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PEP #1

Reviews for the various Mighty Crusaders Comics.

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Post Sat Aug 27, 2005 6:09 am
Kelso User avatar
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Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA
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Just imagine yourself as a young comic book reader way back in November of 1939 who's just walked into the local candy store-cum newsstore. As you look behind the counter at the latest issues, a book suddenly catches your eye. On the book's cover you see a figure clad in a costume based on the Stars and Stripes battling several robots and you feel the urge to buy it. So after first parting with a Mercury dime for a copy of that book, you read it and suddenly you're blown away by the contents of the book. You find that this is one of those books you're going to regret losing either in a trade or (if you were like two of my older brothers) a card game.

That probably might have been your reaction if you were one of the lucky hundreds of thousands of readers who picked up a copy of the first issue of MLJ's third anthology title, Pep Comics. For those who picked up that first issue (cover dated January, 1940), this was indeed a special book. The people at MLJ must have felt so as well, because Pep ended up becoming MLJ's flagship title. Not to mention one of the most memorable titles to come out of the Golden Age. But what made this classic book so memorable and so special to those who saw it? If you leaf through it with the mindset of a comic book reader circa 1939, this is what made it so special:

THE SHIELD; The book opens in striking fashion with a hero who has the legitimate claim of being comics' first super-patriot (predating the more celebrated Captain America by more than a year). And off the bat, he's trying to stop a group of agents from an enemy power (the Stokians) who are threatening the security of America. Harry Shorten (script) and Irving Novick (art) introduced this soon-to-be classic hero to the world. The Shield would go on to become one of the most memorable superheroes of comics' Golden Age and would appear in the first 65 issue of Pep Comics and all 13 issues of Shield-Wizard Comics.

THE COMET; Jack Cole's very first superhero gets off to a great start with a story that not only reveals his origin but also involves him with a racket that uses Typhoid germs for murder. Watch for some sequences showing how he deals with these racketeers. The Comet would appear in the first 17 issues of Pep with the strip coming to a memorable ending. But that's another story

SERGEANT BOYLE; Charles Biro's second feature for MLJ was like his first (CORPORAL COLLINS in the pages of Blue Ribbon Comics), a strip dealing with an American serving in another country's army during World War II and fighting against the Axis. In this case Sgt. Hank Boyle serving in the British Expeditionary force. Sergeant Boyle would appear in the first 39 issues of [i]Pep, not to mention all 9 issues of Jackpot Comics and occasional appearances in the Corporal Collins, Infantryman strip.

THE QUEEN OF DIAMONDS; Lin Streeter's classic strip gets off to a good start with the story on how the Rocket landed on the Queen of Diamonds' homeworld and the begining of his adventures there. This short lived but memorable feature really suceeded in capturing the spirit of Alex Raymond's Flash Gordon pages and would go on to appear in the pages of Pep until issue #12.

FU CHANG; Another short lived but memorable feature gets off to a good start as Fu Chang uses the Chessmen of Aladdin for the first time to solve the murder of a sailor. Fu Chang would appear in the first 11 issues of Pep Comics.

BENTLEY OF SCOTLAND YARD; For his first of his 41 appearances in the pages of Pep, Inspector Bentley investigates a series of murders involving a werewolf.

THE PRESS GUARDIAN; In his only appearance, a hero called the Falcon helps a reporter named Flash Calvert against a gang of criminals. In the next issue, a new character would take on the code name of the Press Guardian and would appear in the next 10 issues of Pep.

THE MIDSHIPMAN; For his first story, we get a glimpse at the life on campus of Midshipman Lee Sampson. The strip was the Naval counterpart of Top-Notch's Keith Kornell and would last until Pep #16 when Lee Sampson graduated from the Naval Academy.

KAYO WARD; For Pep's final feature, we get a strip about a boxer in the mold of Ham Fisher's Joe Palooka. Here we get the story of how Kayo Ward got into the fight game. Kayo would appear in the first 28 issues of Pep.

Looking at this first issue of Pep Comics, the people at MLJ must have known that they had a winner from the onset. For this book would go on to become MLJ's flagship title and would introduce and feature many more memorable characters in its pages for years to come. The list would include such memorable strips as THE FIREBALL, MADAME SATAN, THE HANGMAN, ARCHIE, CAPTAIN COMMANDO AND THE BOY SOLDIERS, THE BLACK HOOD, KATY KEENE, and LI'L JINX among others who would appear in this book until it ceased publication in 1987. And what a memorable book it was.
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