Marvel Mystery Comics #17 - Jun 40
"The Human Torch and Sub-Mariner Fighting Side By Side" - Carl Burgos and Bill Everett
Captain America Comics #7 - Sep 41
"Horror Plays The Scales" - Joe Simon & Jack Kirby
Marvel Mystery Comics #25 - Nov 41
"The Vision" - Joe Simon & Jack Kirby
Captain America Comics #22 - Jan 43
"The Cobra Ring of Death" - Syd Shores
Marvel Mystery Comics #42 - Apr 43
"Terror of the Boiling Sea" - Syd Shores
"Quarantine For Murder" - Ron Garn and Gustav "Gus" Schrotter
All-Winners Comics #12 - Spring 44
"The Beachhead Blitz" - Mike Sekowsky
Review/plot: I've got "The Golden Age of Marvel Comics" trade. It's a compilation of stories from different times. I'm not quite sure how they were selected - they really aren't the defining moments of the Golden Age by any stretch, but i guess it's good to have a random sampling of these stories in my collection. The book seems to neatly break between stories from the early 40s, prior to US involvement in WWII, and later stories beginning in the 50s. So the first half is included here and the later half is included after the WWII stories (Invaders, Sgt. Fury, etc.).
Marvel Mystery Comics #17: Namor shows up in New York and says to the Human Torch, "Are you ready to fight for Uncle Same under any conditions?". The Torch replies, "You know I am!" and Namor jumps back into the water to get something.
Meanwhile, the Human Torch is thinking, "Wonder what he meant by 'Fight for Uncle Sam'?". Good thing he agreed to do it. Namor returns with an underwater breathing helmet and leads the Torch to one of his fleet of aerial subs which transports them to the Pacific, where the Nazis and Japanese are raising a Volcano to bridge the gap between Alaska and Siberia. They stop the bad guys, beat up a cop in Alaska, and then explain to the governor of Alaska (who doesn't seem to believe them) what happened.
Namor's Atlantean army helps out. They are much more cartoony and villainous than they would later be depicted.
Does the Human Torch need to breath or not? In the big Sub-Mariner/Human Torch fight, Namor drags the Torch under water, and while he is captured, he doesn't drown. In this issue, they make a big deal about Torch taking his breathing helmet on and off. But, when the Axis releases poison gas on the two heroes, Namor passes out but the Human Torch is unaffected. So what's going on?
This story does not have the charm of the earlier Torch/Namor fight. It's cute and lays the foundation for an Invaders type team, but the art seems more conventional, the dialogue isn't nearly as good, Namor is unambiguously a good guy (except when he punches the cop), and the plot is silly war propaganda stuff. Interesting, but not very good.
Captain America Comics #7: Well, this starts off interesting but is actually quite bad.
Interesting: the Red Skull is presumed dead and two of his minions are running off with his money. Then the Red Skull shows up, plays Chopin's Funeral March, and shoots one of the minions in the chest. The Red Skull looks awesome - he really looks like he has a skull for a face. It's pretty grotesque.
Bad: Everyone else looks grotesque too. The art is pretty sloppy by modern standards. Possibly deliberately, but it's not what comes to mind when you think of Kirby. The story is very silly - Steve Rodgers and Bucky Barnes get forced to participate in an army camp show. In between rehearsing for the play, they have to stop the Red Skull from killing people. At one point the Skull gets away by pretending to be British - even though Cap saw him try to kill them.
This may be the first appearance of the "real" Red Skull. The Skull appeared in Captain America Comics #1 along with Captain America, but that version has been retconned to be an agent of the real skull named George Maxon (who died in that issue). The Skull here, with his penchant for Chopin's Funeral March, is likely the real thing.
Did you know Cap was a pipesmoker?
Also, Bucky Barnes's super hero name is... Bucky. And he's the only young kid in the army camp. Just sayin'.
Marvel Mystery Comics #25: What the? Enric Zagnar, best authority on Metaphysics in the nation, is expelled from Valley Town's University for lecturing that the laws of nature are meant to be broken. He climbs a mountain and uses a book entitled Black Magic to summon a storm. The Vision - a green alien who looks a lot like the Martian Manhunter to me (or the other way around; Martian Manhunter debuted in 1955) - appears from the smoke when lightning from the storm hits a tree and causes a fire. The Vision charges up the mountain to fight Zagnar. The Vision does not demonstrate any super powers in this story, and Zagnar, an old professor, kicks the crap out of him, only to get zapped by lightning from the storm (The irony!). The Vision then leaves, letting the townspeople believe that he's the reason Zagnar was stopped.
Captain America Comics #22: Ooooowww. Captain America foils a plot by Nazis to kill high level members of the US government by sending them poisonous rings, and in the process clears the name of Steve Rogers, who was falsely accused of the crime. Cap also fights a big Mongolian named Toto.
Bucky gets captured twice in this story. Cap wins because the Nazi mastermind accidentally puts one of the poison rings on his finger when he falls.
Marvel Mystery Comics #42: Well, the Nazis are boiling the sea under Allied ships using giant discs, and Namor stops them (he finds their equipment by literally tripping over a power chord running across the bottom of the ocean). Namor seems to be on friendly terms with the US Navy, and Carl Pfeufer draws him with a really contorted head.
Meanwhile, the Angel is dealing with Nazi espionage on the homefront. A neighborhood has been quarantined by a Nazi agent - Fritz Von Block, master of disguise - who is masquerading as the local doctor. The Angel, who has no powers and whose civilian name is also Angel, foils the plot by kicking the crap out of everyone.
All-Winners Comics #12: The Destroyer leads the Nazis on a wild goose chase and lets himself get captured so that the Nazis get their hands on fake plans regarding the location of the Allies' second front beachhead location. He, um, also, lets some French Resistance fighters die protecting those plans, but i guess we won't worry about that. He's not above kicking some Nazis in the balls, though.
Overall, some cute stuff, some very odd stuff. The Namor/Torch team-up is the most interesting story.
Quality Rating: C-
Historical Significance Rating: 3 - The Namor/Torch stories lays the foundation for the Golden Age heroes forming a team to fight the Axis in WWII. Early Red Skull appearance.
Chronological Placement Considerations: It's mostly before the GA heroes get directly involved in WWII, most likely before the US has joined the Allies. The last two stories take place during the war.
Continuity Implant? N
Reprinted In: The Golden Age of Marvel Comics TPB vol. 1
Inbound References (2): show
Characters Appearing: Angel (Golden Age), Bucky, Captain America, Destroyer (Brian Falsworth), Human Torch (Golden Age), Red Skull, Sub-Mariner, Vision (Golden Age)
Wowie zowie! Ratzies!
Numerous sources have declared longtime comics writer Ed "France" Herron as the writer of the Red Skull's first appearance. Herron did most of his work for Fawcett and DC.
The 1939-1941 Sub-Mariner stories by Bill Everett in Marvel Mystery Comics and the first few issues of Sub-Mariner actually have unusually tight continuity for the Golden Age; the Marvel Mystery stories read like one big serial. Other characters? Not really.
Is the Red Skull playing Chopin's Funeral March on a kazoo?
It is difficult to imagine something creepier than a leering, blood-red skull with no lips and this gaping sinus cavity. But imagining a skull trying to play a dirge on a kazoo is pretty disturbing.