Monday, January 30, 2017

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday's Favorite OTR

Sherlock Holmes: “The Adventure of the Haunted Bagpipes”—2/17/47

Not long after Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce took on the roles of Holmes and Watson in a couple of excellent movies produced by 20th Century Fox, they took as the famous duo on radio as well. By 1947, though, Rathbone had left the show. Tom Conway (who would also play the Saint on radio, as well as having already portrayed the lesser known suave detective known as the Falcon in a series of B-movies) took over as Holmes for awhile, doing a spot-on imitation of Rathbone each week.

Holmes was well-served on radio. The writers (most notably Edith Meiser) respected the character and kept the Great Detective intact, with all the quirks and personality traits that make him so memorable. Many of the scripts were adaptations of the original stories, but Meiser and her co-writers were more than capable of turning out well-plotted original mysteries.

This particular episode takes Holmes and Watson to Edinburgh in pursuit of Holmes’ arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty. Upon arrival, though, they seem to stumble onto some supernatural goings-on: there is apparently a ghost tramping about the neighborhood while playing his bagpipes. It all relates to an old legend about a bagpiper who was carried off to Hell by the devil centuries ago.

The script succeeds in building up a really spooky atmosphere. Even when Holmes deduces the real reason behind the supposed ghost, the story remains spooky. It all involves a particularly gruesome plot, you see, that includes the evil Professor, a strain of Black Plague germs and a vengeful plot to destroy the population of Edinburgh.

It’s a bit on the melodramatic side, but then, Holmes often finds himself hip-deep in melodrama. If its not a set of haunted bagpipes, then it’ll be a giant and murderous hound, a trained snake or an assassin with a silent air gun. “The Haunted Bagpipes” is a worthy addition to Holmes’ ever-growing case files.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

That's an Even Cooler Team-up!

Last week, we looked at a Western that quite properly ignored history to give us a Pat Garrett/Wyatt Earp/Bat Masterson/Buffalo Bill team-up. This week, we'll examine another movie that quite properly ignores history to give us a Blackbeard/Captain Kidd/Henry Morgan/Ann Bonney/Ben Avery team-up.

This one is a comedy--Double Crossbones (1951) starring Donald O'Connor. I think it's a fun film, though I have discovered that O'Connor thought of it as the worst film he ever did.

So I am disagreeing with the star of the picture when I say its worth watching. O'Connor is an assistant shop keeper named Davy, who is unaware that the owner of the shop is illicitly buying stolen goods from pirates. He is also in love with the governor's ward, though too shy and too conscious of his low social status to follow up on this.

We also get a fun bit of slapstick in which he accidentally annoys a ship captain and has to fight a sword vs. broom handle duel.

But when the owner's illegal activities are brought to light, Davy and an old sailor (Will Geer) are arrested along with him. Accused of crimes they didn't commit, but unable to prove their innocence, they make a break for it. Shenanigans ensue--including (of course) the necessity for Davy to sing and dance for money in an inn. Further shenanigans find Davy and his friend mistaken as bloodthirsty pirates. Soon, they are in Tortuga, attending a meeting of the top pirate captains. This is where we get to meet Blackbeard and the other famous captains from Piracy's Golden Age.

By now, Davy is stuck with the task of both proving the Governor of Charleston is a crook in league with the pirates and prevent his lady love from marrying said Governor. The movie manages to strike a nice balance between a sense of real danger and frequent bits of slapstick. O'Connor is typically likable, the girl (played by Helena Carter) is very pretty and the supporting cast (including Charles McGraw and Lon Chaney Jr.) all seem to be having fun hamming it up.

So, yes, I am disagreeing with the star of the film. Perhaps the humor and/or the story didn't click with O'Connor and--admittedly--his song-and-dance number doesn't come close to the awesomeness he gave us in Singin' in the Rain and his other musicals. But Double Crossbones does what it sets out to do--it allows us to spend 81 minutes laughing along with people we like.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Real Dinosaur vs. Robot Dinosaur

One of the few comic book highlights during the 1980s was Comico's adaptation of the classic Hanna Barbara adventure series Jonny Quest. At a time when the success and critical acclaim of Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns was beginning to turn many superhero books into dark, unpleasant places to visit, Jonny Quest was simply fun.

The series was written by William Messner-Loebs, who respected the format and characterizations from the original series, while expanding on those characterizations. Jonny and the other cast members are all given well-rounded, believable personalities.

