Forgotten Masterpiece: SPEED COMICS #23

Reader d9dunn pointed this story out to me some time ago. It’s another in that random series of one-off team-ups between the super heroes populating an anthology title in the manner of DC/National Comics’ Justice Society of America. None of these team-ups ever really turned into anything greater–somehow, the allure of the Justice Society was not easy to duplicate. But Harvey Comics gave it a try one time, buried in the middle of this issue of SPEED COMICS.

This team-up takes place in the issue’s Black Cat story. The Black Cat was perhaps Harvey’s most popular heroine, and she stayed around for decades, up until the early Silver Age, although she drifted into and out of publication during that time. The Black Cat was really starlet Linda Turner. Suspecting that her latest director was actually a Nazi saboteur, she adopted the costumed identity of the Black Cat in order to scare him into submission. I don’t know how truly scary a woman in a one-piece bathing suit with a mask was, but it seemed to work, and Linda had so much fun doing it that she continued on in teh role for many years. Al Gabrielle is credited with her creation, though the Harvey family insists that she was the brainchild of the firm’s owner-operator, Al Harvey. Which she might have been.

In this particular story, though, the Black Cat was facing a situation much too large for her to deal with herself: a full-fledged Japanese invasion of Hollywood! Consequently, as the scope of the situation became apparent to her, she radioed for help from most of the title’s other headline characters; Captain Freedom, Ted Parrish, the Girl Commandos (led by Pat Parker) and Shock Gibson. Upon receiving Linda’s broadcast, the assorted champions race to teh battle in Hollywood.

The identity of the writer of this story is unknown after so many years, but the artwork was produced by Arturo Cazenueve, who even got to sign the work, which was something that was being permitted more rarely by publishers. Arturo went by Arthur in real life, and his brother Louis also freelanced for Harvey Comics and others as an artist. Not much else is known about Arturo’s life and history, though, apart from the fact that, like his brother, he was an emigree from Argentina.

As expressed earlier, this nameless assortment of the Harvey super heroes didn’t even get a name, and this was strictly a one-off adventure (although later issues of SPEED COMICS would often feature the characters intermixed in text stories based on whatever action was taking place on the cover, which was typically unrelated to any interior story.)

That promise to meet again soon turned out to be an empty one, I’m afraid.

As an example, here’s the Story Behind The Cover text feature in this issue, which didn’t feature a team-up but which gives you an idea as to how these worked. These text pieces were preferable to the typical one-off text stories that other publishers would drop into their books in order to qualify for second class mailing privileges.

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