Thursday, January 28, 2016

Detective Comics #20

Speed Saunders is a prisoner of the Chinese Tong, has no weapons, and no resources other than the suit he's wearing and his wits, and he still escapes from his cell. How? By trying everything. The Editor should always have an "out" planned; in this case, it was a loose grill in the window.

Mandarin Hapsu has a rather devilish trap for Speed too. It requires Speed having a prisoner with him who takes him back to the scene of the crime to show him how the murder happened. The prisoner points out a hole in the wall and asks Speed to look through it. Behind the hole is a gun, set to go off when a concealed button is pressed on the wall nearby. If the Hero is foolish enough to look, I would have the gun shot as if by a 3 HD opponent, but ignoring any DEX bonuses to Armor Class.

In Larry Steele, Private Detective, Delores kills a man by hitting him over the back of the head with a wooden club, with one hit. This is impossible under normal Hideouts & Hoodlums rules, though Book III: Underworld & Metropolis Adventures does talk about campaign moods, and the ability to run a very dark campaign where everyone dies when they reach zero hit points.

Buck Marshall, Range Detective, takes advantage of the terrain around him. Rather than approach a cabin where a killer might lurk on foot, he climbs a tree and uses the branches to clear the distance from above. Smart players ask lots of questions about the terrain, and figure out ways to exploit it.

Buck encounters a similar version of the same trap used on Speed -- a shotgun rigged to go off when a door is opened. I have yet to see a Hero actually reset a trap, but Buck here makes it look like he's reset the trap, in order to catch the killer (the man unwilling to go back through the door).

In Spy, Bart and Sally are given an unusual challenge -- they have to protect a senator without letting him know he's being protected, since he refused security. When Bart and Sally find two gunmen waiting to ambush the senator, even Sally gets engaged in the ensuing fistfight (first female in physical combat in a comic book?).

When Bart is going 60 MPH in a car chase, that's about as fast as his car can go.

Drunk drivers need to be on every urban wandering encounter list. Jerry Siegel in particular seemed to consider this a huge problem.

In Doctor Fu Manchu, Wayland Smith is said to have a "pocket-lamp." I don't know if I've ever seen such a thing before, since flashlights are so much easier to hold. A pocket-lamp is similar, but boxier.

Fu Manchu's weapon, the Zayat Kiss, is revealed to be a giant centipede! First one in comics!

This issue marks the debut of The Crimson Avenger, though its main character is only called The Crimson in this first installment. One of the earliest Mysterymen in comics, the Crimson Avenger can climb walls (a skill the Mysteryman was given in Supplement I: National), and wields a gas gun (a trophy item from Book II: Mobsters & Trophies).

Definitely a Chaotic Hero, when the Crimson can't prove a lawyer's guilt, the Crimson tries to murder the District Attorney and then frames the lawyer for the attempted murder!

Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise, has to take a running leap off the end of a pier to try and reach the speedboat being stolen. Because the boat is pretty far away, his Editor tells him he has a 1 in 6 chance to make the jump. He rolls a 2. Because he was close, the Editor decides to go easy on him and gives him an additional chance to reach out and grab the rail by making an attack roll.

The Slam Bradley story in this issue is crazy. Out of the blue, Slam is somehow an extremely powerful Magic-User, just from having practiced since last month. And he throws spells around like they were nothing. He casts some sort of Teleportation spell on Shorty, then a Telekinesis-like spell to pack his bags. At a meeting of Magic-Users, he casts two Phantasmal Force spells in a row. He uses Detect Thoughts to find out what the hoodlum at his door wants. He casts some kind of grappling spell that holds a man and moves him -- maybe that's just another Telekinesis spell.  Then he uses a spell that somehow allows himself to be at two places at the same time -- Project Image? He casts Invisibility, Charm Person, more Phantasmal Forces, some sort of Push spell (Telekinesis again?) -- and possibly all in the same day!

The only explanation I can think of is that Doctor Occult is pretending to be Slam for some reason.

Slam's rival, Professor Mysto, casts Dispel Magic, but can only cast it once. To then dispel Invisibility, he has to resort to making a brew from a container of spirit-powders. Potion of Dispel Magic? Slam interrupts the preparation of the potion, so we never get to see how it works.

(This issue can be read at Comic Book Archives)

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