By Deejay Dayton
May 6, 2015 - 10:07
Ben Webster's series plods along, as he enlists professional athletes as instructors at the boys reform school, which thrills the students, and makes the school a success.
In issue 11 Professor Mattix gets a letter from his brother Abner, who vanished in the southwestern US while prospecting for gold. Mattix enlists Ben's aid in finding him, and Ben sets out with Taffy Tate, an eccentric old man with a monkey on his shoulder and a truck converted into a mobile home (which I do not believe existed at this time).
They find a man lying in the desert, and help him. He gives his name as Sidewinder Pete, and tells them he will bring them to Abner. Ben is suspicious, but they follow the man deep into a canyon, where he appears to ambush them. In fact, this was Abner all along, and he was as suspicious of them as they were of him. Abner has found, not a gold mine, but a spring of magic mud.
Abner discovered the powers of the mud spring after seeing a man shoot himself in the head, but get healed and revived instantly. Ben and Taffy agree this could be more valuable than gold, but instead of pursuing the medical uses, they decide to market it as a home beauty treatment that will remove wrinkles.
Betsy comes to work for them, as the Magic Mud pulls in lots of money, but Ben gets lured away by Miss Terry, who brings him to her house, where he gets drugged and held captive, in hopes of finding the source of the mud. His dog, Briarsie, tagged along, and helps Taffy and Betsy track Ben to the house, but they get captured as well. Nonsensically, this all turns out to be a prank by Abner, who then asks Ben to accompany him to the old family mansion, believed to be haunted.
At the mansion, they appear to be menaced by a robot and a Hispanic servant, Pedro, but again all is fine, as their boss turns out to be Bud Mattix, an inventor who wanted privacy so he let everyone think he had been dead for 30 years. Story after story has these cheerful let-downs.
Ben then finds a lost young boy, Tom Jackson, and helps him find his way home to his young widowed mother, who is being taken in an elaborate phony gold mine scam to get her insurance money. At least this turns out not to be a harmless prank, and Mrs. Jackson finds herself close to destitute. Ben moves in, sharing his wages, and she rents a room to a mysterious man, whom everyone winds up believing is a criminal, but who actually turns out to be a playwright.
The series ends at this point, which is great, as it had become such a tedious read. Ben will probably marry Nancy Jackson, despite the difference in ages, unless he heads off to war in a few months when Pearl Harbour gets attacked. But as long as I don't have to read about what Ben Webster is doing, I am fine with it.
Ben Webster: All-American 10 - 24 (Jan 40 - Mar 41)