And this is all done without sacrificing the sense of pure adventure that the cartoon series captured so perfectly. Messner-Loebs also had a great sense of humor--Jonny Quest is often very funny.

Jonny Quest #4 (September 1986) starts out humorously. Jonny's dad, remember, is the world's most brilliant scientist and often involved in top secret projects. So when his direct line to the president rings at three in the morning, he figures it's something important.

It's not. An old college friend, movie producer Stuart Gold, needs help and somehow got that phone number. He plays the friendship card to get Dr. Quest to fly down to South America and help with technical issues on a movie set. This proves to be a perpetually annoying job.

The movie is a science fiction story involving a triceratops found in the jungle. The movie people are using a robot dinosaur, but the star of the film, B-movie actress Marley Frost, has found a real triceratops living in the jungle. She's keeping it a secret so it won't be exploited.

In the meantime, security guy Race Bannon finds evidence that the problems on the set are the result of sabotage, with the Mob behind it all. When everything comes out in the wash, we find out that Stuart Gold owed money to loan sharks. The Mob figures he can only pay them back if the movie doesn't get made and the insurance kicks in.

This by itself is enough material for a 26-page story, especially with the great artwork by Tom Yeats. What makes it so delightful, though, is that Messner-Loebs manages to fit in both a lot of humor and a number of quiet character moments featuring different people from the movie cast and crew. A lot of this isn't necessary to the main plot, but it adds to the tale's verisimilitude by peppering so many believable characters into it. It's really a remarkable example of great plotting. None of the asides or quiet moments slow down the pacing or distract us from the main plot. Rather, they all add to it.

The story ends when the robot triceratops runs wild after being sabotaged. The real triceratops arrives to battle its robot double and take it down. A mob guy then pulls a gun, but some improvisation by Marley Frost gives Dr. Quest a chance to take out his frustrations with a right cross to the mobster's chin.

Next week, John Wayne's comic book avatar goes searching for a lost little girl in an adaptation of what might be the Duke's best movie.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Cover Cavalcade

"To the gates of Issus, or to the bottom of Korus," spoke the green warrior; "to the snows to the north or to the snows to the south, Tars Tarkas follows where John Carter leads. I have spoken."--from The Gods of Mars (1913), by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Friday, January 20, 2017

Friday's Favorite OTR

The Falcon: "The Case of the Jack of Diamonds" 9/7/52

On radio, the Falcon was a private eye named Michael Waring who was occassionally recruited by the government to do some Cold War spying in Europe. Consequently, Waring finds himself in London for this episode, where he becomes involved in a case involving blackmail and murder.

Les Damon does a fine job playing the Falcon, but what makes the episode really work was the supporting characters involved in this particular adventure. This includes the world's most nervous and uncertain blackmailer who is being egged on by a ruthless femme fatale. Well-written and well-acted, these characters helped give what was otherwise a pretty standard whodunit some real personality.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Now THAT'S a cool team-up!

Badman's Country (1953) is sort of like the "Jason and the Argonauts" of Westerns. The Greek myth took all the major mythical heroes and tossed them into the same adventure. It was a story that perhaps codified the idea of heroic team-ups in the storytelling traditions of Western civilization.

The film takes Pat Garrett, Buffalo Bill, Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson and tosses those four into the same adventure. Of course, Earp and Masterson did work together in real life, but this particular story is a part of the Myth of the Old West. Which is just fine by me, because if Pat, Bill, Wyatt and Bat didn't team up in real life, then real life just isn't good enough.

The movie opens with Pat Garrett and his future brother-in-law on their way to Abilene. Pat is famous for his part in the Lincoln County wars and (in particular) for killing Billy the Kid. But now he wants to pick up his girl in Abilene, head to California and start life over without the violent baggage his reputation often brings him.

But that reputation is hard to outrun. He's ambushed outside town and, soon after, five gunmen are in town looking for him. One of those gunmen is the Sundance Kid.

In fact, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are the main villains in this story. But remember this is 16 years before Newman and Redford would turn them into likable anti-heroes. Here, they are thugs and killers with a large gang of thugs and killers to back them up.

Pat Garrett needs help. Fortunately, Buffalo Bill is in town recovering from being injured by... well, by a buffalo. Earp and Masterson soon show up as well, summoned by telegraph from Dodge City.

