Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Review of "Tom Swift and His Great Search Light," by Victor Appleton

 Review of

Tom Swift and His Great Search Light, by Victor Appleton

Four out of five stars

Another original Tom Swift where he is a mechanic

 In this story starring the original Tom Swift, he is portrayed as an ace mechanic rather than an inventive genius. In the Tom Swift Junior stories, Tom’s inventions are more far-reaching, beyond what others have developed. In this one, Tom Swift simply improves on what others have done.

Chronologically, Tom has developed his airship and the powerful searchlight is attached. A gang of criminals is using an airship to smuggle goods between the United States and Canada and Tom, along with his sidekicks, is attempting to catch them in the act and break up the ring. He takes his airship up at night when the smugglers are active and attempts to apprehend them after shining his light on their aircraft and following them to their arrival point.

 The dialog is very much that of the original Tom Swift stories published in the second decade of the twentieth century. The powerful black giant Koku is one of Tom’s sidekicks, this may be the first use of such a character. Artist Lee Falk created the character Mandrake the Magician in 1934 and his sidekick was the mighty black man Lothar. Like Koku, the original Lothar spoke using poor English. The similarities are too great to be coincidental. Mandrake is considered by many to be the first comic superhero, with Lothar then being the first black superhero. As Picasso reportedly said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.”

 Compared to later YA adventure stories, there is very little violence in this one. Tom is still being portrayed as a talented technical tinkerer rather than a genius. While it is not a page turner of an adventure, this story is a valuable look back at the history of a franchise that has published over 100 volumes over the course of time now exceeding a century.

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