Friday, June 29, 2012

Number 1183: Caught with her panthers down

"Fangs of the Panther," from Harvey's All-New Comics #11, which is cover-dated Spring 1945, is probably at least partially inspired by the movie, Cat People, which was a big hit in 1942. Jerry Robinson, who had started his career assisting Bob Kane on Batman, is the artist. He was proud of this story, or appeared to be, since he signed it in both the splash and last panels. Signed comic book stories weren't unusual, but signed in two places was unusual.

Robinson died December 8, 2011, at age 89. He was active at that late stage in his life, based on this drawing of Robinson which appeared in The New Yorker magazine in May, 2011. Robinson was one of the pioneers of comic books, having joined Kane's studio as a teenager in those days when comics were finding their form.

Another pioneer, Bob Powell, was also represented in the same issue of All-New Comics, with a predecessor to the character, The Man in Black Called Fate*, the Man in Black Called Death, a name with a morbid air about it. It's the same character, though, with the gimmick of the Fate/Death character's face always in shadow.

*The Man in Black Called Fate is represented here by issues number 1 and 2 from 1957 in Pappy's #822, and Pappy's #1019. In 1947 the character appeared in Green Hornet Comics as The Man in Black, who introduced himself as Mr. Twilight! I showed a story in Pappy's #867.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Number 1182: “Chilluns ought to be seed and not hearn!”

I like to think if there's an afterlife, perhaps Walt Kelly and Lewis Carroll are talking to each other in their own funny versions of the English language.

Other Kelly Pogo postings on this blog include “Floyd the Flea is lost at sea!” from Pappy's #756, “A couple of miles of jollity,” from Pappy's #567, and “Cinderola and the Three Bears” from Pappy's #483.

From Pogo #2 (1950), by Walt Kelly:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Number 1181: Robin Crusoe

How old is Batman's ward, Robin, anyway? I've seen stories where he seems very young and then stories like this, where he appears to be sixteen or seventeen. It wouldn't matter except that he's allowed to fly the Batplane on a high altitude test flight. "Hey, Bruce, can I have the keys to the Batplane today? I'd like to take it for a spin, you know, see what it can do."

"Okay, but remember to wear your seat belt and no texting on the Batphone while you're flying."

You think Batman would just let Robin take off in an expensive plane without him along? Robin must've sneaked it out of the hangar when Batman was busy with something else. Teenagers — always getting into trouble.

Robin took the Batplane quite a distance before it cracked up and he ended up on a tropical island. There probably aren't any tropical islands close to Gotham City. Robin used his survival skills to kill game and when he encountered an enemy, Nazis no less, from a submarine looking for a secret oil base, he was able to fight adult sailors using his Bat-training. Even I learned something when Robin demonstrated how to swim out of quicksand. Next time I find myself being sucked into a quicksand bog I'll know what to do.

Robin is on the island long enough to grow a mullet, and in that kind of time you know Batman was frantic with worry. Which brings me to the question, how close were Batman and Robin? This page of original art from Batman #13, the scan provided by Heritage Auctions, has Batman telling Robin he'd "rather lose both arms than you."

In the splash panel of "The Trial of Bruce Wayne" from Batman #57 (1950), they reach for each other when in danger of being separated. I'd say these examples show they were mighty close. So I imagine during the weeks Robin was missing Batman was anxious and upset.

"Robin Crusoe" is from Star Spangled Comics #72 (1948). According to the Grand Comics Database it was written by Bill Finger, and drawn by Curt Swan, ghosting for Bob Kane, and inked by John Fischetti. The cover is by Curt Swan and Stay Kaye.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Number 1180: The stolen saucer

Sixty-five years ago today, June 24, 1947, Kenneth Arnold, flying his small private plane over the Cascade Mountains of Washington State, spotted nine strange flying objects in the sky. The story has come down as the event that kicked off flying saucer fever. I'm commemorating the anniversary with a story featuring Mandrake the Magician, "The Flying Saucers."

The story, taken from a newspaper comic strip continuity with dates unknown to me, was printed as part of the Indrajal Comics line in India, published by the Times of India. I have never seen an Indrajal Comic in person, only in digital form. I found this online, and after a minor clean up of the scans I am presenting it to you as I found it. (You may remember me saying a few weeks ago that off-register colors were a problem of American comics, but when it comes to off-register the Indian printers of this issue were more than a match for the Americans.)

Reading the Wikipedia entry on Indrajal Comics I see they quit publishing them in 1990, but they had a good run and are appearing more and more in online versions.

I'm not trying to spoil the end of the story for anyone, but as a further bit of introduction I need to go back again to 1947. When Kenneth Arnold first observed the mysterious craft, and when the stories of them went out through the news media the "saucers" were thought to be secret weapons. Perhaps, as was speculated, they were aircraft flown by the Soviets invading our airspace, or maybe they were secret weapons being tested by the USA. In those early days no one used terms like extraterrestrial. All of that came along sometime later. All I'll say about this story is that Mandrake encounters no real extraterrestrials.

From 1972, Indrajal Comics #155, written by Lee Falk, drawn by Fred Fredericks:

Mandrake had a real-life counterpart, Leon Mandrake.