Saturday, July 28, 2007
Spectro was yet another comic book magician, along the lines of Zatara, or the granddaddy of comic magicians, Mandrake. It seems every anthology comic book had to have at least one magician to go along with the stock parade of secret agents, private detectives, and of course, the resident super-hero.
In this story the only power I can detect for Spectro is an ability to read minds, and apparently, according to this story, not always able to do even that. Unlike Zatara, who chanted words backwards and created real magic, or Mandrake, who gestured hypnotically and created perceived magic, Spectro uses his fists. He is also missing the ever-present top hat of the comic book magician, but he wouldn't be able to show off his blond hair. Or it'd be knocked off when he socked a bad guy. He has one element of a costume, a red cape which he inexplicably wears off-stage. But then, comics magicians always dressed like they were ready for a performance.
The villain is a bespectacled teacher who turns out to be a conman. You can tell he's a teacher because his name is Mister Pedant. You can tell his gang are crooks because they talk like comic book criminals. You can tell this teacher isn't very smart because he acts like a comic book villain. He tries to kill the hero using a gimmick, and gives the hero the opportunity to escape. You can tell this story doesn't make a lot of sense, but then it's a filler in an otherwise average comic book, Wonder Comics #16 from 1948.
The artwork is by Al Camy (a/k/a Al Cammarata), who did three stories in this issue. According to what I see about Al Camy in the Grand Comics Database, he was active in the comic book field in the late 1930s, throughout the 1940s, and sometime into the early 1950s. He worked mostly for Richard E. Hughes at Nedor/Better, which became The American Comics Group. Earlier on he worked a lot for MLJ Comics, drawing such strips as the origin of The Black Hood from Top-Notch Comics #9. Here's the splash for that story:
Camy's solid artwork is that of a journeyman comic book artist. Not flashy, but it tells the story.
Also, checking again with the Grand Comics Database, this is the last Spectro story I see listed, so perhaps that silver dart Spectro pulled out of his shoulder had a slow-acting poison and after the last panel poor Spectro shuffled off to comic book magician heaven .