More Ponytail Action

DETECTIVE COMICS #1, DC Comics, March 1937
From the people who made Superman tell us to "Slap a Jap" comes Detective Comics #1's centerpiece Slam Bradley story, "The Streets of Chinatown", and it's the single best reason to buy the Greatest Golden Age Stories Ever Told hardcover. It's the only story I've seen from Detective #1, but I can't imagine the other 9 being so memorable.

Siegel & Shuster's Slam Bradley predates their Superman by a year and is a tough, macho and RACIST private eye from the wholesome 1930s. That Fu Manchu type on the cover isn't in that story, but it's much the same: An educational tale about the so-called Yellow Menace. Of course, if Asians were really as wimpy and drug-addled as they are portrayed here, I can't see them constituting any kind of "menace".

So our man Slam is beating up some Chinese for no apparent reason other than because he enjoys it ("Slam is having a swell time") when the cops bust in for a freelance job. That job? Guarding a rich bitch's puppy. Shades of Paris Hilton.
Mr. torn shirt won't do it! There's just not enough Chinese-bashing in it. So he hands it off to his comic relief assistant and storms out. But Slam was wrong: the Chinese kidnap the girl for their own evil ends and he has to go and get her. Well, he doesn't have to, but since he gets to threaten, bully, punch and even whip some Chinese, he wants to.

After crawling through sewers with more traps than an old school D&D dungeon, he steals one of the Chinese's uniforms and comes upon the main villain. You can tell he's top dog because he has the Fu Manchu moustache and beard. I love the "What Slam saw!" caption.
As the girl's luscious back is about to get the strap, Slam swings into action. Within seconds, his shirt begins to rip. Check it out!
Just how fast is he going for his sleeves to tear off like that? Minutes later, he's bare-chested in the panel that can only be described as the single greatest action shot in comics history - if only it weren't so wrong:
Is there anything more macho than swinging a guy by the pigtail and using him to whirlwind all his buddies into submission? Slam is so macho, it begs the question: What is he overcompensating for? Look at the last two panels of the strip for a possible answer. In the first one, the rich bitch totally falls for him despite his being a real asshole (typical), and he brutally refuses a threesome with his comic relief. Everything's normal there.
In the second panel, it's some time later (he's changed) and he's dumping her, saying "Sorry Rita! 'Shorty' and I love trouble - but not 'women trouble'." So what happened there? Did the threesome in fact take place and Slam found something there he didn't expect? Or was he always prone to wearing cleavaged pirate shirts?

And if "Slam goes to town" isn't a metaphor for something, what about "Skyscraper death"? I'm not versed in homoerotica enough to understand.


De said...

I read this in a microfiche collection several years ago and it still rings in my memory. You're right about the other stories being fairly unmemorable, except for maybe Speed Saunders who would later be retconned as a relative of the current Hawkgirl. The rest of the detective stories are variations on a theme (a magician detective, a boyfriend-girlfriend pairing, cowboy detective, etc.).

According to my notes, Fui Onyui (Fooey on You-ee, there's another nice bit of 1930's racism for you) actually returns to battle Slam Bradley in Detective #22. Also in that issue, is an actual Fu Manchu story—"The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu."


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