Rang-A-Tang, the Wonder Dog
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Blue Ribbon Comics
These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number.
Many issues of Blue Ribbon Comics can be read free online at Comic Book +.
Rang-A-Tang appeared in Blue Ribbon Comics from #1 (November 1939) through #22 (March 1942).
The Canal Zone Murder Case (1940) Writer: Joe Blair. Art: Ed Smalle. (Title for this titleless story supplied by the Grand Comics Database.) Spies go after an inventor, on a ship headed for the Panama Canal Zone. This mystery story has a complex plot.
Hy Speed is as courageous and tough as prose private detectives, but considerably less hard-boiled. He is more in the mode of a classical hero and good guy.
This tale follows a convention found in movies and comics: it shows visually that it is set in the topics, by having thaw men dress in white. Hy Speed is in a white suit, and the ship's officers in white naval uniforms.
This is the first Rang-A-Tang story scripted by Joe Blair, who would go on to do most of the series. The first three issues of Blue Ribbon Comics appeared in the winter of 1939/1940, with different writers. Then there was a long gap of several months with no issues, and finally this issue #4 came out in June 1940. It was the start of new things for the comic book, including Joe Blair taking over Rang-A-Tang.
The Madman of Mammoth Studios (1940) Writer: Joe Blair. Art: Ed Smalle. (Title for this titleless story supplied by the Grand Comics Database.) When "boy wonder" Nawson Swelles starts making movies at Mammoth Pictures in Hollywood, strange accidents start befalling the studio. As an admirer of Orson Welles, I should dislike this tale. But it seems to be not so much a caricature of Welles, as an attempt to make a zany story about Hollywood with some colorful characters.
Other characters: beautiful actress Tana Lurner, leading man Stark Brable.
The "someone is sabotaging the movie set" is an ancient cliche of Hollywood mysteries. Versions are still being made today for television.
Richy, the Amazing Boy (1940) Writer: Joe Blair. Art: Ed Smalle. Based on a cover by: Ed Smalle. (Title for this titleless story supplied by the Grand Comics Database.) Nazi-like villains try to shut down the production of famed comedian Harly Shaplyn's new anti-Nazi movie; meanwhile young actor Richy Waters enters Rang-A-Tang's life. The origin of Richy Waters. Richy Waters is a child actor at Mammoth Pictures, whose movie career is now on the skids. He becomes close to Rang-A-Tang, and helps him with his cases.
In real life in 1940, comedian Charlie Chaplin was making his famous anti-Hitler satire, The Great Dictator. Today, lawyers would cringe if a writer based a plot on real personalities. But it was not infrequent in early comics, especially with movie stars or famous athletes. For example, in writer-artist Tom Hickey's Skip Skuyler tale "To Pitch Against the Yankees" (Adventure Comics #39, June 1939), former West Point pitcher Skip is asked to pitch in a baseball game pitting Army players against the New York Yankees. Many real Yankee players make guest appearances in this tale, including Lou Gehrig. Their appearance is startling; one is not used to seeing real players mixed in with fictional stories, although many of Ring Lardner's early baseball stories (around 1914) involved real players.
Just as Joe Blair's Hercules tales were modern day stories based on the ancient Greek myths about Hercules, so are his Hollywood stories here based on real facts and people in the movie capitol. All of these stories have a dual perspective: both the actual tale, and the background facts on which they are based.
Similar Nazi-like villains reappear in the Hercules story Blair wrote in the next issue, "Hercules Captures the Boar of Erymanthus" (Blue Ribbon Comics #7, November 1940).