Friday, July 30, 2021

The Persian Jewel Mystery, Part 3: AM I RIGHT?!

To identify the robbery suspect in this case, Speed went to the Rogues Gallery; to identify the murder victim, he woke up the Dean; to identify the woman accomplice he goes to a beat cop.  In no case did he just say, "Name and ID, please."  No, I don't get it either, but my degree's not in ace investigating.

Why are they UNKNOWNS? Do people in the Golden Age not have IDs?  I give up.

Why on earth does this gigantic beat cop who patrols the pub district know a floozy who hangs out with society swells? Because it saves time, I suppose.  Speed Saunders has no time for false leads.  

I probably shouldn't assume she's a floozy, but I was just trying to save time, because that's what Speed does.

"I mean, no DECENT woman could afford an apartment this nice. You've got at least two of these lamps and these nice vases of flowers. AND they match.  You don't get that working at a pajama factory, sister."

"Look, toots, we're running out of time and panels, so I'm just going to use my Judgement Face, accuse you of the crime and you're going to confess, okay? Trust me, I've done this before, it's all simpler this way."

Speed is running out of patience with this Nora woman and her aggressively matchy-matchy apartment, with stolen curtains from the Persian restaurant he started the story in, where his date (Carol? Sure, Carol) is probably still waiting, patiently sewing red crescents on the breasts of her dress and making small talk with the manager about Persian antiquities. 



Realizing he's up against a tough cookie, Speed pulls out all the stops here. Judgement Face, Accusing Colonel Mustard in the Ballroom with the Candlestick, Chiaroscuro, and a violent outbreak of Fred Guardineer Lines. Turns out it's all too much for her and she faints.

"Bring the stomach pump, Hudson; the BIG ONE. And my camera."

Speed has a unique concept of "good".

Was Nora drugged like the Consul? Or did she overdose on Speed? We'll never know, there's no time for that, because Speed is ready to wrap this case up.

"God knows I certainly can't be seen with you in THAT outfit, you look like a ward matron in a Roger Corman film while I'm dressed for a Persian nightclub."

Somehow Speed knows where everyone lives even when he doesn't know quite who they are.


Takes a strong man to stare into the Face of Judgement.

C'mon, Bennet. I mean, The Woman confessed (that's her job), the Safecracker opened the safe (that's his job), the Persian antiquities dealer identified the Persian antiquities (that's his job), so that leaves you, Bennet, as the Obvious Thug who killed the Safecracker.

Somehow, it makes even less sense when Speed explains it.

It's a reveal so ridiculous, even the killer won't buy it.

"On you? But... then who was the guy who did that?  Why would he get rid of them at a nightclub? Whose manager happened to be a Persian who could identify them? At table of an Ace Investigator? But the Consul told you about the jewels, so how did having them 30 minutes earlier help you at all? It makes no sense, I tell you, I'm obviously innocent!"

Clearly, none of this makes any sense at all, and Bennet/Borden, being a man of strong will, rebels against the mad god Saunders, who is clearly simply bending reality to bring the story to close to meet his self-imposed deadline.


But Nora, symbolically costumed as a tin soldier, dutifully protects the mad god like a faithful automaton.

It's kind of like "Westworld", with Speed as Dr. Ford.

"That's enough, BERNARD!"

Speed 'makes a plea for Nora', which I don't believe for a second and you know she and her hat are going to jail for a nice long time but fortunately she's already got the dress for it.

Then, just to make SURE that no one thinks otherwise, Speed breaks the Fourth Wall and TELLS YOU THAT THIS ALL MAKES SENSE AND YOU HAD BETTER AGREE.

"S-s-sure, Speed. It was a fine case. REAL fine."


Wednesday, July 28, 2021

The Persian Jewel Mystery, Part 2: Waking The Dean

Persian Consul Synade explains to Speeds Saunders that he just happened to have one of his fainting spells right before his guest, Mr. Nolan, whose corpse is still in the room, was shot.  

Pictured: idiosyncratic Persian apostrophe use.

What might seem like a pretty convenient excuse to you or me seems to Speed Saunders like a pretty convenient excuse ...

to order a stomach pumped.

