wholesome, Earth sport of baseball.

Before long, Tommy Tomorrow has gotten the inhabitants of all the planets in the solar system to give up their dangerous sports (like polo?) in favor of baseball. (Doesn’t Tommy look tough in his purple shorts with his legs crossed?)

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An interplanetary league is formed, but when gamblers try to fix games, Tommy must go after them. And on top of everything else, he’s chosen to be the umpire for the Solar System Series. 

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The criminals kidnap the entire team from Venus and replace them with robots to make sure Mars wins but Tommy figures out what’s going on. The gang is apprehended and he must escort them to jail on earth—which means he get’s out of umpire duty. 

4. Vigilante – Foreign Correspondent!

Script: Unknown
Penicls: Howard Sherman
Inks: Howard Sherman

Vigilante—a costumed hero who dressed like a cowboy and rode a motorcycle—was launched in 1941 but this was his next to last appearance before disappearing for a couple of decades. His teenage sidekick, Stuff, the Chinatown Kid, was also the assistant to his secret identity, country singer Greg Sanders. When Stuff went into action with Vigilante he didn’t change his name or appearance so it’s astonishing no one ever figured out who Vigilante really was. 

Here we find Greg Sanders on a singing tour of Europe. One night, an American freelance correspondent is shot outside Greg’s Paris hotel room. Before losing consciousness, he mentions a portable radio and Vigilante and Stuff try to pick the trail of the reporter’s investigation. 

This leads them to a tulip export company in Rotterdam where they run into a shipping clerk named Darrow. Searching the company’s offices after hours, they discover someone is smuggling diamonds inside hollowed out tulip bulbs. Suddenly the phone rings.

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Turns out Greg is not only a singer but a mimic too! 

Using the information he learns from the caller, he’s able to track down the mysterious radio and discover the incriminating recording hidden within. Darrow and his smuggling ring are defeated—and Vigilante writes up the whole story and turns it into the foreign correspondent recovering in the hospital. Singer, mimic, reporter… is there anything Vigilante can’t do?

I had never heard of Howard Sherman before, the artist for this story, although he worked for DC Comics for nearly 25 years. He drew all kinds of stories during that time but his most high-profile work was probably a long-running stint on the magical superhero Dr. Fate. 

He also drew a lot of westerns which might be why his work on Vigilante was so good. I particularly liked this panel from today’s story. 

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There’s just enough detail to convey a mood, and the necessary information, without getting too busy. His drawings sometimes remind me of artist George Papp, a good friend of Sherman’s, who worked on Superboy and Green Arrow. 

Strange Adventures #48

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September 1954
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Cover: Murphy Anderson (Pencils and Inks)

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1. The Human Phantom

Script: Otto Binder
Pencils: Gil Kane
Inks: Joe Giella

Some dude drinks some water he pumped up from deep inside the earth and acquires the ability to pass through solid objects. He discovers the water has turned him into “negative matter” making it possible to walk through walls and for bullets to pass through him without harm. It doesn’t really explain why he doesn’t just “pass through” his clothes or why he’s able to carry regular “positive matter objects”

After turning to a life of crime, his boots are blown off in an explosion and it spells doom for our “negative man”. Don’t think about it too hard or you’ll wonder why he was able to wear boots in the first place. Or, more importantly, how a “positive matter” pump could bring “negative matter” water to the surface. 

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2. The Three-Minute Genius

Script: Otto Binder
Pencils: Sy Barry
Inks: Sy Barry

A little kid named Lenny is found to be a super genius but only for the duration of a solar eclipse (roughly three minutes, hence the title). The rest of the time he’s just an ordinary boy from rural Nebraska. 

When a seismologist discovers a distant geological upheaval will soon threaten a large part of the earth, it’s decided only a genius like solar-eclipse-influenced Lenny could parse the incomplete available data and figure out which part of the world is in danger.

In a race against time, Lenny and the pertinent information are flown to the other side of the world where a solar eclipse is happening. Lenny makes it to the eclipse just before it’s too late and figures out that a disturbance at the the South Pole will cause a giant tidal wave to head towards Australia. All the coastal cities are evacuated avoiding widespread disaster.

During the eclipse, Lenny also writes down an “explanation” of his strange powers, although none of it makes sense to him once the eclipse is over. 

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What? Leonardo Da Vinci? The eclipse must have ended because I don’t understand any of this. 

3. The 21st Century Film Library

Script: Sid Gerson
Penicls: Henry Sharp
Inks: Bernard Sachs

Galen Barnes checks out some movies from the library and they all turn out to be “How To” films from 100 years in the future. Strangely, film technology has not advanced in the least and these movies play just fine on his little home projector. 

