It's been some time since we last checked in on the fledgling company of Timely Comics.
It starts with Zephyr Jones and His Rocket Ship, firmly in the science fiction genre. Zephyr and his friend Corky are heading to Mars in a privately built rocket ship. Zephyr is right about how far it is to Mars, but either his calculations for travel time are off or mine are, because at the 300,000 MPH speed he claims he's going I think it would take five days to reach Mars instead of one. That speed is, incidentally, eight times faster than the fastest spacecraft ever launched from Earth up to the present day.
When the ship veers off course, it lands on a "lost planet" -- as if there could be an unnoticed planet between Earth and Mars. Actually, since the theory is floated later that this "planet" broke off of Earth ages ago, it's more factually a moon -- just one much smaller and in a far wider orbit. The moon is called Sunev (yes, Venus backwards, har har), and it not only has normal gravity and a breathable atmosphere, but it is inhabited by human-like aliens with feathery wings who call themselves the Birdmen and speak English. The birdmen live in a 19th century-like monarchy, but gunpowder was never discovered and the only science they are advanced in is chemistry. They have discovered an elixir that expands lifespan, so that the birdmen can live 300-400 years (there is no explanation given for how they have solved the overpopulation problem that would cause). There is a separate race/culture on the Sunev called (I'm not kidding either) the Parrotmen. The Parrotmen are more muscular and brutish-looking, preferring to go shirtless in combat and fight with maces.
Zephyr and Corky, perhaps having not expected a safe journey into space, came armed with two automatic pistols and a Tommy gun, make short work of the parrotmen with their maces. After stopping the Parrotman uprising, Zephyr and Corky return to Earth before heading to Mars, which makes sense -- they would need all new calculations to change their trajectory from Senuv, and likely the Birdmen are not advanced enough mathematically to help them.
The Phantom Bullet, Scourge of the Underworld, is next. Nearly washed-up and cynical newspaper reporter Allen Lewis works for the Daily Bulletin, a name just too generic to be able to trace to a particular real city.
Despite the fact that at least five people have examined a crime scene before him, Allen is the first person to find a bird feather clutched in the dead man's hand -- proof that it always pays to examine the scene of the crime for clues, no matter how much later. A police officer at the scene also gives him a freebie, telling him what might have been a randomly rolled rumor, that hand prints have been found at the scene of three crimes that seemed to belong to a seven-fingered person.
Players often pay little or no attention to the private lives of their characters when not adventuring; seldom is that more on display than when Allen's player calls his boss an idiot and tells him to write the story himself, before running off to do hero work.
The first indication that Allen may be a mysteryman comes pages later, when Allen makes a spectacular -- though still far from superhuman -- leap between rooftops. But Allen is still 1st level -- indeed, still in his origin story -- and is handily beaten in his first turn of combat when ambushed by "birdmen" (see a theme developing between stories...?).
Amazingly, Allen still has his job the next day and gets assigned to talk to an inventor, who just randomly decides to hand off his "invention" to Allen -- a gun that shoots ice bullets. This is what Allen needs to complete his origin story; armed with the gun, wearing make-up on his face instead of a mask, and wearing a bright-colored shirt and red cape -- because, you know, he'll need to sneak around and stuff -- he sets out to stop more murders. Off-panel, the Phantom Bullet uses his skills to move silently and climb walls to get around the police cordoning off a threatened man's home.
This time Allen shoots and kills one of the bad guys when they show up again, but there is no sign that the man has feathers; he just seems to be an ordinary black man. We also learn the plot finally -- the bad guys are killing rich men who refuse to hand over $500,000 to help fund a new government. The other two make off with the money and Allen has to move on to the next would-be victim.
This time, the man doesn't refuse and the money is picked up by a bum Allen recognizes. Cornering the bum, Allen recovers the undelivered money and finds out where it was supposed to go, the address being a local cemetery. Now, it would be great if this was the bad guys' hideout -- a nice, atmospheric location. But the cemetery is empty. Allen goes back to the bum and re-examines the envelope with the address on it; the correct address is in invisible ink and the first address was a phony clue.
The real hideout is an African explorer's house, or more precisely the caverns under the house (the Phantom Bullet finds the caverns off-panel). *sigh* ... in a decidedly racist twist, the "bird men" turn out to be half-black men/half-ape mutants wearing feathered headdresses as if they were American Indians. This resembles the beast men race we talked about adding to Hideouts & Hoodlums a long time ago, but I think I would just stat them as ape men. There are not two more of them, but five more of them, and they're dumb enough that PB can trick them into following him back upstairs to a window and then all jumping out after him like lemmings. PB had swung himself up to the top of the window ledge, and then comes down to shoot the evil explorer, ending the story (and saving a kidnapped young woman who just happened to be in the caverns).
Next up is Trojak the Tiger Man, a Tarzan clone. Normally, Tarzan clones have to be raised by animals to speak to animals, but Trojak was raised by an African tribe of humans and just happens to know how to talk to animals anyway. He also gets a tiger for a starting companion. His tiger, Balu (showing this feature steals from The Jungle Book as well as Tarzan), is shot, but is only lightly injured by it.
Trojak himself is shown to be able to bend a gun barrel, which is either a really lucky roll for a non-superhero at wrecking things, or maybe Trojak is a multi-class fighter/superhero. Further, subtle evidence of Trojak being a superhero might be the strange case of the unnamed woman in the white hunting party Trojak encounters and follows. At first, the woman is fine with her companions and their quest for gold, but over the course of days of observing Trojak following them, she starts to show disgust with her fellow travelers and an admiration for Trojak that can only be explained as sexual attraction -- or maybe use of the power, Turn Good.
(read at fullcomic.pro)