But by this time, Butch Cassidy has the town surrounded and cut off from further help. He's after a large amount of money being shipped by train to Abilene. Pat runs a con on Butch to convince the outlaw the money is already in town, hoping to lure the Wild Bunch into a trap. But that would mean getting additional help from the townspeople. And the townspeople (or at least the mayor) is willing to do just about anything--including cutting a deal with the bad guys--to avoid a fight.

It's a fun movie, with George Montgomery doing a fine job as Pat. There is perhaps a little too much screen time taken up by Pat worrying if he has the right to marry and put his wife in potential danger--with a 68 minute run time, there really isn't time for the characters to waste whining about their personal problems. But that's a minor complaint. For the most part, the story moves along briskly. The them of the movie--that there is sometimes an obligation to show courage in the face of danger--is a strong one.

The movie can also be enjoyed on a meta level. Remember that Pat Garrett is the killer of Billy the Kid, something that's mentioned in the movie as an important part of Pat's reputation. Pat's ally Wyatt Earp is played by Buster Crabbe, who played Billy the Kid in 13 B-movies during the 1940s. (36 films if you count the movies where the character was re-named Billy Carson.) Watching Badman's Country, you half-expect Pat to yell out "Billy! You're... you're alive!"

Also, the Sundance Kid is played by Russell Johnson. Johnson was a great character actor, but he's so set in our minds now as the Professor from Gilligan's Island, that it adds an extra level of enjoyment to watching him play a completely different role--especially when he's a villain.

Butch Cassidy, by the way, is played by Neville Brand. It is always worthwhile watching any movie in which Brand is a bad guy.

And between the two of them, I'm pretty sure Brand and Russell Johnson could kick Newman's and Redford's butts.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Heroes punching Heroes, Electricity and the Plague

The coffee table next to my couch has a shelf running along the bottom of it. Since bookshelf space in my home is always at a premium, this shelf has become the living space for many of my Marvel Essential and DC Showcase black-and-white reprints. If I could afford the higher price, it would be a home for Marvel Masterworks and other color reprints, but until I meet and marry a wealthy heiress (which would have the added bonus of getting servants to clean my bathroom), I sometimes have to settle for what I can get.

Not long ago, I was on the couch and finished reading a book. So I reached over and grabbed an Essential without looking. Thus, today, I have a review of a randomly chosen Spider Man story.

Amazing Spider Man #187 (December 1978) was co-plotted by Marv Wolfman and Jim Starlin, with Starlin also providing the layouts and Bob McLeod doing the finished art. It's set one issue after Spider Man has been cleared of criminal charges that have been following him around ever since the deaths of Norman Osborn and George Stacy.

But being a free man doesn't keep Spidey out of trouble. Needing money (to pay for expenses relating to Aunt May, as usual), he takes a job from J.J. Jameson to find out why the government has cordoned off a neighborhood in New Jersey. Scouting around, he soon encounters Captain America.

It is, of course, a long tradition to have heroes fight each other for at least a few panels before teaming up. In this instance, though, it's a little contrived. Cap tells Spidey he has to leave but won't explain why. Spidey gets stubborn and the two trade blows before Spidey realizes Cap is trying to protect him from something. He web slings away (or at least pretends to).

That Peter can have a bit of a temper sometimes is an established part of his personality and Marv Wolfman is an excellent writer who clearly gets the character. But the brief fight here is forced--there's simply no good reason for Cap to start snapping orders rather than calmly explain as much of the situation as he can, since he knows from experience that he can trust Spidey. On the flip side of that, Spidey knows he can trust Cap and that the shield-slinger wouldn't be helping to cover up anything nefarious.

Still, the art is nice, especially the panel I'm showing to the left.

With Spidey supposedly gone, Cap heads for a power plant. Flashbacks explain what's going on--a child has been kidnapped for ransom, but that child also needs medical treatment. The disease is contagious, hence the evacuation.

His kidnapper is Electro, who is doubling up on profits by combining the kidnapping with a thug-for-hire assignment of blowing up the power plant. Electro has no idea the child is carrying a communicable disease.

The reveal of Electro as the villain is supposed to be a surprise, since he stands with his face in the shadows for several panels before we see who he is. That might have been more effective if Electro's name hadn't been PLASTERED ON THE FRONT COVER OF THE COMIC!

It sounds like I'm being critical of the story, but it is overall a fine effort--a solid single-issue yarn that would also have been at home in an issue of Marvel Team-Up.

Electro nearly gets the drop on Cap, but of course Spider Man has stayed in the area. They double-team poor Electro (the guy is such a loser that you almost feel sorry for him) and get away with the kidnapped kid.

