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Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Number 139



Space Ace and the Invisible Death!



First of all, for all you Jet Powers fans out there, I have fixed the broken links to the story, "The Three Million-Year-Old Men" in Pappy's #133. There must've been some sort of cosmic disruption…I checked those links at home and on my work computer after posting them and they worked. So who knows…just another spacey computer mystery.

Speaking of spacey, this Space Ace story, "The Invisible Death!" from Jet #2, 1951, is an action-filled short science fiction story right out of Planet Stories and Planet Comics. It's real space opera with a beautiful babe and Space Ace on Saturn's moon, Titan, looking for the "Ocean Of Diamonds," which is protected by the Invisible Death! And that's a problem only if you get by the Jumping Mountains to get there.

The explanation for the Invisible Death--using rays to cook someone from the inside out--sounds a lot like a microwave oven.

The art is by someone whose name I don't know, and like the story in Jet #1, is influenced by Wayne Boring, then the main Superman artist.

In Jet #3, upcoming, Al Williamson takes over the Space Ace art chores.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007




Number 138



Dandy Dan D!



Dan DeCarlo was a great cartoonist. He specialized in pretty girls, and the pretty girls he drew were prettier--and sexier--than most other cartoonists could draw them. He influenced several artists, including Jaime Hernandez of Love And Rockets fame.

His art was to Archie Comics what Jack Kirby's was to Marvel. He set the standard for the other artists, and his style became the house style.

DeCarlo died in 2001 at age 82. Over the 50+ years he put in at his board he did some really fine work. He did pin-up cartoons for Chip Goodman at Humorama (which was part of the company owned by Marvel Comics owner Martin Goodman, Stan Lee's father-in-law). In the fifties he did work for Stan Lee. The strip I'm showing you here is from a coverless issue of My Friend Irma, which was a spin-off of a radio and TV show about a really ditzy blonde.

As a matter of fact, the whole premise is to showcase how dumb Irma is. It's one blonde joke after another. I've read several of Stan Lee's humor comics of the 1950's and have to say he was really good at the sort of gag in this strip. It's vaudeville, it's George Burns and Gracie Allen, it's one zinger after another.

DeCarlo's artwork does a beautiful job of capturing it all. First of all, DeCarlo had a style that could be "read" instantly. He was a born storyteller, even if he didn't do the writing. He could draw a pretty girl with so few lines and give her such nice curves and dress her so well. Sigh. Many a young comic book reader probably had his first crush on a DeCarlo doll.

I'm showing you a cheesecake Millie The Model cover, which pretty much typifies the sex appeal his artwork had.
The Irma strip is a lot like the later work he did for Archie. He was remarkably consistent over the years, which gives us such a great body (heh-heh-heh…I said "body") of comic art to go back to and study.





Monday, May 28, 2007


Number 137



The Bastard Children of Harvey Kurtzman



Harvey Kurtzman is one of my Personal Pantheon of Comic Art Gods.* He is one of a very small group of great cartoon art geniuses who make me laugh.

By creating Mad in 1952, and having it become one of the hippest and funniest comic books ever, he unleashed the unwanted children of success: the untalented imitators.

Anyone who loved Mad would know in an instant these lackluster imitations were not Mad. Although they were drawn by talented artists (for the most part), they were written and edited mostly by people who just didn't get what it was that made Mad great. They looked all all the surface stuff, like the little funny signs and bric-a-brac of the individual panels, the eye candy that Mad readers looked for. They might not have known that Harvey's stories were carefully thought out, worked out layer upon layer, and given to the artists with careful instructions to do it like Harvey intended. Woe unto those who didn't.The thing was, the imitators were giving the readers what they expected from 99% of the comics of the era: pale shadows of the greats, just more stuff pumped out to fill the newsstands, to keep the distribution chain going. It shouldn't be a surprise that Timely/Atlas gave readers two or three Mad imitations, because the whole company philosophy was to copy whatever was possible after someone else had blazed the trail.
Even EC Comics came out with an imitation of Mad, edited by Al Feldstein, who would go on to make Mad Magazine a major publishing success after Kurtzman's departure. But even the officially sanctioned imitation, Panic, using the same artists as Mad, couldn't match Mad in its originality or sales.Mad was as Kurtzman was, true original comic art genius.

