X-Venture | Mr. Mars | True Stories | Cort Lansing
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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number.
Only two issues of the little known comic book X-Venture were published. It contained a wide variety of series: the sf tales of Mr. Mars, true stories from real life, and mystery tales about crime reporter Cort Lansing.
The Atom Wizard (1947). The art is signed "CAIII". Giant robots are sent out to kill various people around the city; star reporter Fran Chapman of Teleo News asks noble young scientist Mr. Mars to help. This is a pleasant science fiction story, filled with plot. It is set in the modern day US, not the future.
While no masterpiece, this story seems fairly different from anything else I've read in the comics. For one thing, its scientist hero seems to have no Batman-style features. He wears a suit, not a costume, and has no secret identity. While he uses science to fight evil, he seems to have no technological devices or gimmicks. The hero Mr. Mars seems to use knowledge, not technology per se, in his struggles. Mr. Mars is a straightforward scientist, just like the hero Steve Wilson of Big Town is a straightforward newspaperman. Both are handsome, dignified heroes, without pretensions or gimmicks. Both wear good suits, and are idealized images of "typical Americans" of the time, not super-heroes. Both are highly intelligent, and mainly use thinking and knowledge to deal with the menaces they face.
There are a number of brilliant scientists in comic book series. They tend to wear white lab coats, have labs full of strange inventions, and are usually supporting characters, not the stars of series. By contrast, Mr. Mars, like Steve Wilson, is the protagonist of his series.
Mr. Mars is committed to using "atomic research" to benefit mankind. He is especially concerned with fighting would-be totalitarian dictators. This anti-dictator paradigm links him to the heroes of the sf tales to come in the 1950's in Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures.
Both the hero and heroine are beautifully dressed in the fashions of the day. The heroine wears an elegant 1940's style suit, that looks dramatic. Her cylindrical, helmet-like hat, complete with strap, is spectacular; it has a look associated with men's 19th Century military dress uniforms. Such forceful looking suits were favorites of the dynamic women in film noir. Hero Mr. Mars is also in the sharp double-breasted suits favored by noir heroes. Mars' suit is blue, worn with a white dress shirt and blue tie. Earlier in the story, he is wearing a huge red dressing gown at home over this white shirt and tie. All of these clothes look terrific.
Mars' car is avant-garde looking (p 4,5). It is streamlined, has a transparent bubble top, and is dynamically shaped. It is a brilliant red. Like Batman and Green Arrow, Mr. Mars has a spectacular, unusually shaped car.
Mr. Mars' home has Art Deco furniture in it (p 2,3). Like his car, this gives a distinctive visual look to the surroundings in this tale.
He Opened Prison Gates (1947). The art is signed "CAM". True story, of lawyer Moman Pruiett, who specialized in getting accused murderers acquitted. The story starts out in frontier America, and moves forward through various historical eras. It mixes entertainment with history and education.
CAM and CAIII might be the same artist; the art styles of the two tales are fairly similar.
One of the suspects defended by the protagonist here is a penniless black man. This is one of the most absorbing episodes in the tale. The black man is depicted with complete realism and dignity. It is just a brief walk on, but it certainly has sociological interest.
The Mystery Shadow (#2, November 1947). The art is signed "Larsen". Crime reporter Cort Lansing tracks down his girl friend, Broadway singer and show-girl Patti Davis, when she is kidnapped and framed for murder by a villain. Cort's kid sidekick Mitch also helps out. This is an inoffensive but awkwardly written story. It has some of the choppiest exposition in comic book history. I often had to stop and figure out, while reading, where the story was set, who the characters were, and what was happening now. There seem to be gaps in the narration, which I could always figure out, but never easily. For example, all of a sudden we will be at a police station. Just figuring out who the characters are, and how they relate to each other, is a challenge. This is perhaps the comic book equivalent of the jump-cuts Jean-Luc Godard introduced in Breathless (1959).