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Rocket Comics

Entry updated 26 December 2022. Tagged: Comics, Publication.

US Comic (1940). Hillman-Curl, Inc. Three issues. Artists include Jack Alderman, Jack Cole and Maurice Gutwirth. Each issue had 7 strips plus one or two short pieces (text story and/or nonfiction).

Each issue opens with a serial, "The Runaway Rocket" featuring Rocket Riley, Prince of the Planets, employed as the pilot of Professor Sterling's experimental interplanetary rocket ships. One day the professor announces he has "discovered how to explode the atom" (see Nuclear Energy), which will not only power their new rocket ship and enable it to approach the speed of light, but also be "the greatest force in the world for peace ... but only if our secret is controlled by our country". Von Stengle, the head of an international spy ring, tries to steal the secret; in the ruckus the rocket ship is accidentally launched – with von Stengle, his henchman, the professor, Riley and Griselda (the professor's daughter and Riley's fiancée) aboard. First arriving on an unnamed planet of octopus men (who kill the henchman), they manage to escape – but the Spaceship ends up crashing on Saturn (see the Outer Planets). The planet is ruled by a military caste; when its dictator discovers one of his Scientists has tried to warn our heroes, the scientist is thrown to the giant leeches and his daughter to the harpy Vampires. They are rescued by Riley, but in the meantime von Stengle allies himself with the dictator, suggesting he conquer Earth; the professor is blackmailed with his daughter's life to build a fleet of spaceships to undertake the Invasion. By the end of the third strip Riley and Griselda have escaped from prison, fought off shark-men and are preparing to rescue the professor.

Red Roberts, the Electro Man is framed for a crime by a corrupt mayor and sent to the electric chair – he doesn't die, rather "the muscular energy created by Red straining against his bonds combined with the shock from the chair" means he can now fire electric bolts; then, after he falls into a generator, his body is "changed into a series of electro thought impulses" enabling him to travel through telephone wires or disappear (see Superpowers). He uses his powers to fight crime (see Crime and Punishment). Steel Shark, Deep Sea Raider, is a pirate who uses his submarine (see Under the Sea) and its "flux ray gun" (a kind of heat Ray) to terrorize the seas around the island of Monango. His nemesis is lieutenant Richard Jones in the "navy's newest super submersible"; at one point Jones lines its hull's inner walls with blocks of dry ice to mitigate the effect of the flux ray gun. The Steel Shark is green-skinned in #1 but not subsequently.

The Defender, the man with a thousand faces (appearing in #2 and #3 only) was disfigured by a racketeers bomb, so invents a malleable plastic mask which can be moulded to change his appearance, enabling him to fight crime. His first adventure has a steel manufacturer hiring crooks to murder a scientist and steal his two inventions – one that crystallizes metal, the other a transparent plane (see Invisibility) – ruining his rivals by using the first, carried by the second, to collapse skyscrapers. This is the only memorable story in Rocket Comic's run: however, the plot does closely resemble that of "The Sky Walker" (November 1939 The Avenger) by Paul Ernst writing as Kenneth Robeson. Rocket Comics' other strips are non-fantastic, featuring cowboys, sailors, French legionnaires and extremely macho World War One pilots.

Rocket Comics was not very good – the plots and dialogue were unimaginative and Clichéd, with Rocket Riley managing to fit in two single-parent male scientists with an attractive daughter in its short run. Some of the Rocket Riley backgrounds are interesting, and the aforementioned Defender tale is reasonably illustrated, but otherwise the artwork is forgettable.

This publication is not to be confused with Rocket Comics (32 issues, 1941-1946), published in Canada by the Maple Leaf Publishing Company. [SP]


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