All right, folks! Are you excited? Well, you should be! Why? Well, let me tell ya, since I’m probably only talking to myself, if the site traffic reports on these particular posts is anything to go by!
Reason to be excited #1: The MRC is finally getting back to our series of posts on the contents of Smash Comics #18 from the year 1940!
Reason to be excited #2: Said coverage has now (finally!) reached the point that originally inspired the focus on this ancient issue to begin with: the first appearance of the Spirit-stand-in-character known as….Midnight!
Or, as the introductory splash panel show below might lead one to believe…Pete the Puma!
Look, I know that Jack Cole is a legend in the comic book business, what with him having created Plastic Man and all, but I mean, damn: that is one bad drawing of a human being’s face, even by 1940s comic book standards, eh?
And, for those of you who don’t get the “Pete the Puma” reference, I will supply you with this:
Those of you who do get the reference are probably still hearing the “eeeeeeeee” sound that ol’ Pete is making in that moment of the cartoon in your heads right now.
So, as you may have read in that much-maligned splash panel, this story does in fact feature Midnight, a crime-fighting crusader who is known in his civilian as life as one Dave Clark.
This Mr. Clark, is as detailed in that very same panel, a “spot announcer” for a radio station (“UXAM,” which I notice has “MAX” spelled backward right in there…), and not the titular band leader of the Dave Clark Five.
We begin our tale with this, non-pop star sensation version of Dave Clark heading home from the station to give his poor abused tonsils a break:
On his way, Dave happens to witness THIS as he drives along:
I mean: HOLY FREAKING CRAP, people! That building didn’t just fall down, it pretty much disintegrated!
Somehow, however, there were survivors of that eye-poppingly-terrible disaster, and Dave spends hours helping the police in the ensuing rescue effort (possibly acquiring a case of first responder respiratory syndrome in the process, but hey).
In the process, Dave deduces that, as we all know in these modern times, that jet fuel can’t melt steel beams, and that the root cause of this calamity instead lies within the construction company’s use of….
Yep, that’ll do it, I….guess! Must have been one stiff breeze at just the wrong time, and then, BAM! SCIENCE!
And what’s even worse is that the Carleton Construction Company who built this tower of sandy catastrophe is the very same entity that recently won the contract to build the nearby TRI-STATE DAM!
Knowing this, Dave suits up, literally, and engages in some party-crashing formal-attire parkour, as seen below:
The design of that panel seems to lead us to believe that the party is being held in the highest building away from our nattily-appointed avenger, and if that’s the case, I’m really glad that this story spares us the rest of his ludicrously arduous approach!
And he must have been a least a bit winded by his undertaking, as our man Midnight is jumped pretty much right after he crashes the party and holds the attendants at gunpoint:
Our hero recovers handily, however, and resumes his holdup, robs the party-goers, and makes his escape to the streets (far, far) below.
Unfortunately, Midnight underestimated the sheer criminal savvy of his opponents:
That’s right, folks: the Ol’ Mark Your Fleeing Enemy with Whipped Cream Maneuver! Simply diabolical!
Oblivious to his milky-mark-ed status, Midnight drops off his Robin-Hoodly-acquired gains at the hospital:
Yup…that’s a couple of super-trustworthy guys that will definitely put your generous donation to good use in just the way you intended, there, Midnight….
Anyway, our hero doesn’t have time to reassess the virtues of his contribution’s recipients, as he barely hits the street when:
Now, I know that the lasso-twirling thug (a description that comes up more often than you’d think in comics) is referring to the suspiciously yellow splotch of whipped cream on the back of Midnight’s jacket, but…
….Wouldn’t it be great if “WHIPPED CREAM!” was just some forgotten 1940s exclamation of excitement or discovery? Like “EUREKA!” but you know, weirder?
I’m just going to proceed with the rest of my life as though that were the case.
So, Midnight gets tied up and…dragged behind the bad guy’s car with some pretty extreme prejudice:
“Take the GRAVEL road?” Dang, these lasso-twirling thugs are downright MEAN!
In no time, a now-mask-less Dave Clark is tied to the Tri-State Dam, which soon thereafter begins to crack, allowing Dave to break free.
Once liberated, Dave wastes no time in rushing down to the UXAM studios to absolutely slam-dance-tackle some of the other talent:
Damn, Dave! No time for a quick “Excuse me, sir?”
A little known fact about that panel: Dave Clark’s “FLEE TO THE HILLS!” was not an inspiration for a rather famous Iron Maiden song…or so we have been told.
Now, this story is pretty heavily populated with great panels, and the one featured above is definitely near the top of my list for this tale.
However: brace yourselves for one of the greatest action sequences of all time, dear readers, brought to you in three punk-pulverizing steps:
And what a step it is! The Rockettes are paying attention now, Midnight!
But keep on an eye on your six, because here comes:
An ambitious (and deeply weird) grab from behind, wrapping Midnight’s head between the legs of his attacker!
Fear not, though, for our hero gets his feet back under him just in time to execute one of the more brutal take-downs in the history of comic book donnybrooks as we reach:
GAH! Can’t you just HEAR those two skulls smashing together?
A full 180-degree whip of one bad guy’s head into another with all of Midnight’s weight and strength behind it. I mean…those two guys are DEAD, right?
If they are, there’s no time to worry about it now!
Midnight has other things to deal with, like forcing Carleton to HAND OVER TEN MILLION DOLLARS IN CASH right there on the spot.
Midnight then jumps out the window just as the police arrive to bust the bad guy, and Dave Clark makes a familiar-sounding announcement on the radio later on:
City’s relief fund? Flood refugees? Oh, yeah: the Tri-State Dam totally fell apart after Dave broke free. At least one entire neighborhood in the city was utterly destroyed.
But hey: whatever gets us that “smile and wink style” final panel ending, eh?
You know, I gotta say: I freakin’ loved this story. At first, I was a bit let down by the crudeness of the art, knowing that it was Jack Cole I was coming to see, but as I read the story again while drafting up this post, I just had an absolute blast the whole way through.
It’s like I had a WHIPPED CREAM! moment or something!
All right folks, there you have it: another entry in this series of posts!
Someday we may even see the end of this coverage for one solitary issue of an 80-year-old comic book!
Signing off from the UXAM studios; I am Max. And I read comics!