For I Have No Mouth and I Must Be Stomach Pumped.

What fun to be a mad god like Speed Saunders; with all authority at his whim, he can order anyone to make anyone to do anything.  "Bring Doctor Hudson and a stomach pump! Make my horse a senator! Do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around! Make him eat a prawn!  Let them wear ganache!"  

Naturally, the consul, in standard Persian profile, thanks Speed for the forced stomach pumping, oh, and one more thing...

he mentions that the missing Sassinid Empire jewels were stolen from HIM. I think I probably would have mentioned a likely motive for the murder before having my stomach pumped, but maybe that's just me and I'm no Persian.


Speed of course had simple pocketed the Sassanid jewels from the nightclub rather than, say, turn them over to the Medized Commissioner Safetybelt, knowing that he himself would probably solve that case before the police anyway, so it would save time and Speed is all about saving time.  

Which is why the very next panel he's already tesseracted behind the curtain in the other room, camera in hand, to snap a picture of the suspects.

Did he have the camera with him already at the restaurant? Or just caused it to appear from the fifth dimension?  I like to imagine he made Dr. Hudson go out and buy him one.

Wait, that's square-headed Bennet with ganache-hat lady, but who is the guy in between them? We haven't met him or seen, him the police haven't said any about who he is, and Speed hasn't interviewed him, but THERE'S NO TIME FOR THAT BECAUSE SPEED HAS FILM TO DEVELOP.

I'm sure he didn't take the time to develop the film himself;
probably dumped the task on Cousin Slow.
"But, Speed, what's this all abo--"

Armed with the pics of Bennet, Ganache Hat Lady, Mr. In-Between,  and the Corpse of Nolan, Speed visits the photo morgue at the police department.  There, with the photo morgue superintendent to help screen the pics, Speed is able to identify Mr. In-Between as a professional safe-cracker.  

For I Have No Eyes and I Must Screen.

I... I'm confused.  Did the Consul not know who Harry Karr was? If not, why was he partying with him? If SO, why was he partying with him? Everyone knows you don't mess with Mr. In-Between.  

Why is Speed trying to figure out who the people the Consul was partying with were instead of just asking the Consul?  This does not seem like it saves time at all. I guess it's hard to question someone when you've shoved a tube down his throat.  

"I see it's been six months since your last visit..."

Anyway, instead of asking the Consul or the police who the murdered man was, Speed takes what must seem to him like the ONLY logical course of action.

Who needs the internet when you can just wake up random people and force them to answer your questions?

He goes to wake the dean of the college in the middle of the night to ask him.  And he better have the answer, if he knows what's good for him, because Speed's face is ALREADY pushing at the Fourth Wall and he's not afraid to break it.

It's the Metropolitan University because, of course, branch universities do not merit visits from Speed Saunders.

Whoa, rough night, eh, Dean?  I like to imagine that the Dean looks wrecked because Speed does this to him three times a week.  But, like everyone else, the Dean is terrified to tell him to bugger off lest Speed wish him into the cornfield or instruct the authorities to sell his organs on the black market.  

This being a Speed Saunders story, the Dean does recognize Nolan as... an Expert on Persian Antiquities.

Fred Guardineer's world is full of Many Little Parallel Lines.

Hm, this raises an interesting question: why would an expert on Persian antiquities be killed at the site of a Persian antiquities robbery? Seems like someone used him to identify what was worth stealing. Which raises a much MORE interesting question:

why bother using Nolan for that when the manager of the local nightclub can do the same thing at a glance just because he's Persian?

Monday, July 26, 2021

The Persian Jewel Mystery, Part 1: "I didn't order this!"


I have to appreciate that when Speed Saunders bothers to stop to give a name to stories--which doesn't always happen--they aren't really titles so much as they are subtitles.  It's not "Red Crescents of Doom: The Killers of Kurdistan", just "The Killers of Kurdistan".  Not "The Consul's Chambers: The Persian Jewel Mystery", just "The Persian Jewel Mystery".  There's a reason the man is called "Speed", people, he's got six pages, and has no intention of wasting them on literary gift wrapping.  His other cases include, by the way, "The Crossbow Mystery", "The Mammoth Mystery", "The Northwoods Mystery", "The Spy Mystery", and "The Railroad Mystery", which contain, respectively, a crossbow, a mammoth, a north woods, a spy, and a railroad. He's an investigator, not a man of mystery.

