Monday, September 28, 2020


DECEMBER 4TH, 1967 - FEBRUARY 17TH, 1968
FEBRUARY 19TH, 1968 - MAY 4TH, 1968
MAY 6TH, 1968 - JULY 27TH, 1968
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

So it turns out Phil Corrigan is married! Who knew? Certainly not me, so I Googled it after meeting his wife in the first of this week's story arcs. It turns out that during the 1940s, SECRET AGENT X-9 morphed a bit to feature some soap opera elements, and one of those was a romantic rivalry for X-9's affections between his assistant, Linda, and a mystery novelist named Wilda. In the end Wilda won Corrigan's heart and the two were married in 1947 -- meaning that by this point, they've been living in wedded bliss for twenty years of real time!

Anyway -- we meet Wilda here when Corrigan is assigned to investigate what made a government scientist go rogue and blow up his own missile defense system. As part of the investigation, Corrigan realizes that the doctor spent some time at a luxury resort, so he brings Wilda along for cover to spend some time there. And it turns out to be a good thing he went to the resort first (of all possible places), because that's exactly where our poor scientist was corrupted! It turns out the place is run by "Ma" Murkel and her three sons, a group of bumbling bad guys being paid by a foreign power to turn high profile U.S. scientists into traitors.

Corrigan eventually gets to the bottom of the scheme and, after rescuing Wilda -- held as a hostage by Murkel and her sons -- he arrests the goofball family and heads home with his wife.

Friday, September 25, 2020


Written by Brandon Auman | Directed by Vinton Heuck

The Plot: Iron Man defends the United Nations from an attack by Hydra. While fighting against some dreadnaught robots, he discovers that the terrorists are using his technology in their war machines. SHIELD arrives as the battle winds down, and Iron Man realizes that SHIELD's Mandroid suits are also designed using Stark tech. Iron Man confronts Nick Fury aboard SHIELD's helicarrier, and following their argument, Fury realizes that there's a leak within SHIELD.

The captured Hydra operatives are taken to the Vault, where Fury interviews Baron Wolfgang von Strucker. Meanwhile, one of the Hydra agents is revealed as the villainous Grim Reaper in disguise. The Reaper springs Strucker and presents him with his Satan's Claw gauntlet, which allows the elderly villain to drain life force from SHIELD agents and restore his youth. But Fury defeats both Strucker and the Reaper, and they're recaptured.

Continuity Notes: this episode features the debuts of Tony Stark/Iron Man, his operating system, JARVIS, Pepper Potts, James Rhodes, and Hydra, plus Nick Fury, Maria Hill, Jimmy Woo, and SHIELD. The Hulk is mentioned a couple of times as well, and it's noted that super-villains are becoming more common in the world.

The Vault is described as "the first of the super-villain prisons", for tech-based super-criminals. Among its inmates are the Crimson Dynamo, Technovore, MODOK, and Strucker. Two more prisons -- the Cube and the Big House -- are mentioned, with Fury hinting, to Hill's surprise, at the existence of a fourth.

During the fight between Fury and Strucker, the baron saps some of Fury's life force, giving the head of SHIELD his distinctive gray temples as he gets a bit older.

Monday, September 21, 2020


JANUARY 20TH, 1967 - APRIL 8TH, 1967
APRIL 10TH, 1967 - JULY 1ST, 1967
JULY 3RD, 1967 - SEPTEMBER 9TH, 1967
By Al Williamson & Archie Goodwin

No, your eyes don't deceive you! Though we're continuing the adventures of the man we've known over the past three weeks as X-9, the title of the strip has changed. Per the introduction to IDW's first volume of SECRET AGENT CORRIGAN strips, around the time Al Williamson and Archie Goodwin came aboard as the strip's creative team, King Features Syndicate changed the strip's name as well, in the interest of drumming up some new readers for a feature whose circulation had never been exceptionally high. I don't know if the name change had any impact on that circulation, but I can say with certainty that the Williamson/Goodwin team makes this strip instantly more enjoyable and simply more readable than it was thirty years earlier under Alex Raymond, Dashiell Hammett, and Leslie Charteris.

Certainly this is due in part to the passage of time and changing tastes and attitudes among the readership. The strips of the sixties are more in line with the sort of stuff I compared the vintage X-9 material to last week -- the faster-paced stuff like SPIDER-MAN and DICK TRACY. Where the 1930s X-9s typically featured four panels and copious words, these strips are generally three panels as a rule with much fewer word balloons and captions. On one hand, that makes them less dense than the older stuff, but at the same time, it also makes them way easier to read.

Plus, these strips are scripted by Archie Goodwin, a comic book writer by trade, so he knows how to tailor his words to a sequential art medium, unlike novelists Hammett and Charteris. That helps immensely to make this stuff more palatable and much more fun to read. In fact, let me put it this way: over the past three weeks, it took me multiple sittings to get through every X-9 storyline, even the shorter ones. But for today's post, I read four arcs in one sitting of about an hour -- and I don't feel as if anything was rushed past in the process.

