Goulart, an sf writer who is also busy cashing in on the market for several decades' worth of schlock (The Hardboiled Dicks, 1965; Cheap Thrills, 1972) takes you through dozens of action comics from the '30's without offering much evidence for exactly what was so great about them. Some of the masterworks he chronicles: the different incarnations of Tarzan by various artists; Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon and the other sf features; the aviation strips like Smilin' Jack; Dick Tracy and his gangbusting progeny. It's an interesting subject with a lot of surprises (Dashiell Hammett, in one of his more sozzled periods, was signed up by King Features to do the story for Secret Agent X-9), and the durable charm of the best comics cries out for analysis. But Goulart is content with random facts and unsystematic doodlings. Best thing here: the reproductions of a few Scorchy Smith panels by Milton Caniff's friend and mentor, Noel Sickles.