Sunday, August 3, 2008

Detective Comics #233 (7/56)

Ever find yourself looking up information on a story, only to find a terse, "John Jones foils crooks by playing on their superstitions?" Doesn't that bother you, or dishearten you, or make you redouble your efforts to find a better source? Well, when it's a story by Jack Miller, just let it lie. In anticipation of writing this synopsis, I did mine and my roommates' dishes. Have you clipped your toenails lately? How are your storm gutters looking? Ring around the tub? Something worth considering before we progress.

Still with me? Sigh.

John Jones, "The Crack Sleuth From Outer Space" happened upon the roadside accident that killed notorious gang leader Gus Bartley. Avoiding road flares but not exposition, Jones was informed the truck's breaks had been cut. With a swell of Martian pride, Jones was able to, through sustained concentration, track Bartley's specific tire tread back to where he left his gang headquartered. Umbrellas secured; black cats avoided; entry barred beneath ladders; mirrors carefully handled-- "Great Shades of Pluto! A hideout steeped in superstition! This gang lives in fear of every possible jinx!" Y'think? Sherlock has nothing on you, Super-Sleuth! "Imagine that crumb Bartley nicking us for 50% of the loot, eh Marty? He asked for the treatment we dished out! Ha, ha... remember how he always warned he'd come back to haunt us if we ever knocked him off?"

You know where this is going. I can stop now, right? Please?

Making a "perfect mind picture" from Bartley's mug shot, "J'onn J'onz" assumed his form as, "With some deft psychological touches, I should be able to scare these characters into confessing their crime!" This included invisibly setting Bartley's hat on tubby Marty's head. The operative word being "invisibly," while still in Gus Bartley form. I guess John worked "method" then, so he could command the utmost authenticity while next applying shaving cream to Link's face in the bathroom. By the time bald Pigeon saw Gus's ghost pour out of a pop* bottle, the skittish hoods were frantic. "I have come back... and I will haunt you until you all confess to my murder!" Wait, let me try that again: "I have come back... I have come back?" These peanuts are makin' me thirsty..."

"Wait a minute, boys... He's only a ghost! Maybe it's just something we're dreaming... but even if it isn't, he can't interfere with our business! After all, he's not of this world!" True Marty, and yet not, as "Gus" pushed Link under a ladder, shattered a mirror, and opened a room full of umbrellas, queering the karma on three separate aborted heists. Being a cowardly, superstitious lot that Jones could have just busted at each of those near-crime scenes, the trio instead had time to check a ghost-busting book out of the library. "It reads here that in Ancient English castles, sorcerers said ghosts could be trapped by the rattle of a snake, a lily pad and a hound's tooth. So we'll build a trap and lure the ghost into it!" The cocky Crack Sleuth intended to prove how futile the amateur warlocks' spell would be by setting off the trap, but...

C'mon now. You can do this. I did mention this was a Jack Miller script? Featuring the Martian Manhunter?

The "ghost" failed to foresee a kerosene lamp being employed to light the room once the trap was sprung. What a twist! As Jones noted in the second panel of the story, "My Martian weakness to fire-- can sure be troublesome at times!" As he only had "Earth powers" in the face of this blazing inferno of an oil lamp, he stuck his face over the thing. "It worked! The kerosene fumes from the lamp caused my eyes to water, and the tears extinguished the flame!" So we just shifted right past Lee Strasberg into emo territory here. Maybe he should have spent less time with Brando, more with Bacall, put his lips together, and blown. I suppose it all worked to the good though, as the same unnamed Desk Sergeant from last issue was surprised by "The city's three toughest hoodlums walking right up and confessing to murder!" Jones concurred, "Mighty strange, Sergeant... Somebody sure must have frightened them into it!"

"The Ghost From Outer Space" was written by Jack Miller and drawn by Joe Certa. Garish “pop art” coloring by Frank Lee Delano, without any reference. Original colored art can be found here.

(* They actually do call soft drinks "pop" in Colorado. Just noting.)

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