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Monday, November 09, 2009


Number 626



This song's a killer!


"Record of Doom" from DC's Tales of the Unexpected #2, 1956, reminds me of the backwards masking scandal of a couple decades ago. You remember when recording artists were accused of sending hidden messages in their songs, backwards, subconsciously influencing their listeners. I couldn't understand what they were saying consciously, much less subconsciously.

The story is drawn by Bill Ely, a longtime comic book journeyman who came into the industry in the 1930s. For DC Comics he later drew Rip Hunter, Time Master.

The suicide theme of the story seems morbid for a Comics Code-approved story, especially so soon after the Code was adopted. (However, in the pre-Code days the guilty party would have done his own killing.) Also, the cops in this story are pretty dumb. They don't notice until several people have taken the plunge that the suicide notes are all in the same comic book lettering. It makes me think of Jack Webb's Dragnet. In my head I replaced the comic book cops with Frank Smith and Joe Friday. Panel 5 and 6, page 5:. "Look at this letter "O", Frank. Notice the break in it on every single note?" "What are you getting at, Joe?" "They were all written by one man."

Dramatic Dragnet theme music rises: DOMM-DA-DOMM DOMM!






8 comments:

darkmark90 said...

This story was based on a real song, which I think was called "Gloomy Monday" and was billed as the famous "European suicide song". Apparently a number of suicides really were inspired by it. Check the Snopes Urban Legend page. Also, I have a feeling the dialogue may have been reworked in the penultimate panel; a REAL writer would have had the bad guy plunging to his own death to underline the irony.

THE APOCOLYTE said...

I knew that crazy Rock n Roll music was no good for you! It'll never catch on!

I've actually heard several songs that made me want to kill...the songwriter/performer!

Pat said...

I'm with Darkmark; that story would have been much punchier if the songwriter had died.

Pappy said...

Thanks for the background. Amazing what you find out around here. Who says comic books aren't educational? Euro suicide song, indeed...hmmm.

I'm sure the bad guy would have plunged to his own death if the story had been published a couple of years earlier. I'm guessing it was written that way, only to have the Comics Code send it back and tell them to fix that panel so he's saved.

Chuck Wells said...

That just doesn't seem like a DC story to me. Without your attribution, I would have thought that this one appeared in an ACG title.

darkmark90 said...

Here's the link: http://www.snopes.com/music/songs/gloomy.asp

Tamfos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mark said...

I read the story while listening to Elvis Costello's rendition of "Gloomy Sunday."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4YHoijyRH0

Reminds me of when, as I kid, I would listen to soundtrack records (James Bond theme songs, Man from Uncle, Adams Family, etc.) while reading Hardy Boys stories. When I would come to an exciting scene, I would put the phonograph needle on an exciting track. When I would come to a light-hearted scene, I would queue up a light-hearted track. And so on.

Reading is a lot more fun for us readers who mentally enhance the stories we read.