"Newsboy Legion: "Death Strikes a Bargain"": A string of murders has been occurring in Suicide Slum lately. While the victims were mostly low-tier gangsters and thugs, it had everyone in the slums too scared to leave their homes, while some folks go so far as to move away from the area altogethe
Star-Spangled Comics #24 is an issue of the series Star-Spangled Comics (Volume 1) with a cover date of September, 1943.
Synopsis for Newsboy Legion: "Death Strikes a Bargain"
A string of murders has been occurring in Suicide Slum lately. While the victims were mostly low-tier gangsters and thugs, it had everyone in the slums too scared to leave their homes, while some folks go so far as to move away from the area altogether. As a result, the streets have gotten eerily quiet. The Newsboy Legionnaires were the only ones who were still brave enough to walk the neighborhood with their papers, though it became much harder to find any customers. Just when the boys are about ready to head for home, a shiny, expensive looking car pulls up next to them, and the person inside calls them over. Scrapper recognizes him as "Money-bags" Masterson, one of the more prosperous citizens who lived among the fancy rich folk. He was part of a citizens' committee that believed that the root of the slums problems are environmental in cause, and Masterson wished to prove that theory correct by letting the boys live with him at his home as part of a social experiment. While Big Words may have been the only one to understand that reasoning, the others only needed to hear that they'd get to live in a mansion to convince them to go along.
Meanwhile, Jim Harper spends his off-duty time as the Guardian, searching for the killers potential next victim. He decides to ask around at the Athletics Club, a well known mob hangout. Inside, a long-necked fellow nicknamed "Giraffe" is playing cards with his underworld buddies when masked gunmen appear in the doorway, looking for him. The Guardian bursts into the room, raising his shield against the gunman closest to him. But he isn't able to stop the others in time, and poor Giraffe still gets shot down. Guardian has no choice but to let the killers get away for now, his first priority was to get Giraffe to a hospital. But even at death's door, Giraffe is a true gangster and will not snitch to Harper, or any other lawmen. He takes any information he may have on the gunmen to the grave.
The Newsboys are getting a taste of the good life in Masterson's mansion. Scrapper enjoys the private gym, while the massive trophy room, with its stuffed animals and mounted heads, is most interesting to Big Words and Tommy, who take a picture to send to Jim Harper, by secretly hiding it in the rest of Masterson's outgoing mail. Gabby is unwillingly shown the large washroom where a bath has been prepared for him, to his annoyance. Though (most of) the mansion is to their liking, it seems that they were not allowed to leave its grounds. Scrapper is the first to discover why when, during a late night snack, he overhears some of the staff talking about him and his friends. They were brought here to keep them from snooping around Suicide Slum with the Guardian always close behind. It turns out Masterson and his "staff" were nothing but criminals! Scrapper is discovered and locked away in the basement now that he knows too much. When morning comes, Tommy, Big Words, and Gabby search for their pal all over the house, until Mr. Masterson leads them into the basement, where his armed thugs are waiting, with Scrapper tied up in the corner! The Newsboys were becoming too much trouble, and so would spend their remaining time tied up. Unfortunately for Masterson, the Guardian pops in, just like his men feared would happen with the brats, and delivers a diving tackle that knocks him off his feet! Gabby trips up a thug going for a gun, while the Guardian finishes the main group off with a few hard swings to their mugs. He frees the Newsboys and tells them to wait in the trophy rook for the cops as he dashes off again.
Jim Harper arrives with backup, including the Chief of Police, who is happier than anyone to see this mob of killers being put away. Masterson was behind the masked murderers that have been taking out members of the underworld, and spreading fear throughout the slums. Harper figured it out thanks to the photo the boys sent him. Each animal trophy represented a member of the mob they had killed; a moose for "Moosehead" Mcgee, a fish for "Shark-Eyes" Fain, and there was even a giraffe to represent "Giraffe" Fontanne. The big mistake Masterson made was drawing attention to himself by taking the Newsboy Legion into his home, seeking fame just as all criminals do. The chief gives the boys a reward for helping to catch the killers, which they spend on having a new playground built for the kids of Suicide Slum.
Appearing in Newsboy Legion: "Death Strikes a Bargain"
- Mr. Masterson (Single appearance)
- Giraffe Fontanne (Only appearance; dies)
- The Mystery Mob (Single appearance)
- Police Chief Blaine (Single appearance)
Synopsis for Star-Spangled Kid & Stripesy: "The Mail-Order Mob"
Members of the underworld are all excited about a new catalogue made specifically for criminals. Its pages are filled with mail-order items, like tools for cracking different sized safes, masks and gloves, even weapons like flamethrowers to keep the cops at bay.
