Comic Book Review: Whiz Comics #2

Hey, y’all. In honor of Shazam (a.k.a. the real Captain Marvel) making his feature film debut, I decided to take a look back at the comic that created the character, as well as several other, less well-remembered heroes.

 

WHIZ COMICS #2

Published February 1940 by Fawcett Comics; all scans courtesy of Comic Book Plus

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In addition to the Big Red Cheese himself, this issue also marks the debut of other Whiz Comics regulars: Ibis the Invincible, Spy Smasher, Scoop Smith, Golden Arrow, Dan Dare, and Lance O’Casey.

Why are all these heroes appearing for the first time in Whiz Comics #2 instead of Whiz Comics #1? Well, funny story: there isn’t a Whiz Comics #1. At least not one that ever reached the public. The first issue was what’s known as an “ashcan copy”: a cheap piece of pulp thrown together as quickly as possible, with no regard to quality, and never intended for wide release. In all likelihood, only two copies of Whiz Comics #1 were ever printed: one to be kept on file at Fawcett Comics, and another to be sent to the US Patent and Trademark Office.

The idea behind an ashcan copy was to get the names of prospective characters trademarked as quickly as possible, for fear that another company would trademark them first. That may seem insane, but this was the Golden Age of Comics. Superman had debuted just two years before, and every comic publisher was looking to create their own superhero to capture the same runaway success. Heck, this issue sees Fawcett creating four new superheroes in a single issue, desperately searching for one that would work.

In this environment, any cool-sounding name you might think of for a superhero? Odds are someone else was thinking of it, too, and was rushing to stake their claim on it before anyone else could. Captain Marvel himself was originally supposed to be called Captain Thunder, but someone beat Fawcett to the trademark office on that one.

So, yeah, that’s why, for all intents and purposes, there is no Whiz Comics #1. And modern comic book publishers, who will relaunch series with a new number one as often as they can get away with it, shout, “Are you out of your frickin’ mind!?!

But enough backstory, let’s get on to the comic itself.

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The first story of the anthology stars the man we all came here to see, Captain Marvel! And he . . . looks kinda bored. His name may be surrounded by dynamic lightning bolts, but the guy’s standing as stiff as an action figure still in its original packaging, and his face . . . he looks like someone who got nothing he wanted for his birthday, but deep down didn’t expect anything else. What a great way to begin a tale of fun and whimsy!

Anyway, our story begins outside a subway station where a young boy, one Billy Batson, is selling newspapers late at night. A stranger asks him why he’s not at home in bed, and Billy explains that he doesn’t have a home, and that he sleeps in the subway station. We’ll get a few more details later, but suffice to say Billy’s backstory ranks somewhere between Harry Potter and the Baudelaire siblings on the Scale of Sadness.

How does the stranger respond to this crushing tale of child homelessness?

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And Billy follows this shadowy stranger, who now knows that Billy has no home or family, no one to miss him if he suddenly disappears, into a deserted subway platform in the dead of night.

But this is a 1940’s comic! No one had heard of “stranger danger” back then. They were too busy buying their kids BB Guns to aim at police officers while they played in the street. So instead of giving us The Cautionary Molestation of Billy Batson, the stranger instead whisks this young boy off on a fun and fantastical adventure!

First stop on that adventure . . .

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The art here is still the very simple, cartoony style common to Golden Age comic books, but the use of shadow in the first two panels is quite evocative, and the design of the mystery train is suitably weird to signal Billy’s first step into the unknown.

His journey goes from weird to weirder as he enters the lair of the wizard, Shazam.

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And, for those of you familiar with how the magic word “Shazam” works, yes, whenever he says his own name, the wizard gets struck by a bolt of magic lightning. It is awkward.

The wizard explains that he has held the power of Shazam and used it to protect the world for the last 3000 years. The word “Shazam”, in case you didn’t know, should really be spelled S.H.A.Z.A.M., as it stands for Solomon (Wisdom of), Hercules (Strength of), Atlas (Stamina of), Zeus (Power of), Achilles (Courage of), and Mercury (Speed of).

Some of you may be wondering why the powers of a bunch of Greco-Roman figures have a random Judean king thrown into the mix. Or you may be wondering how a guy who predates the Latin alphabet could possibly have that acronym.

But there’s no time to worry about all that! The wizard is already moving on to explain the Historama, the magic television screen he’s used to observe Billy’s entire life, as well as the giant granite block hanging over his head, held up by a single fraying thread that represents the wizard’s life.

The wizard gets Billy to say the magic word “Shazam”, transforming him into Captain Marvel, a powerfully built, square-jawed adult with all sorts of superpowers and a bright red bodysuit (why the wizard doesn’t get a snazzy costume when he says “Shazam” is left unexplained). Marvel says “Shazam” again to change back into Billy, and with that the wizard’s life gives out, the thread finally snaps, and he’s flattened by the giant chunk of granite representing his death, leaving Billy/Captain Marvel to carry on his work.

That is the genius of Captain Marvel, what let this blatant Superman clone not only prosper, but become the most popular hero of the Golden Age, outselling the very character he was ripping off. There are more crazy, fantastical ideas in your average 13 page Captain Marvel story than many modern comics can fit in an entire six issue story arc.

In these early days of the superhero genre, most heroes were just standard pulp detectives with fancy costumes, and even the more fantastical specimens tended to be the sole bizarre element in an otherwise mundane world. Captain Marvel said nuts to all that. It threw legends, fairy tales, science fiction, bizarre dream logic, and good ol’ fashioned comic strip kookiness into a great big stew, and poured as much of that stew down your throat as their page count would allow.

Case in point, after Billy is magically whisked back to the subway station, we quickly move on to this whopper of a headline:

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And, in an astounding coincidence, two of that maniac scientist’s henchmen buy that newspaper off Billy, all while flapping their gums about how the guy in the headlines is their boss. Bumping into random criminals who need a good whooping is the unstated superpower all heroes have.

Billy follows the two crooks back to a swanky apartment building, and resolves to let the world know this is where the mad scientist is operating from. Rather than take this information to the police, though, Billy heads straight for Mr. Morris, the head of a local radio station.

Mr. Morris is initially all too willing to listen to this random street urchin who claims to know where the most wanted man in America is hiding out. He only scoffs when Billy says the villain’s at the Skytower Apartments. That’s a respectable establishment, young man!

Billy then reveals his ulterior motive for going to a radio station instead of a police station. He gets Morris to promise that, if Billy can find the scientist’s lair, then Billy will get a job as a radio announcer. Hey, the kid’s so poor he’s sleeping in a subway station; can’t blame him for doing a little networking.

Realizing that defeating a master criminal will take more than the powers of a likely malnourished ten-year-old boy, Billy decides to shout the magic word “Shazam”, and . . .

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Yeah, you can kinda see why DC eventually sued Fawcett for copyright infringement.

Billy, now transformed into Captain Marvel, leaps onto a random balcony on the Skytower Apartments building.

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I guess having nothing but bad luck the first ten years of his life, Billy was due for a streak of phenomenal good luck today.

The henchmen are contacting their boss via a high-tech (for 1940) television device, and it’s here we get our first look at Captain Marvel’s archnemesis, the dreaded Doctor Sivana!

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I’m not sure if he was intentionally modelled after Count Orlok from Nosferatu, or if they were both independently modelled after rats/goblins.

What follows is, frankly, a rather underwhelming climax. Captain Marvel, having the literal power of gods, easily beats up two low rent henchmen and smashes the machine that would (somehow – they never explain how it works) have destroyed all radios in the United States. But since Dr. Sivana wasn’t physically present, he escapes to scheme another day.

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“Each and every week, always in more sexy and exciting ways.”

With the bad guy beaten, all that’s left is for Billy to show Mr. Morris the truth. Here, Billy goes a bit beyond the usual secret identity thing, and not only doesn’t admit to being Captain Marvel, but doesn’t tell Morris anything about Captain Marvel existing. Instead, Billy claims that he, a scrawny street urchin, defeated the criminals and foiled the mad scientist’s plans all by himself. Morris seems skeptical, but decides, what the hay, it makes for good radio.

True to his word, Morris makes Billy the station’s new radio announcer. And if you have any concerns about violating child labor laws, that should be drowned out by this little development: Billy (not Captain Marvel, Billy) announces that he’s going to hunt down Sivana on his own, and Mr. Morris, not knowing anything about Billy’s superhero identity, thinks that this ordinary ten-year-old fighting a master criminal single-handedly is a capital idea.

That may sound irresponsible, but again, this was the 1940’s. We’re lucky he’s not sending Billy to Europe as a war correspondent.

Yet.

That wraps up this Captain Marvel adventure, but there are still loads of stories left to go! Our next adventure is the origin of another superhero, called:

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This tale also begins in a mysterious, horror themed vein, with the mummy of the Egyptian Prince Amentep (referred to by the museum guards as “Old Man Ibis”) awakening from a 4000 year sleep. We only get a few panels of shambling mummy action, however, because Ibis carries the magical “Ibistick” (why, yes, that is a silly name; welcome to Golden Age comics). What can the Ibistick do? Pretty much anything. For instance, he just has to point it at himself and say “Clothe me”, and he goes from a bandage wrapped mummy to a fashionably dressed white guy.

Keeping with our theme of new superheroes immediately stumbling upon situations it takes a superhero to solve, one of the first things Ibis encounters in this new era is an out of control fire engine that’s about to run over a baby carriage.

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I’m posting a scan of it, because otherwise you probably wouldn’t believe me.

Since this isn’t a dark comedy, we don’t get Ibis mistaking the fire engine for a god and disintegrating the baby so it doesn’t offend the deity by obstructing its path. No, Ibis saves the day by magically creating a tunnel for the fire engine to head down.

He then proceeds on his search for his lost love, Princess Taia. Ancient Egyptians are always searching for the lost loves they haven’t seen for millennia. They’re big into commitment, those Ancient Egyptians.

Since Taia was mummified like Ibis was, he books passage back to Egypt in order to find her. He magicks himself up his boarding fair, as well as new house for a homeless family he runs across, and an extra long gangplank so he doesn’t miss his boat.

After destroying some enemy submarines on the way there (they don’t say who the enemy is, but c’mon, it’s 1940, everyone knows who we’re talkin’ about*), Ibis arrives in Egypt.

*Hint: it’s the Irish.

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I love how we go directly from the haunting image of Ibis desperately calling his love’s name as he wanders through the ruins of the city that was once their home, to the comical scene of him asking for the whereabouts of a 4000 year old princess like he was getting directory assistance.

Taia’s mummy is on display in Europe, and as I keep reminding you, this is 1940, so . . .

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I appreciate the effort to comment on the horrors of war and inject some sobering truth into this rather goofy tale, but with the ultra-simplistic and brightly colored art style, I can’t imagine even the little kid audience this was intended for finding much to be horrified by here.

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Can Ibis really stop war itself? Or are there some thing even his magic can’t change?

Nah, this is the Golden Age of Comics. Of course he can stop war with a wave of his wand.

One word and an impenetrable dome stops all bombs from reaching the city. Another word and all damage to the city is undone. One more, and the city is given an endless supply of food to replace what was lost.

Yeah, that’s the thing about early Golden Age superheroes. If they weren’t Batman-types, fighting crime with nothing but a few gadgets and good right hook, then they were gods on Earth who could accomplish any task with zero effort; not much middle-ground. The Ibistick doesn’t even depend on the wielder’s willpower, or have a weakness to the color mauve, or anything like that.

Well, it does have one weakness, as we’ll soon see. But before we get to that, Ibis at last reaches Princess Taia’s mummy, on display in a museum case. And since, as we’ve established, the Ibistick can do anything, all it takes is one more word to bring the dead back to life. No biggy.

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Nice to know that skimpy outfits for female comic book characters are not a modern invention.

But before the two lovers can be reunited, and before Taia can try using the Ibistick’s “Clothe me” function:

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Yeah, the one weakness of the Ibistick is that you kinda have to be holding the stick. Someone else swipes it, you’re plum out of luck.

And that’s how the story ends. The thief runs off with the Ibistick, a now powerless Ibis chases after him, and Taia is still trapped in her glass museum case. Unlike the other stories in this comic, which make each adventure a standalone tale, Ibis the Invincible opts for a more film serial approach, ending on a cliffhanger to get you coming back next month, same Ibis-time, same Ibis-channel.

Our next tale:

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That beautifully mustachioed scientist is not the titular Golden Arrow, but his father. To test his experimental new gas, he’s going on a cross-country balloon flight, and is bringing his wife and their infant son along.

Naturally, being a comic book scientist, he’s told no one else the formula for his marvelous invention. Nor has he kept any notes on it, other than the original draft of the formula, which he’s carrying with him on the balloon. And since all these facts are apparently public knowledge, it’s really not surprising when, as the balloon drifts over the American West, some outlaw types decide to shoot it down and take the million dollar formula for themselves.

Both Professor Parsons and his wife die in the balloon crash, but their child survives, and . . .

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Yes! Old West Mowgli! Old West Mowgli!

*sigh* No, sadly, it is not to be. The mountain lion is shot by a gold prospector called Nugget Ned, and I guess we’re supposed to assume he saved the baby from that mountain lion . . . saved him from an awesome musical adventure.

So now Nugget Ned’s raising the orphan boy in the American West, which is apparently stuck in frontier times, even as we flashforward to the late 30’s. The boy grows up wrestling bears, outrunning antelope, and being honed into the ultimate specimen of manhood by the wilderness. He may not have gotten to be Old West Mowgli, but I guess Old West Tarzan will do.

He also becomes an expert with the bow and arrow, and . . .

Okay, look, there’s a lot of preposterous stuff in comic books. Elsewhere in Whiz Comics #2, there are magic trains, mummies coming to life, “Gyro-submarines”, and a mad scientist bent on destroying all radio. But this? This may be a bridge too far.

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I don’t even have time to go into everything wrong with that.

Anyway, Golden Arrow is now a grown man, and Nugget Ned, in true Pa Kent fashion, dies of a heart attack. But not before delivering a deathbed confession about Golden Arrow’s real parents, their amazing gas formula, and how their murderer, Brand Braddock, still has it and is at large. And since it’s a deathbed confession, he doesn’t have to stick around to explain why he didn’t share any of this info sooner.

Well, Golden Arrow may have never known his birth parents, and seems to have thought Nugget Ned was his natural father up until now, but since Golden Age heroes weren’t big into navel gazing or complicated motivations, our hero leaps immediately into avenging his parents and seeing justice done!

It’s convenient timing, too, because Brand Braddock is only just now doing anything with the formula for lighter-than-air gas he stole over twenty years ago.

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As we all know, the value of balloon-based aviation only increases with time!

All kidding aside, this story is sort of a “secret history” for the production of helium. During WWII, the United States was the only country to make use of an airship fleet, because they had a virtual monopoly on helium gas, which could let blimps fly without bursting into flames like the Hindenburg.

The story doesn’t explicitly say the Braddock sons will sell the formula to the Axis powers, but they’re Golden Age bad guys: of course they will.

But before they get the chance, Golden Arrow bursts in to put a stop to their evil plans. He doesn’t shoot anyone with his arrows, or even hurt them directly. Just shoots guns out of their hands or pins their clothes to the wall. He prevails easily, and rides off with the formula.

They may not have the millions that formula would have gotten them, but none of the Braddocks were actually hurt, and Golden Arrow left at least two solid gold arrowheads stuck in the walls of their house, so they still came out ahead! Why every bad guy in the West doesn’t deliberately antagonize Golden Arrow, just to clean up the arrows he leaves behind, I do not know.

Anyhow, since Golden Arrow is a pure soul who can’t think of any better use for gold than shooting it at things, he turns the formula over to the U.S. Army and calls it a day.

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“No! I would’ve wanted you to get rich! That Nugget Ned could’ve sent you to best schools in the world with all the gold he’s sitting on. Instead, your 5th Grade science teacher was a jackrabbit! You’re a disgrace, son! An absolute disgrace!”

Next up:

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There’s a bit more of a gimmick to Spy Smasher. While the masked hero, as you’d expect, fights spies and saboteurs who target the U.S. military, the story creates some mystery around who exactly Spy Smasher is.

The suspects are:

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Who could it be? The stuffy old admiral? The woman described only as “his daughter”? Or could it be “Alan Armstrong, wealthy young Virginia sportsman”?

My money’s on the secret fourth option: the Admiral’s Filipino houseboy, Zambo.

Yes, there is a Filipino houseboy character, and yes, his name is the Spanish word for people of mixed African and American Indian ancestry. I don’t know if it’s considered a slur, but I’m pretty sure it’s not something people were naming their kids.

Alan suspects Zambo of leaking the Admiral’s military secrets to a spy ring, but the Admiral dismisses it, saying Zambo doesn’t speak any English, and “Besides, he isn’t clever enough.”

I don’t know whether Zambo turning out to be a spy would be bad, for perpetuating the Evil Foreign Infiltrators stereotype, or good, for proving the Admiral wrong for underestimating him.

The scene then cuts to the leader of the enemy spy ring, The Mask!

Jim Carrey Mask

Nope, nope, not that one. This one:

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Yes, the guy who looks like he tried to put on a bib for dinner, couldn’t figure out where on his body it was supposed to go, so just cut some eyeholes in the thing and called it a day. That’s our main bad guy, people.

The Mask’s goons sneak into the Admiral’s house at night to kill him and steal some top secret plans, but luckily our hero arrives on the scene.

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This is our first look at the Spy Smasher, and most of his appearances this issue will have his body silhouetted by shadow like this. This was likely done to preserve the “mystery” angle, but it does give him a nice, foreboding presence.

This is apparently not the Spy Smasher’s first mission, as the Mask’s goons immediately recognize him and hightail it outta there. Spy Smasher follows in his “Gyrosub – a super-craft combining the functions of an airplane, auto gyro, speedboat, and submarine”. A later panel also informs us it can fly and land with absolute silence.

Y’know, instead of stealing back all the military resources the Mask has stolen, maybe Spy Smasher should just help the U.S. start mass producing these babies.

He follows the goons to the Mask’s secret hideout: aboard a stolen dirigible!

This is part of what I love about Golden Age comics. For all that they lack in sophistication, or basic decency when it comes to non-white people, there’s something about masked men fighting aboard Gyrosubs and giant airships that just speaks to me.

Anyway, fisticuffs ensue, Spy Smasher recovers the stolen plans, the Mask escapes, vowing his revenge, and Spy Smasher returns the stolen plans to the Admiral’s house . . .

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I know nothing about the languages of the Phillipines, but I’d lay good money that whatever that is ain’t one of ‘em.

They don’t explicitly say Zambo is the one who told the Mask about the Admiral’s plan, just heavily imply it. Which I suppose is the best treatment a guy called Zambo can expect in one of these comics.

The story then wraps up with the characters wondering just who this Spy Smasher is. The only person we know he can’t be is the dashing young Alan Armstrong. He disappeared from the story right before Spy Smasher first showed up, so obviously he’s out of the running.

It would be kinda hilarious if future issues revealed Alan was actually the Mask, but I’m not pinning my hopes on that.

We now move on from tales of superheroes, to a different kind of adventurer, the dashing reporter!

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Ace reporter Scoop Smith is soon put on the trail of the missing radium, helped along by the thief sending a signed letter to the hospital thanking them for the radium. Golden Age villains are polite like that.

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Yep, it’s Scoop Smith vs. Doctor Death!

Scoop figures the thief must have been familiar with the hospital, so goes over the records of hospital employees looking for a lead. He finds a likely suspect in a former doctor from the hospital . . .

. . . Dr. James Kirk.

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No word on whether his middle-name’s “Tiberius”, but I’d like to think so.

Scoop goes to pay James Kirk a visit, bringing along his cameraman, Blimp Black. Despite my fears, Blimp Black is not a minstrel show caricature. He’s a short, fat, stuttering, and bumbling sidekick with a goofy name, but at least he’s a white guy.

To emphasize the “bumbling” part, Scoop and Blimp are trying to hide the fact that they’re reporters, and pretend that Blimp is just a sick man who needs Dr. James Kirk’s immediate attention.

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So, yeah, way to go, Blimp.

Scoop and Blimp are immediately dropped down trap doors that lead to an underground dungeon. Of course James Kirk has trap doors that lead to an underground dungeon. The guy likes to call himself Doctor Death; that’s just how he rolls.

Doctor Death explains his evil plan. He’s invented a “life machine”, which he believes can bring the dead back to life. But he needs a dead person to test it on, and decides to make Scoop that dead person, leaving him alone in a room with slowly releasing cyanide gas (because, again, he calls himself Doctor Death).

With Blimp’s help, Scoop escapes the gas chamber, but two of Doctor Death’s henchmen get trapped inside and die. Scoop forces Doctor Death to revive them using the life machine . . . and it works! The guy really did invent a cure for death!

This changes everything! The whole shape of the world! This is the greatest discovery of-

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Okay, look, I know the guy’s evil. He probably self-identifies as evil. But still, he built a machine that cures death! That seems worth some special consideration. Even if you still take him to jail, at least don’t immediately disassemble his machine so you can get your radium back!

But apparently Scoop and Blimp don’t think much of a death-curing machine, because within a few panels, they’re off on a new assignment to the South Pole, for what their editor assures them will be “the story of the century!”

I haven’t read the next Scoop Smith adventure, but given that this story had them discovering a cure for death, I’ve got a feeling next issue’s story won’t live up to that hype.

Now we turn from two-fisted reporters to two-fisted sailors, with:

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Returning to his tropical island home, Lance O’Casey finds the village ransacked and deserted. The only person left is the elderly owner of the trading post, who’s been badly injured. He tells Lance who’s responsible for this brutal attack.

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Ooh . . . I do not like where this is headed.

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I really do not like where this is headed!

Okay, in fairness to the comic, the Pacific island natives that show up later are not drawn as cartoonish caricatures, like you’d find in many Golden Age comic books. They aren’t dressed solely in grass skirts, they don’t speak in grunts or broken English, and they don’t try sacrificing anyone to a volcano. And there are mentions of non-villainous natives who were attacked by these bad guys. If you took out the narration that keeps using words like “savage” and “half-breed”, and that repeatedly reminds you of characters’ race, you would almost not realize this is a “savage native” story.

Not saying it’s good, just . . . Golden Age comics have done a lot worse.

Anywho, from the footprints in the sand, Lance is able to tell that the village was attacked by “Barracuda Brent”, so he naturally sets sail to find the villain on Barracuda Island, which is surrounded by man-eating . . . mollusks. Lots and lots of man-eating mollusks.