All of these Mad imitators came out in 1953 and 1954. I give credit to Ross Andru and Mike Esposito for making the cover of Get Lost! #1 look like a Kurtzman cover, and also to the Charlton Eh! cover for making an obscene description of female anatomy into a cover. But other than that, these imitations are so pale compared to the original that they are just footnotes in comic book history.
Click on pictures for full-size images.

*Pappy's Personal Pantheon of Comic Art Gods are Harvey Kurtzman, Carl Barks, Walt Kelly, Charles Schulz and Robert Crumb.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Number 136



Jet Powers Goes Ape!



While Jet Powers is off racing around through time, Mr. Sinn's former assistant, the sexy Su Shan, takes a powder. And that's appropriate. It turns out that a powder is one of the motivations of this plot, such as it is. The villain, Marlon Stone (a comic book villain named Marlon?) has a "dissolvo-ray" that turns any paper into powder. He plans to extort money from people wishing to keep their precious paper collectibles intact.

Imagine your comic collection turned to dust unless you cough up some money. You obsessive-compulsive comic book collectors would do it. I know you would because I would, too.

The story, "House of Horror," is in the number two position in Jet #2, 1951. The story is written by Gardner Fox and drawn by Bob Powell. Jet Powers doesn't show up until page 4, and immediately gets thrown into the action, a room with walls that press in on him, and escapes that only to find himself in a room full of gorillas. Such interesting ways Marlon has of dispatching an enemy. He must've been raised on movie serials. Why not just take a gun and shoot Jet when he walks in the door?

You have to wonder what in the world Mad Marlon Stone had in mind building such death traps. Some guys just like to complicate their lives, I guess. This is a story that is all over the map. Like all of the Jet Powers stories, it's very entertaining, even if lacking in the logic department.

The ending leaves us wanting a little more. I'm sure from that goggle-eyed expression on Jet's face when Su Shan admits she "knows what she's doing," he's imagining what the two of them could be doing. Too bad the story ends at that point. I'd like to find out what happened when they got back to Jet's mesa lab.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Number 135



Rocket Ships and Dinosaurs!



In Pappy's #133 I complained that Bob Powell faked it when he drew the dinosaurs for Jet #2. Here's a story where the dinosaurs are drawn with what looks like some help from a book of natural history…and a famous comic book artist.

This story featuring the character Rocky X (and with that blond hair, he's probably no relation to Malcolm X), titled "Horror On Kallaxyn," is from Boy Illustories #96, December 1953. I've seen a few of the Rocky X stories and they seem to be part of some long continuity, but it doesn't seem to hurt the story much to get dropped in to the storyline as we are with this episode.

The story was drawn by Ralph Mayo, a comic book artist who had worked for Standard Comics doing work in various genres, but he seemed especially good at love comics. Mayo, who was born in England and came to the U.S. at the start of World War II, fell on hard times in the mid-1950s, and for a time crashed on a cot at Al Williamson's place. He helped Williamson with drawing Jann Of The Jungle for Stan Lee in Williamson's post-EC career. Mayo earned some money, found a place and moved out, but one night died in his sleep. That information is from the book, Al Williamson, Hidden Lands, based on Williamson's recollections.

Mayo also did the Crimebuster strip in this issue of Boy, where he signed the splash panel.

The dinosaurs in the Rocky X story appear to be drawn by none other than Joe Kubert. Mayo didn't use the motion and "shock" lines external to the figures like Kubert did, and the dinosaurs look a lot like the dinos Kubert did for his Tor books. Mayo could have swiped them from Kubert's strip, or Kubert could have drawn them himself. There was a connection: Kubert's business partner in those days, Norman Maurer,* was the principal artist on the Crimebuster strip for many years, and also drew some of the Rocky X stories I've seen. So did Kubert draw the dinosaurs in this story? I don't know for sure, but in the production of comic books with strict deadlines I've learned that any kind of artist crossover was possible.