Down in the Pemberton garage that doubles as a crime lab, Pat Dugan is putting together a scrap book of his and Sylvester's adventures in crime fighting. When a police broadcast comes on over their radio, reporting a disturbance at the bond brokerage house, it's time for Syl and Pat change to that flag bound duo, the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy! The American crimefighting team intervene on the break-in, but Stripesy's new hobby is affecting their teamwork, when he keeps taking pictures of the action instead of helping his partner in the fight. Luckily, Syl is able to hold his own and mop up the crooks without much trouble. What gets his attention, though, is the equipment they are using, tools of a professional, all brand new and of expert quality, certainly not something a few common thieves would normally carry. He needs to know where it all came from, meaning it is time for some undercover work! Wearing gangster disguises and carrying a case full of the criminals' tools, Syl and Pat start asking the local undesirables about where to get their equipment repaired. Eventually, they get sent to Dinty's Hock Shop, where suspicions arise and questions are asked of them. The tools have been recognized as belonging specifically to Red Brady, who is currently sitting in prison. Syl plays it cool, telling the gangsters that Red hid the tools from the cops and later tipped him off where they could be found. His answer almost convinces the gang, but when Pat's camera accidently falls out of his jacket, the jig is up. The disguises come off and the crooks find they're face-to-fist with the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy! It's a good thing the Hock Shop has so much stolen merchandise to throw around, as it's giving the Kid and his photo-obsessed partner an edge in the fight. Once again, Stripesy spends most of his time worrying about his camera, but this time he captures something useful in its frame; an unusual catalogue sitting on one of the shelves.
Back at the crime lab, Sylvester uses polarized light on the book to look for any hidden markings. Thanks to this method, he finds indentations, left by the pressure of the post mark stamp, which reveal an address.
The Star-Rocket Racer flies through the air towards Midcity, where the crime catalogue had originated. Sylvester loops the Racer around the city a few times to draw a crowd before they land. He knows the underworld mob would be ready for them, although he has miscalculated in thinking they wouldn't start trouble in a crowd of people. Because of the number of panicked civilians, the Star-Spangled Kid and Stripesy can't even fight back for fear of harming anyone. They're captured and driven out to a warehouse, where they're forced to stand against a wall for a firing squad. Stripesy asks if he could take one last picture before his end. The mobsters allow it with a laugh, saying they'll do him the favor of burying him with his photo. The brilliant flash of the camera blinds the crooks, giving Stripesy and the Star-Spangled Kid a chance to break loose! The chase is now on, The Kid and Stripesy follow the blinded crooks as they drive, erratically, back to their hideout. Inside the large storage facility the mail-order mob calls headquarters, hundreds of printed catalogue pages are stacked in rows, with all sorts of different tools of the trade stocking the shelves. Each item finds a new use now, as the Star-Spangled Kid hits the crooks with them, while Stripesy pushes a stack of paper over onto a group of thugs. A bullet strikes an acetylene tank, and gas starts leaking out. Another stray bullet sends sparks as it bounces off the tank, creating a geyser of flames from the hole. The operation is shut down for good. Police arrest the sour mob, but Pat is distraught that his crime journal burned up with all the papers. Sylvester tries cheering him up by reminding him that he still had all the pictures he took. Unfortunately, as meticulous as Pat was to document this case, one important detail was overlooked: his camera never had any film inside.
Appearing in Star-Spangled Kid & Stripesy: "The Mail-Order Mob"
- Joe (Single appearance)
- Dinty (Single appearance)
- Red Brady (Single appearance)
- New York City
Synopsis for Penniless Palmer: "The Mystery of the Leaping Lothario!"
Pen and Oxie go to the theatre with Bunny, who has been dying to watch the handsome Marc Swoon's newest show. However, the star himself scurries off the stage in the middle of a performance! Pen is asked by the producer to solve the case of why Mr. Swoon keeps disappearing. They are in for a shock when they find Swoon in his dressing room, bald as an egg! His big secret that he wears a toupee must never be revealed to the public, so whenever it mysteriously starts to leap off his head, he flees out of sight. A funny story, that a hairpiece would try to leave its owner, but on closer inspection Pen finds Mexican jumping beans hidden inside. Now that they've been removed, Swoon can go back out to finish the show. It's Pen's hope that whoever's sabotaging Swoon will just think he switched to another wig, and then he and Oxie can nab them after they break into the dressing room.
Later that night, their patience pays off as voices start coming from the hall. The door opens and in walk two men; the understudy, Philbert Lovejoy, and his manager. Of course! If Marc Swoon were gone, Lovejoy would pick up the role and be the new leading man! Pen and Oxie pounce, getting the upper hand. It is a quick fight, and all should now go well, except, even though he's been beaten Lovejoy still knows Swoon's secret, and he threatens to tell the world if he goes to jail. Oxie hangs Lovejoy on a coat hook until they can think of something, when the understudy's shoe slips off to reveal a secret all his own. He was wearing elevated shoes that added four inches to his height. And now that they know this little tidbit, they can use it as leverage to keep Lovejoy quiet.
