The Star Spangled Kid
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Star Spangled Comics
These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number.
The Bund Saboteurs (1941). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Hal Sherman. The Star Spangled Kid goes after an American Nazi Bund, which is sabotaging America's munitions plants. The origin of The Star Spangled Kid and his sidekick Stripesy.
The Star Spangled Kid is a costumed crime fighter in the tradition of Batman. Like Batman, he has no super powers, but he does have a millionaire secret identity, wears a masked costume, has some technological gimmicks he hides in his belt, and a fancy high tech car, in his case known as the Star-Rocket-Racer. Like Batman, he also has a costumed sidekick who aids him in his adventures. The most different thing about The Star Spangled Kid is the role reversal involving age. While Batman, like countless comic book imitators after him, is a grown man with a boy sidekick, the Star Spangled Kid is a boy with a grown man as his sidekick, Stripesy. This is a funny switch.
The Star Spangled Kid also differs from Batman, and many Batman imitations, in the patriotic theme of his identity. The United States Flag is known as the Stars and Stripes, and the names and costumes of the two heroes are based on the Flag. This is a patriotic gesture on Siegel and Sherman's part. Both the patriotism and the flag-inspired costume recall Simon and Kirby's super-hero, Captain America.
The story also contains the origins of the main elements of The Star Spangled Kid's crime fighting apparatus, including the Star-Rocket-Racer, the light but very strong steel cables known as Steelite, and his microphone apparatus that enables eavesdropping through walls. It also contains the first of the giant, sinister mechanical devices that the Kid has to fight. Such devices often have an apocalyptic quality, involving mass destruction in cities. This was a perennial theme in Siegel's Golden Age tales. See his Federal Men story, "Attack on Washington" (Adventure Comics #6-8, July-September 1936).
The Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy bear some resemblance to Siegel's earlier characters Shorty Morgan and Slam Bradley. Like Slam, Stripesy is a huge guy who likes nothing better than to get into fights with bad guys. Both men are brash roughnecks. Both Shorty and the Kid are their much smaller partners, and both serve to a degree as the brains of their teams.
The Star Spangled Kid alternately fought Nazi villains, and apolitical master criminals. This origin story pits him squarely against an American Nazi group. In the days leading up to World War II, Hitler organized many pro-Nazi groups in the United Sates. These tended to be known as Bunds, and were presented as organizations promoting American-German "friendship". Siegel like other comic book creators loathed such organizations, and regarded them as Nazi traitors, with considerable historical justification. Earlier comic book heroes had also gone after such Bunds: see the Red, White and Blue tale "The Terrapin" (All-American Comics #8, November 1939). While the Red, White and Blue story did not quite explicitly name the organization that served as its tale's villain, Siegel's story is more forthright. The bad guys here are clearly labeled as a Nazi Bund operating in the United States.
The early Star Spangled Kid tales tend to be short on plot, and long on fight scenes between the heroes and the bad guys. Their best scenes tend to be those showing the Kid operating in his secret identity. Siegel often comes up with fresh activities for the Kid in these sections.
Dr. Weerd and the Metal Monster (1941). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Hal Sherman. Crooked scientist Dr. James Stanton uses a potion to turn himself into the monstrous Dr. Weerd. The origin of Dr. Weerd, a series villain in the Star Spangled Kid tales. This was the second Star Spangled Kid story in the first issue of Star Spangled Comics, and it continues our introduction to the character. It reveals more about the personal lives of the heroes in their secret identities.
Vortex of Doom (#2, November 1941). Dr. Weerd attacks government housing for the poor with a gigantic tornado. This story continues Siegel's interest in social commentary in his tales, this time with another look at slums. Dr. Weerd turns out to be a slum lord here, and he is another look at a sinister rich man who causes great social harm. Superman encountered such men in his early stories.
Mission to Germany (1941). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Hal Sherman. The Star Spangled Kid and Stripesy secretly fly to Nazi Germany, to attack Nazis. Delirious adventure story that is one of the most inventive of Golden Age anti-Nazi stories. One does not want to summarize this tale, and give away its plot elements. The story shows Siegel's gung ho enthusiasm as a storyteller, with outrageous events that recall the rip roaring antics of the Slam Bradley tales. It also shows Siegel's commitment to serious political commentary, often wrapped up in entertaining adventure tales.
The Needle (#4, January 1942). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Hal Sherman. The Needle, a crook who uses needles as weapons, kills people in guarded, locked rooms. The origin of the Needle, a series villain. The first half of this tale is full of exciting acrobatics, and a spectacular car chase involving the Star-Rocket-Racer. This section also has some unusual comedy. The second half concentrates on the impossible crime, which gets a solution almost as dumb and campy as Siegel's earlier locked room Spectre tale "The Strangler" (More Fun Comics #69, July 1941). The acrobatics show that our heroes are taking a clue from Tarantula in the same magazine, using Steelite cables to swing from building to building the way Tarantula uses his silk webs. Tarantula is not referred to in the dialogue, but Superman is, in a humorous aside.
Mr. Ghool (#4, January 1942). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Hal Sherman. Mr. Ghool, a villain who creates living corpses, attacks John and Gloria Pemberton, the Kid's parents. There is a nice bit of comedy at the end, where John Pemberton encounters Stripesy. Mr. Ghool fits in with the perennial Siegel theme of resurrected corpses, but this tale is mainly a pleasant but minor adventure story.
The Flying Buzz Saw (1942). Writer: Jerry Siegel. Art: Hal Sherman. Dr. Weerd creates a gigantic circular buzz saw that flies through the air. The device is ingenious, and the story is full of pleasing technological detail. It also leads to pleasant new developments for the Kid's secret identity.