If you’re not prepared for the things you’ll encounter in Golden Age comic books, they can really blow your mind. Last time around we began a look at the story featuring The Claw, an Asian supervillain of sorts, from Silver Streak Comics #2 (Jan. 1940). You’ll recall that The Claw bullied Adolf Hitler into forming an alliance with him.

I won’t give away the story (the comic is public domain and is available for download, so you can check it out for yourself), but I’ll tell you that Jerry Morris, the hero, uses some crazy “pseudo super science” to eventually thwart The Claw’s scheme. Along the way, though, we encounter some truly horrific events and imagery which were doubtless shrugged off by the typical teen reader of the day but which would be guaranteed to send some of today’s kids into years of intensive psychotherapy.

The Claw uses his extensive undersea railway (yes, you read that correctly — a railroad train on the ocean floor) to sink Allied and U.S. shipping. Many of the train’s cars are equipped with a giant cannon, capable of blowing up surface ships and even bombarding shore facilities. The wrecked ships are then hauled away by the undersea railroad:

Major cities also suffer the wrath of The Claw:

But this isn’t enough of an apocalypse for the villainous Claw. Warning ships of “the aggressor nation” (his German allies) to return to port, The Claw grows to enormous size in mid-ocean and creates a whirlpool so immense that the waters of all of the earth’s seas are drawn into it. Ships are swamped, and passengers kill themselves rather than face death by drowning:

The redirected ocean currents cause massive climate changes, leading to further death and destruction:

Even our hero, Jerry Morris, suffers a tragedy as he rushes to the scene to do battle with The Claw: his kid brother Tad is swept overboard and drowns:

Jerry turns the tables by dropping depth charges filled with acid onto The Claw’s underwater train:

Of course, The Claw’s reaction to the deaths of his own lackeys is predictable:

The Claw tries to escape, but is seemingly killed in the attempt. Foolishly the heroes bring his corpse aboard their ship:

And we’ve come to the end of the story — at least for this month.

Now sit back for a moment and think about what we’ve just witnessed. Two things have occurred here which completely blow away some cherished myths about 1940’s comic books:

1) The supposed “innocence” of Golden Age comics is a sham; some of the imagery we’ve seen (cities leveled, children killed, men melted by acid) provide some apocalyptic visions which might indeed traumatize some (admittedly overly-sheltered) modern-day readers;

2) The story picks up shortly after the previous issue leaves off, and ends with a cliffhanger which will continue the story into the next issue. So much for the notion that Golden Age comics eschew “continuity”.

We’ll blow away another myth later, when we see the Lev Gleason heroes band together to take on The Claw, as well as Hitler himself. Until then…

Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2010, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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