The “Golden Age of Comics” refers to the period of time when comic books first appeared and their rapid growth in popularity between 1930 and 1950. It was the birthplace of many classic super-heroes such as Superman, Batman, and Captain America. A lot of these stories were bat-shit crazy. If I were to guess, it was probably because it happened between the Great Depression and World War II, not exactly the most normal times.
Today we’re looking back at the career of the DC Comics character known as the Sandman. Also, I don’t mean the one popularized by Neil Gaiman.
However, I am talking about the original Sandman. Appearing in Adventure Comics #40 (1939), the original Sandman was wealthy playboy Wesley Dodds. Wearing a gasmask and carrying a gun that fired sleeping gas, Dodds became a masked vigilante.
This was early in the day of costumed superheroes and comic books were still a relatively new medium. This, and with the passage of time, a lot of these old stories are either nonsensical or down right insane. Things like…
Sandman vs the Face
Adventure Comics #44 (1939)
Like I said above, Wesley Dodd was a wealthy playboy by day and vigilante by night. A lot of the early Sandman stories involved people breaking into Dodds house. This happens a lot in old Sandman comics.
For example, in Adventures Comics #44, Wesley Dodd is enjoying a quiet night of white privilege when a crook breaks into his house. Instead of calling the police or going for a gun, Dodds recognizes the would be thief and invites him to have a seat.
It turns out Billy Winnslow trying to go straight, but won’t do so until he gets revenge on a criminal known as "The Face”. The Face was somehow responsible for his sister committing suicide. The only problem is that nobody knows the Face’s true identity since he is a master of disguise! What any of this has to do with Winnslow breaking into Wesley’s house is anyone’s guess. Before they can get into that bit of logic the Face, disguised as a cop comes barging in and shoots Billy dead! Then the Face shoots Dodds!
That’s right, three pages in, our hero gets shot by a bullet and spends a week in bed.
Dodds then goes to question the police chief about an alleged rogue cop going around shooting people.
Ignoring the fact that police officers were notoriously corrupt in the 30s, Dodds takes the captain at his word.
Also, can we talk about how horrible these cops are? Two people, one of them a wealthy socialite, are shot by a mysterious assailant in a police uniform and there’s no open investigation? These cops suck at their job.
The only possible solution is that someone bought a police uniform and Wesley is given the address of the uniform maker. Dodds decides to pay him a visit as the Sandman!
The Sandman knocks out the uniform maker and steals his address book. So the police will blame the Sandman for the theft, the hero leaves his calling card, some sand.
Leaving a sprinkle of sand was the Sandman’s calling card for the police. Now I don’t know about you reading this at home, but this is a really impractical calling card to me. Sand can get blown away, or displaced so easily. This wasn’t exactly the day and age where cops were closing up a crime scene and looking at things in forensic detail.
Also, this means the Sandman is walking around with pockets full of sand like an idiot.
Anyway, worrying that there would be some connection made between the Sandman and Wesley Dodds, our hero quickly creates an alibi for himself.
Going to a club and getting drunk after the crime was committed is not exactly a solid alibi, but I’ve already established the cops in this story are the worst.
The next evening, the Sandman goes out to investigate an address in the book. Inside the house, the hero find a note pinned to a coat in the closet from the Face telling his henchmen to meet him at a nearby warehouse.
This is an overly complicated way of contacting your henchmen if you ask me.
When the crooks show up to pick up the message, the Sandman is still looking around forcing him to find a place to hide. His solution…
This is a poorly thought out hiding place since there was a bed in the room that the Sandman could have hid under instead. Dangling out of a window isn’t exactly the greatest hiding place. In fact, anyone who might be outside could easily see you. Surprisingly, this won’t be the last time that the Sandman pulls this stunt.
When the crooks leave, the Sandman follows them in his own car to the warehouse of the Face. Apparently, all of this was so the Face could try and get ownership of an oil well that Billy Winnslow and his sister were about to inherit. With both Billy and his sister dead he was going to send one of his men to pose as a surviving cousin so they can take ownership.
When the Sandman comes crashing in, the Face tries to make a get away by a railroad hand-car. The Sandman has the perfect solution for this bullshit…
And that’s how the story ends! It went from non-sense, to stupid, to brutally insane in 10 pages!
The lady in evening clothes
adventure comics #47 (1940)
By this point, the Sandman is not just an enemy of criminals, but the police as well. Other than the obvious vigilantism, I’d like to think they are annoyed about all the sand he leaves all over the place.
In this story, the police are investigating the murder of Anson Porter and the public is angry at the district attorney for not having any arrests. That’s when the Sandman decides to involve himself in the investigation.
The Sandman convinces the D.A. to let him talk about the case. This is typical of Sandman stories where the hero asks for a “truce” with the law. The District Attorney agree and that’s when the Sandman gives him the bullet that killed Anson Porter.
Now, I’m not an expert when it comes to crime scene investigation, but if you’re removing something important — like the bullet that killed the victim — from the crime scene you’re not helping solve the case, especially when you have to go back to the police to have them examine it after the fact.
Returning home, the Sandman changes out of his costume and Wesley Dodds puts his mask away in a safe, bragging about how nobody but an expert safe cracker could get into it and expose his double identity.
Wouldn’t you know it, that very evening someone breaks into his home (I told you this happens all the time) and cracks his safe. Hearing the thief, Dodds knocks them out and discovers it’s a woman. When he asks who she is…
I’m sorry, but “Lady in Evening Clothes” does not sound like a very flattering nickname. It sounds like a really polite 40s way of calling someone a whore.
Impressed by this claim about being a great safe-cracker, Dodds dares her to try do open the safe that he just told himself is important to keep closed because otherwise it will blow his identity.
After casually suggesting that he could kill her in order to keep his identity a secret (!!) Dodds decides to calmly sit down and talk out the situation with her. It’s… a very bizarre conversation.
The pair then go back to the District Attorney to get the evidence gathered on the bullet from the Porter murder. The D.A. refuses to hand it over so the Sandman knocks him out then has the Lady in Evening Clothes crack the safe. That’s when two gun toting goons enter to collect the evidence themselves. The Sandman reacts like a real hero…
Yeah, he leaps out a window and leaves his female companion alone to deal with the crooks. When the Sandman comes back to get them from behind he gets himself fucking shot (again)!
He then gasses the gunmen, takes the Lady and the evidence (because that’s not going to royally fuck up the murder case) and tries to flee the scene.
It’s quite possibly the worst getaway I’ve ever seen.
The pair crash on a farmer’s property and when he comes to investigate the crash, the Dian comes up with a quick excuse.
So Dian tells him that they were at a masquerade party. After seeing that the driver is dressed like a wanted vigilante with a gunshot wound what does he do?
Yeah! He lets these strangers stay for a week to recover! A week! Apparently not telling a single soul they have a guy with a gunshot wound hanging around their home! These sort of things usually end with a double murder.
What’s even more insane is the fact that they lost an entire week of trying to stop the crooks trying to cover up a murder. What have they been doing this entire time? Just sitting around waiting for the Sandman to climb through their window apparently…
After knocking out Black Bill, the mastermind on the Anson murder, the Sandman takes evidence that proves the whole thing. He then frees the shooter, a thug named Trigger, from jail.
Trigger is not very bright as he blindly follows the Sandman to the District Attorney’s home. After forcing his way past the butler, he then hands over Trigger and the evidence proving that he committed the murder and that Black Bill was the one who ordered the hit.
Anyway, long story short, the cops show up and there is an armed standoff as the “Lady in Evening Clothes” holds the D.A. at gunpoint while the Sandman details the whole plot. Then there’s an unexpected twist, the Sandman reveals that Dian is the D.A.’s long lost daughter!
You have to really wonder what the Sandman’s thinking was through all of this. He hampered a police investigation for an entire week by stealing evidence, gets himself shot, and then breaks the suspect out of jail all so he can have a Clue moment where he reveals the whole motivation, and prove that the greatest criminal safecracker in the city is the long lost daughter of the District Attorney?
The whole entire case was impeded because the Sandman got involved and started stealing evidence that would have helped police solve the case anyway! As far as vigilantes go, the Sandman is the worst.
Then, after all is said and done, the D.A. accepts that Dian is his daughter at face value and lets the Sandman go free even though he committed countless crimes in a roundabout way of solving a murder.
That’s. Fucking. Insane.
I think that’s enough for now. Check back in again for more Golden Age Insanity when we take a look back at the character known as Golden Mask (but sometimes known as Purple Mask) Be there, won’t you?