Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Ski Murder, Part 3: Life Model Decoy

When we last left Speed Saunders and Margot "Saunders-Girl" Lee, they were going to prepare a secret TEST for the suspected (and as yet unnamed) murderer of the ski-pole impaled corpse that Speed found (and carried three miles uphill in the snow back to the hotel).

"But... I was working on this magic trick where I pull a small fish out of my ear for the hotel talent showcase!"


Let's see what the ingenious snare is, shall we?


Ah; of course.


Yes, darts.  What better way for an Ace Investigator to determine whether a man has the strength to throw a ski-pole 50 feet at a moving target to pierce snow-wear and the human heart? Frankly, unless the man's dart throw EXPLODES a man-sized hole in the wall with its force, I'm not sure what playing darts will prove, other than that he's played darts before. Let's find out.

 

DENIED.
TALK TO THE HAND, SPEED.


I guess we won't see. Not only did the (still unnamed) suspect not fall for the trap, he casually demeaned Speed in the process, which is no mean feat! Move over, Hapsu; could this man finally be the arch-nemesis Speed Saunders deserves?

Speed is utterly flummoxed; no one has ever defied his will before!

It's like Inspector Clouseau contemplating the Pink Panther thief.

But Speed is nothing if not RAPID and he comes up with a new and even more absurd plan almost immediately.

This is going to be oomphy.

Well, it's easy to imagine a basic trap: an avalanche, a tiger-pit, a bear-trap.  But they aren't trying to physically catch the guy, they are trying to prove he's the murderer.  What on earth could you do to--

 😮

I am...

I'm just too dumbstruck to react to the fact that Speed is making a ski-dummy of himself out of some sticks and straw and that he believes not only that it will SKI for more than one foot before falling over but also that it will fool our (still unnamed) murderer; I leave that reaction to you.  I will, however, express my amazement that even Speed would own TWO of those same horrible snow outfits.

I'd be amazed if he recognizes it as anything at all, Speed.

I don't know about you, but I intend to organize an entire vacation around trying to replicate this scene with sticks and straws and extra snow clothes. It won't work, of course, but it will give me something to do while David is skiing, and, who knows, I may catch an unnamed murderer. which always makes for a successful vacation.

Anyway, this next panel? This goes in the Speed Saunders Gallery of Fame.

Good luck, indeed, Margot.


Shortly after this Margo sent out her resume to Slam Bradley, Bart Regan, Larry Steele, Buck Marshall, the Crimson Avenger, and even Cosmo, the Phantom of Disguise.  Was she keen on being known as "Slam-Girl"? Well, no, but moving on was imperative, and people had been calling her "Speed-Girl" back her back anyway.

Somehow, Speed thinks that this ski-dummy will draw out the murderer, who will try to kill Speed simply for asking him to play darts.  This is completely ludicrous, of course, but because it's what Speed wants and he's running out of panels, it's what happens, in defiance of all logic.

"In time"? In time for WHAT, Speed? To save your ski dummy's life?


The Ski-Stick Assassin's aim is true, 

I must say, they did a good job with the hair.

and Speed's Life Model Decoy takes the hit!

If he'd only had a brain.

Then Speed and the (still unnamed) murderer duke it out on the cliff, using grawlixes they borrowed from Popeye & Bluto.

Um, falling 12, maybe 16 feet, into a pile of snow isn't exactly a 'death plunge'. Not with Speed's thighs.


Speed, running out of time, plants his thighs and ends it with an explosive haymaker.

THE POWER OF THE SUN, IN THE PALM OF MY HAND.

The (still unnamed) murderer having been vanquished, Speed prepares to explain it all to you.

As always, it's just as Speed thought.


Here it comes: the Speedsplanation!

Black eye's a nice touch.

First of all, "M" is not an unusual initial.  SIGMA would be an unusual initial, Speed.  Second, the (still unnamed) killer has ANOTHER of Margot's handkerchiefs on him?  Just how loose with her hankies IS she? Or did he just buy his own pack?  

The part of Margot Lee will be played by television's June Lockhart.

Yes, I am certain people would believe the (still unnamed) murdered when he said you had the strength to impale Speed Saunders, who can carry a corpse three miles uphill in the snow, with a ski pole, lady.

That's the first thing Speed's said that's actually made any sense.