As a bonus, I'm including a full-page ad from the same issue of Boy. This is for a Tom Corbett, Space Cadet Sonic Vision helmet, with a one-way visor. It claims invisibility, but as I found out when I was a kid, everyone knew who I was underneath the helmet. "You see people--they can't see you!" Sure. Click on picture for full-size image.

I love the other claims in this ad: "…sensational discovery is as new as the hydrogen bomb! As exciting as a ride through space! Makes you a super space cadet!" Overstatement was not a concept unknown to this copywriter, and in those days the term "space cadet" didn't mean the same thing as it came to mean years later.

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*Among Maurer's other claims to fame: With Kubert he developed 3-D Comics for Archer St. John; Maurer married Stooge Moe Howard's daughter, Joan, and later became the producer for the Three Stooges.

Sunday, May 20, 2007





Number 134



EC: Preachy-ing to The Choir



Bill Gaines and Al Feldstein, as publisher and editor of EC Comics, had social consciousness. They published several stories they called "preachies," which were stories told, EC-style, to demonstrate the racist and uglier side of life in America.

The preachy in Shock Suspenstories #11* is "In Gratitude," drawn by Wally Wood. The story is very straight forward. A young soldier, Joey, returns home a hero from Korea. He has been wounded and lost his hand. His best buddy threw himself on a hand grenade and saved Joey's life. Because his buddy, Hank, had no family Joey has his remains sent home for burial in the town cemetery. The undertaker calls Joey's parents, as well as other townies, and they protest having this black person buried in their cemetery.

Click on pictures for full-size images. In the climactic scene Joey gets up to the podium and chews out the bigots, then sits down and cries while they walk out in silence.

Maybe no one thought about this in 1953 when it was published, but the only people shown in the story are white people. Hank, when he's shown, is pictured so his race can't be easily determined.
In a nutshell this was what I find nowadays to be outdated about the EC Preachies. White people were most often the springboards for their stories. The minority group members, blacks, Jews, Mexicans, whomever, were just props. Because of the strict storytelling strictures of EC Comics there had to be a shock ending, so the minority characters were often just a way of fooling the reader until the denouement.

"In Gratitude" was spotlighted in the documentary on the first Tales From The Crypt TV series DVD, "Tales From The Crypt: From Comic Books to Television." What wasn't mentioned that put it in some sort of historical context is that the story appeared a year before the landmark "Brown v Board Of Education" ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court, two years before the savage murder of Emmett Till, three years before the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and ten years before the March on Washington, all watershed events in the history of Civil Rights. In all of those events African-Americans were the group that had to take action. They couldn't just depend on white people, even well-meaning white people producing comic books in New York, to precipitate the action.As well-meaning as "In Gratitude" was, I believe that anyone who believed strongly in segregation wouldn't be swayed by this story, and the readers who would most likely be in agreement with the story would be people who had a predisposition to that philosophy. I don't think the Preachies changed anybody's minds, but even while saying that, it was brave of EC to publish them. In those days of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee, Civil Rights as an issue was viewed in about the same light as Communism. It was a threat to the American way of white people having absolute power and minorities knowing their place.

*In case you're interested, two other stories from Shock Suspenstories #11 are covered in Pappy's #102 and Pappy's #99 .

Wednesday, May 16, 2007




Number 133



Jet Powers and the Three Million Year Old Men!



In 1959 Mom and I used to go grocery shopping on Saturdays. Correction. Mom used to grocery shop, I hung out at the grocery store's magazine rack looking at issues of Cracked, Amazing Stories, or sneaking looks at Sexology or even Playboy. There was a comic book rack, also, and I did my share of looking at comics, usually picking up my weekly allotment at that store. There was also a cardboard dump (display case) with piles of comics in bags. These were the IW reprints, also called "A Top Quality Comic" on the covers.

"IW" was Israel Waldman, a publishing entrepreneur who bought printing plates and publishing rights for old comics and published them with different covers under his own imprint. The comics were sold three to a bag for 25¢ a bag.

What I liked was that most of them were pre-Comics Code issues. Since they didn't go through normal distribution channels they had no need for the Comics Code seal. And so it was with Jet #2 from 1951, reprinted in 1959 as Jet Power #2. Since my obsessive-compulsive disorder was probably at its highest in the late 1950s, due to family stress, I read and re-read this issue practically to death. I'm showing a scan of the cover here, which has been taped because the cover was torn while I was re-reading it for the umpteenth time.For some reason my imagination was captured by this comic, and it led to a lifelong love of the artwork of Bob Powell, and also for the four issues of Jet, published by Magazine Enterprises. It wasn't really for the stories, which are good, not great. I guess nostalgia is my prime mover with this comic book, folks.

Almost 20 years after buying the IW reprint I bought the original series of Jet comics, which came from the Cosmic Aeroplane-pedigreed comic book collection. Someday I'll have to tell you about that collection, but for now, suffice it to say that of all the comics I've wanted and then bought over the years, the Jet comics were ones I coveted the most. To find them in the near-mint shape I found them (and have hopefully kept them) was a real bonus.

Since I've already used up my allotment of space for talking about a story, I'll just let you read the lead story from Jet #2. I only have one thing to say about it, and it's that I wish Powell would have done some research on dinosaurs. He faked his drawings of the giant saurians, and it shows.I prefer the cover of the reprint, which is unsigned but I believe to by the fabulous team of ex-EC Comics artists Reed Crandall and George Evans, who were teaming up in those post-EC days on things like issues of Classics Illustrated .

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007




Number 132



Doctor Of Evil!



No, not Austin Powers' Dr. Evil, but Joseph "Doc" Moran, who dug bullets out of bad guys during the gang period of the 1930s.

This is a story from Crime Does Not Pay #43, January 1946, drawn by Vernon Henkel, a true Golden Age comic book artist, who was there for the duration, from the very beginnings in the 1930s.

As told by Henkel in an interview in the fanzine Alter Ego #48, May 2005, he grew up interested in art and cartooning, and sent Quality Comics publisher, Everett "Busy" Arnold, an original comic book story. He was rewarded with a check and a steady art gig for quite a while. Like most journeymen comic book men of the era Henkel worked for various publishers over the years. He didn't work for Charles Biro for long, but long enough to do some memorable stories, including this lurid 6 2/3 pager about a notorious drunken quack who catered to the bank robber clientele.

As usual, the Crime Does Not Pay story jibes with real life only long enough to establish the story. As I've mentioned before when writing about Charles Biro's crime comic books, although they purported to be true stories, "truth" was sort of a floating concept. For some reason while Dillinger gang member John Hamilton is called by name, the Barker-Karpis gang's name is changed to the "Russ Gobson Gang." Say what? Gobson? I can't imagine the publisher was worried about getting sued, since the only survivor of that gang in 1945, when the story was drawn, was Alvin Karpis, cooling his heels in Alcatraz.

In real life Moran was killed by Dock and Freddie Barker because he was blabbing all over town about handling money from a kidnapping by the Barker-Karpis gang. Besides whittling fingerprints off criminals, botching plastic surgery, and operating to get bullets out of desperadoes, Moran was also a money launderer. He came to a bad end, just like it was shown in the comic book. His body has never been found.

I like everything about this story, from the surreal splash page to the violence, shootings, and flying sweat drops. This is real crime comics, fans, the kind that made mothers and fathers, teachers and preachers, cringe, then erupt in outrage. In other words, it was a sensational story made for a kid--or any other avid crime comics reader--to love. The artwork is excellent and the coloring is eye-blistering, made up of vivid poster-like primary colors. Lots of Charlie Biro's comics shared that look of the lurid. It's why they were so popular and sold so well. Biro knew as well as anyone that sleaze sells. Check out the cover to this issue, in a scene inspired by James Cagney's popular gangster movie, Public Enemy.

"I'm a dirty rat and got what was coming to me." Yow! The Code of the Underworld! If I had been old enough to see that on the comic book racks my hands would be sweating and my head would fill with lust and desire to own it.

