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for Friday, October 15, 2004

Crime Does Not Pay 98

What you see here is a total impulse buy. I was surfing the "Golden Age Comics" listings on eBay when I came across this comic book with this description:

Golden Age Comic Crime Does Not Pay #98 (1951) 4 different stories. (52-pages) Lev Gleason Publications. This comic would have been in overall VG condition but the cover front and back page are detached. Also this comic has been shot with a 9mm bullet bottom left of comic went all the way through. (Very Long Story LOL)

Even though I figured the photo on the auction page made the comic look better than it was - my comic buyer's intuition at work - I couldn't resist an issue of CRIME DOES NOT PAY with a bullet hole through it. How perfect was that?

No one else bid on the item, so I got it for three bucks plus a standard $3.75 flat rate shipping charge. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but eBay buyers should always consider the shipping charges when they buy a book. I do.

Anyway, I was expecting a BTH (Beat To Hell) condition comic book and that's what I received. In fact, the interior of the book had been folded backwards at the spine, making it appear at first glance that the right side of the center spread was the first page of the comic. It didn't bother me, but it is something the seller should have noted in the description.


After receiving this item, I remembered it wasn't the first bullet-shot comic book I'd owned. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when I was the owner/operator of COSMIC COMICS in downtown Cleveland, one of my regulars gave me a stack of comic books he had shot while drunk. He said it was an "experiment," though he never explained why he needed to know how many comic books a bullet could go through. I believe it was a dozen, but, since a couple of them were annuals, these results should not be considered scientifically accurate. Please don't try this at home.

The customer wanted me to track down replacement copies of the comics and figured it was easier to give them to me than write out a list. I suspect he didn't want his girlfriend or other visitors to see them and start asking questions.

It didn't take long for me to find the replacement copies and sell them to my pistol-packing pal. He told me to keep the damaged copies. I put them on display at reduced prices, somehow resisting the urge to use the phrase "more bang for your bucks" in the quick sign I made. They all sold within a day.

End of digression.

CRIME DOES NOT PAY was clearly no longer in its prime by the time this issue [dated May, 1951] was published. I got the feeling each story was written on the quick: copious amounts of dull prose, semi-interesting dialogue in places, and plot elements that served only to increase the page counts.

The lead story - "Setup For Murder" - stars private eye Chip Gardner, who had apparently become the ongoing lead in the title. A secret gambling ring thinks Gardner knows who they are, lure him into farm country, and try to kill him. They kidnap two women, one of them Gardner's secretary. Though the occasional plot element is sort of cool - the hysterical mother keeping quiet to protect her son, who has already been killed and turned into a scarecrow - but most of them fall flat. The big payoff is that Gardner didn't have any evidence on the ring, but, thanks to their trying to kill him, the cops have plenty of other charges on them. The artist on the story was Bob Fujitani, but this job was light-years away from his best or even his typical work.

The unsigned "Shock Treatment" starts with a serial killer in a red mask, drifts over to a slacker who fakes a spiral cord injury and sues the city, and ends with him jumping out of his wheelchair to flee the serial killer. The drain pipe he slides down breaks, paralyzing him in reality. That's when - ho ho ho - it is revealed the killer had actually been caught earlier and this killer was an insurance fraud investigator in disguise.

"So fate finally called his bluff" laughs the investigator as he, the doctor, and a police officer examine the paralyzed con man on the ground before them.

I'm no lawyer - calling Bob Ingersoll - but I'm thinking the con man might be able to file another lawsuit.

"Double Life" - the issue's third story - offers further proof that crime does not pay, especially if the criminal in question has a really bad lawyer. A washed-up vaudeville entertainer, a female impersonator, takes the cash from a stick-up in which his partner was killed, to create a wife (himself) he doesn't have. He fakes his death so "she" can collect on his insurance policy and ends up being accused of killing "her." He gets charged with the murder of his wife that never was, convicted, and sent to the electric chair to pay for his crime. The wrong crime.

