Monday, December 31, 2007

Number 241

John Stanley chills us

It seems right to show this chilling tale on a day when in my neighborhood the thermometer peaks around 0 degrees F. It's from the 1962 Dell Giant, Tales From The Tomb, written by John Stanley, scanned from the copy I bought 45 years ago.
Stanley, who had written and guided Little Lulu through that comic's classic years, had stayed behind at Dell when Western Publishing took their licensees and most of their talent and split off into Gold Key Comics. Despite the promise on the cover, Tomb wasn't what I thought of as a horror comic, but more like a collection of stories told by kids around a campfire. Some of Stanley's work--the Oona Goosepimple stories from Nancy, for example--reminded me of Charles Addams. Stanley had a sometimes macabre sense of humor, and stories of this style would appeal to him. Tales From The Tomb is probably what DC's Plop! should have been a decade later.

As good as Stanley's writing is, the anonymous art is OK, not great. It likely scuttled this title.

These three shorties, vignettes, really, are typical of the weird humor of Tomb. The black-and-white one-pagers are the inside front and back covers respectively. The story, "Turnabout," is one of the shorter stories in the book, and is told in as few words as possible. The grim but funny joke it tells is beyond logic, and is told in visuals rather than dialogue or captions.

Finally, it's the end of another year. I'd like to thank Pappy's readers for making this a very successful year for this blog. HAPPY NEW YEAR, everybody.

Your Pappy loves you!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Number 240

Who's Yehudi?

Irv Novick was an artist who produced a staggering amount of work for comics in his lifetime. I didn't appreciate him as much as I should have because he always seemed to be published in comics along with some real hotshots. When I saw his work in DC's war comics he was being published alongside Joe Kubert and Russ Heath.When he did Batman in the early '70s Detective Comics he was alternating issues with Neal Adams. All of those contemporaries were hard acts to follow.
Novick had gone to DC Comics at the invitation of Robert Kanigher, who was writing and editing the war comics. Kanigher had worked with Novick at MLJ Comics in the early 1940s, where he was doing strips like the action-packed Steel Sterling story here, scanned from July, 1943's Zip Comics #38.

Novick died in 2004, and the obituaries I've seen for him are universally respectful of his talent and of his long tenure in the industry.

The "Yehudis" in the story are from a long-running joke by comedian Jerry Colonna on the old Bob Hope radio show. A Yehudi was "a little man who wasn't there," hence the question that became a catchphrase, "Who's Yehudi?" This was also the era of the Gremlins, little guys who sabotaged aircraft used for the war effort. That story is told in the latest issue of Hogan's Alley, #15, in "The Trouble With Gremlins, The True Story Of A Never-made Disney Classic," by Jim Korkis.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Number 239

"Can I choose waterboarding instead?"

I read that the Clock is considered the first masked character to appear in comic books. There were costumed and disguised characters in the pulps; the Shadow and Zorro spring to mind, but apparently before the Clock there weren't any characters in comic books who wore masks.

Well, how 'bout that for trivia?

I can't say a lot about the Clock's mask, though, since it is just a piece of black cloth with an odd little flounce at the bottom. It doesn't look like it would inspire terror in any criminals.

This story is from Feature Comics #26, November 1939. The drawing, by Clock creator George Brenner, is 1930s-styled comic book artwork: static figures, strict eight panel pages. The story is straightforward: The Clock is being framed and he goes right at the villain. The coloring, as in a lot of old comics from the Quality Comics line, is primary, and leads to interesting color choices, like a bright red car with yellow fenders. The colorist, obviously blinded by his or her colors, has completely screwed up the coloring in the last three panels, where Captain Kane and Fingers Holts switch colors, and then Captain Kane's suit changes again in the last panel to bright green.

There's one bit that struck me when the Clock threatens Fingers to make him confess. He tells him he's starved a rat, and what if he puts the rat on Fingers' belly under a metal bowl, and then heats the bowl? The rat can't chew the bowl to get out, so what does he chew? Bwooowaaahahahaa. Don't show this to the CIA. They might drop waterboarding in favor of this tasty torture.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Number 238

How Santa Got His Red Suit

It's Christmas Eve! Hope you boys and girls have been good this year, so Santa will give you what you want.

What Pappy wants is to give you are some good comics for Christmas, and here's a Walt Kelly strip from Santa Claus Funnies, Dell Comics Four-Color #61, December 1944. Santa, who doesn't wear his familiar red suit at the time, but dresses in his "gay costumes," goes on his yearly run, only to get sleighjacked by Jack Frost. Santa ends up with a bunch of naked little guys, who eventually get some clothes made from Santa's suit, and then make Santa the red suit we all know.

"How Santa Got His Red Suit" was reprinted two years later as the second of the March Of Comics giveaway series. The first three March Of Comics were by Kelly, which showed his popularity, even before his fame exploded into the mainstream with the Pogo comic strip five years later.

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Ho-ho-ho! As a bonus, here are a couple of Santa Claus covers from vintage issues of Galaxy Science Fiction I picked up a couple of years ago. Santa has an extra set of appendages in these gorgeous Ed Emshwiller illustrations. This unearthly Santa embodies the old saying, "Forewarned is four-armed."

Merry Christmas, everybody!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Number 237

Ghost Rider and the League of the Living Dead!