Vernon Henkel worked for a long time for Stan Lee in the Timely/Atlas bullpen. At the time of the Alter Ego interview he was still alive, and if alive today he'd be 90 years old. Not only old enough to remember the original bank robbery gangs, Barker-Karpis, Dillinger, Baby Face Nelson, Bonnie and Clyde, et al., but old enough to have drawn about their criminal careers during the heyday of the crime comic books.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007


Number 131



Twin Terrors



These two horror comics stories, "Tale Of Cain," from Tomb Of Terror #12, November 1953, and "My Brother's Keeper," from Mysterious Adventures #17, December 1953, are basically the same story. They're told with different characters and different locales, and the motivations are slightly different, but the basic plot and endings are much the same.

They try for a surprise but it's pretty obvious as readers we're being manipulated, so the endings aren't much of a surprise.

These two stories could only be told in comic books, where such manipulation is possible. It would look too cumbersome using live actors in the movies or on TV. The artwork in "Tale Of Cain," is by Howard Nostrand,* and is better at its own manipulation than "My Brother's Keeper," done by an artist unknown to me. Both artists are influenced by EC artists: Nostrand by Jack Davis, the unknown artist by Reed Crandall.

The fact that both of these comics, published by completely different companies, were on the stands simultaneously in late '53, is another coincidence. You can't say one stole the story from the other. But what it shows is what we already know: there are only so many plots in horror comics.

The cover of Tomb Of Terror #12 is another great cover by our old pal, Lee Elias, discussed in Pappy's #129.
A Tale Of Cain
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My Brother's Keeper
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*Stories by Howard Nostrand were shown in Pappy's #15, and Pappy's #109.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Number 130



Jet Powers and The Thing From The Meteor



Recently a couple of my local congressmen voted against a memorial to Rachel Carson. If you recall, Rachel Carson wrote a book called Silent Spring back in 1962 that showed the pesticide DDT to be a cause of much ecological damage. DDT was removed from legal usage. My congressmen apparently think it's a mistake that has cost lives.

I believe my congressmen are wrong, but have to admit if Jet Powers hadn't had DDT back in 1950, we'd now be ruled by 6' tall grasshoppers using neurostasis rays to numb us and we'd all be stored in jars!

This is an entertaining story with a 1950's alien invasion premise, and I don't think I'm ruining it for you by telling you that Jet Powers wins, saving the earth in the process.

"The Thing From The Meteor," written by Gardner Fox and illustrated by Bob Powell, appeared in Jet #1, 1950, from ME Comics. This is the fourth and final story from that issue. For you latecomers, you can read the rest of the magazine by going to: Pappy's #121, Pappy's #123, and Pappy's #127.

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Tuesday, May 08, 2007



Number 129



COVERING UP: Lee Elias and The Art Of The Horrible


Lee Elias died in 1998 at age 78, and left a lifetime's worth of very fine work behind him in the comics field.

He drew in several genres of comic art, but my favorites were his science fiction and horror. In the early '60s I liked his work on DC Comics' Showcase issues of Tommy Tomorrow.

I have read that Elias doubled as art director for Harvey Comics, specifically on their horror comics. The contents of the comics didn't always match the exteriors, but even without the contents, the comics are worth having just for the covers.

Click on the pictures for full-size images.


I'm sure these comics got lots of attention when they came out, both from readers and alarmed parents. Monsters, mutilation, skeletons! Living dead! Yow!In my opinion from looking at hundreds of covers of horror comics over the past couple of years, the best artists were Jack Davis* of EC Comics, Bernard Baily,* of Fawcett and other publishers, and Lee Elias of Harvey Comics. Not only were they all great comic book artists, they were artists with a lovingly natural bent (and I do mean bent) for the gruesome and grotesque .

From Pappy's #38, some of my favorite Davis horror covers.

From Pappy's #34 and Pappy's #31, some classic Baily.

Saturday, May 05, 2007




Number 128


The Sick Joke



Manny Stallman was one of those journeyman Golden Age comic book artists that most fans have never heard of. He seldom signed his name. He ended up his comic book career doing commercial comics, things like Big Boy comics for a restaurant chain.