Speed must remember not to stare at his date, lest his Judgement Face cause her to confess, faint, or spontaneously combust.

Before we go on, indulge me on a quick thought experiment. You are high-class jewel thief in 1938 and you suddenly find yourself with some stolen goods on your hands that are too hot to handle. Do you:

a.  Put them in a safe deposit box or similar personal safe place until later?
b.  Put them in a more private location that can't be traced to you?
c.  Ditch them entirely in an unrelated, random place like a sewer or a bush? or
d.  Find a nightclub, search for the one ace investigator known to every authority figure in the city and give his date the jewels right in front of him?

If you picked (d), congratulations and welcome home to the Golden Age.

The Golden Age is the only place where things happen that would be too far-fetched even on Frasier.

Understandably, Speed is incensed and demands to see the manager, like the Karen he is.

"RUBIES?!  What's the meaning of this?! I ordered EMERALDS!  My god, rubies aren't even IN SEASON."

The manager turns out to be, with unimaginable convenience, a Persian who can, like any Persian, identify the stolen jewelry as rare gems from the Sassanid Empire.

This triptych is almost eerie in its unnatural syncopation.  It's like aliens are trying to communicate to us but the only human art form they have ever seen is old comic books; what is it they are trying to say?

We learn so many things from this triptych.  That the manager is aware of the nobility of the Persian profile. That everyone knows Speed Saunders and that the authorities know where he is at all times.  That if you don't have red crescents over your breasts, you can't hold Speed's attention for long.

Speed tesseracts immediately into the office of the Police Authority Figure, who had wisely strapped himself in to brace for the impact of Speed's arrival.

"I don't like to bother you."  Yeesh, what a lickspittle; Speed Saunders has got every authority under his sway like he's Parker Lewis Can't Lose.

"I'm giving the case to you, along with my daughter's virginity... and my own, if you'll have it!"  Calm down, Commissioner Safetybelt, what's the Persian consul got on you? Afraid you'll never be able to get seated by another Persian restaurant manager if you don't clear him?

Then we are treated to that rarest of scenes:

Speed arriving somewhere other than by direct teleportation.

The demanding begins immediately because Speed is KEENLY aware that he wasted an ENTIRE PANEL on that artsy silhouetted staircase establishing shot.

"And, please, make sure to leave out any details, no matter how important they may seem, I simply don't have the time!"

That remarkably square-headed fellow Speed's interviewing is named "Bennet".  I feel it's important to tell you this because, even though he's a major suspect and his identity is essential to the plot, THE COMIC BOOK DOESN'T.  Speed has no time for "Tell me how it happened, MR. BENNET"; if you want that kind painstaking handholding, then you can follow the adventures of his cousin, Slow Saunders, Ace Art Restorationist.

It takes a secure woman to wear a giant ganache bonbon her head.  Particularly during the Depression.

Just to help you keep up to Speed, that's a (so-far) unnamed woman with a giant ganache bonbon on her head, Bennet (who is her... date?), the unseen but referenced Nolan (who is now a corpse in the next room), Speed Saunders' back (because, if you haven't noticed it by now, artist Fred Guardineer is REALLY into drawing people from the back) and the guy in the glasses is Persian Consul Syade.

"Here... where we can finally relax and be ourselves beside this corpse still oozing blood from the bullet hole in its skull."

Next: The Pump, The Gallery, and The Dean.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

The Killers of Kurdistan, Part 3: Clever Ruses

Speed Saunders has used his dramatic authority powers to seal the building and time-plucks young Adolf Hitler out of Bavarian Infantry Regiment 16 to assist with the investigation of Mr. Trelawney's murder.

"I admire ze orderliness of zis kitchen."
"Focus, Adolf."