If someone dies during the commission of a felony, all those involved in the commission of said felony can be held accountable for that death. Even if the someone who dies was also involved in the commission of the felony. In this case, that someone was the impersonator's partner. The entertainer could have been charged with murder in that case. However...

Our cross-dressing con man was never linked to that crime and its fatal results. Any fair-to-middling defense lawyer should have been able to use his client's profession AND the insurance fraud AND the fact that no one ever saw his client and his "wife" at the same time to get that murder charge dropped. The actor would still go away for the fraud, but the state wouldn't be lighting him up in the electric chair.

The last story is a "Whodunnit" with art by Fred Guardineer, best known for his work on DC's Zatara and other comics magicians. Readers were invited to guess the identity of the murderer with the answer being revealed in the upside down panels which close out the story. I dozed off while reading this tale the first time around and, on rereading it, realized the solution to the crime depended on the reader recognizing that the seal on a bottle of whiskey had not been broken. It's a fair clue, clearly shown in the art, but how many kids of the era would have spotted the clue and known what it meant? Was the readership of CRIME DOES NOT PAY that much older than other comics of the time? You tell me.

One more thing. Except for the Chip Gardner lead, each of the tales is heralded as "A True Crime Story." Even in May of 1951, seven months before I was born, I don't think I would have fallen for that one.

This comic book is not a keeper. I got my six bucks worth of fun and this column opening from it. That's good enough for me, so I'll pass it along to a pal somewhere down the line.

In the meantime, let me know if you'd like to see more stuff like this in future editions of TOT. I don't do a lot of buying on eBay, but I have picked up odd items here and there. I await your responses or lack thereof.

Let's see what else I have for you today.



Batman: Gotham Knights #57

In the TOT spotlight today is BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #57 [DC; $2.50] by writer A.J. Lieberman, penciller Al Barrionuevo and inker Francis Portella.

Cue the SPOILER WARNINGS as we consider "The Light at the End of the Tunnel," part four, act two of BATMAN: WAR GAMES, the three-month-long event in which a gangland shootout has triggered a city-wide gang war. The extended story is running through eight of the Batman titles.

The padding is definitely showing here. The issue starts with a full-page featuring only dialogue balloons on a black background - someone has turned off Gotham's lights - and a double-page spread of Tarantula leaping down on some thugs, a shot we've only seen in hundreds of super-hero books. With only 22 pages of story, readers deserve more meat and less eye-candy.

Batman figures out what's happening in Gotham is following a contingency plan he once worked out, a scenario which demands that undercover hero Orpheus survives to take control of the gangs. The plan was put into motion by the Spoiler, but a mystery villain is playing, too. The red herring that the Penguin was this secret foe is laid to rest, but things don't look spiffy for Orpheus. Another African-American hero discarded by DC? We'll see.

WAR GAMES is looking too thin and moving too slowly. It needs an excitement transfusion as soon as possible. On my scale of zero to five, BATMAN: GOTHAM KNIGHTS #57 picks up a disappointing single Tony. I need more from this event.




Not long ago, I asked TONY POLLS voters to play TV DEATHWATCH and pick the shows they thought would be the first canceled in this new season. Here are the THURSDAY results:

Life As We Know It....18.89%
Blue Collar TV.....10%
Tru Calling.....6.67%
Will & Grace.....3.33%
Survivor: Vanuatu.....2.22%
Extreme Makeover.....1.11%
The Apprentice.....1.11%
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.....0%
Primetime Thursday.....0%
The O.C.....0%
Without a Trace.....0%
WWE Smackdown.....0%

I voted with the majority on this one. Drew Carey's new show appears - to me, at least - to have limited appeal. Of course, if it turns out to be really dumb, it could succeed.

CSI: Crime Scene Investigation - The Complete First Four Seasons CSI is one of only two shows I watch on Thursday. I'm not as big a fan of the show as I once was, but it's still worth watching, especially on such a slow night.

I watch ER with my Sainted Wife Barb, who is a pharmacist and the supervisor of the home infusion department for Kaiser in this neck of the woods. She has had considerable hospital experience, which explains her interest in a show which gets many "real-world" details wrong and which has such unappealing characters. I watch it with her because I love her, but, if you were to press me, I'd admit to a belief that not nearly enough helicopters have fallen on this group of doctors and nurses.

Moving right along, here are the FRIDAY results:

Dr. Vegas.....11.70%
Complete Savages.....8.51%
The Complex: Malibu.....8.51%
8 Simple Rules....6.38%
Star Trek: Enterprise.....4.26%
Joan of Arcadia.....3.19%
The Next Great Champ (encore).....3.19%
Medical Investigation.....2.13%
What I Like About You.....1.06%
America's Top Model (encore).....0%
Dateline NBC.....0%
Grounded For Life.....0%
Hope & Faith.....0%
Less Than Perfect.....0%
Third Watch.....0%

COMMANDO NANNY got the highest score of any series in this by-the-day competition. This show even creeped out the TV critics who got an advance look at it, what with a scene of the oldest daughter flirting with the nanny. The show's debut has been delayed due to, first, star Gerald McRaney's recent surgery and, more recently, by the departure of its producer. I wouldn't be surprised if the show never gets on the air.

Joan of Arcadia

The only new show I watch on Friday is JOAN OF ARCADIA, which I've praised in past columns. Joan and her family are dealing with perhaps too many major issues as the season opens, but the writing and acting is still first-rate.

The Avengers - The Complete Emma Peel Megaset I also watch THE AVENGERS on Friday nights on BBC America. I have seen most of these delightful episodes before, but they still entertain me greatly.

True confession. As a teenage comics fan captivated with the delectable Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), I created a comic series called THE YANK IN LONDON. It had a young Italian-American man teaming up with a beautiful and feisty widow to combat gangsters, spies, and other villains. It wasn't nearly as unsettling as COMMANDO NANNY, but it had its moments. If God is kind, the script, missing for at least three decades, will never surface.

Look for more of our TV DEATHWATCH in Saturday's TOT. In the meantime, why not vote on this week's TONY POLLS questions at the usual online ballot box:

These new questions all concern the DC-inspired cartoons which are currently airing on Cartoon Network and Kids WB: JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED, TEEN TITANS, and THE BATMAN. The questions will remain open for voting until sometime after midnight on Monday.

Thanks for spending a part of your day with me. I'll be back tomorrow with more stuff.

Tony Isabella

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Zero Tonys
ZERO: Burn your money before buying any comic receiving this rating. It doesn't *necessarily* mean there's absolutely nothing of value here - though it *could* - but whatever value it might possess shrinks into insignificance before its overall awfulness.

ONE: Buy something else. Maybe I found something which wasn't completely dreadful in the item, but not enough for me to recommend it when there are better comics available. I only want what's best for you, my children.

TWO: Basic judgment call. I found some value, but not enough to recommend it. My review should give you enough info to decide if you want to take a chance on it. Are you feeling lucky today, punk? Well, are you?

THREE: This denotes something I find perfectly respectable. There are better books out there, but I wouldn't regret buying this item. Based on my review, you should be able to determine if it's of interest to you. Let the Force guide you.

FOUR: I recommend anything earning this rating. Unless you don't like the genre, subject matter, or past work of the creators, I believe you'll enjoy this item. Isn't it uncanny how I can look right into your soul that way?

FIVE: Anything getting this rating is among the best comicdom has to offer. You should buy/read this, even if the genre/subject matter doesn't appeal to you. It's for your own good. Me, I live for comics and books this good...but not in a pathetic "Comic-Book Guy" sort of way.

Please send material you would like me to review to:

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