After finishing that long post last night, I realized that I’m (again) straying from my original intent for this blog: an appreciation of Golden Age comics and comic-based roleplaying games. With that in mind, I now proudly present a recap of the fourth appearance of that gorgeous star-spangled defender of justice: Pat Patriot!

The November 1941 issue of Daredevil Comics (issue #5) brought readers a new Pat Patriot adventure. As was always the case with Pat’s appearances in Daredevil, the splash page was an eyecatcher:

No, that’s not the Ironmonger armor, just a diving suit. And why (you’re asking breathlessly) is Pat Patriot wearing a diving suit? The story begins with a flurry of newspaper headlines about a U.S. submarine which sank in deep waters. One headline states that no diver can reach the vessel.

Cut to a mysterious stranger who arrives at Pat’s door:

Who's that knocking at my door?

Whoa! Wait a minute! Pat has a maid? No,no,no,no,no,no – Pat lost her factory job back in issue #2 and we’ve nothing to suggest she’s found a job elsewhere (I don’t mean to give anything away here but I’ve read ahead, so I know this to be the case). We have to assume that the woman is maybe Pat’s maiden aunt or something, but the woman’s identity and presence are never explained. So let’s make it a total of two mysterious strangers at Pat’s door.

We soon learn that the man is the inventor of a diving suit capable of withstanding “terrific pressure”. But professional divers have their doubts about the new suit and won’t use it. The inventor has come to Pat to see if she’d be willing to use the suit to attempt a rescue of the sub’s crew. Our plucky heroine doesn’t disappoint: we soon find ourselves in the sunny Pacific, where Pat receives instruction in the use of the suit.

The inventor informs Pat that she’ll be able to descend to a depth of 850 feet, and that the air supply is a mixture of helium and oxygen “which does not dull the brain as does common air under pressure” (I imagine it also has the side effect of providing a wicked high as well as making the diver talk in a hilarious Donald Duck voice, so it’s a clear “win” for everyone involved).

"Whatta gal" indeed!

 

Pat climbs into the suit and descends into the murky depths. She soon finds the sub and sees a gaping hole in its side. Sabotage! Obviously the crew have perished. But Pat spots a fragment of the hull nearby with a rubber suction cup stuck to it. While she ponders this find, she’s suddenly attacked by a giant squid. Pat radios to the surface and she’s quickly pulled from the depths; she’s not only safe but has now added yet another esoteric skill to her already impressive resumé of accomplishments from previous issues of Daredevil Comics.

Pat isn’t even out of the suit yet when she’s accosted by a reporter:

It’s Joe Peep, popping up again like a bad penny. In 1940 they would consider it “coincidence”; today we’d call it “stalking”. Truth be known, Pat already has a pretty good idea about what happened to the submarine and knows she could use a hand for what comes next, so she invites Joe to tag along and promises him an exclusive story for his newspaper.

It’s off to Hawaii next for a visit to the island upon which the main U.S. naval base is located (it’s name isn’t mentioned in the story, though. *cough* Pearl Harbor *cough*…). Pat and Joe scour the island but don’t find any sign of suspicious activity. Frustrated, Pat says, “We’ve searched the entire island! There’s no place here that a saboteur could work from!” to which Joe replies, “Unless they’re living in the old volcano! Ha, ha!”

BINGO! The pair climb up to the rim of the volcano’s crater and are almost immediately confronted by a garden-variety thug:

Note the similarity in style between the left-hand panel above and the “thug in the alley” scene from Pat’s adventure in Daredevil Comics #2 (you can find that panel in my Oct. 25, 2010 blog post). It is admittedly a very cool way to emphasize the dangerous situation, with the pistol not only breaking out of the panel but also pointing directly at the reader.

Pat makes short work of the mook, knocking him over the edge of a cliff. She’s apparently overcome her resistance to (and remorse at) killing the bad guys, a regret which we saw depicted in Daredevil Comics #3; repeatedly being put in danger by bad boys with guns would have that effect on one, I suppose. After the thug makes his abrupt stop at the foot of the cliff, two more toughs appear from a hidden fissure in the cliff, assume that the guy just slipped and fell to his death, and drag his corpse inside.

Pat and Joe slip down into the crater to check out the hidden fissure. Inside they find a natural cavern which is secretly a fully equipped workshop, lab, and hideout for a nest of saboteurs. Ducking behind some crates, they overhear a conversation which confirms Pat’s suspicions about what’s really going on:

That’s all Pat needs to hear; she (literally) swings into action and cleans house on the saboteurs:

The panel composition used by Pat Patriot’s artist has been mentioned before in this blog, but it’s well worth mentioning again. The above illustration is actually a composite. The left-hand panel is the last one on page six of the story; notice how Pat’s boots “break” the panel and go well into the “gutter” at the corner of the page. This was actually a risky move by the artist because the old four-color printing process of that era required that a generous amount of white space be left around the main printing area (because of both the inaccuracy of the printing process and the occasional mistakes which occurred while trimming the physical pages). It’s a risky move but a really cool one. Many comics still utilized the traditional six to nine rectangular panels per page and the action seldom broke through a panel’s borders. Pat swings on a rope (which later becomes a very often-used comics trope), breaking through the panel and carrying the action along onto the next page (the right-hand panel of the illustration above is the first panel of that next page) in which she kicks the two saboteurs right in the chops. It was a really inventive artistic technique at the time, and it makes Pat Patriot’s adventures visually more dynamic than many other comics of the time.

Needless to say, Pat mops up the toughs (with some help from Joe Peep), wins the day, and trots the saboteurs off to jail:

Our gal Pat is packin' some serious heat

I love this panel. Pat is not fooling around here: that’s a WWI-era automatic rifle in her hands (notice the top-mounted rotating ammunition drum), which is some fairly serious ordinance. She’s confiscated it from one of the hoods and is using it to herd the crooks off to meet John Law.

As far as the plot goes, this is admittedly not one of Pat’s most memorable adventures, but the visual dynamics of the story make it a standout. Although the “breaking the panel” technique was common among Daredevil Comics’ many features, few of them utilized it as effectively as did Pat Patriot.

If you’d like to read this issue of Daredevil Comics (issue #5) you’ll find it at the Golden Age Comics site, along with thousands of other comics from the late 1930’s through the early 1950’s. The downloads are free, but please note that registration is required. Also be aware that there is a monthly limit to the amount of material you may download, so please be sure to first get what you really want before browsing around for other books to download.

Have fun! – Steve

Copyright 2011, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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