Okay, no, it’s barracuda. A comic book villain’s gotta stick to his theme, after all.

But not stick too closely, because his plans for his captives involve something a bit bigger than barracuda:

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He has a gun. He could just threaten to shoot him with it. But instead he threatens to shoot the rope keeping them from falling into the tiger cage. Filled with tigers he imported from India just for this purpose. That’s the thing about these old-timey comic book bad guys: they go the extra mile for their villainy.

But what does Barracuda Brent want from his two captives? What drives him to do the things he does?

Why, he wants to get with a white woman of course! Yep, it’s the old “marry me or I kill your father” ploy. I really should have started a game of Villain Clichè Bingo before reading this story.

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“- a wedding chapel, with my blessing! Be sure to register for gifts!”

No, of course, Lance O’Casey swings into action (literally, he swings in on a vine, because how else can you make an entrance in the tropics?) A big brawl happens, the tigers get released from their cages, one of them eats Barracuda Brent, and good times are had by all. But our heroes run into trouble when they try to flee the island on Lance’s boat.

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So, the word “juicide”: Simple typo? Or is one of them secretly the Kool-Aid Man?

But, like all problems in life, this can be overcome with the aid of a monkey sidekick.

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And so, the day is saved! The comic urges us to come back next month for more thrilling tales of . . . Mister Hogan. And his trusty sidekick Lance O’Casey.

We come at last to the final story of the anthology, a detective yarn starring that intrepid investigator:

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Don’t let the detectives named “Dan Dare” and “Carol Clews” fool you: this story isn’t nearly as funny as you’d think.

Dan and Carol are called down to Florida to investigate a murder at the estate of wealthy mogul Carlos Peseta. That name should arouse your suspicion. Not because it’s a Hispanic name from a time when comic books were pretty open with their racism. No, it’s that, between heroes Dan Dare and Carol Clews, murder victim Seminole Sam, and prime suspect Portuguese Pete, Mr. Peseta is the only character in the story without a descriptive and alliterative name. Very suspicious, that.

While at Peseta’s estate, Dan Dare spots the titular “Seals of Doom”. These aren’t the kind of seals that royal families and secret societies use to identify themselves. They’re a much cuter form of seal.

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I’ll let you know right off the bat: at no point do those seals kill or maim anyone. They’re just used for smuggling dope. It is thoroughly disappointing.

Dan Dare is busy investigating the murder weapon and making inquiries about Mr. Peseta, so he sends Carol Clews to investigate Portuguese Pete, in the only way a female character can in a comic this old:

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As Dan Dare uncovers the smuggling ring at Peseta’s mansion, Carol Clews is brought aboard Portuguese Pete’s private ship, which is used as part of the same smuggling ring. Naturally, Dan Dare can fight his way out, tie up the bad guys, and bend open the bars of a steel gate while holding his breath underwater.

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Meanwhile, Carol Clews is immediately captured. ‘Cause, y’know, girly parts.

Dan swims out to the smuggling ship, rescues Carol, beats up the last of the bad guys, and we get a summation of how this was all the result of a bunch of smugglers killing, blackmailing, and trying to pin the blame on each other . . . but it’s really not that interesting. Dan Dare is easily the weakest of these seven stories.

All that’s left are a couple ads, and a page about how readers can win cash prizes, and that wraps up Whiz Comics #2.

This was a fun comic, mainly for the debut of Captain Marvel’s bizarre mythology, but most of the stories have some fun to be had (and only about half of it’s at their expense!) Still, it’s probably best to wait a day or so between reading each story. While they differ from each other in some ways, they fit the standard Golden Age pattern of one-dimensional characters and heroes who trounce the bad guys with contemptuous ease. That can make for a silly, old-fashioned romp, but read too many in a row, and all the adventures can blur together.

If you’re interested in reading the comic yourself, the entire Whiz Comics series is now in the public domain, and can be read online, legally and for free, at www.ComicBookPlus.com