Monday, November 07, 2022

Speed Saunders versus The Spider, Part 1: Traveling Between Panels

I swear to Christian Bale's Batman Voice, this was an accident.  While I was doing research for my last post on Golden Age panel layouts, I (truly) accidentally stumbled across this story and I got entangled in it like Tommy Troy in John Raymond.

Come to think of it, that's a story I wouldn't mind reading. Writing, even.

Anyway, the story's not about either Tommy or John. It's about the web of the

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I was trapped by its pulpish madness and could make no sense of it! Who could untangle it and rescue me?! Only one person:

When Speed Saunders is your only hope, you know you are in trouble.

"The Spider" has been baffling the authorities for two months, and Speed Saunders, Ace Investigator of Indeterminate Jurisdiction and Undefined Authority, offers his help to the Police Chief of Indeterminate Name and Undefined Lighting Schemes.

"Can you solve the crimes, then identify and apprehend The Spider? That'd be great, Speed, thanks."

Before Police Chief Watermelon can even answer, he gets a relevant call on the chiaroscurophone.

"Why didn't it go 'THERE IS AN URGENT CALL ON THE PHONE'?" thought Steve.
That's what my phone always says. Must be a cheaper model."

I'd love to debate whether the artist gave Chief Watermelon the mustache and eyebrows or whether he drew them on himself, but there's no time, because this is the Saundersverse, and when some says "RIGHT AWAY", they're not fooling, sister.  So before the chiaroscurophone's even been recradled, Speed, using one of his special abilities, has tesseracted himself between panels directly to Durand's Little Night Club to save time.

Meeting noted fop, fake mustache wearer, and emerald fancier Durand, Speed, using another of his special abilities (Judgement Face), forces Durand's to finish his sentence for him like it's love at first sight (and omit punctuation, in the interest of time #punctuationisforpunks). 


Reaching into the small watch-pocket of his waistcoast, Durand slips out the tiny but terrifying calling card of The Spider:

Okay, it's not tiny. It is a giant, elaborately decorated spider statuette. Clearly, all Speed needs to do is hang out at the duty-free shops at Guanacaste's LIR Airport and see who buys the largest number of them.  But that's not Saunder's speed. As we know from his past adventures, he needs to either:

(b) go to The Library; or 
(c) happen upon a Useful Female Informant.

Yeah, sure, I assumed Durand was gay, given his longing stare into Speed's Judgement Face in the last panel; "Judge me, Speed; harshly."  But even I'm shocked that Durand owns an emerald necklace.  Please tell me he doesn't wear an emerald necklace with a blue three-piece, I think I'd faint at the sight.

Well, it looks like Speed has chosen (a) see an Expert on the Relevant Object Type, one with the one-the-nose name of Ruskovsky The Russian Count-ski.  Speed needs some more recharge time before he can tesseract again, so he'll need to climb all NINE steps in that yellow staircase in only a few moments to use the Speedmobile, then SPEED crosstown to keep up the pace.

No joke here. Just a pause to appreciate how freaking gorgeous Golden Age art could be.
It may have lacked in detailed precision, but its sense of composition was wondrous.

Apparently the other driver was admiring the panel composition rather than keeping his eye on the road. Certainly it's not that Speed was driving too fast. 

"So, you witnessed the accident, Mr. Foreground?"
"Well, officer... technically, I was only there to provide depth of field."
"Same with me, officer." "Thank you, Mr. Background."

Speed experiences a splinter of fenders, which is probably not the right word, but he doesn't have time to (b) go to the Library to look up the right one. Fortunately, a cop is not necessary, since Speed is a wildcard that can serve in place of any law enforcer, and he hastens to confront the occupants of the offending vehicle with his Judgement Face.  


I love that "I'M SPEED SAUNDERS" is all Speed feels he needs to say in this, or most any, situation. Turns out, he is (as usual) correct.  Because this person is neither the Jack of Clubs, nor merely a woman wearing a vanilla fudge cake for a hat. Turns out Speed has (c) happened upon a Useful Female Informant, who was already coming to see him; what a time-saver! Well worth the price of headlight. Who is this angel of efficiency?

Speed Saunders stories produce panels like this; powerful little espressos of absurdity that are condensed versions of the larger insanity of the Saundersverse that permits them to occur.  They are called "Speedspressos".

Of course; the Useful Female Informant is also the wife of the Expert in the Relevant Object Type!

"Also, I need a sugar fix. May I have a piece of your hat?"

In the interest of time, Speed simply abandons the Speedmobile (which happens in most stories where he uses the Speedmobile) to be picked up by his sidekick and cousin, Slow Saunders, Ace Auto Restorationist, and kalakas with Countess Cake-Hat to the home of the count. 

The house is strangely deserted?
What about her HAT?!

"Allow me to investigate".  NOW we are going to see Speed Saunders do some Ace Investigating!  He'll observe! Find clues! Go to the library! Do research! Make deductions! Develop theories! Outline a plan! Lay a trap! Then--


he'll simply round a corner and confront the Spider who has captured the Count.

Wow! Case closed! This is record time, even for Speed Saunders. He'll have time to take the Speedmobile to the autobody shop and have a second piece of the Countess's hat.

Look out, Speed; Spider's got a multi-donut gun.

Hm, the Spider's not creepy at all; he looks like the Phantom Stranger's gay little brother. He's a handsome, clean-shaven, lanky sharpie--one agile enough to take advantage of nearby secret panel to escape!

"Are you alright, dear?"
"Yes, but how did you get Speed Saunders, whom I recognize, here so quickly, and why are you dressed like the Jack of Clubs?"

Can't you hear the envy in Speed's voice? "The wall just ... opened for him.  Allowing him to travel MORE QUICKLY from one place to another.  I must learn how he does this. If I only I had openings in walls that I could access while pathfinding."  This was the panel that made me realize I don't think I've ever seen Speed Saunders actually use a DOOR before.  Usually he tesseracts or shadow-travels or is simply in and out of the Speedmobile without transition.

Speed may not know how doors work but he's handled secret panels before. How will Speed handle this secret panel situation? Tomorrow; he'll handle it tomorrow.


Anonymous said...

This entire post is a delight. That is all.

Bryan L said...

I am captivated by Serge's palazzo pants.

Scipio said...

I considered that very situation for some time, Bryan, taking into account Serge's foreign origins. But it's still my considered opinion that he's wearing a dressing gown.