After re-reading PEP #4, I was blown away by it. Any of the young readers who shelled out their Mercury dimes for this issue back in 1940 would have felt the same way after they read it. Here’s what blew me away about the book:
THE SHIELD; One of the must-read stories (if not THE must-read) of this issue. The second chapter of the first great cross-title storyline in comics (the Mosconian invasion) comes off as a great individual story in its own right. Here the Shield performs super-human feats that rival even those of such heavyweights as Superman and Captain Marvel as he tries to smash a Mosconian plot to attack Pearl Harbor (this issue was on the stands well over a year and a half before the events of December 7, 1941). And Irv Novick’s artwork on this story could easily blow what the Shuster studio was doing on SUPERMAN out of the water (!). Oh! I forgot to mention to watch out for cameos by the Wizard and Keith Kordell, the West Pointer (both from TOP-NOTCH COMICS) in this story.
THE COMET; What can I say? Jack Cole at the early top of his game as a writer/artist on this excellent story.
THE PRESS GUARDIAN; My favorite strip after THE SHIELD and THE COMET. Mort Meskin was at the early top of his game as well on this fast-paced story.
FU CHANG; I’m glad that the people at MLJ decided to play up the supernatural aspects of the character in this story by pitting him against a sorceress that used a magic carving of Fu Chang himself to place a voodoo-like spell on him. I loved how they used the Chessmen of Aladdin in this story.
SERGEANT BOYLE; Another great tale from another master at the early top of his game, this time it was Charles Biro.
THE MIDSHIPMAN; Like his counterpart over at TOP-NOTCH (Keith Kordell), Midshipman Lee Sampson found time from his studies at the Naval academy to participate in smashing another Mosconian plot. Once again watch for a Wizard cameo.
THE ROCKET AND THE QUEEN OF DIAMONDS, Lin Streeter as an artist was not on the level of the more celebrated Alex Raymond. But on this strip, he was more than able to capture the very spirit of Raymond’s celebrated FLASH GORDON pages in this story.
KAYO WARD; Bob Wood did a good job on this story.
BENTLEY OF SCOTLAND YARD; What can I say? Another excellent little mystery boosted by the moody artwork of Sam Cooper.
All in all, PEP COMICS #4 was one of those issues that showed that this title could easily have given such celebrated anthologies as ACTION COMICS, SMASH COMICS, WHIZ COMICS, and MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS a run for their money back in 1940. And reading it now, it’s still an exciting book.