Barnes continues to borrow these motion pictures from the future and he and his wife use what they learn in the films to build all kinds of advanced machinery.

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Then one day, a hydrogen bomb test threatens to bring disaster to the west coast. Barnes consults a film on radioactivity to see if it offers a solution to the problem. Following the instructions in the movie, he is able to build a machine that nullifies the radiation and saves the day. 

Later, we find out the radiation movie’s solution wouldn’t have worked at all if Barnes had followed it correctly. He accidentally substituted the element beryllium for bismuth because of their similar symbols. 

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Not sure why that twist was added at the end. Maybe the script was a page short.

4. The Radar Man

Script: Sid Gerson
Penicls: Carmine Infantino
Inks: Carmine Infantino

Trogg, a man from a from a race of people with no eyes living deep within the earth, has bored his way to the surface in a giant machine. While among the “surface people” he gathers information to help the underground populace with their plans of invasion.

Ready to return to his subterranean civilization, he heads back to his “earth borer”—the only one the “mole people” have, naturally. For no explained reason, the authorities are in hot pursuit and have set up roadblocks to try and keep Trogg from his destination.

When Darwin Jones of the Department of Scientific Investigation arrives at the earth borer ahead of Trogg, he “reverses the controls”. The fact that it was created by an alien culture, he doesn’t know what it’s for, and it’s the first one he’s seen, are just trivial obstacles. 

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When Trogg reaches the borer and tries to return home, instead of burrowing into the earth, it flies up in the air and explodes. Though the invasion has essentially been stopped, the authorities still have no idea who Trogg was, where he came from, or what his purpose was.

Which just goes to show you, if you see someone unusual and you don’t know what they’re up to—kill them. Did Donald Trump write this?

World’s Finest Comics #72

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September-October 1954
Editor: Whitney Ellsworth
Cover: Curt Swan (Pencils) Stan Kaye (Inks)

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1. Fort Crime

Script: Alvin Schwartz
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inks: Stan Kaye

Superman and Batman appeared together on all the covers of World’s Finest Comics since it’s beginning in 1941 but it wasn’t until the issue just before this one (#71) that the comic would feature a story of the two heroes together. They would then team up in every issue until it folded in 1986 (except for a brief period in the early 1970s when stories featured Superman teamed with other heroes besides Batman).

This time, crooks are using anti-tank guns to knock over armored cars in Metropolis and Gotham City. Batman is afraid these powerful weapons will spread to every city if they can’t track down the source. A few of the thugs committing these crimes have been apprehended but they’re not talking.

Clark Kent goes to the State Prison to interview the criminals for the Daily Planet and runs into Batman—who nearly gives away Clark’s secret identity. Batman you idiot! 

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Lois Lane also shows up and the two reporters are taken hostage during a prison break. Four pages in and nothing really unreasonable has happened. Hold on because things change quickly with page five!

As the gangsters and their captives drive past the Daily Planet, Clark uses his X-ray vision to operate the newspaper’s teletype machine, and type out the details of his kidnapping as if by magic. Really? You can type with X-rays?

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This tips off the police and subsequently Batman and Robin who realize it’s up to them to catch the crooks and save Lois since Superman’s unable to act without revealing his secret identity. 

Trailing the criminals to their hideout in an isolated old stone fort, Batman and Robin try to sneak inside. Their attempts are pretty clumsy and they’d be dead if it wasn’t for Clark’s implausible assists. 

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Clark secretly throws some balls and guides them to their intended target with his X-ray vision. So anything Superman needs to do that he doesn’t have a special power for, he just uses his X-ray vision. Can his X-ray vision do my laundry and return my library books too?

More unbelievable nonsense ensues until the criminals are rounded up while being subjected to Batman and Robin’s tag-team puns. 

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Lois is left tied up long enough for Clark to out-scoop her…

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…and Superman explains why he used the teletype to alert everyone to the jailbreak instead of taking care of it himself.

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Ha! You tell ‘em Superman. 

2. The Flying Archers

Script: Ed Herron
Pencils: George Papp
Inks: George Papp

Oliver Queen sprains his ankle horseback riding and he’s afraid if Green Arrow is out of the public eye, his secret identity may be in jeopardy. Using their Arrow-plane to track down some crooks looting a museum, Green Arrow is able to fight crime without standing up.

When the Arrow-plane is knocked out of commission, the archers “borrow” a rare, antique plane from the museum and apprehend the criminals. 

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The Wright brothers might be proud of you but the people at the museum are not going to be happy about what you’re doing with their irreplaceable exhibit. 

After more crime-fighting from the air, the Emerald Archer is afraid people are going to suspect he’s Oliver Queen if he isn’t seen standing. He’s lucky this is a comic book, otherwise his plan would never succeed. 

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No one noticed all the balloons tied to him. NO ONE! Maybe all the residents of Star City are blind. Luckily, by the next day he’ll be able to walk again, and we won’t be subjected to any more of these ridiculous schemes. At least until next month. 

3. The Talons of Terror

Script: Ed Herron
Penicls: Nick Cardy
Inks: Nick Cardy

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Oh! Nick Cardy drew this? He became famous for his art on Aquaman and the Teen Titans about 10 years later, and also for the many covers he drew in the early 1970s. His style isn’t instantly recognizable here, like it would become in the future, but it’s interesting to see an early example of his work.

Tomahawk’s frontier adventures, set during the American Revolution, appeared both as a backup feature and in his own title, from 1947 to 1972. His young sidekick Dan Hunter is always referred to using both names, at least in this story. 

Although it’s not really a superhero story, there is a villain, The Black Falcon, with a colorful name, a mask, and a gimmick—using falcons to help commit robberies. Tomahawk and Dan Hunter go undercover, enticing the Black Falcon to act. Falling in the trap they set, the Black Falcon gets dye on his hands which soon gives away his true identity. 

It’s a fairly solid story—part mystery, part western—and just the sort of thing that might appeal to kids of the Silver Age.

Adventure Comics #204

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September 1954
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Cover: Win Mortimer (Pencils and Inks)

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1. The Super Brat of Smallville!

Script: Otto Binder
Pencils: John Sikela
Inks: John Sikela

Bradley Ashton is a rich orphan with a pet cheetah who has just moved to Superboy’s hometown of Smallville. Unfortunately, his penchant for cruel practical jokes is causing headaches for the Boy of Steel. 

Before long, Superboy’s had enough and confronts Ashton’s guardian and lawyer Jonas Fitch of “Fitch, Fitch, Fitch, and Fitch, Brilliant Law Firm”. Fitch, however, has made sure Ashton’s pranks are fully legal and he’s been paid handsomely by the little monster to let the boy do whatever he wants. 

The mischief continues. First, swarms of insects are released at a picnic—which Superboy handles by smearing himself with sticky sweet jams and jellies to lure the pests away.  

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Is it just me, or does Superboy seem to be enjoying this? I almost get the feeling he was just waiting for an opportunity to smear Smuckers all over his body. 

Later, Ashton mixes up the labels on all the cans at the general store, causing Lana Lang much turmoil…

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…and the citizens of Smallville show they can really be jerks. 

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Finally, Superboy gets the upperhand by tricking Ashton into believing one of his jokes has gone awry and killed his pet. Dang, Superboy! You don’t mess around. Ashton swears to never play another practical joke, and keeps the promise even when Superboy reveals the cheetah is still alive. 

Superboy then charges admission to people who want to come into Ashton’s joke workshop and destroy it—all proceeds going to charity of course. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind, I guess. 

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2. The Lagoon of Doom!

Script: Jack Miller
Pencils: Ramona Fradon
Inks: Ramona Fradon

Ramona Fradon, the first female artist at DC, began drawing Aquaman in 1951 and would draw most of his adventures for the next 12 years or so. Although Fradon had been on the feature for three years by the time she drew this Aquaman story, her style still hadn’t fully developed. She would soon become much better, and her style more recognizable.   

This story involves some men draining a lagoon for mysterious reasons and endangering all the fish that live there. Aquaman scans the bottom of the lagoon to see what they’re after but only comes up with a bunch of junk. Surprisingly, he seems unfazed by all the pollution he’s collected.

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At the end it’s revealed they were trying to extract a heavy concentration of gold from the water but Aquaman thwarted their plans. No laws were actually broken since the men owned the lagoon, but there were fish in danger—and that’s bad. However, it’s apparently okay to throw your trash in the ocean if you want. 

3. Johnny Quick, King of Comedy!

Script: Unknown
Penicls: Ralph Mayo
Inks: Ralph Mayo

Johnny Quick, secretly newsreel photographer Johnny Chambers, triggers his powers of superspeed by reciting a mathematical formula. Johnny debuted in 1941, the year after a much more popular character with similar powers: the original version of The Flash. The Flash last appeared in 1951 but Johnny limped along, almost unnoticed, for a few more years.

Here we see Johnny Chambers imitating his alter ego Johnny Quick as part of a comedy skit at the Newsreel Cameramen’s Ball. Some bank robbers try to retrieve their loot from the stage during the performance and Johnny must apprehend them while making it all look like part of the act. 