Look at that sad, imploring transquartomuralistic over-the-shoulder glance from the (still unnamed) murderer beseeching us for an identity: BUT WHAT WAS MY NAME?!  Sorry, Mr. Foxy, no time for that.  You thought you were going to become Speed's nemesis during your battle at Reichenbach Snow Ledge, but now you're just a faded line on Margot "Saunders-Girl" Lee's resume ("supported defeat of unnamed ski murdered by means of elaborate ruse"). 

Saturday, September 18, 2021

The Ski Murder, Part 2: The Ski-Stick

Having found a neat new corpse with a ski pole in its heart, Speed tesseracts directly in front of the face of the nearest uniformed, mustached authority figure. and takes charge, because of course he does.

"Mr. Saunders, will you... judge me harshly if I say I'm in love with you at first sight?"
"I already judged you before you even spoke."
"Then I have nothing to lose and everything to gain!"

There's a lot to unpack here in this panel.  First, Speed introduces himself (a courtesy, since everyone knows who he is).  He implies he carried the body three miles, uphill, in the snow; Speed is fit A.F., and must have thighs of steel.  He says "it looks like an accident"; a corpse with a ski pole embedded in its heart "looks like an accident."  Look, I'm no Ace Investigator, but I simply know of no accidents that could create this corpse, and watching industrial safety videos is one of my hobbies.  

Okay, fine; that's not true... we ALL know of an accident that could create this corpse because we've all SEEN it:

I mean, who DOESN'T remember Molly Post getting impaled by a hovercraft-hurled ski-pole in Batman #244 (September 1972)?

But it's a pretty safe bet that there are no hovercrafts in this Speed Saunders' story.

So the one last thing to notice in that panel is that Speed promises to "investigate in a routine way", which is probably the funniest thing he's ever said.  Sure ya will, Speed; I look forward to seeing what you consider "routine".

Apparently the first step in routine investigation is freaking out Ms Sigma.


"Do you have some sort of neurological problem that makes it hard to hold on to your handkerchiefs, Ms. Sigma?"

Speed must be pretty sure that the handkerchief is a false clue to confront her with it, unless he's just hoping for an immediate confession so he can wrap things up and get some skiing in.  Turns out to be a bit of both...


Whaddayaknow; another reformed female gang member willing to inform for Speed!  I think he gets a bulk rate.

Speed and the girl become swiftly acquainted, because that's how Speed does everything.

"I'll hunker down to give your word balloon some more room, because I'd REALLY like to move this along..."

Speed believes this whole frame-up story rather than asking how the (still unnamed, by the way) murderer managed to steal one of her handkerchiefs because he's already seen how careless she is with them, although why she so vehemently denied it was hers is never addressed and is completely unnecessary to the story. It's just one of those Speed Saunders details that make no sense.  Creator Fred Guardineer, after leaving comics, had a solid 20-year career in the postal service, and, while I'm sure that was a healthy decision for him and his family, I'm saddened that it deprived us of two decades worth of little mysteries like "why did Margot Lee freak out at a stranger returning her handkerchief on a train" that only Fred Guardineer could casually toss away like, well, like a discarded handkerchief.

Now I'm cold, I puff my pipe, but no one's there to see;
I ponder on the lesson of my life's insanity.

So now Margot Lee is going to be Saunders-Girl!  Will she get a puce dress and a crimson barcode scarf, or a cape made out of drapes and a complementarily horrible ski outfit?


Well, at least she got lunch.

Mere skiing bores Speed since it's no challenge to his thighs of steel, so he takes Margot to see where he found the corpse. At least there's still some blood to look at.

Maybe the killer can tesseract, too, Speed. Maybe YOU'RE the killer. That would save time!


Then Margot comes up with a ridiculous theory, not realizing that's Speed's job.

That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard of. Shut up, Margot; you're not fit to be Saunders-Girl!

First of all, it's a ski POLE. Only Brits call it a 'ski stick.'  Now it might comfort you to know that Fred Guardineer was born and raised in England and that's why his characters say 'ski stick', and, indeed, why Speed Saunders says so MANY of the odd things he does.  It might.  Unfortunately for you, it won't, because it's not true; Guardineer was born in Albany, as were his parents. The only British place he ever went was Bermuda on vacation with his parents when he was 10. And yet... "ski stick" it is.

