All-Winners Comics # 5 (Timely Comics, 1942).

Anti-Nazi sculptor Paul Voltz is beheaded with an axe. The Destroyer then visits Voltz’s daughter and presents her with her father still alive. How did he do it? How did he manage to bring the decapitated sculptor back to life?

Here’s how. First, the Destroyer abducted Voltz’s masked executioner so that he was able to disguise himself as – and stand in for – said functionary. Secondly, using wires, the Destroyer attached a heavy rubber-cast of the sculptor’s ‘famous self-portrait’ to one side of the axe used for the execution. Twisting the axe as he brought it down, just grazing Voltz’s neck, the disguised hero jerked the rubber head to the floor, causing the prison guards to suppose it was the prisoner’s actual head. The ‘executioner’ then placed the ‘corpse’ in a coffin which he carried away to safety in a lorry.

Later, in his other identity as Keen Marlowe, secret agent, the Destroyer goes to a bar with Fraulein Voltz and overhears one man telling another that three liberal German publishers (Luther, Kleinman and Goetz) are to be executed the next day.

Meanwhile, Captain Achhimmel, Special Detail Chief for the Gestapo, orders Inga Von Leche, ‘Nazidom’s most wily woman’, to capture the Destroyer. Later, spotting  Inga, ‘the new Mata Hari’, at a rathskeller (bar), the Destroyer (out of costume) introduces himself to her as Louis Kramer, the famous German writer about travel in America. ‘Kramer’ tells Inga that he has an idea how to trap the Destroyer: have a double for him carry out an amazing escape plan, publicize it widely, and then the real Destroyer will do something foolhardy to expose the impostor. Approving of the plan, Inga suggests ‘Louis’ should disguise himself as the costumed hero. Agreeing to this, ‘Kramer’ tells Inga and Captain Achhimmel to arrange for themselves to be imprisoned with the three publishers who are due to be executed.

The next day, under instructions from his boss, Achhimmel’s bald assistant arranges for there to be only one guard in attendance on the publishers. Presently, the Destroyer arrives and knocks out the guard and Achhimmel’s assistant. The prisoners (including Inga and Achhimmel) ‘escape’ in a lorry (watched by Nazi soldiers). The fugitives stop at an inn where a note has been left for the publishers which informs them that their ‘liberator’ the supposed Destroyer is actually a Nazi impostor.

Outside the inn are 6 Nazi police officers. Unsure he can handle all six of them, ‘Kramer’, dressed as the Destroyer, tells them that the next part of the plan requires three of them to bind and gag the other three in order to lure the Destroyer into the trap. Also, the remaining three guards must unload their rifles so that there will be no accidents. When the guards have carried out these orders, the Destroyer punches them out of commission with lightning speed. Subsequently, inside the inn, Inga shoots Captain Achhimmel dead while trying to hit the Destroyer, who captures Inga. The Destroyer then arranges for the publishers to be driven to safety after asking one of them to give him a black eye.

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Posing once more as Louis Kramer, now with a black eye, the disguised hero congratulates Inga on becoming the head of Achhimmel’s division. Later, as Keen Marlowe, the hero assures Fraulein Voltz that he could achieve as much as the Destroyer given the proper circumstances. She accuses him of being almost as bad as a Nazi himself in his egotism.

Co-created by a young Stan Lee, the Destroyer is a relatively little-known superhero from the 1940s Timely stable, whose better-known stars include Captain America, the Submariner and the Human Torch. One possible problem with the Destroyer is that he has no distinguishing feature as a superhero (he doesn’t breathe underwater, he’s not on fire, he has not been injected with a super-serum, carries no shield …). However, alone amongst the Timely stable of costumed heroes, he operated exclusively behind enemy lines. In addition, he has a striking name and a sharp-looking costume.

 

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Superboy # 181 (DC Comics).

The US government tests Superboy by staging the apparent arrival of Jules Verne in a time machine. Superboy is convinced it is the real Verne because the signature on the letter which the time traveller is carrying matches the one on file in the Metropolis Library. As Verne says that he would like to see the scientific marvels which he had himself foreseen in the previous century, Superboy shows him America’s most advanced nuclear-powered submarine, an ‘underwater satellite’, an electronic mole-vehicle and the latest space rocket. At each exhibition, a serious accident occurs. U.S. secret agents later tell Superboy that he is a security risk because he believed the fake Verne’s story and showed him all the country’s secret technology. However, the photos the fake Verne had taken with a camera hidden in his walking cane turn out to be blank as Superboy had actually seen through the man’s pose and exposed the film to his x-ray vision. Two things gave ‘Verne’ away. Firstly, his clothes were made of nylon. Secondly, ‘Verne’ claimed not to like music when Superboy showed him ‘Beat’ music being performed live at a television station – yet, as Superboy recalled, the true Verne had written librettos for several operettas.

In the Legion of Superheroes back-up reprint story Lana Lang tries to join the Legion as Insect Queen but the team rejects her because her powers are generated by a ring. When an alien criminal called Oggar-Kan attacks Ice City in Antarctica, Lana helps the Legionnaires who are sent there to defeat their foe but she gets stuck in moth-girl form after she loses her ring. Light Lass finds the ring by making all objects in the vicinity super-light. Lana is then made a reserve member of the Legion.image-35

In this issue’s final story, Lana is teased by two female school-friends because her boyfriend Superboy is hardly ever around to spend time with her. Lana insists that things will be different after she and Superboy are married because she will make him have a regular job as an international travelling salesman, selling body-building equipment to men in need of developing greater strength all around the world (including communist males in the Soviet Union who currently get beaten up by liberated women if they ask for a kiss). Lana’s friends point out, however, that doing this will make Superboy guilty of misrepresentation as the body-building equipment he sells could never make his customers as powerful as himself. After saving some orphans from a sinking steamer, Superman arrives to continue his interrupted date with Lana, carrying five orphans in tow. Lana rams an ice cream on his forehead and tells him that she will never marry him. Her two friends tell Superboy not to worry as they will be his girlfriends and they are not as possessive as Lana.