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He succeeds, of course, but this story falls flat. The artist never seems comfortable with a script trying this hard to be funny. And we never really see Johnny in his costume, only a oversized cheap imitation. Johnny Quick is clearly running out of steam and would only appear twice more before disappearing for a good 20 years.

4. The Amazing Arrowthon!

Script: Unknown
Penicls: George Papp
Inks: George Papp

Green Arrow debuted, along with Aquaman, in More Fun Comics #73, November 1941. Although he was patterned after Robin Hood, he was in many ways a copycat of Batman. Batman was a millionaire playboy. Green Arrow was a millionaire playboy. Robin was Batman’s adopted sidekick. Speedy was Green Arrow’s. Batman had the Bat-Cave, Bat-Mobile, Bat-Plane, and Bat-Signal. Green Arrow had “Arrow” counterparts for each. Even his signature trick arrows were a mimic of all the gadgets in Batman’s utility belt.

Despite his unoriginal premise, Green Arrow was one of the handful of characters who were published uninterrupted from the 1940s to the 1960s. He usually appeared as a back-up feature in DC anthology titles like Adventure Comics or World’s Finest. Sometimes, this resulted in him starring in two different stories published in the same month—one of the very few characters at the time besides Superman and Batman to do so. 

First up this month, Green Arrow and Speedy appear on a televised 24-hour “Arrowthon”. Those that call in a pledge can request an arrow-related stunt to be performed “live” on television. Some wise-guy criminal calls in a ten thousand dollar pledge if GA will shoot an arrow off the head of millionaire Oliver Queen. This is impossible since Green Arrow is Oliver Queen, which the villain suspects.

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Green Arrow solves the problem by borrowing a hollow wax likeness of himself from a museum and placing Speedy inside to shoot the apple from his head. Since this is a comic book, the wax dummy fooled everyone and Green Arrow’s secret identity is safe. Or maybe Green Arrow got delirious from performing on TV for 24 hours straight with no sleep. 

Superman #92

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September 1954
Editor: Whitney Ellsworth
Cover: Win Mortimer (Pencils and Inks)

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1. The Impossible Headlines!

Script: Unknown
Pencils: Wayne Boring
Inks: Stan Kaye

In just the first two panels three preposterous things happen: (1) Daily Planet editor-in-chief Perry White leaves on vacation but doesn’t inform anyone until he’s walking out the door (2) He brings in George Earns as his replacement from outside the newspaper (3) The new temp-editor institutes drastic policy changes to make the paper more sensational. Oh well. Anything to get the ball rolling.

When fantastic stories come across the teletype, Earns rushes to print them without any verification. Clark Kent is suspicious and investigates as Superman, discovering the stories are faked. It’s too late to stop The Planet from going to press so Superman uses his powers to actually make the fraudulent stories true, and thereby saving the reputation of his employer. 

Earns is unconcerned that he rushed to print stories that were actually false at press time, believing it’s his job to keep the readers in a “constant state of excitement”. He probably went onto an illustrious career at Fox News.

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Oh Lois. Your naive and outdated ethics are charming, but I’m a little concerned about your “feminine curiosity”.

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A diary in Clark’s desk seems to prove he’s Superman, but the diary is also fake—another attempt to discredit the paper by getting them to print a spectacular yet false headline. It’s just a coincidence that this time the planted story actually happens to be true!

The whole scheme is the work of Jigger Benson, a big crime boss and the subject of a series of articles by Clark Kent. He thinks if he can ruin the Daily Planet’s credibility, no one will believe anything they print about him. 

Once the paper announces Superman’s secret identity, Jigger Benson tries to gun down Clark to prove he’s not Superman. But he is Superman so Benson’s plan fails—and Superman’s identity is revealed to the world. Or is it?

Superman’s explanation is he took Clark’s place while the reporter was secretly hidden away for safekeeping. No one thinks Clark is Superman anymore and our temp-editor has learned his lesson about running stories without verification. So much for Fox News superstardom. 

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2. Superman’s Sweetheart!

Script: Bill Woolfolk
Pencils: Al Plastino
Inks: Al Plastino

Lois Lane finds a picture buried in the heart of a meteor showing Superman being married to an unknown woman. She confronts him demanding an explanation. 

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A famous historian determines the picture was drawn in a small English town 800 years ago. So all this fuss is over a drawing? Everyone is acting like the events portrayed in the picture actually happened. Don’t they realize you can draw a picture of things with no basis in reality? Just look at this comic!!