Second, you just cannot throw a ski st-- POLE that way. Their balance makes that impossible; anyone who's ever held one would know that. Certainly not with the force required to traverse that distance and --with accuracy!-- pierce a snowsuit and a man's heart. The idea is ludicrous.

For god's sake, Fred, your father was a DARTMOUTH man ('03), how do you not know that?!  If you could kill people THAT way, Winter Carnival would be a bloodbath! And much more interesting.

Speed fact: that's the ACTUAL size of Speed's legs.


This theory is so patently absurd that
Speed immediately embraces it wholeheartedly. This is what happens when Speeds tries to figure things out WITHOUT using a library.


They're supposed to be sharpened, Speed; that's how they poke through the snowpack.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No.

No, Speed a ski-stick -- a ski-POLE is not "like a javelin; at fifty feet, thrown with any form, it would pierce any man." That's spectacularly wrong and in defiance of all physics.

However, you are the mad god Speed Saunders and the universe bows to your will, so this must be what happened.  I look forward to seeing what "test" you devise to determine that your (still unnamed!) suspect is the man who could make such a Herculean throw...

Thursday, September 16, 2021

The Ski Murder, Part 1: Another Handkerchief Clue


Boy, those were the days! Before THE BAT-MAN came along and ruined everything!


Speed's fashion sense was timelessly bad.

Speed Saunders was living large (and extremely LOUD, in mismatched patterns) on the cover of Detective Comics, which COMMANDED you to turn IMMEDIATELY to page 1 and read his Ski Murder adventure...and so we shall!


Clearly, this is going to be oomphy.

Time for another of Speed's vacations, which means cold weather, cold stares, and cold corpses. 

Pictured: cold stare.

Gotta appreciate Speed's consistency of wardrobe; even though he's on vacation, he's still wearing his puce Glenurquhart check with crimson barcode tie, so that everyone can recognize him.  Cleary, the Universe DOES recognize him, because it sends him... a dame with a clue-monogrammed handerkerchief!

I appreciate the caption. I would have assumed it was an extra-large nacho.

The Face of Disdain versus the Face of Judgement! Which will prevail? Meanwhile, Speed leaps on the Universe's clue.

An M! Or a W. Or a E.  Or a 3.  Or a capital Σ.  I'm sure Speed will guess correctly.

Well, it's not a red crescent, but it's something, and I'm sure Speed will make the most of it, by... ACCUSING THE WOMAN OF DROPPING IT.

"I DIDN'T DO IT, OFFICER!"

This being a Speed Saunders story, I must interpret the strange positioning of her fingers as a CLUE. I say it symbolizes a FORKED TONGUE, which means she's LYING.  Which is a good bet, since we saw her drop the handkerchief.

That counterfactual is all Speed needs!  Only Speed can contradict the Universe and get away with it, so now he's going to hover about this woman like a bad hat (a feeling she's already used to).

Don't worry, Speed; there'll be a corpse along soon enough, I'm sure.

Later, while stalking her...


Little does he know he's actually staring at an unusually large Hopper painting.

Speed gets bored with spying and tesseracts immediately into skiing, hoping to find a body in the snow. And guess what?

"My Speed-sense is tingling!"

Finally, Speed's (comparative) patience pays off: a corpse!


Speed's an aficionado of unusual murder weapons. Like sleighs and mannequin hands.

Now, it looks like Speed just pulls out Ms. Sigma's handkerchief to look at it again, but in fact he's finding ANOTHER one of her handkerchief's on the corpse's leg.  Look again, it's in the previous panel.


The reason Speed dresses like that is to make it impossible for your eyes to focus on the clues.

Like a boy who finds an interesting frog, Speed hauls his trophy back to show the gang!


Get some help, Speed. 

Our Hero and HIs Priorities

 

Hal Jordan is the hero Coast City deserves.

Thursday, September 09, 2021

Stargirl, Season Two: I Hate Stargirl Less

I watched the first five episodes of the new (second) season of Stargirl (which I have not been kind to in the past).  

I'm enjoying it more than the first season, which introduced so many characters, but (literally) wasted a lot of them.  Courtney is still irritating but at least she (and others) seem to be more aware of it.  Cindy ("Shiv") remains (and remains irritating) as Courtney's underwhelming foe, but that shouldn't surprise me since she's obviously designed as an anti-Courtney.  Beth Chapel continues to grow on me as a character and I actually said "I love you, Beth!" more than once out loud (which perhaps her parents should consider doing). I particularly enjoy her unexpected chemistry with Rick Tyler.  Sometimes the show wallows in dated stereotypes, but I give it credit: it often demonstrates that modern teens aren't as trapped by such stereotypes as previous generations were, and the relationship between Rick and Beth is a good example.

The annoying parts remain annoying (I'll get to that in a minute), but the show's gotten darker and more interesting and that helps.  Whereas last season's challenge was definitely a rule-the-country cabal of costumed villains, Eclipso is a cosmic-horror nightmare whom you can't punch into submission.  The show has done a wonderful job with the Shade, which is impressive, considering what a tricky character he is.  He's simply intrinsically threatening and even when he's on "your side", it's not exactly comforting.  Things will get darker still when Jennie/Jade finds her brother Todd/Obsidian, who has darkness powers as well.

Somehow they managed to work Paintball, of all people, into this mix, as an unexpected treat; even though it was a stretch, I enjoyed it.

So, I'm enjoying the main plot.  Meanwhile, the JSA is expanding (Green Lantern's daughter Jade shows up, as does the Thunderbolt and some original members will be popping up) and a new Injustice Society is forming (I'm jazzed for Fiddler Junior, whose actor seems good).  Beth is facing up to the realities of her homelife, Rick is taking an unexpectedly humane approach to an old problem, Cameron and Courtney continue to fail to be a couple, and Artemis's parents give us a surprisingly complex view of parenthood.

I do continue to be annoyed by endless examples of Dramedy Ridiculousness that riddle the show needlessly.  Such as...

There is no internet. Sylvester "Star-Spangled Kid/Starman" Pemberton, the genius who invented the nearly-magical technology of the cosmic staff, is crawling his way across the country, looking for breadcrumbs to locate his former sidekick, Pat "Stripesy" Dugan, including asking Pat's ex-wife who is (of course) a waitress at a diner, like this is an episode of Route 66 (look it up, kids).  Hey, Sly; try Google. Pat didn't even bother to change his name and he owns a business, so you know there is a record of that on-line (and on the Pit Stop's website, and don't try to tell me it doesn't have one).  How did he find Pat's ex-wife if he can't find Pat? Ridiculous.  The ONLY possible save will be if, when he does find Pat, Starman says, "it never occurred to be that you'd be dumb enough not to change your name."  That would be pretty on-model for both characters.

Surprise vacation plans! Uh-huh.  In real life, parents do not spring 'surprise vacation plans' on the children and then react with disbelief when the children are not thrilled.  This is a sitcom thing to manufacture conflict.  It's believable that parents might have a different idea for their children of what constitutes a good vacation, but their IDEA would definitely be mentioned to the children before plans were made.  And the dog would not get a vote.  Ridiculous.  Please spare us these cringeworthy moments that make the family unlikeable.  Also, the kids clearly don't need or want a trip; not being in school is vacation enough for them.  The parents could easily go away for two weeks on their own and let someone look after the kids while they are away.  Besides... those kids are old enough to take care of THEMSELVES for two weeks. I'm pretty sure if you can defeat the Injustice Society, you can manage to feed yourself for a fortnight.

Catholic guilt! Ugh; Yolanda Montez.  I guess she's just going to be the Permanent Self-Doubt Character.  Look, we can all tell that Brainwave is living rent-free in her head somewhere and that's the cause of her headaches. But OF COURSE she's interpreting that as guilt issues for killing him.  Look, I don't mean to dismiss that killing someone, even in self-defense, would be pretty traumatizing for a teenager (anyone, really).  But saddling the Catholic Latina character with this issue?  Like a lot of the characterization choices on the show, it just seems a bit lazy.  Also, the blatant retcon of Mike's vehicular murder of Icicle as an 'accident' so that only Yolanda has this guilt issue was embarrassing.  Apparently the writers finally noticed that what was a joke when Mike did it was supposed to be trauma/drama when Yolanda did it, and I'm not even going address the sexism of that.  

No More Secrets, Except This One.  The computer that writes CW scripts is simply unable to write them without the Secrets Quadrille:

  1. Characters Keep Secrets from One Another
  2. That Causes Problems and They Uncover Those Secrets
  3. Their Feelings are Hurt, but they Work through Them and Promise "No More Secrets!"
  4. Something Even More Important Comes Up, That One of them Has to Keep from the Other(s) for their Safety; Repeat

This was already trite before CW started doing it. In every show. In every season.  Please stop embarrassing yourself and us with this routine.  Reality check: the parents in this show have been letting their children run around fighting supervillains TO THE DEATH.  Not telling them that Eclipso killed a little girl because you 'didn't want to scare them' is laughably unbelievable.  The Shade seems like he's actually interested in protecting the children; you just seem like you're interested in protecting them from the truth. He's protecting their lives; you're protecting their innocence.

Padlock Security. You know, Pat, if you really don't want someone to be able to find S.T.R.I.P.E. so easily, you might at least put it in A BOX.  

Arbitrary School.  Parents cannot simply enroll you in summer school to keep you out of trouble, Yolanda.  You can't flunk History and English without noticing it, Courtney. You can't just make a student take a second entirely different final after they pass one, Ms. Rick's Teacher, without having to justify that to the Administration.  You can't call parents in on the last day of school and tell them their child has flunked and has to go to summer school with no prior warning, Mr. Principal.  And someone really should have mentioned that THERE IS A SUPERVILLAIN HIDEOUT under the school so the building could be closed to clear that out during the summer.

Tuesday, September 07, 2021

The Carnival of Doom: The Martian Gaslighter

When last we left them, Detective John "Martian Manhunter" Jones and his tagalong, Willy, were following the crooks who'd just robbed the Wonderland box office into the  TUNNEL OF THRILLS.  Let's see what THRILLS the tunnel has in store!

First up: GIANT ELMER FUDD!


That is substantially less thrilling than a giant robot bear. Why not just take a walk downtown?

Phew, lucky for those crooks they have a "ROPE" as part of their "special equipment"!

Dude; Martian-breath.

Oh no, sorry; solved by spinning; silly me.

J'onn has superspeed, you see, but he doesn't have super-reaction time or superfast-perception; that's why all his applications of it
 are static ones like spinning, otherwise he'd kill himself (or others) almost immediately. Seriously.


"Something like that."
J'onn has always had a dry sense of humor.


Willy has now been primed to ignore whatever shenani-martia-gans John gets up henceforth to defeat and capture the crooks.  

Um, J'onn; if it's your Martian form, it's not a 'guise'. "True guise" is an oxymoron. 


Next up: THE HALL OF MASKS!

Nothing says "quality foe able to take on a godlike being like the Martian Manhunter" than "scared in the Tunnel of Thrills".

At least they saved these props to use later when J'onn started to combat the Idol-Head of Diabolu.

Okay, there is a secret exit in the tunnel, so the crooks plan to use it for their escape makes sense.  Unlike what actually happens.
 
This is clearly a special effect and not an actual threat.

I hate when J'onn does this.

Clearly, just more of the SAME special effect. In an amusement park ride designed to be full of them.  What is wrong with these people? They live in a town with giant robot bears and moth-copters, why are they so easily frightened?


That is, when J'onn goes to great lengths for most of a story to stay hidden and then decides at the end of the story that the solution to his problem is... to stop hiding.  

Now would be a great time to jump out of the boat and head for that secret exit, boys.

Turns out that's all J'onn had to do; put on a one-man strobe light show (like the disco queen that he is) to completely FREAK OUT these hardened criminals, who instead of following their escape plan, run out of the tunnel.

Right into the arms of burly Officer Mike Hanson.  Not that I blame them.


Why didn't they assume the images of J'onn were part of the tunnel's thrills? I dunno. Why didn't they use their secret exit? I dunno.  What did J'onn really accomplish with his spook show? I dunno. 

"Good! Because it's my day off!"

It's a Martian Manhunter story.  In a Martian Manhunter story, everything happens for the same reason; to create an opportunity to force J'onn to use his vague set of abilities in some new and unusual way in a different setting. That, at heart, is why the Martian Manhunter never became very popular.  The "Martian Manhunter" seemed more like party game that writers were playing rather than a set of ongoing challenging adventures of a consistent character in a broadening and increasingly detailed world.

Speed Saunders tells you he was right;
John Jones tells you you were wrong.