Electro, in the meantime, panics when learns he's been exposed to the plague.He tries to absorb all the electricity in the plant to burn away the disease, but ends up blowing himself up along with the power plant. He really is a loser. (He is believed to be dead, but its not surprising that he managed to survive, appearing in a Marvel Two-in-One issue within a year.)

This era of Spider Man stories isn't as strong as the Lee/Ditko/Romita era from the 1960s and early 1970s, but the tales being told were still entertaining and the cost of comics was such that impulse buying based on a cool cover was an option and you felt that even an average tale gave you your money's worth. And, even if it was a bit contrived this time, it is oddly fun to see Captain America punching out Spider Man, isn't it?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cover Cavalcade

These one-man attack craft are pretty nifty looking, but based on the title of the story they appear in, they might not have been all that safe.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday's Favorite OTR

Escape: "The Man Who Stole the Bible" 5/5/50

A salesman staying in a New Orleans hotel takes the Gideon Bible from his room. For unknown reasons, this leads to multiple attempts to kidnap him and get the Bible.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

"This John Sunlight was a weird, terrible being."

Watch/Read 'em In Order #75

Unlike their comic book counterparts, arch-villains in the pulp magazines rarely made return appearances. The Pulp Universe is a violent one and few bad guys survived their encounters with the good guys.

I think Shiwan Khan and the Voodoo Master each fought the Shadow three times, but most of the other cloaked vigilante's opponents didn't live past the denouement. --

Doc Savage--Street and Smith's other popular hero--was a lot less prone to use deadly force, but his villains had a habit of dying as well. But there was one guy--John Sunlight--who gave Doc a very disconcerting time and managed a return appearance.

Fortress of Solitude, by Lester Dent (writing under the usual pen name of Kenneth Robeson) appeared in the October 1938 issue of Doc's magazine. This is the story in which we meet the brilliant by downright creepy John Sunlight.

By the way, I would guess that many readers of this blog already know this, but Doc had a Fortress of Solitude five years before Superman set up shop in the Arctic. Doc needed an isolated spot to lose himself in occasional research without being disturbed. He also needed a place to store some of the more dangerous super-weapons he regularly took away from mad scientists and would-be conquerors. So,with the help of some Eskimos, he built a "strange blue dome" in an unexplored Arctic wilderness.

But then John Sunlight breaks out of a Siberian prison camp, hijacks an ice-breaker while using other convicts as crew and--during his getaway--stumbles across the Fortress. He takes the Eskimos prisoner and spots one of them using the secret entrance into the otherwise impenetrable dome.

Not long afterwards, in New York City, the Soviet ambassador, who had put Sunlight in that prison camp, is suddenly disintegrated. This draws the interest of Doc Savage. Along with Ham, Monk and Long Tom, Doc is soon running down clues and avoiding several assassination attempts. But as Doc gains information, the usually imperturbable hero is disconcerted. He gradually realizes that someone has gotten into the Fortress and is using some of the nastier stuff stored away there. He realizes he might be up against an opponent he cannot beat and who just might be able to conquer the world.

Lester Dent is at the top of his game with this one. The twists and turns in the plot come at lightning speed as the story follows the peculiar but consistent logic of a Doc Savage yarn. Doc runs several successive cons on Sunlight and the other villains that would make a Mission Impossible team feel like witless amateurs. The action sequences, particularly the climatic battle, are superbly written.

John Sunlight is a downright frightening villain. He's arguably as smart as Doc, but he's a complete sociopath--a man who is driven to dominate others and who is so skilled at generating fear that he can bring the toughest men in the world to their knees by just talking to them.

Dent drops other fun characters into the story. Two circus strong women named Titania and Giantia work first for Sunlight, then help Doc, then rejoin Sunlight, then try to kill Sunlight--always motivated by their desire to protect their petite little sister Fifi.

Monk and Ham, as usual, spend a lot of time insulting each other or competing for Fifi's attention. In other novels, their antics are usually amusing. Occasionally, Dent missed his mark and its a little tiresome. But in Fortress of Solitude, Dent's sense of humor was running at high speed along with his sense of adventure. Monk and Ham's scenes are hilarious.

The novel ends with the Fortress back in Doc's hands. Sunlight has apparently been killed by a polar bear, but this can't be confirmed. And a number of super-weapons are missing. It's not hard to guess that John Sunlight will return.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Nag... Nag... NAG!