For saving the show, the producer rewards Pen and team with a check... which Pen immediately donates to charity. But it's okay, because Swoon had also promised them a reward, and he gladly gives it. An autographed picture of himself, signed to Bunny, his biggest fan.
Appearing in Penniless Palmer: "The Mystery of the Leaping Lothario!"
- Philbert Lovejoy (Single appearance)
- Higby Digby (Single appearance)
- Marc Swoon (Single appearance)
Synopsis for Jitters' Jeep: "Wannaswampus River Flood"
Colonel Corn gets marooned on the other side of the Wannaswampus river after a flood, so Jitters takes his jeep down to rescue him.
Appearing in Jitters' Jeep: "Wannaswampus River Flood"
- Colonel Corn (Single appearance)
- Jitters' Jeep
Synopsis for Liberty Belle: "The Beggar's Masquerade"
The North African city of Sidi Arabu, an architectural staple of the past, where beggars may be spies, bazaars sell wares worth less than they cost, and an assassin stalks the streets. A robed figure, face covered, knocks on a door and speaks a secret phrase that grants him access. Once inside, talks begin as the robed man, who is an undercover Rick Cannon, asks his contact, Abu, about information on the spy ring. Abu says that his best operative was killed last night, his body found by the housekeeper at the side entrance, with a three edged dagger in his heart. It was the murder weapon of the El Hassim, the assassin and master spy for the Axis who is like a phantom, he leaves no trail behind and disappears after each murder. Rick thought they should get ahold of Liberty Belle, last seen operating somewhere in North Africa. Abu had contacted Libby Lawrence to help with that, in fact. Libby enters the room, surprising Rick, and offers to send a message to Liberty Belle during her news broadcast, though she laments how if she shows up, Rick will likely pay more attention to the superheroine than he will to her. That evening, after signing off her radio show, she hastens to her hotel room and prepares to meet Rick as the famed Liberty Belle herself. She slips into Rick's office through an open window, and they warmly greet each other. Business before pleasure, however, as Rick tells her the situation; how it is believed they have foreign spies among them, evidenced by how whenever they started work on a camouflaged airbase, Axis Bombers fly over and destroy it. Liberty listens while she studies the robe worn by the murdered operative. It was commonly worn by beggars, and covered in wine stains. Her days spent here as Libby Lawrence allowed her to learn all about the local hangouts, and she knew of a nightclub favored by beggars called The Café of a Thousand Thieves. Liberty bids farewell to Rick, going off on her own as she works better that way.
The nightclub was lively enough that nobody notices Liberty Belle peering through the window. She catches one of the patrons slipping a note to a dancing girl, whether it's just asking for a date or passing along secret information, she needed to find out for sure. After the dancer enters her dressing room, she is grabbed from behind and put into a chokehold, crying out in German before falling unconscious. Liberty searches the girl for the note, finding it's written in French. Translated, it says that an important message would be handed to her tonight, which she was then to give to El Hassim. Liberty Belle dresses in the dancer's outfit, hoping it's enough to fool the messenger. Her focus is on other things than putting on a good show, but none of the drunken patrons seem to notice or care. A man sitting at a nearby table gives a look towards her as he pulls an envelope out from under his robes. She dances closer to grab it and sneak it into the folds of her garment, then finishes up the show before going back to the dressing room. Inside the envelope is a map showing the location of an airfield just outside the city, with instructions on how to reach it. As she's looking it over, the door opens and in walks a sinister man with a knife. El Hassim, the assassin! Liberty Belle is grabbed by his two henchmen, but not before she tosses a crumpled piece of cloth with her symbol on it out the window. There's a slim chance it'll be seen by the right people, letting them know this club was where the spy operated, so her death won't be in vain.
Rick has been restless the whole time, not willing to sit back and let Liberty Belle do all the work. While scouring the city in search of her, he comes across a peddler with a particularly eye-catching piece of cloth among his wares; the red liberty bell... her symbol. After some "gentle" coercing, the merchant tells him he found it by the Thousand Thieves nightclub. Rick pays the merchant for his help and hurries off. He reaches one of the windows to the club, where the dancing girl inside spoke, in a thick German accent, how she wished she could go downstairs to watch them kill Liberty Belle for humiliating her. Rick tries to sneak in through the rear entrance, but he is spotted by a guard! Meanwhile, in the basement, Liberty is being held by her arms as El Hassim questions her, threatening to kill her as soon as she stops talking. She has to buy time, so she bluffs, using mostly deductive guesswork to piece together what El Hassim and his spies are doing here. The club is where they pass messages of intelligence, such as the locations of hidden airbases, which is then transmitted by radio over to the Nazis so they can send their planes over to bomb the area in question. Her story is mostly accurate, though she hasn't figured out how El Hassim disappears after a murder, for which he is relieved. He can continue on at a different location, right after he finishes off America's lady of Liberty. Just then, the door flies open as a thug falls into the room. Rick charges through the doorway, knocking out another of Hassim's guards with a flying punch. The last guard is hit in the back of the head while going for a gun. Rick doesn't see El Hassim coming up behind him with his knife raised, but thankfully Liberty Belle does, and saves Rick with a lantern tossed at the assassin! The lantern breaks and the room goes dark. By the time Rick finds a match, El Hassim had vanished.