Friday, September 18, 2020


And now for something a little different! I'm enjoying my dip into the newspaper strip realm of Secret Agent X-9/Corrigan, but I know that sort of thing isn't everyone's cup of tea. A lot of people (probably most people) read this blog for superhero comic book posts. The Spider-Man strip sort of fit into that mold, but X-9 definitely doesn't -- and in the past, when I looked at things outside the purview of superhero comics, I was typically putting up two posts a week, so you still had the super-stuff on Mondays and the "grab bag" stuff on Fridays. That hasn't been the case for some time now, but I've decided to try and get back to two posts a week in a fashion that feels more "doable" to me than all comics, all the time.
I've tossed around the idea of posting about a TV show for years, but it never really happened. However, I'm at a place now where I think I can manage it. And, for a few reasons, I've decided that my first trip to TV-land around these parts will be via one of my all-time favorite animated series, AVENGERS: EARTH'S MIGHTIEST HEROES (not to be confused with the Joe Casey-written mini-series that I wrote about here a few months back). For one thing, the advent of Disney Plus has the series right at my fingertips, on whatever screen I'd like to use. For another, it turns out that next week (September 22nd, to be exact) marks the ten-year anniversary* of the series' premiere on Disney XD! (Technically, that would be the debut of the "microseries" that preceded the series proper, but I'm not gonna split hairs here.)

When EMH premiered way back when, it seemed to be Marvel's way to introduce kids to the Avengers before the big upcoming movie. Remember, back in the fall of 2010, there were only three entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: IRON MAN, IRON MAN 2, and THE INCREDIBLE HULK. THOR was still half a year away, and CAPTAIN AMERICA was slated for the following summer, with AVENGERS still nearly two years in the future. But Marvel Studios was already planting seeds in their films, and a TV tie-in would be a fine way to get the characters out into the hearts and minds of a major chunk of the movies' audience.

Monday, September 14, 2020


APRIL 21ST, 1935 - July 27TH, 1935
JULY 29th, 1935 - SEPTEMBER 21ST, 1935
SEPTEMBER 23RD, 1935 - NOVEMBER 16TH, 1935
By Alex Raymond w/Leslie Charteris

X-9 parts ways with his sidekick, Sidney George Harper Carp, as this arc begins. Carp is headed "down south" to look into some investments, while X-9 returns to Washington for a new assignment. And thanks to the departure of Dashiell Hammett, it feels like a new beginning for the strip. Immediately, Alex Raymond rectifies some of Hammett's prior mistakes. For one thing, we finally actually see X-9's boss, "the Chief", showing at long last that our hero really does report to someone in the government. The Chief takes statements from some Texas Rangers who are on the trail of a group of bank robbers called the Iron Claw Gang, and a young man they kidnapped, Philip Shaw -- the son of a banker who was killed in a robbery.

In Texas, X-9 learns that the robbers are after some untapped oil mines which Shaw and his father owned. But Shaw doesn't know where they are -- however, he tells the robbers that there's a map hidden in the bank. Carp returns around this point; through sheer coincidence he happens to be in the vicinity of the robbery. X-9 also has an assistant for this case, a beautiful Federal agent named Ruth Meredith. It's kind of funny; every storyline so far has featured an attractive girl -- but unlike, say, the Spider-Man strip, where Peter Parker would be floored by every chick he met and frequently wind up making out with them, X-9 remains entirely chaste at all times. It's like the strip wanted to introduce a new love interest in each arc, but couldn't actually do anything with them due to the moral standards of the time. It's weird.

That said, young Phillip Shaw does fall for Ruth when she and Carp show up to save him from the gang, and the two become a duo for the remainder of the storyline, jumping in and out of trouble at every turn as they try to reunite with X-9. (Which, by the way, is kind of refreshing to see in something from this era. Ruth comes across as a pretty confident and capable operative, not needing to be rescued by anyone -- and in fact doing some rescuing herself -- as she tries to protect Phillip.)

Monday, September 7, 2020


DECEMBER 17TH, 1934 - MARCH 9TH, 1935
MARCH 11th, 1935 - APRIL 20th, 1935
By Dashiell Hammett & Alex Raymond

Secret Agent X-9's next storyline is easily the most 1930s-ish piece of fiction you'll ever find, if for no other reason that than it features a spunky newsboy named -- wait for it -- "Harmonica Slick" abetting our hero. The arc focuses on a girl named Jill, the center of a bitter custody battle between her working-class mother and her wealthy aunt. The aunt had previously disowned her son for marrying a simple factory worker, but now that he's dead, she wants the fruit of his loins to raise in a life of privilege. But naturally, Jill's mom would like to keep her daughter.

Enter X-9 (still going by the name of Dexter, though he made clear in the very first story arc that it was merely one of may aliases he's used). For reasons never explained, he arrives to sit in the gallery at the hearing -- and it's fortunate that he does, for Jill is soon kidnapped by mobsters working for the notorious "Rocks Greer". Greer wants to hold the girl for ransom, and X-9 sets off on the crook's trail with Harmonica Slick by his side. Eventually, after several harrowing chases and narrow escapes, X-9 catches up with the criminals and rescues Jill -- but Greer escapes.

I can't say there's much to write home about here. The story is fine, and I'm sure it was probably of more interest to the people of 1934, since from what I've gathered over the years, they ate this sort of thing up (orphans and kids playing the harmonica, I mean). But, as with the prior two storylines, it's pretty unspectacular. Indeed, thus far the only saving grace to the strip has been Alex Raymond's artwork. I mentioned last time that I'd discuss it this week, so let's do so now.