During the 1950s, when comic book readers were in-between super-hero crazes, there was a lot of cool stuff published. Arguably, the coolest stuff was being published by EC Comics, who were not shy about experimenting with comics about a wide variety of subjects. Their war stories, in my opinion, represent their best stories. But they produced a lot of other quality stuff as well.

Piracy first saw print in 1954, running for a mere seven issues. Like most EC books, each issue had four 6- to 8-page stories that often used twist endings and were illustrated by some of the best artists in the business.

Most of the tales were set during the Golden Age of Piracy, though there were quite a few set in other time periods.  But even those Golden Age stories were often given unusual slants.

Piracy #4 (April-May 1955) leads off with a 7-pager titled "Pirate Master," with art by Reed
Crandall. Here we are introduced to the ruthless, sadistic and aptly named Captain Satan, who captures a merchant ship and puts the crew to death in various cruel ways. He learns that there are a couple of women on the ship as well, though he hasn't personally seen them yet.

What made Captain Satan such a cruel man? Well, he conveniently starts musing on his life story and provides us with a flashback.

At one point, he had been a blacksmith, working hard to provide for his wife and mother-in-law. Every day, he was confronted by the older woman's constant and unending NAGGING! Never satisfied, never happy,she verbally and ruthlessly stripped her son-in-law of any happiness or chance for contentment.

So, when he's shanghaied aboard a pirate ship, he suddenly realizes that he's better off. He's escaped HER at last. So he happily embraces a life of piracy, demonstrating an unmatched cruelty and eventually becoming captain of his own ship.

And now here he is--master of his own fate--a leader of men--with the power of life and death over the two women captives.

Anyone familiar with EC's twist endings knows that poor Captain Satan was doomed at this point. Of course the women turn out to be his long-abandoned wife and mother-in-law. And Mom is still in good practice as an expert nagger. The mere sight and sound of her causes his backbone to melt away and turn him back into the spineless victim he had once been. He doesn't even try to argue as he rows off with his family, followed by the jeers of the men who had feared and respected him mere moments before.

The ending is, perhaps, predictable, but it is fun nonetheless, with Crandall's strong artwork giving the story a much stiffer backbone than its protagonist had.

This issue is downloadable as a PDF HERE.

Next week, we'll return to superheroes to join a webslinger and a shield-slinger on a adventure.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Cover Cavalcade

Classics Illustrated #131 from 1956. The artists is unknown, but he was good. I really like that under-the-wagon view of the burning wagon in the distance.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Friday's Favorite OTR

Escape: "Border Town" 12/13/49

Jack Webb plays a down-and-out actor who stumbles across a wad of counterfeit money and makes the unwise decision of trying to sell it in the border town of Juarez.

Click HERE to listen or download.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Don't Accept a Gift from the Future!

I'm serious. If you find a technologically advanced device from the future lying around, just walk away. It doesn't matter how beneficial the device might seem. It doesn't matter if it can grant you wealth or immortality or bringing about world peace or eradicate disease. Just leave it there and walk away. If you pick it up and use it, IT WON'T END WELL!

We have a couple examples from science fiction that proves this. The first is "Mimsy Were the Borogoves," by Lewis Padgett (actually a pen name often used by SF writers and husband/wife team Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore when they collaborated).

Published in the February 1943 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, it begins with a human (or perhaps someone no longer quite human) experimenting with a time machine. Using two old boxex of toys left over from his youth to test his machine, he sends one back millions of years to the 19th Century. The other goes back almost as far, ending up in 1942.

The story centers mostly on the 1942 box (though astute readers will know from the title who finds the 19th Century box). A seven-year-old boy named Scott finds the box. He and his two-year-old sister Emma begin playing with the toys. What neither they nor their parents (at least at first) realize is that the toys are educational as well as fun. The trouble with that is that it is teaching the kids a non-Euclidian method of thinking. In other words, the kids are soon able to look at the world around them in ways that adults, who are already conditioned to Euclidian logic, cannot see or understand.

This might not be a good thing.

"Mimsy Were the Borogroves" depends a lot on our understanding that kids don't by nature see the world the same way as adults. They have to be taught as they grow to understand how the world works.

So when it becomes apparent that Scott and Emma see the world in an incomprehensible but still valid way that no adult can understand, the story becomes satisfyingly creepy. The ending, at least from the point-of-view of the adults, is inevitably tragic.