Back at Abu's, Rick and Liberty deliver files naming all of El Hassim's contacts who are currently being rounded up by the army. A old serving woman catches Liberty's attention because of the smell of kerosene surrounding her. She pulls down the woman's veil to reveal El Hassim, his beard still soaked in the oil from the lantern! The assassin pulls out a knife and backs away, both Abu and Rick have their guns trained on him, but he doesn't make a move to flee. Years of building his dual identity as just another serving woman are ruined by one American girl! He will never allow himself to be captured, however, as he turns the knife on himself!
The following night, Rick takes Libby to see the newly constructed airfield. Now that they have control of the radio used by the enemy, they can misdirect the Nazi Bombers to a place set up with flood lights and anti-aircraft cannons. Rick owes thanks to Liberty Belle, if only she were here to hear it.
Appearing in Liberty Belle: "The Beggar's Masquerade"
- El Hassim (Only appearance; dies)
- Abu Bin Kalif (Single appearance)
- North Africa
- Sidi Arabu
- Sidi Arabu
Synopsis for Robotman: "The Bandit Beasties"
Paul Dennis visits a jeweler's shop to find some diamonds, neglecting to tell the clerk he plans to use them as bearings. A cat sitting in the shop suddenly attacks a woman and scurries away! She's understandably furious that they would allow a fierce creature in the store around customers, but the clerk claims he has never seen the cat before! Later, the newspapers reports on a jewelry store theft, the very one Paul had been at earlier, and the third robbery of its kind. While he's walking down the sidewalk, the same cat appears again, facing off against a large bull dog. As before, no sounds emit from the animal, and stranger still, it chases the large dog away! This behavior was too unusual for any normal feline, so Robotman follows it to see where it goes. When it climbs up the side of a building, Robotman takes a mighty leap to the rooftop, where he sheds his Paul Dennis disguise entirely. He sees the cat go into an open window, and when he looks inside, it all begins to make sense. There is Professor Mugge, a scientist well known in the field of robotics, standing in the apartment with a collection of automated animals he designed. Mugge has programmed them to steal jewelry for him, since no one would suspect an animal of being a thief. As soon as Robotman gets close, a button is pressed on a console, and all the robotic animals attack at once. Their metal jaws clamp onto his arms and legs, pulling them from their sockets, leaving him a helpless head on a torso! All isn't lost, there is a chance he could put himself back together, but not with the professor watching him. Robotman says that the police were already wise to Mugge's little crime wave, and they'll be knocking on his door any minute. It's a desperate bluff, but it is enough to get Mugge to leave, taking with him a portable control panel. He sneers back at Robotman, telling him not to kill himself trying to leave the room. A strange thing to say unless it meant there was some sort of trap set up in the doorway. His photoelectric eyes reveal a metal plate, painted to match the wood floor, by the doorstep, likely connected to an electric circuit that would fry him if he tried to cross.
Somewhere nearby, in another store, one of the "toy" rabbits in the toy department comes to life and goes to the rare coin cabinet, breaking the glass case with its body and stealing the most valuable coin before hopping away, leaving the security guard baffled. Professor Mugge waits outside, as the rabbit returns to him with the antique coin. While back at the apartment, Robotman has managed to wrap himself in insulated wire. This way, when he rolls over the electrified plate, the wire will absorb the shock and turn his body into an electro-magnet. Then all he has to do is guide his limbs back into place enough so he can finish reattaching them. Once he's back together, Robotman studies Mugge's master control panel. The tables are about to be turned on the dear professor. Out on the street, Mugge is startled when his robot rabbit leaps out of his arms and hops down the block. His portable control unit no longer responsive, he has no choice but to chase after his creation. But at the turn of a corner, his other robot animals appear, growling and snapping their teeth. Now they're chasing him downtown, and herding him into a police station, where Robotman waits, watching as Mugge continues running right into a jail cell. The door is closed behind him. Mugge agrees to confess to all the thefts, on the condition that Robotman keeps those beasts away from him.
Appearing in Robotman: "The Bandit Beasties"
- Professor Mugge (Single appearance)
- Mechanical animals
- Also appearing in this issue of Star-Spangled Comics were: