New York World’s Fair 1940 – Superman, Red White & Blue, Slam Bradley, Zatara, Hourman, Sandman, Johnny Thunder and Batman come to the Fair

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The first issue of New York World’s Fair was a success, and so a second issue followed in 1940.  This was the first comic book to feature Superman and Batman in the same book, and on the same cover.

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Siegel and Jack Burnley open the book with the Superman tale.  The beginning is similar to the previous issue, with George Taylor sending Clark Kent to do a story on the Fair, and Clark asking Lois to go along.  But this time they are writing the article for the Daily Planet.  They also need to take an airplane from Metropolis to New York City.

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Lois spots a jewel thief at the Fair, follows him, and gets kidnapped.  So the story follows pretty much the same pattern as the last issue, except that Superman leaves the Fair for the bulk of the tale to rescue Lois, and retrieve the Madras Emerald.

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Red, White and Blue get a story in this issue, by Siegel and Harry Lampert, that tangentially involves the Fair.  Spoiled meat products are really the core of the tale, and the evil men who sell the rancid food to the army.

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Red, White and Blue take care of the bad guys, and then head off to the Fair.

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Slam Bradley and Shorty return in this issue, in a story by Siegel and Howard Sherman, which opens with the pair on the parachute jump ride at the Fair. From the top, Slam spots a distress signal from a ship in the harbour, and they lead out to investigate.

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Slam and Shorty get involved with the kidnapping of a foreign princess who had come to visit the Fair.  They find and save her, but not before Slam winds up in the peculiarly solid looking water that Sherman always drew.

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Zatara gets a much better outing in this issue, by Gardner Fox and Joseph Sulman.  This time he is not only stopping a crime instead of committing one, he spends the entire story at the Fair.  He even opens his own pavilion in order to trap the pickpockets menacing the fairgoers.

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While the art is not the best, it does work in a scene that gives on overview of the fairgrounds.

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Hourman appears in this issue, in a story by Ken Fitch and Bernard Baily, that has Rex Tyler working at the Bannerman Chemical exhibit at the Fair.  His demonstration proves quite popular, and Rex is invited to give it in person at a wealthy family’s house.

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Criminals kidnap the daughter of the family, and plan to rob the guests.  Rex pops a pill and gets into his Hourman gear to save the day.

Between this and the Sandman story there is a reprint of the Jim and Jane story.  Although there were changes in the exhibits between 1939 and 1940, the story gives no indication of this, which is a shame.

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Gardner Fox and Chad Grothkopf helm the Sandman story in this issue.  Dian Belmont gets kidnapped at the Fair, and Wesley Dodds gets into his Sandman outfit to track her down.

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It’s not a bad story, but not a great one either.  Sandman finds out that Dian was kidnapped by a known gangster, to pressure her District Attorney father to leave him alone.  Sandman frees Dian, and also gathers evidence of the man’s other crimes.

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Johnny Thunder, whose strip is still titled Johnny Thunderbolt at this point, comes to the Fair with his girlfriend, Daisy Darling.  As is the norm for Johnny’s series, this is far more comedic than dramatic.  Johnny’s wallet gets stolen before they even enter, and he calls on the Thunderbolt to get them inside.

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And so the story goes, with Johnny using the Thunderbolt to give him and Daisy an enjoyable visit, no matter what kind of havoc it wreaks on everyone else.  He does manage to catch the pickpocket, and get his wallet back by the end of the tale.

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Batman and Robin close out the issue as they attend the Fair, as Bruce Wayne and Dick Grayson, in a story by Bill Finger and Bob Kane.  Only the opening takes place at the Fair, the rest of the tale involves a bridge collapse that happens as they leave.

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Batman and Robin get on the trail of Hugo Vreekill, a mad scientist who destroyed the bridge to show off his new metal-melting machine.  Batman and Robin spend the rest of the story dealing with Vreekill, who kills himself rather than be captured.

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The back cover of the issue shows off the line-up of the book, which it refers to as “the greatest aggregation of …characters ever assembled.”  That word, aggregation, really sticks in my brain. It’s such an odd one to use.  It does refer to a gathering of a variety of things, but it implies a sort of loose, random collection, rather than a precise selection.

This book proved so successful that, even though the Fair ended, DC decided to make it an ongoing series, with the first issue coming out early in 1941.

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