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Gang Busters 66
"The Convict in Cell 6!"

COVER IMAGE NOT FOUND DC Comics (National Periodical Publications); Oct.-Nov. 1958; Whitney Ellsworth, official editor (actual editing was probably done by Jack Schiff or maybe Mort Weisinger). The cover feature is "The Convict in Cell 6!" and the convict in question has obtained a ring of keys, with which he has opened the door of Cell 6, and a gun which he is holding on the prison warden, a distinguished white-haired sort, and a uniformed guard. "All right, Warden, I'm taking over now!"

I came across this book while looking for something else in my "DC miscellaneous" box, and thought it might make an interesting offbeat review.. Though it's only technically on-topic for the list; it falls within the traditional Silver Age time frame of 1956 (SHOWCASE #4) on, but in spirit, the content clearly belongs to the interregnum between Golden and Silver Ages. Specifically, this title, which began in 1947 and was loosely based on a popular radio and TV show, is as close as straight-laced DC came to that much maligned "Atomic Age" genre, the crime comic. It features duels between cops and robbers, with no costumed heroes on hands to upstage the cops. But unlike the racier Wertham-condemned crime comics like Lev Gleason's CRIME DOES NOT PAY, this book clearly made the cops rather than the robbers the "heroes" of the stories, and avoided explicit gore and sensationalism-- like DC's "horror" book, HOUSE OF MYSTERY, it weathered the Comics Code with little difficulty.

The first story in the issue is "The TV Patrolmen!" (With one or two exceptions, I have no idea who wrote and little idea who drew any of these stories. This one however looks like it *might* be the work of Bill Ely, who later drew RIP HUNTER TIME MASTER.) The splash panel shows a detective and pair of uniformed cops puzzled because a radio call reports that an armored car is missing, while their surveillance TV set clearly shows the armored car safely entering its garage. Detective Carl Moore, protagonist and narrator of this tale, explains how he has been assigned to a new anti-crime project; the siting of surveillance TV cameras at "strategic spots around the city" to keep a 24 hour eye on potential crime. Among the camera locations are banks, department stores, jewelry stores and the bus terminal. As the first test of the system, a camera catches a thief breaking into a jewelry store window; as he flees, other cameras reveal his escape route and his change of clothes for disguise purposes, and the crook is utterly puzzled when a patrol car catches up with him. "How'd you know me in this disguise?" "A little bird told us, Buster-- an ELECTRONIC bird!" But a hitch shows up when an armored car company reports one of its cars missing, even though cameras have monitored its entire run from the bank to the garage. Baffled, Detective Moore watches the TV record of the car's run over and over again until he spots a telltale clue. Immediately, he puts out a call for "inter-state trucking stations" to be on the alert and inspect all cargos. The call for an inspection leads the drivers of one semi-rig to start shooting, but the cops on the scene disable the truck by shooting the tires, and the missing armored car is found inside the semi-trailer. The captured and released guards reveal that the hijackers set up a detour that led their truck down an incline into the semi trailer. But how did the crooks fool the TV camera, and how did Moore discover the deception? The criminals made their own film of the armored car arriving at its garage, days earlier, and projected it in front of the TV camera. But Moore noticed that the featured movie on a theater marquee in view of the camera was *last* week's feature, rather than this week's.

I guess this story could be said to be prophetic, in that the use of remote surveillance cameras in high-crime spots are an increasingly used law enforcement tool today. On the other hand, the use of cameras has come in for a lot of objections from civil libertarians who think it is an "Orwellian" trend denying the personal privacy of citizens who might be on camera at any time without realizing it. That isn't an issue in this story, as it's not only a general assumption but a Comics Code requirement that the police can do no wrong.

Following a house ad for a SUPERMAN issue featuring "The Black Knight's Super-Sword!", the next story is "The Policeman Nobody Knew!" "Of all the dangerous work performed by law enforcement officers, perhaps the most perilous is the undercover assignment!" Special Deputy Dan Waller finds the peril coming from his own fellow officers, as they arrest him along with other thugs at a "gang meeting", refusing to believe his claim of being an undercover agent, since the only man who could support his claim is dead. One night, Marty Giles, a hijacker, chooses to shoot it out with the police and is killed. The cops find among his personal effects a letter giving him directions to a rendezvous that will lead him to a secret meeting with gang leader and suspected murderer Ed Hoff. Police Commissioner asks Dan Waller, a veteran of Army Intelligence undercover work, to take a "top secret assignment"-- to take the late unlamented Giles' place and infiltrate the gang meeting. Showing up per the letter's instructions at a certain drug store and buying a pack of Dart cigarettes with a torn 10 dollar bill, Waller meets Giles' gang contact and explains that Giles (whose death has been kept secret) named him to take over after falling victim to the "Asian flu". The mobster swallows the line and drives Waller into the "foothills of the mountains", where Hoff and his cronies are disguising their meeting under the cover of a fishing trip. Hoff is delighted that he's not only pulled the wool over the cops' eyes, but he's catching fish; "Yeah, you're a good man with any kind of rod!" Waller flatters Hoff. But state troopers keeping an eye on the lodge spot the license of a stolen car and prepare to move in. Meanwhile, at the big meeting, Hoff discusses criminal business such as "slot machine distribution" and the "numbers racket" (but not, in a Code approved book, nastier stuff like prostitution or drugs) while Waller tries to figure out how to leave and alert police. But then, Hoff asks Waller if he ought to hire "your boss's old pal, Tim Hardy" as a strong-arm man, and when Waller says yeah, sure, Hoff's henchman leaps at him and pins his arms. "I suspected him from the start so I wanted to test him! He didn't know Marty Giles and Tim Hardy have been enemies for years!" Hoff finds Waller's identification letter from the commissioner and destroys it; "When they find you, nobody will know who you are-- because you won't be able to talk!" Fortunately for Waller, at that point the state troopers close in on the fishing lodge and the gangsters scatter. Unfortunately for him, he is arrested along with the rest of the crooks because he has no way of proving his claim that he is an undercover agent. Dan insists that the word of Commissioner Boylan will clear him, but there's a slight problem; "Boylan was killed in a plane crash this afternoon.... as if you didn't know!" A grinning Hoff, also under arrest, tells Waller, "Aw, come on, Danny-Boy! That was a good try, but it just didn't work! Take your medicine like the rest of us!" As a last resort, Waller begs the troopers to search Boylan's home for a carbon copy of the identification letter. No carbon is found, but Waller spots something that works just as well-- a fresh typewriter ribbon in Boylan's typewriter. "A fresh ribbon is just like typing paper! It retains every letter typed!" And indeed, by examing the ribbon the cops are able to read Boylan's instructions and clear Waller.

The third story is "The Mystery of the Future City!" and I think I recognize t he artist-- it looks like the work of Ruben Moreira. A male and female detective flee costumed aliens, with a futuristic skyline in the background; but "Faster, Linda! Those phony ray-guns are loaded with real .45-caliber bullets!" Male detective Jud, listening to a police briefing about art threats, finds his attention somewhat distracted by Linda, a blonde policewoman. He invites her on a movie date when they go off duty; "Swell! I'm in the mood for a good science fiction thriller!" But even off duty the war against crime never ends, as they spot "Rocky Charles, the escaped convict" in a crowd on the street and pursue him. The detectives trail Charles to "Future City", part of the "Pageant of Tomorrow" a kind of futuristic carnival attraction (I suppose the writer had Disneyland's Tomorrowland in mind). Following Charles into the "city", Jud and Linda discover wonders such as "pneumatic travel tubes" (which carry only dummies) and people flying on Adam Strange-like jet flying motors (actually suspended from wires). But they don't find their quarry. Linda concludes that Charles must actually be working for the "city" and to catch him she needs to work there too. She gets her chance when she spots one of the uniformed female attendants leaving to take another job; she volunteers and is hired. She's assigned to mix with the crowd in costume and give directions, but instead she snoops around backstage and is puzzled to find a futuristic abstract painting inside an ornate old-fashioned frame-- and discovers that the stolen art masterpiece "Girl in Blue" is hidden behind the "modern" canvas. Next, she finds that an outer-space costume hanging on a rack has a stolen sculpture stashed inside it. "Just as I suspected...this traveling pageant is actually a big FENCING OPERATION, moving stolen loot from one city to the next!" But before she can make contact with Jud, she is caught by Rocky Charles and his henchmen, wielding "rayguns" that conceal real, deadly guns. She throws a rug over them and evades them long enough to reach Jud, but it appears both will be shot before they can get out of the park and reach help. However, Jud and Linda ride to safety mounted astride the "flying" dummies, and when the crooks try to pursue them in the same way, they shoot through the thugs' support cables and topple them to the ground. Once the gang has been arrested, Jud suggests resuming their date, but, "To tell you the truth, dear, I think I've had all the science-fiction I can take for one day!"

Finally, we have the cover story "The Convict in Cell 6!" The convict in question, Vic Jackson, has what seems to be a foolproof escape plan. Calling the warden to his call on the pretense that he will reveal the location of hidden loot, he produces a smuggled gun and holds the warden hostage to get the keys and leave his cell. Next, he and confederate Willie Keller gain entry to the warden's home within the prison grounds, and arrange to be smuggled out hidden inside rolled-up rugs being taken for dry cleaning. Stealing the truck carrying the rugs and leaving the driver in a remote spot, Jackson leads Keller to a getaway car and change of clothing left by Jackson's outside contacts. Now it's time for Keller to play his role in the plan by leading Jackson to a promised "super-duper hideout where I can hole up until things cool off!" Keller agress, but only on the condition that Jackson travel to the hideout blindfolded. "Blindfolded! That's kid stuff, Keller! Cut it out!" "It's this way or not at all, Vic! The boss don't like to take any chances!" Jackson reluctantly agrees, but this places a kink in his plans, for he is really an undercover cop, and the whole "escape" is a scheme to uncover the "super-duper hideout" and the "million-dollar loot" it contains. Still, maybe Jackson will be able to pick up a clue to the location of the hideout-- a strange oval-shaped structure, high in the air-- and relay it by means of the secret radio sending device in his clothing. But after Jackson arrives at the hideout, this plan is spoiled as one of the gang actually hears Jackson's conversation on a radio set to the police frequency! "Nothing to do now but to FIGHT my way out of here!" At least the gang boss orders no shooting for fear of attracting police. In flight from the crooks, Jackson suddenly realizes the nature of the hideout and how he can alert police. Just as the gang has Jackson cornered, police arrive on the scene; for the "hideout" is a "news blimp" used to flash news bulletins, and Jackson has manipulated the controls to flash his own "bulletin", 'TRAPPED...POLICE...COME HERE...TO BLIMP...AT ONCE".

As I noted, this title was a holdover from an earlier pre-Silver Age era, and in fact this issue of GANG BUSTERS was the next to last in the series; the title ended with #67, Dec.-Jan. 1958-59, ... and from then on, instead of getting the spotlight and the credit as they do here, the DC Universe's working cops would have to be content to be upstaged by Batman, the Flash and other gaudily costumed figures of the SA superhero resurgence.