Superman, who has no memory of the woman or wedding, flies “faster than the speed of time” to go back eight centuries to investigate—because what are the chance someone would draw something if it never really happened. 

The plot gets rather convoluted from here, but Superman participates in a fake wedding where the picture that started this whole mess is drawn. In an attempt to prevent it from turning up in the future he shoves it deep inside a rock—an iron rock which is suddenly sucked up into space by a passing magnetic meteor. 

The meteor apparently flew around for 800 years before being discovered by Lois. But if she hadn’t discovered it, Superman wouldn’t have gone back in time and the picture wouldn’t have ended up in the meteor. OK, now do you believe people can draw things that could never happen?

3. Superman’s Last Hour!

Script: Jerry Coleman
Penicls: Al Plastino
Inks: Al Plastino

Dan Delta, the most feared private detective in Metropolis, bears a striking resemblance to Superman. He also shares Superman’s kryptonite weakness due to a freak atomic accident. 

Thinking Delta is Superman, a gang of criminals with a chunk of kryptonite hold the detective for ransom—hoping to get a million dollars from the residents of Metropolis for the return of their hero. 

The real Superman doesn’t want the kidnappers to know they have to wrong guy so he lays low until he can figure out a way to rescue Dan. In the meantime, the people of Metropolis pitch in to raise Superman’s ransom, moving the Man of Steel to tears. Well, a tear.

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In the end, Superman rescues Dan and returns everyone’s money pretty easily. Dan and Supes celebrate by going on a double date where Superman seems to confess his powers prevent him from being attracted to girls—at least that’s what it sounds like to me. 

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FUN FACT: This is the story that established lead could protect Superman from kryptonite’s harmful rays. 

Batman #86

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Sept. 1954
Editor: Jack Schiff
Cover: Win Mortimer (Pencils and Inks)

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1. The Voyage of the First Batmarine!

Script: Edmond Hamilton
Pencils: Dick Sprang
Inks: Charles Paris

Batman and Robin are scuba diving to retrieve a submerged shipment of highly explosive nitroglycerin but they stay underwater too long (only an hour!) and now they have to stay there for two days or they’ll die. This tale about decompression sickness (or “the bends”, which afflicts divers who surface too quickly) doesn’t sound scientifically accurate, but what do I know.

“Slant” Stacy and his gang of platinum bandits take advantage of Batman’s absence by going on a crime spree. On page three we get our first look at Stacy and… wow, just …wow!

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Batman artist Dick Sprang wasn’t known for his naturalistic drawings but this is so off-model from the usual characters it’s kind of amazing. Can we get this panel installed in the Museum of Modern Art? Sorry, I didn’t mean to get distracted…

Trapped underwater, Batman and Robin must use their brains to thwart the criminals from the newly-minted Bat-sub. (But why is it the Dynamic Duo’s job, anyway? Doesn’t this sort of imply that the Gotham City police are completely useless?) At any rate, none of their ideas are the least bit plausible but that doesn’t mean they aren’t successful. Criminals are captured and Bruce and Dick return to dry land. Yay!

I just have to say that it’s amazing to me how many problems in comic books can be solved by building a life-like robot—and how quickly that can be done! (Often anywhere from a few days to just a couple of hours.) It’s tempting to think it must be a basic skill all comic book characters are taught in comic book high schools—at least those operated by DC during the Silver Age. 

2. The Joker’s Winning Team!

Script: Bill Woolfolk
Pencils: Sheldon Moldoff
Inks: Stan Kaye

In my opinion, this story is the winner—the most fun of the three in this issue! I’m not sure why the Joker went to a baseball game by himself, but I’m glad he did or we wouldn’t have this panel:

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I know the Joker is supposed to be the villain, but in this instance I completely agree with him. 

As he leaves the ball park, Joker gets the idea of trading gang members the way teams trade players—to have the right talent for a given crime. He proceeds with a series of thefts employing a team of specialists and, of course, runs into Batman and Robin—resulting in this exchange:

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Once again, I have to agree with the Joker here. That’s twice already and we’re only on page 4!

Before long, Batman disguises himself as a British explosives expert and is recruited by the Joker. Without much trouble, the Joker is double-crossed and we’re exposed to a series of baseball-related puns as Batman apprehends him and his cohorts.

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I hear you! Is it wrong I found myself rooting for Team Joker?

I’m not an expert, but of the stories I’ve read, this is the one I’ve found closest in tone to the 1960s Batman TV show. Hopefully I’ll find more that are similar!

3. Batman—Indian Chief!

Script: France Herron
Penicls: Sheldon Moldoff
Inks: Stan Kaye

Flying home from a special mission out west, Batman and Robin spot a smoke-signal bat-signal and stop to investigate. They discover an American Indian named Great Eagle and his son, Little Raven, who dress up like Batman and Robin to fight crime among their Sioux tribe. Strangely, these Native Americans seem to be stuck in the 19th century, but no one mentions it. 

The villainous Black Elk has speared Great Eagle in the shoulder and if the Indian Batman appears with the same wound, it will expose his secret identity. To avoid this, Batman and Robin disguise themselves as their Indian counterparts and apprehend Black Elk and his raiders. 

Batman’s main objective here is to protect someone else’s secret identity for a change but it’s all just an excuse to exploit the western genre that was so popular at the time. As long as we get to see Batman and Robin dressed as Indians, I’m not complaining. 

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House of Mystery #30

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Sept. 1954
Editor: Whitney Ellsworth
Cover: Ruben Moreira (Pencils and Inks)

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1. The Demon Gun!

Script: Unknown
Pencils: Jim Mooney
Inks: Jim Mooney

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Right away we can tell this story is quite unusual—and I’m not talking about the rifle chasing a man under it’s own power. It’s written in the rarely used second-person mode, referring to the protagonist as “you”. I’m intrigued. 

Our “hero” Jim Fulson supervises the supplies of hunter John Ellis who is on safari in Africa. Ellis is an expert marksman, but the locals believe his skill is due to his magic gun. Fulson is a big coward who wishes he had the courage to pull a trigger, but when he hears about the magic gun, he shoots and kills Ellis so it can be his. This seems completely out of character for the spineless Fulson, but whatever. Anything to advance the plot.

With the magic gun, Fulson becomes an amazing shot just like his dead boss. When the gun seems to turn on him, he tries to get rid of it, but it chases him, flying through the air, and shoots him dead. They try to explain this by the fact he was carrying a magnet in his belt. Wait, what??? That’s not how magnets work. 

I have no complaints about Jim Mooney’s art, but no wonder the writer is unknown. No one wanted to take the blame for this script!

2. The Phantom of the Sea!

Script: Unknown
Pencils: Bill Ely
Inks: Bill Ely

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A young man named James Welling and his wheelchair-bound Uncle Ted are visiting a small fishing village on the coast of Maine. Checking into an inn, they discover an old sea chest that legend says brings death by the “Phantom of The Sea” to anyone who opens it. The two are skeptical, but they leave the trunk alone.

Early the next morning the innkeeper spies Jim peeking inside the chest, but the young man runs away when he is approached. Later, James and his uncle are fishing alone in a small boat at sea when Uncle Ted (who, it turns out, can actually stand and walk) pulls a gun on his nephew. Before he can pull the trigger, The Phantom of the Sea appears in a giant wave and sweeps evil Uncle Ted overboard.

Back at the inn, we learn it wasn’t James who opened the trunk that morning but Uncle Ted in disguise. He hoped to kill James and blame his death on the chest’s curse, as James is a millionaire and Uncle Ted was his only heir. Since it was Ted who opened the trunk and then died at sea, the curse must be real!

The narrative moved at a brisk pace, finished up with some nice twists, and the curse wasn’t explained away at the end. Add in the scary drawings of the phantom and we have a fairly successful story!  It’s not Shakespeare, but it was better than the previous one.   

3. I Was Born To Kill!

Script: Unknown
Penicls: Howard Purcell
Inks: Ray Burnley

When George Albert delves into his family history, he discovers he is from a long line of murderers! He jumps to the conclusion that he is destined to kill, but decides he can reverse the curse by donating blood. Logic doesn’t seem to be his strong suit. 

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“Yours is a rare blood type we cannot use”, said no doctor ever. Another doctor however does take Albert’s blood, but the first two patients who receive his donation commit murder! He tries to warn a third patient but then things get really weird. 

Albert finds out the man who took his blood wasn’t a real physician and he used drugs to cause madness in the patients who received it. He wanted revenge on them because they had been members of a college fraternity that had blackballed him. He thought he could blame the whole thing on Albert’s cursed blood. 

Albert still thinks his blood is tainted and he’ll murder someone so he’s put away in an insane asylum along with the quack who cooked up the crazy scheme. Hopefully, whoever wrote this script is in there with them. 

4. The Statue That Was Tried For Murder!

Script: Unknown
Penicls: Ruben Moreira
Inks: Ruben Moreira

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If you believe what you read in comic books, statues could be tried for murder in seventeenth century Peking, China—which happens to be where this story takes place. A man named Mukden has traveled to Peking seeking to kill the husband of a woman he had hoped to marry. Upon hearing about the statue statute, he obtains a small statue and bashes his rival over the head with it and leaves the statue at the scene of the crime. 

The statue is tried and convicted of the murder and Mukden is off the hook. Or is he? He starts seeing different versions of his murder weapon wherever he goes—the statue seems to be pursuing him. Eventually, he cracks up and turns himself into the police. 

There it is revealed that Mukden, being new in town, didn’t realize Peking had a new ruler who had cast and set up thousands of statues of himself all over the city. Mukden had unwittingly used one of these as his murder weapon—which explained why he saw the statue everywhere. 

This is completely farfetched but since it happened a long time ago in a country far away, it must be true! At least that’s what the nameless writer who dreamed all this up hoped the reader would believe. Maybe next month we’ll get some stories someone’s willing to put their name on. 

Superboy #35

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Sept. 1954
Editor: Mort Weisinger
Cover: Win Mortimer (Pencils and Inks)

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1. Clark Kent, Dog Catcher!

Script: Unknown
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inks: Sy Barry

Could any story, no matter how silly, live up to that title?!? Let’s see!

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The drawing of Superboy in the splash page wonderfully conveys his awkward nervousness with Lana Lang’s accusations. (Superboy is so cute on those rare occasions when he seems vulnerable!) Lana must really have him flustered though. His idea to ram his net into the pavement is terrible! That’s just going to draw more attention to it. Doing nothing would be better than that, Clark! Let’s hope things improve. 

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We start off with Clark’s nosy neighbor Lana running for “student mayor” and showing him her campaign poster featuring a dodo, inspired by the town’s dinosaur exhibit. “Pretty clever!” says Clark but what he really must be thinking is “Lana, you idiot! Dodos aren’t dinosaurs! Dodos became extinct 300 years ago—65 MILLION YEARS after the dinosaurs!”

Suddenly Superboy’s services are needed so he blows coal dust over Lana’s sunglasses so she doesn’t see him slipping away to change. I know he’s super and all but I’m VERY skeptical this would work. 

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Lana wins the election and her first thought is to use her office to find out Superboy’s secret identity. Talk about power corrupting! Lana appoints Superboy Chief of Police and Clark dog catcher and proceeds to schedule them to be in different places at the same time to see what happens. She may not know much about dinosaurs but she can be clever. 

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One of Clark’s first undertakings as dog catcher is to hypnotize a dog with a spinning coin. Apparently one of Superboy’s powers is making implausible ideas actually work. 

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Meanwhile, as Chief of Police, Superboy volunteers to be the target for target practice—resulting in this adorable panel. It’s hard to imagine him letting his guard down like this when he grows up to be Superman.

Lana, alas, is outwitted by Clark/Superboy all day and her plot to uncover his secret identity produces no definitive results. In a last ditch effort, Lana throws a banquet for all the city’s officers and arranges for Clark and Superboy to sit on either side of her. Clark is a no show, but Superboy has an explanation: Clark has been arrested!

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Yes, Lana it’s all a waste of time—just like this story (jk). I wish there had been less of Lana and her schemes and more Superboy tickling. 

2. The Five Superboys!

Script: Unknown
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inks: Sy Barry

A criminal mastermind concocts an elaborate plan to uncover Superboy’s secret identity. His research has narrowed down the suspects to four boys with unusual abilities—four boys that we definitely know are NOT Superboy. So why even read the story? Superboy’s secret isn’t in any danger. Hmmm.

Marko, the man behind the sinister plot, arranges for the first three boys to encounter life-threatening accidents. He figures if they remain unharmed, they must be Superboy. But Superboy manages to save all of them.

Not exactly what Marko had in mind, but Superboy saving the three boys—and being in the same place at the same time as them—convinces him that the last boy, John Crandall must be the Boy of Steel. 

Marko’s thugs push Crandall in front of a speeding train but Crandall survives, seemingly proving that he’s Superboy. Marko’s gang puts Crandall under surveillance, committing crimes when they are sure Superboy won’t be around. However, the scheme fails when Superboy busts them pulling off a robbery.

It turns out, after the accidents involving the first three boys, Superboy disguised himself as John Crandall as a precaution. It really was Superboy who got pushed in front of the train.

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This story, like many superhero stories of the time, revolved around a secret identity—but this time that secret is never actually in jeopardy. Even Lana Lang has changed her tune from the previous story and has no suspicions about Clark at all. 

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3. The Boy Oracle of Smallville!

Script: Unknown
Pencils: Curt Swan
Inks: Sy Barry

It’s Good Samaritan Week in Smallville and Superboy has a list of urgent deeds to perform all over the world. Clark Kent’s schoolmate Stan Holton uses a crystal ball to predict the whereabouts of Superboy as he flies to different parts of the globe. After three successful predictions, a gang of criminals (led by “Sure Thing” Doone!) decide to strike when Superboy is predicted to be away. Their “big job”? Smashing a statue by throwing it off a cliff in order to collect the coins inside. Superboy needs to find some smarter criminals. I mean, how much did it cost to rent that tank?

In the end, it’s revealed that Stan and Superboy set up the whole prediction scam to entice “Sure Thing” into action. In spite of helping Superboy, when Stan momentarily looks like a failed “boy oracle” he kind of acts like a baby. 

You’d think when Superboy was looking for an assistant, he would choose someone a little more mature. 

The Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog #17

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Sept.-Oct. 1954
Editor: Julius Schwartz
Cover: Gil Kane (Pencils), Bernard Sachs (Inks)

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Looking back, it seems odd that in 1952 DC would rather take a chance on an unknown canine adventure series than give a new title to an established superhero like Green Arrow or Aquaman. Those heroes had been toiling away as back-up features in various magazines for a decade, but the powers-that-be decided instead to go with newcomer Rex the Wonder Dog. Created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Alex Toth, The Adventures of Rex the Wonder Dog ran for 7 years.

Rex was a veteran of the army’s K-9 unit—a hero awarded a medallion for bravery. When his master goes missing in action, a Major Dennis adopts the dog and brings him home to take care of his family while he is away on special duty.

Usually accompanied by Maj. Dennis’s young son Danny, Rex would be a magnet for adventure—solving all sorts of crimes, assisting during natural disasters, as well as becoming a movie and circus star. That’s a lot to accomplish for a dog who technically had no super powers—although he would often use his highly-trained nose to pick up on “the scent of evil”. 

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The creative team that worked on this book would go on to be Silver Age royalty. Kanigher wrote Wonder Woman for 20 years beginning in 1948. Gil Kane, who replaced Toth after the second issue, would become known for his work on the Silver Age versions of Green Lantern and The Atom. 

In addition, the team behind Rex’s supporting feature, Detective Chimp(!), were also noteworthy Silver Age contributors. Artist Carmine Infantino co-created the updated version of The Flash and drew the feature for its first nine years. Writer John Broome, along with penciler Kane and editor-conceptualist Julius Schwartz, created Hal Jordan, the Silver Age Green Lantern. He was also the primary scripter for The Flash and Green Lantern throughout the 1960s.

And if you were a kid in 1954, I hope you didn’t buy this comic because you were intrigued by the cover. Nothing even remotely similar happens in this issue.

1. Sir Rex – Four-Footed Knight!

Script: Robert Kanigher
Pencils: Gil Kane
Inks: Sy Barry

This is a crazy story but also one I can imagine appealed to kids in 1954. Not only do Danny and Rex survive a plane crash, but they are also somehow transported back in time to medieval Britain, which they find ruled by a tyrant. Merlin the Magician himself has predicted that Rex would come to help overthrow the evil ruler—and he does. On top of all of his other skills, Rex also fulfills prophecies! Only slightly less impressive is Rex riding a horse and jousting with knights.

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2. The Case of the Suspicious Signature!

Script: John Broome
Pencils: Carmine Infantino
Inks: Carmine Infantino

Bobo, the chimpanzee deputy to Sheriff Chase of Oscaloosa County, Florida, has a new hobby—collecting autographs. (Nothing in that sentence sounds odd to me—how about you?) When they get a call from the manager at the Torquemada Auto Court, Bobo recognizes kidnapped movie star Wallace Brook’s handwriting in the motel register. That’s the only clue the monkey needs to rescue Brook and capture the kidnappers. What Bobo really wants though is the signature of Brook’s glamorous fiancé, Marilyn Adams.

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3. The Secret of the Scorching Sands!

Script: John Broome
Penicls: Gil Kane
Inks: Bernard Sachs

Danny and his Wonder Dog are traveling by train to Los Angeles where Rex is to receive a special award. Rex gets up early in order to see the desert scenery at dawn but is accidentally thrown off the train without anyone’s knowledge. Wandering alone in the desert, he comes across an unconscious gold prospector and saves him from a poisonous lizard. He accompanies the prospector as they look for water and saves him once again—this time from the prospector’s gun-toting double-crossing partner. Once the prospector’s ex-partner is in jail, Rex hitchhikes to LA to be reunited with Danny. I’m not really sure which is more remarkable—that Rex can hitchhike, or that he has an appreciation for a scenic sunrise. 

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