During his time at Harvey Comics in the early 1950s he did some very memorable stories, working in all of the genres, horror, crime, romance and war. This particular story, "Ugly Duckling," from Chamber Of Chills #22 in 1954, is one of his best.

Cover by Lee Elias. Click on pictures for full-size images.

He's teamed up here with fellow Golden Ager, John Giunta, another workhorse of the era. Between the two of them they've come up with a story which is really about setting up the last panel, like a punchline to a sick job.

And quite a punchline it is. Since this is a horror comic book, the stories don't have to make sense or even be possible, they just have to be horrible. And this is horrible! It's such a macabre joke that in 1987 the same motif was used in a card in the Garbage Pail Kids series by artist John Pound. I'm including that also.

The face in the splash panel is a red herring…it's from a Mayan mask, I believe. Don't quote me because I'm relying on memory.

The scans are taken from the original artwork, and since it's not from a poorly-printed comic book we can see how good the drawing really is. Stallman's figure drawing and composition are excellent, and his pencils are brought to life by Giunta's inks. A very nicely done story.

I got these scans from Heritage Auctions, and thanks to them.










Thursday, May 03, 2007

Number 127



Space Ace: The Man Who Would Be Boring



This is story number three from Jet #1, an ME science fiction comic from 1950. The character is completely different from the star of Jet, Jet Powers. Jet's world is that of 1950, although some of his technology would be advanced even for 2007.*

The Space Ace stories are set in the future when people live on Mars. It's space opera, with pirates and rogues in tight costumes and funny helmets, and in this first story some giant robots.

The artist isn't identified except with some initials on the bottom right of the splash panel that look to me like "LW." The only comic artist I can think of with those initials is Lou Wahl, and that was a pseudonym for Kurt Schaffenberger, used when he was at ACG in the '60s. This artist is definitely not Schaffenberger. The artist has borrowed poses and some other things from Wayne Boring, who at the time was the Superman artist. No one else ever drew Superman in flight like Boring, and this artist has copied those poses.

It's a fairly entertaining tale…not great, just a 6-page diversion. Still, it's worth looking at if only to prompt some sharp-eyed art spotter to write and tell me who LW (or whatever those initials are) was. To my knowledge this and the Space Ace story in Jet #2 are the only stories I've seen by this artist.

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*He didn't have the Internet, though! Not so smart after all, are you, Mr. Jet Smartypants Powers?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007



Number 126



Supermouse in Monsters On The Loose!



Supermouse was a funny animal character who had a decent run in comics, lasting from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. What's even more surprising about Soupie's longevity (and yes, his nickname was "Soupie") is that he managed to avoid being sued out of existence by DC Comics, owner of Superman, and stalwart defenders of their rights not to have their copyrights stepped on. So wha' hoppen? Whither Supermouse?

Supermouse was created in 1942 by Kin Platt, who was apparently some sort of renaissance man of popular culture. He wrote novels* for children and adults, worked in animation and basically all over the place. The character was created for the Sangor comic book shop, suppliers of funny animal stories to several publications that eventually became the American Comics Group (ACG). I can only guess at the non-action by the legal-types at DC Comics, but it's probably because they were after characters they claimed infringed on Superman, like Captain Marvel, and not a mouse that wore a similar costume but got his powers through "super cheese."

This particular Supermouse story is from Supermouse Summer Holiday Issue, a 100-page giant comic from Summer 1957. It was published by Ned Pines, a longtime pulp and comic book publisher under various names and logos. According to cartoonist Jim Engel, the story was drawn by Supermouse's finest artist, Milton Stein.

My interest in this particular Supermouse story, "Monsters On The Loose!" is in the artwork; the story is OK, but the artwork really makes it work for me. The first thing that comes to my mind is that this would make a great storyboard for an animated film. When you look at the panel layouts and the drawings, this is really nice comic art of any genre. I'm especially knocked out by the large half-page panels with the dinosaurs. It is obvious that Stein really liked what he was drawing.

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*Here's a 1971 Platt novel, published by Scholastic: