Sergeant Spook

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The above is not a complete list of Sergeant Spook stories. Rather, it consists of my picks of the best tales in the magazines, the ones I enjoyed reading, and recommend to others.

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


Sergeant Spook

Sergeant Spook is a policeman, killed in action, who comes back as a ghost to fight crime. The series idea owes a lot to Jerry Siegel's tales of the Spectre, who had debuted four months before the first Sgt. Spook tale However, the development is quite different. Sergeant Spook does not have the broad array of powers that the Spectre has. Nor can most human beings see him. Instead he functions as a fairly traditional ghost.

Sergeant Spook originated in Blue Bolt Comics #1 (Vol. 1 No. 1) (June 1940), and appeared in most issues through #95 (Vol. 9 No. 5) (October 1948), with a few appearances thereafter.

Ghost-Town Ghosts (1940). Writer: Malcolm Kildale. Art: Malcolm Kildale. (Title from Grand Comics Database.) Sergeant Spook discovers Ghost Town, a city-like community of ghosts in the afterworld. The origin of Dr. Sherlock, Sgt. Spook's assistant. Imaginative fantasy. The Ghost Town concept is the most creative part of the Sergeant Spook tales. Its sympathetic, largely admirable ghosts are a unique creation. Many of them are famous humans, who carry on their earthly lives and careers in the afterworld. The set-up anticipates Raoul Walsh's fantasy film, The Horn Blows at Midnight (1945).

Jerry and Sgt. Spook move into the kitchen with startling results! #48 (Vol. 4 No. 12) (July-August 1944). Writer: ? Art: John Jordan. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database, based on opening words of the story.) Sergeant Spook helps a woman cope with her duties as a defense worker and homemaker during World War II. This OK story is half propaganda, outlining what civilians are supposed to contribute to the war effort, and half work of domestic realism, showing what life was like for the extremely harried women of 1944. It is unusual as a comic book story that focuses on women's household routines. It perhaps might interest people researching daily life in the US in that era. The story is partly sympathetic to the woman, showing all the burdens she is under, but is also constantly critical of her, saying she should do more, more, more to help in the war effort.

The tale has some good illustrations of Sergeant Spook throughout. The glamorous splash shows him with a chef's hat on, in addition to his police uniform, helping in the kitchen. Throughout, there is an odd role reversal effect, as the Sergeant and Jerry take on tasks traditionally assigned to women. They find them hard, too.

A sinister scheme for home-front sabotage #55 (Vol. 5 No. 7) (April 1945). Writer: ? Art: John Jordan. Jerry investigates black market suppliers of gasoline in his town. Not-bad little mystery tale. The best part of the plot involves a visitor from Ghost Town, a non-celebrity one this time.

There is a good portrait of a gas station owner, in his uniform cap, white shirt and bow tie.

When a spoiled child of the smart set (1945). Jerry is a stand-in for an obnoxious rich kid who is getting his portrait painted.

It is startling to see teenagers dressed up to the nines, in tuxedos and evening gowns - and enjoying it. But the teenagers of 1945, like the grown-ups, wanted to be well-dressed. One can see these very different attitudes in 1940's teenagers, in films like Edgar G. Ulmer's Strange Illusion (1946). On the other hand, one gets a look at the sinister side of this, with poor hero Jerry barely able to afford any sort of decent clothes. We also see this used as a weapon against him by the obnoxious rich kid. This sort of class warfare is depicted in a way that delivers some home truths. In general, for a fantasy series aimed at children, the Sgt. Spook tales often seem to incorporate a lot of real-word insight into their stories.

This story also served to inform its young readers about painters and their work. Artists were frequent characters in comic books, both in the Gold and Silver Ages. They added a lot of color to the storytelling, as well as giving people a look at the creative side of the world.

Elements at the end of this story seem somewhat similar to Oscar Wilde's novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891). Yet they are different too - this story is far from being a rip-off.

Both Jerry and the rich kid look good in their double-breasted tuxedos. Earlier, the rich kid wears a really snazzy double-breasted gray suit. These are glamorous 1940's fashions.

When a court tries to prove Jerry is insane (1946). Writer: Don Rico. Art: Don Rico. Jerry is railroaded to a sanity trial over his seeing Sgt. Spook. Rousing crime thriller. The gutsy Jerry does not back down - he learns to stand up for his convictions. The story also shows a welcome skepticism about people in power in society.

Sgt. Spook and Johnny Appleseed (1946). Writer: Don Rico?. Art: Don Rico?. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database, based on opening words of the story.) Jerry becomes an activist in environmental conservation, encouraged by the ghost of Johnny Appleseed. It is unusual to see a character in full protest mode, in a 1940's comic book. Jerry writes letters to politicians, attends political meetings, and in general, becomes a full fledged activist for conservation. He is influential and successful with this, too. This story is plainly encouraging young readers to become political activists, like Jerry, and giving them "how-to" tips on the subject.

The Adventure of King's Plate (1947). Writer: ? Art: Howard Larsen? Crooks are passing off fake silver plate as the work of Paul Revere. This story revives early traditions in the Sergeant Spook tales. It revisits Ghost Town, and looks at some of its famous denizens, getting them involved in a mystery plot. Like earlier tales, this story shows both imagination and humor in handling its celebrity ghosts. There are also signs that the series is trying to be educational, informing its readers about important people in history in an entertaining way.

The methods of visiting Ghost Town here extend Spook's powers. It is good to see him developing some concrete skills, that can be used to create plots.