Oboy! Zombies! Voodoo! Corpses coming out of graves! Dead men shooting down living men, turning them into other dead men! It's all from ME Comics' Ghost Rider #7, 1952, drawn by the great Dick Ayers and his cousin Ernie Bache.
Even though the ending is a bit of a copout, the novelty of the setting, framing a hackneyed Western-rancher-scaring-off-other-ranchers-to-get-their-land story by using voodoo and walking green corpses is irresistible.

I first saw this story in Bill Black's 'zine, Macabre Western #2, back in the early '70s. It was printed on blue paper using magenta ink. I'm not sure what that color scheme was intended for, maybe just to make it look attractive and different. Black's comics, magazines and fanzines have always been very well designed. Black changed Ghost Rider's name to Haunted Horseman so as not to bump up against Marvel Comics, who by then had the name on another character. I think Haunted Horseman is a pretty good name, at least as good as Ghost Rider.When I saw the issue of Ghost Rider #7 with the story I jumped at it, and it became the first issue of Ghost Rider in my collection.

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The Pappy CD collection is pretty good, although I don't buy a lot retail, but instead haunt thrift stores and secondhand outlets for deals. Heh-heh. I said haunt, boils and ghouls! I found this wonderful Christmas CD of the Cryptkeeper doing songs like, "Deck The Halls With Parts Of Charlie," "I Wish You'd Bury The Missus," and "Twelve Days of Cryptmas," among several others. It makes me feel the…sniff…sniff…Christmas spirit, and in the tender glow of that loving, warm feeling, to all of those Pappy's readers I've made angry or mad in the past 12 months, well, I'd like to bury the hatchet. In your heads!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Number 236

Rat Fink Christmas

I was reminded of something the other day when I got my friend Dave Miller's annual Christmas CD. To compile his yearly CD, Dave takes some of the most obscure and oddball Christmas music he can find on record albums from thrift stores and yard sales.

Although there's nothing on the CD related to the cover artwork, the cover evokes Ed "Big Daddy" Roth and his famous Rat Fink. In the 1960s there was a magazine devoted to Big Daddy, published and edited by Pete Millar. Millar died in 2003, and has been forgotten by a lot of comic book fans, because his comic books weren't those normally sold to Marvel and DC readers. He published Drag Cartoons from 1963 to 1968, with the themes being cars and drag racing. That was a subject I wasn't interested in,* but I did like the cartoonists working in those early issues: Toth, Warren Tufts, Russ Manning, and even Millar himself. Millar got a license with Ed Roth to do four issues of a magazine that eventually failed on the newsstands. Pete overestimated how many kids who bought Rat Fink decals might be willing to pay 35¢ for a magazine based on Big Daddy. Number 2 is the only issue I bought, probably because of the Alex Toth story. But that's for later. For right now we've got Millar himself doing a Mad comics-styled "Night Before Christmas," featuring Big Daddy himself.

Pete's artstyle was developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and he is still the only cartoonist I've ever seen work in that style. I've scanned the pages bigger than I normally do. If your eyes are anything like Pappy's eyes you need something bigger so you can see all the tiny details. Just click on the pages for full-size images.

*The only thing about cars that interested me was getting girls into the seat next to me.

Number 235

"H-He didn't even kill me!"

This raggedy looking "Bombshell, Son Of War," is from a box of golden age comic book stories given to me 25 years ago, collected by a man who liked certain artists. In the 1940s he bought the comics off the newsstands; he'd cut out a story and throw the rest of the book away. Some stories in the box were in fairly good condition, some were incomplete. Some pages were so brittle they could barely be handled. This is one of the most brittle. Every time I scanned a page and picked it off the scanner board I had to brush away a couple dozen flakes of brown paper.

I want to scan all of these loose stories to preserve them in a digital form, because they aren't gonna last much longer in their printed state. "Bombshell" is from the first issue of Lev Gleason's Boy Comics, April, 1942, numbered #3. Boy Comics was continued from the first two issues of Captain Battle.The story was written by Dick Wood, brother of Bob Wood, co-editor with Charles Biro of Boy Comics. It's drawn by someone named "Michael," an artist unfamiliar to me. As near as I can tell from checking the Grand Comics Database, Bombshell was a short-lived hero, lasting only four issues. I think the concept had as much promise as any of the rest of the characters in the book. Except considering he comes from another planet Bombshell seems to be an all-American boy, and his sword can't kill anybody, even Hitler. C'mon…what fun is that?

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Number 234

"'Twas the night before…"

Boody Rogers does a Christmas story that isn't a Christmas story. It's from Big Shot Comics #84, December 1947. "'Twas the night before Christmas…" features Slap Happy, the ex-boxer with the big feet (exposed to cosmic rays), and Asian caricature Little Yoo Hoo (sorry to my Asian friends for this one; I just scan 'em as they are, written and drawn 60 years ago). The story involves Mother Goose rhymes, and that's why even though it's set on Christmas Eve, it's not a Christmas story. But, as usual, Boody's wacky cartooning is great and the jokes come fast.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Number 233

The Terrible Trunk

From Atlas' Adventures Into Weird Worlds #5, April 1952, "The Terrible Trunk," drawn by Joe Sinnott, begs the question. Who would you throw into that trunk, if you had it, and could make someone--anyone-- disappear? Maybe a mother-in-law, ex-wife (or ex-husband), ex-girl or boyfriend. You could throw in presidents of certain countries, if you could get them away from their security guards, that is. The possibilities are endless. For sure, like Harry Deevers in the story, I'd toss in my boss.

All you'd just have to worry about is another trunk, somewhere else, where those people might reappear and come looking for you.