"The Little Black Bag," by C.F. Kornbluth, was published in Astounding's July 1950 issue. I love the back story in this one. In the future, most people have become... well, really stupid. Fortunately, there's a small number of really smart people who keep society going. They do this by creating technology that any idiot can use properly. For instance, a doctor's little black bag contains surgical devices and medicines that can be easily used, with very clear instructions on how to use them properly. If you can read the enclosed instructions, you can effectively treat just about any injury or disease. So the doctor who uses the bag might very well be an idiot, but the bag will help him treat his patients properly

When one such bag is inadvertently sent back in time to the 20th Century, it's found by an alcoholic former doctor named Bayard Full. At first, he plans to hock it for booze money. But when a woman offers him two dollars to treat her sick child, he stumbles over the fact that it can be used to heal just about anything.

Circumstances bring him into partnership with a greedy young lady named Angie, who wants to use the bag to treat rich patients and perform cosmetic surgery. But Dr. Full has rediscovered his sense of ethics. Though he and Angie work together for a time treating the sick, he plans to turn the bag over to scientists for study.

Angie objects to this plan. Her objections lead to... well, they don't lead to anything good.

"The Little Black Bag" is a fun story with a unique premise and it follows its own internal logic impeccably. But it has tragic ending. The tragedy in both these stories is dramatically appropriate and brings them to emotionally satisfying conclusions (as "good" tragedy in fiction always does).

But it does teach us that devices sent from the future are always bad news. That device doesn't have to be a killer robot looking for Sarah Conner. It could be something that seems innocuous or even beneficial. So when you see that obviously valuable machine from the future lying at your feet, just turn and walk away. Don't even look back.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tonto's Solo Career, Part 2

Last week, we took a look at the first story from Dell's Tonto #11 (1953), in which Tonto helped rescue the women and children of his tribe from enemy warriors.

The second story in that issue--"The Miners' Treasure"--has him helping out a couple of white men against outlaws. Though, at first, Tonto does have a little bit of trouble sorting out the good guys from the bad guys.

It starts with Tonto finding a man tied up in the desert. It's only natural to sympathize with that, so when the guy explains that he was ambushed by two outlaws, who stole a map to an old Spanish treasure, we don't blame Tonto for believing him.

They manage to cut off the "outlaws" and get the drop on him. This leads to the only weak point in an otherwise excellent story. The two captives explain that the first guy ambushed them to steal their treasure map. They managed to jump him, but--knowing more outlaws were nearby--had no choice but to tie him up and make a run for it.

At this point, Tonto should have been uncertain who was actually telling the truth and been careful of both parties. But he continues to blindly trust his original "friend." Because of this, he soon finds himself tied up alongside the other two guys, earning himself an "if you only listened to us" from one of them.

But then Tonto becomes awesome again.  He manages to free himself and the two miners (who did indeed have a map to a hidden Spanish treasure).  But the rest of the outlaw gang is coming, so they have to make a run for it before they can recover the map.

The map leads the outlaws to a dried-out lake bed. The lake is actually artificial. A few hundred years earlier, the Spanish had been closely pursued by Indians, so they buried the treasure and diverted a nearby river to hide it underwater.  The two miners had dammed up the river to dry out the lake, but it now seemed like the outlaws would reap the benefits of their hard work.

Tonto, though, has a plan. If they can get to the dam and open the sludge gate, the lake will cover the treasure again. This will keep the outlaws from getting it and perhaps give the good guys a chance to get the drop on their numerous enemies.

But to accomplish this plan, Tonto is going to have to avoid a brutal death-by-drowning at the hands of one of the villains.

Alberto Giolitti's art in this sequence really highlights his extraordinary composition skills. As Tonto sneaks up on the outlaw guarding the dam and then fights him, Giolitti keeps shifting the "camera" angle to keep the images kinetic, while blocking out the action in a way that both builds tension and makes sure we always understand exactly what's going on.

Despite forcing Tonto to hold the Idiot Ball for a few panels, this story (like the one we looked at last week) portrays the Indian as much more than a sidekick. He's capable, brave, intelligent and able to improvise clever plans when necessary.

The radio and TV Lone Rangers, though excellent shows, rarely gave Tonto a chance to shine on his own. It's nice that Dell Comics gave him a chance to show just how cool a character he is.

You can read this story in its entirety HERE.

Next week, we'll go a-sailing on the high seas with bloodthirsty pirates and... a nagging mother-in-law?

Monday, January 2, 2017

Cover Cavalcade

I don't know why anyone looks for hidden treasures. It never ends well.
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