The Last of the Mohicans by Shigeru Sugiura (Picturebox, 2013).

Hawkeye, aka La Carabine Kid, a spy for the British army during the early colonial era of North America, sees that the chief of the Mohican tribe and his son – the last surviving Mohicans – have been captured by their enemies, the Mingo tribe, who are allies of the French. After putting holes in all but one of the Mingo’s canoes, Hawkeye attacks the Mingo camp using his rifle and he escapes with the two Mohicans using the sound canoe. After fighting off a bear, the trio head for East Fort.

That night a messenger from the French arrives in the Mingo camp and passes on a request to the Mingo chief for him to lead an attack on East Fort at dawn. The two daughters of the English officer Colonel Munro are currently at East Fort, on their way to Fort Henry. The French want the Mingos to capture the two women and burn East Fort to the ground.

As dawn approaches, Hawkeye spots the Mingos arriving from the front and rear of the fort and hurries to warn the occupants. Alice and Cora Munro insist that they will help to defend the fort. After a ferocious battle, the Mingo attack is repelled. A party of six, including Hawkeye, the Munro sisters and the last of the Mohicans, is joined by a priest called Father Gamut as it departs for Fort Henry … image-30

Spiderwoman # 10 (Marvel Comics, January, 1979).

The main reason I liked the first Spiderwoman series was the Carmine Infantino art. The second thing I liked, reading it back then, was the fact that Jessica (Spiderwoman) Drew was unpopular with people. Not like Peter Parker who was (I thought) initially meant (in the Steve Ditko days) to be unpopular  – but ended up being everyone’s best mate as well as boyfriend of all the best-looking girls in his college etc. No, Jessica was really actually not likeable, as in, when people met her, they did not like her. She gave off a particular chemical, we were told, to which people reacted negatively.

Issue 10 starts with Jessica and her boyfriend Jerry Hunt (moon?)bathing on a Los Angeles beach at night. After checking that Jerry’s mouth has healed as his lips had recently been sewn together by a super-villain, they kiss, but while they are kissing Jessica sees a beautiful, winged and costumed, female figure in the sky, illuminated against the full moon. Breaking away from Jerry, Jessica quickly dons her Spiderwoman costume and jumps into the air in order to ride the wind currents so that she can approach the flying woman and speak to her. Jessica has this thing about being different and she thinks she and this mysterious woman might have something in common. But the winged woman just flies away.

When Jessica alights, Jerry is furious. He complains that she has ruined a special moment.  He drives her home then leaves in a pet. Jessica asks her creepy landlady Priscilla where her friend Magnus is. He has got a new job as a stage magician, explains Priscilla. Jessica is surprised to hear that her old friend, who is a centuries-old descendant of the famous magician Merlin, should condescend to being a stage performer, but perhaps, she reflects, when you’ve been alive so long you learn to have fun. In her bedroom, Jessica finds a present left for her by Magnus. It’s a gorgeous, and rather risqué, satin dress. Putting on the dress, Jessica goes to the place where Magnus is doing his stage act but the last show is in progress when she arrives and she is not allowed to enter.

When Jessica finally finds Magnus, the old fellow is sitting between two attractive young ladies. One of the ladies is hosting a party that night at her luxurious apartment. Magnus is invited and he tells Jessica that she can come along too. At the party, lots of unusual people have odd exchanges. ‘Do you play backgammon?’ one man asks a woman. ‘No,’ she replies, ‘I am into decadence.’ This is one difference between West Coast America and the UK, I feel, as I consider backgammon to be a very decadent game.

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Boldly stylized late-phase Carmine Infantino artwork.

As usually happens to her at parties, Jessica finds herself ignored. At last a man approaches her with a drink and compliments her on her unusual hair-style. Managing to get away from him, Jessica walks outside where there is a swimming pool. At this point the beautiful costumed flying woman returns. Her name is Gypsy Moth and she has power over clothing so she causes the swimming costumes worn by the women around the pool to turn into cocoons. Jessica asks Magnus to put her into costume magically. The magician complies and also causes everyone present at the party to forget that she was there as Jessica. Spiderwoman rises on the winds again to speak with Gypsy Moth, saying that she does not want to fight her. She does not care about her wrapping those women up in cocoons. She only wants to talk with her. Jessica thinks that Gypsy Moth might be, like herself, a product of the High Evolutionary’s genetic experiments.

 

Gypsy Moth, however, insists that she does not want any friends and she causes Spiderwoman’s costume to begin to unravel. Then she ties Spiderwoman up in threads and makes her plunge to the bottom of the swimming pool. Jessica manages to wriggle out of the threads and get out of the water just as her lungs feel like they are bursting. As Spiderwoman confronts Gypsy Moth again, Jerry Hunt arrives on the scene, having tracked Jessica to the party because he wants to apologise for his earlier behaviour. Thinking that Jessica is in danger, he pulls out his gun and shoots Gypsy Moth in the shoulder. Angered, Jessica zaps him with a venom blast and Gypsy Moth flies away. Jessica is now furious with Jerry for shooting someone with whom she thought she might have been able to form a friendship. She feels that she has more in common with someone like Gypsy Moth than with, for example, anyone else who was at that party.