World’s Finest 49 – Tom Sparks – Boy Inventor begins, Zatara causes a train crash, and the Penguin gives Batman a white feather


Tom Sparks, Boy Inventor takes the cover of World’s Finest 49 (Dec/Jan 1950/51) for its debut.


Dan Barry is the artist on this new strip about a young boy who is an inventive genius.


The tale opens by showing us some amazing inventions, although these do not return in the story.  It makes me think that the narrator is from the future, when Tom is well-known for such inventions, and we are getting the stories of his early days.


Tom’s interest in science and inventing dates back to him re-building his father’s watch.  There is a very similar sequence in the Dr. Manhattan origin in Watchmen.  I’m not sure if both of these draw on some other story, or if this is, indeed, the genesis of it.  If it does come from something (and geez I hope its not the bio of Einstein or something like that), please let me know.


Tom is also an athlete, until an injury sticks him in bed, and he builds an early tv receiver.  The simplicity of this invention (and the excitement about it), are in some contrast to the other remarkable creations.


Like, for example, the suspendy-rail car (my name, not his) that he builds for investigating the Valley of Ghosts!


Zatara’s story in this issue, by Joe Samachson and Ralph Mayo, is just crazy, but there is one panel in particular that sets me off.  The story opens with Zatara “delighting” children on a train by making dancing magic dolls appear.  I think as many kids were cowering in terror.  But then the train track explodes and things go haywire.


With no track, Zatara makes the train fly.  At least one spectator is driven insane by this, although in a very calm way.  I expect that they just casually wandered over the nearest asylum and checked in for life.


Zatara checks out the line, and discovers that the tracks are falling apart, and the engines in poor condition.  Seeing him investigating, the owner of the lines has his goons try to kill Zatara.  They fail.


But wow does Zatara get pissed at them.  He traps them in a train, which he then makes fly around, and crashes it into another train.  Supposedly the goons give up, but they’d so be dead by then.


David Reed and Dick Sprang share an excellent Penguin story.


The Penguin has a plot to humiliate Batman, symbolized by a white feather.  He even sends one to Batman to taunt him.


As the story goes on, it seems like the Penguin’s jests are getting to the hero, who becomes shaky, and loses faith in himself.


In fact, the Penguin’s plot was more devious than it seemed, as the feather he sent Batman was infected, and Batman’s reactions, physical and psychological, were effects of the disease.  Batman prevails only because he catches on that he really is sick, and self-diagnoses.





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