Speed then makes a big deal out of finding a "secret panel", which, to me, looks like a decidedly NON-secret panel: a pantry pass-through that allows servants to easily transfer new and used trays to the main room.  But even if it wasn't a secret panel before, it better damned well BECOME one when Speed Saunders says it is.

It opens at his very touch. Like a metropolitan library, or Trelawney.

Sure enough, because it is the will of Saunders, the Death Weapon is Revealed.

It turns out to be a surrealist art installation. Damned surrealists; never trust 'em.

Yes, the hand we saw shooting Trelawney wasn't a human hand at all! It was a mechanical hand, activated by a human hand pulling a string about eight inches behind it.  Because... 

well, honestly, I can't tell you why someone would do that.  Maybe Rube Goldberg or Salvador Dalí was one of the Killers of Kurdistan, and if you think that seems unlikely, remember that so were Tom and Trelawney.

A group of avant-garde art critics debate the semiotic significance of the murder weapon quickly before Adolf can have the Berlin Fire Brigade burn it as degenerate art. Fortunately, Adolf's busy grabbing a maid he suspects of being with the French resistance as Speed Saunders tesseracts directly before her and simply STARES her into confessing, like he does.

Wonder Woman's Lasso of Truth is made of Speed Saunders' beard stubble.

Then she dumps a lot of unnecessary personal backstory like she's Louise Bourgé in Death on the Nile to give an illusion of depth to the mystery.

"I, meanwhile, as the sun extricated itself from the horizon like a gently absconding lover, was applying Ricil to les yeux pour un maquillage complet, harmonieux, y parfait with my newly patented mascara appliqué, remembering the simple days of my childhood with my mother, a widow of La Guerre Mondiale..." 

As a fifth-dimensional being, Speed Saunders has little patience for linear narrative and causality, so rather than listen to Louise drone on, he simply uses his Voice of Authority to command Adolf to shoot the next person he sees outside the window, under the assumption that it will be the guilty party (or at least someone worthy of being shot).

Lots of Adolf jokes to make here and I'm not going near any of 'em.

As it happens, that person is not only Louise's boyfriend but one of the Killers of Kurdistan and operator of the Rube Goldberg Murdering Device.

You'll note that this makes a lovely bookend to the panel where Tom's body is discovered, which is how the story starts.  Golden Age had style.

Let me lampshade this for you.  Trelawney, who is (accidentally) a member of the Killers of Kurdistan and who has known, for years, that they will eventually try to kill him has had in his employ a man with a wardrobe of v-neck tee shirts and a prominent "red crescent" tattoo that is the MARK of the Killers of Kurdistan.  Trelawney may have been an Expert on Eastern Lore but you can see why he needed an Ace Investigator.

An Ace Investigator with a clever ruse...!

"I vill establish an eggsclusive zphere of influence!"
"However you want to put it, Adolf."

Naturally, if Speed Saunders "means to see if something works" then that thing had BETTER work, if it knows what's good for it. So he tesseracts onto Rhett Croissante's elbow and confronts her with his ultimate weapon: his face.

What I wanna know is: how could Louise's boyfriend have named this woman as his boss when this woman doesn't even have a name? "You know... the lady with the red crescents atop her breasts..."

As you would expect, there is no defense against Speed Saunders' face.

"The Veiled Prophetress of the Killers of Kurdistan" sounds like a Dr. Strange villain.

I'm at a loss as to why killing foreign fops like Tom and Trelawney would help her "rival Hassan".  It's clearly some sort of Gypo-Bax situation that I, not being an Expert on Eastern Lore, cannot comprehend.  

For a prophetress, she didn't see the future too well, did she?  Shoulda taken off the veil.  But who could imagine that she'd be identified as a member of the Killers of Kurdistan just because she was wearing their sigil on her breasts, and around her neck, and on her handker-chief, and god knows where else? 

Don't worry about her. Since she's such an over the top foreign femme fatale, Adolf gets her a work-release job fighting against Wonder Woman;
work makes her free.

You can certainly see why Speed Saunders is the star of Detective Comics! There was no time to show it, but I'm convinced that off-panel before he died Trelawney willed his estate to Speed, who just has to patch up that kitchen window and fire Louise before moving in.