Sandra of the Secret Service | Hope Hazard, G-Woman | G-Woman

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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number.


Sandra of the Secret Service

Sandra is a genuine heroine. She does not need to be rescued by men. Instead, she is a dynamic, proactive person.

Sandra was one of the earliest series characters in comic books, appearing in More Fun Comics #1 (1935). She was drawn by a wide variety of artists throughout the 1930's. She last appeared in More Fun Comics #35 (September 1938).

The Brain (1937). Writer: Will Ely. Art: Will Ely. Sandra and her friend Michael work against a munitions combine that is trying to ignite wars all over the world. "The Brain" (1937) was a six part story, ranging from #20 (May 1937) to #25 (October 1937). It was the only Sandra episode written and drawn by Will Ely. Ely also created Johnny Law and Larry Steele. Both of these debuted while "The Brain" was running. Clearly, this was a period of major creativity for Will Ely.

This story pits Sandra against a "powerful, international munitions ring". During the 1920's and 1930's, the idea that arms manufacturers were responsible for creating wars was widespread. Comic book creators used them as villains in some important stories, notably the origin tale of Superman, Siegel and Shuster's "Revolution in San Monte" (Action Comics #1,2, April, July 1938). Here they are plotting to set the nations of Earth at war with each other. "The Brain" is an important political work in the history of the comic book. It is one of the first political tales in comic book history.

In "Revolution in San Monte", Siegel has the sinister arms manufacturer reform, after extreme pressure from Superman. Nothing like that takes place here. In "The Brain", it is a duel to the death between the good guys and the munitions ring. The issues are resolved through force. The story is anti-war, but it is not into the same non-violence that would occur in Siegel's tale.

The story has lots of adventure elements, too. Sandra and Michael are involved in exciting adventures, many of them at sea. They also encounter tunnels in the villain's lair; these recall the derring-do and unusual architecture of the Larry Steele tale, "The Maine Castle Mystery" (Part 1) (Detective Comics #17, July 1938).

The international conspiracy resembles the conspiracies in prose mystery fiction.

We meet a series of US Marines on board ship (Part 5). They are uniformed in Marine Khakis, complete with shirt, tie and Marine style officers' caps. The ship's Captain is a huge man, with a V shaped chest. There is also a good portrait of the ship's radio operator, wearing earphones, seated at his console. Will Ely admired such government groups as the Marines. There are also portraits of the FBI in the Larry Steele story "Mystery of the Wholesale Kidnappings" (Part 3) (Detective Comics #7, September 1937), and of a big city police force in the Johnny Law tale "The Arsonist" (More Fun Comics #21-24, June-September 1937). All of these groups are depicted as highly effective. They are also full of admirable people. During the course of the tale, the protagonist gets to make friends with these government men, and work with them as a team on cases. This is clearly a deeply gratifying personal experience for Ely's characters.

Both Sandra and the US Marines use radio for all their communications. Radio ultimately saves the day, and saves the United States and the world from the villains' schemes. This respect for radio as the most high tech medium of its day was typical of the early comic books.

Hope Hazard, G-Woman

Hope Hazard, G-Woman (Detective Comics #3, March 1937). Art: Alex Lovy. A series clearly inspired by Sandra was "Hope Hazard, G-Woman". This only appeared for a single issue, although this pilot episode was clearly designed as the start of a potential series. Hope Hazard was an FBI agent, just as Sandra was in the Secret Service. Hope's tale involved high adventure battling against crooks, just like Sandra's. Neither series was at all detection oriented. This tale is pleasant, without being anything special.

Hope Hazard has a male friend, Bill Littlejohn, who shared her adventures, and was in a blue airplane pilot's uniform. Lovy had introduced a similar handsome male friend into his episode (Adventure Comics #11, December 1936) of heroine Dale Daring's strip: US Marine Captain Brewster, and clad him in an elegantly depicted Marine dress blue uniform. The uniform includes braid, big epaulettes, and a leather harness; Lovy depicts it from many different angles in multiple panels, showing every detail. Both men are in the most flattering uniforms any man can wear. Both men are virile, glamorous and yet gentlemanly in their appearance. They look like responsible members of society, highly respected authority figures. Dale encounters Captain Brewster for the first time sitting at her father's desk in his office, an unexpected encounter that surprises her. It is if he has taken over her father's authoritative position in her life. He is also there as an authority figure from the US government.

Dale Daring ran from #4 (March-April 1936) to #37 (April 1939). Her first tale was created by writer-artist Dick Ryan.

Alex Lovy created only a handful of stories for the comics, most importantly, two episodes of the cowboy series, Slim and Tex.

G-Woman

G-Woman (Adventure Comics #22, December 1937). June Justis, the only female operative at the US Bureau of Investigation, tracks down Public Enemy #1, Jake Shiller. This is another one-shot pilot for a detective series. June Justis' story takes place within a realistic United Sates, and depiction of its government agents and criminals; it recalls the gangster movies of the 1930's. In this it differs from both Sandra and Hope Hazard, whose tales were of wild and fantastic adventure around the world.

June Justis is a feminist character. She captures Shiller single handedly, without any help from men. She shows both intelligence and courage in her scheme. There are also subtexts, in which she meets men who are performing activities traditionally reserved for women. At the start, she meets a man who is essentially the secretary of the Bureau chief. At the end, she forces Shiller to cook for her, at gunpoint.

When said aloud, June Justis' last name sounds like "Justice", an appropriate name for a government agent. Later, prose mystery novelist Craig Rice would name her detective hero Jake Justus, with a -us at the end of his name, not an -is like June Justis. Jake Justus debuted with Rice's first book, 8 Faces at 3 (1939).

The splash shows June Justis and the chief's secretary. He is an elegant young man, in a double breasted teal colored suit. He is both a model of refinement, and the ultimate pretty boy.