August is Rafael De Soto month!
A cover from 1936.
COMICS, OLD-TIME RADIO and OTHER COOL STUFF: Random Thoughts about pre-digital Pop Culture, covering subjects such as pulp fiction, B-movies, comic strips, comic books and old-time radio. WRITTEN BY TIM DEFOREST. EDITED BY MELVIN THE VELOCIRAPTOR. New content published every Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday.
Written by Paul Ernst (using the house name Kenneth Robeson), Tuned for Murder appeared in the May 1940 issue of The Avenger.
When, as a teenager, I first read the Avenger stories in paperback reprints, I liked them but didn't think them quite as good as the Shadow or Doc Savage. But each time I revisit them, I appreciate them a little bit more. Great mysteries, excellent use of the supporting cast, exciting action scenes, unexpected plot twists. Though all other pulp heroes bow before the pure awesomeness of the Shadow, the Avenger is definitely a top tier hero himself.
Tuned for Murder is set in Garfield City, NY, where bizarre things are happening. First, a famous inventor announces that he's invented the ultimate weapon. He won't share this invention with anyone, but promises to use it to make war impractical by giving it to any nation that is invaded by another. The inventor lives in a castle outside the city, guarded by an electric fence and armed guards.
But, about the same itme, several prominant citizens of the city begin to publically act in clearly insane ways, only to later regain their sanity with no memory of what they had done. This soon becomes dangerous, with one man committing a double murder and a woman committing suicide.
It's not much of a spoiler to say that hypnotic control is involved. That's pretty obvious from the get-go. But the exact nature of the control and the identity of the man behind it all are still mysteries.
Soon, Justice, Inc. becomes involved. The Avenger and his crew survive a mob ambush getting to Garfield City and split up along several routes of inquiry. This emphasizes one of the strengths of the Avenger series I mentioned earlier. Each member of Justice, Inc gets a moment to shine.
The highlight of these highlights has to be when Nellie Gray and Rosebel Newton are kidnapped by mobsters. Using teamwork, intelligence and Nellie's martial arts expertise, the two ladies turn the tables on the thugs in a manner that can only be described as epic.
Josh Newton's escape from an attempt to kill him is also pretty cool.
I enjoy the way that all the bizarre occurances and apparently random deaths are tied together in the end in a way that makes sense. Well, it makes sense according to the logic of a Pulp Magazine Universe, but that's more than good enough for me. The good guys all end up apparently helpless while held at gunpoint by mobsters. But they are rarely helpless. The climatic fight scene and exposure of the Big Boss is wonderfully constructed.
In my mind, the Shadow is the #1 Pulp Hero. But the Avenger vies for 2nd place with Doc Savage. Right behind them are G-8 and then the Spider.
No comic book review this week, which can be blamed on my now non-existant gallbladder. The organ betrayed me, forcing me to spend a little time in the hospital while it was removed and a few complications were dealt with. I'm on the mend now, but I'm going to have to skip the comic book reviews for a couple of weeks while I get caught up with my life.
The Falcon: "The Case of the Unsilent Butler" 3/11/51
The Butler Petroleum Detector is a new invention potentially worth millions. So it's not surprising that several people are willing to lie, cheat or kill to get their hands on it.
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"With the Help of Henry" is W.C.Tuttle's second yarn about Henry Harrison Conroy, a vaudeville comedian who moves to Arizona after buying a ranch. It was published in the March 23, 1935 issue of Argosy.
The story begins with Henry and the Judge--Henry's legal advisor--getting drunk. This is a usual activity for the two, but Henry has a reason to do so this time. It's election night and Henry is running for sheriff. And he's worried he might win.
In the first story, Henry had proved to have Sherlockian deductive skills and solved a murder. This, combined with his inherant likeability, has led a friend to nominate him for sheriff. Henry is starting to get on in years, doesn't consider himself brave and can barely ride a horse. He doesn't want to be sheriff.
By the way, the exact year this story is set in doesn't really matter, but I can't help but try to figure it out. In the previous tale, Sherlock Holmes is mentioned, so he's a household name. In this story, Henry mentions Houdini (who began performing in 1891) and a stage show called "The Squaw Man" starring William Faversham, which was performed in 1905 and 1906. So, despite the absense of early automobiles and telephones (which might make sense in the remote Arizona location), the story must be set early in the 20th Century, perhaps around 1910.
But the year doesn't matter. "With the Help of Henry" is yet another excellent blend of comedy, western and mystery.
Click HERE to read the story online.
In the early 1970s, Marvel Comics got the rights for Planet of the Apes. In 1975, they would publish an 11 issue series that adapted the first two movies into comic book form. (This, by the way, would be the second time Beneath the Planet of the Apes would be adapted. Gold Key did a one-shot adaptation in 1970.)
Before that 11-issue series, though, Marvel began a Planet of the Apes magazine, featuring original stories presented in black-and-white. The first issue was cover dated August 1974.
This was part of an explosion that expanded the original POTA universe. In addition to what Marvel was doing, the short-lived Planet of the Apes TV series began in September 1974. The animated Return to the Planet of the Apes (my personal favorite POTA universe) appeared on Saturday mornings beginning in September 1975.
It is, of course, geeky fun to try to place these stories in the original POTA movie timeline or decide that they are a seperate continuity entirely. The animated series is clearly set in a different universe. The TV series could be in the movie universe, some centuries before the first movie takes place, but could also be said to be in another continuity.
The Marvel comic series is in the same grey area as the TV series. It could be set somewhere in that 2000-year period between nuclear war and the first movie. Or it could be another reality. We find out in the second issue that the human/ape society in the comic stories has no knowledge of firearms. Since the apes kept knowledge of guns even after humans devolved into near-animals again, that might be seen as a reason for dropping it into another universe. On the other hand, we have 2000 years to play with and it is probable that the Ape society Taylor (Charlton Heston) ran into in the first movie isn't the only ape civilization on the planet. So perhaps we can drop the Marvel stories into the same continuity.
It really doesn't matter as long as the stories are good. But we wouldn't be true geeks if we didn't debate it, would we?
Anyway, the Marvel story is written by Doug Moench (building off an idea provided by Gerry Conway) and initially features superb art by Mike Ploog.
In the first issue, we meet two teenagers. Hot-headed Jason is a human whose best friend is a more level-headed chimpanzee named Alexander. Some initial dialogue established their character traits and hints at tensions between humans and apes, who live as supposed equals in their village. Then the two attend a speech by the Lawgiver.
As it usual in any POTA universe, the Lawgiver is an orangutan. His speech is basically a "be nice to everyone while I'm gone" talk, because he's leaving for a time without explaining why. He leaves another orangutan named Xavier in charge. But Xavier, it seems, is a spineless wimp. The two friends aren't happy with this and secretly follow the Lawgiver, but lose his trail near the Forbidden Zone.