All-American Comics 1 (April 1939) feels a bit like a step backwards, and is a strong indication of how uncertain DC was about Superman. The book consisted largely of one and two page strips, mostly humourous. And much of the content was reprints of newspaper strips. Four new series of note did begin in this issue, although only one was pictured on the cover.
Red, White and Blue launch the book, by Jerry Siegel and William White. The story follows three old friends, from the city of Oakville, each in a different branch of the military.
Red Dugan is in the marines, Whitey Smith in the army, and Blooey is in the navy. They arrange to spend a day together in San Cristobal, in the Panama Canal Zone, get into a bar fight, stumble across evidence that a pretty girl is really a spy, track her down and discover that she is actually an undercover operative for the US.
They help Doris West defeat the spies she has been infiltrating, and she arranges to have the three of them made into a special squad to root out spies.
This strip would prove to be quite popular, and have a long run in this book.
Hop Harrigan is a really wonderful serial, the story of a teenage orphan, his farm stolen and physically beaten by his guardian, who “flies” away in a world war one era plane rusting in the garage.
The close-up of Hop’s face in the panel above would get re-used as a cove image in a few months.
He flies into an airshow, and gains the attention of test pilot Prop Wash, and his mechanic Ikky Tinker. Prop takes the boy in to give him flying lessons, but considers him a natural. We find out the boys last name is Harrigan, but Prop tells him to forget whatever his first name was, it’s now Hop. Cause it rhymes with Prop? Does he dream of putting on the Prop and Hop Air Extravaganza?
Scribbly is a humour series, one I am only covering because of the eventual appearances of the Red Tornado in it, but I do have to admit it is a delight to read. Sheldon Mayer`s semi-autobiographical strip about a 13 year old boy, newly arrived in the city, who gets a job as a newspaper cartoonist.
We meet his struggling and no-nonsense mother, and tormenting younger brother Dinky. Daphne, the girl at school he likes also debuts in issue 1. The plot of this story consists of humiliating the military cadet that Daphne is interested in.
Adventures in the Unknown is the title of a series consisting of a number of serials, featuring two college students, Alan Kane and Ted Dolliver. In their first storyline, “The Mystery Men of Mars,” they get recruited by Professor Lutyens to travel to Mars in his spaceship, the Wanderer.
The boys are quite impressed by the professor’s theory of flying through space by falling up. Makes me wonder exactly where Lutyens got his degree.
The ship they fly in is kind of cool, but what really strikes me is that they wear space suits for the voyage, but once they land on Mars, they switch back to every day clothing.