Evolving from the New York World’s Fair specials, World’s Best Comics 1 debuted in the spring of 1941. A 100 page comic, the line-up was similar to the earlier specials, and most of the series within the book were successful strips in other comics. Superman and Batman were the lynchpins of this comic, with Superman having the first story, and Batman the last. They would hang together, along with Robin, on the covers of the series, even though, at this point, the characters had not yet ever met in an actual tale.
Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy launch the Superman series in this title with a story that pits the hero against the Rainmaker. While a traditional rainmaker promises to end a drought, this one promises to create flooding unless he gets paid not to.
The Rainmaker is a mad scientist, also capable of inventing a gun that paralyzes Superman, albeit briefly. He causes so much rain that a dam bursts. Superman does all he can to save people. In a fitting end, the Rainmaker himself is one of those killed by the flood.
Siegel also scripts the Red, White and Blue story in this issue, with art by Harry Lampert. The story deals with a new tank they are testing out.
Blooey winds up taking the tank out in the middle of the night, and finding a secret underwater spy base. The story goes so far away from the “realistic” nature of the series that it is no surprise to find out it was all Blooey’s dream.
John Lehti and Charles Paris provide the Crimson Avenger story in this issue. Lee Travis gets involved in a plot to kidnap the governor, using a phony ambassador.
This story takes place shortly after he has altered his Crimson Avenger costume to a super-hero look, as it still has the cape. Wing does not yet have his costume, and is still shown in a fairly respectable way, without the buck teeth.
John Wentworth and Stan Aschmeier give Johnny Thunder a significant tale in this issue. He has started working for Herman Darling, the father of his girlfriend Daisy, who owns a trucking company. A rival firm is trying to put them out of business, sabotaging deliveries and kidnapping the drivers.
Johnny uses his Thunderbolt to overcome all the problems the rival firm creates. Impressed with his courage and ingenuity (and not realizing that a magic Thunderbolt is actually doing the heroics), Herman Darling gives Johnny permission to marry his daughter. At some point. It’s not like it happens right away. Or at all, in truth.
One of the three new series to debut in this issue, Young Doc Davis, by Henry Boltinoff, is not the medically based romantic series that the name conjures up (at least to me). He is a doctor, and gets called to an emergency in Chinatown.
Davis saves his patient, but winds up involved in a gang war, with stolen narcotics. Not bothering to call in the police, Davis decides he can handle the situation himself, and indeed captures the gang leader, and stops a runaway train.
Zatara faces the Menace in a story by Gardner Fox and Joseph Sulman. The Menace seems to have wide-ranging plans, as he sends his men to rob a train shipment of gold, and later rig a baseball game.
Zatara uses his backwards-speaking magic to put a halt to the Menace’s schemes, and exposes him as a railroad official. It’s not that much of a surprise, he was the one character who had connections to both the train and the baseball game.
Fox and Lampert handle this story of The King, a disguise artist frequently pitted against the Witch, a thief. In this story, he discovers her plans to rob the wall safe of a friend of his.
Rather then just stop her, the King gets into disguise, drugs the Witch, and replaces the money in the safe with stage money. He then allows her to rob the worthless props.
The second of the new series in this book is Punch Parker. He appears to be a private detective, as he is called in after a medical firm has a shipment of radium stolen.
Punch tracks the stolen radium to Suburbia, which seems to actually be the name of a town in this tale. Mad scientist Dr. Pear had the radium stolen for his elixir of life. Parker retrieves the radium, but the fight starts a fire that kill the mad doctor.
The third and final new series to debut in this issue was Lando, Man of Magic, by Howard Purcell. Easily the best of the three, Lando is along the lines of Zatara or Sargon, a well-dressed stage magician who fights crime. His powers are not clearly defined in this story. He simply waves his hand, and causes anything at all to happen, from altering a person’s clothing to turning a man into a duck.
The story takes place in a small town in the Rockies, near the Canadian border. Lando comes across a secret base of foreign agents, plotting to divide the US in two.
It’s all part of General Hong’s master plan to rule the world. Lando defeats his men, and prevents the leader from escaping by shrinking his plane to toy size.
Bill Finger and Bob Kane conclude the issue with an excellent Batman mystery, the Witch of Gotham. A novelist is murdered, apparently by a witch. But is it a real witch or just someone dressed up as one?
Absolutely the best story in the book, and one of Finger’s more solid mysteries, with good clues and a satisfying resolution.
Tagged: Batman, Bill Finger, Bob Kane, Charles Paris, Crimson Avenger, DC Comics, Gardner Fox, Harry Lampert, Henry Boltinoff, Howard Purcell, Jerry Siegel, John Lehti, John Wentworth, Joseph Sulman, Lando, Man of Magic, Paul Cassidy, Punch Parker, Red White and Blue, Robin, Stan Aschmeier, Superman, The King, The Witch, World's Best Comics, Young Doc Davis, Zatara