Friday, November 30, 2012

Number 1272: Face the Face

This is the fourth and final posting of our early superheroes week. I enjoy these theme weeks and will do another one soon.

Like Batman, Mart Bailey's “Face” was introduced to readers of Big Shot Comics #1 (1940) without a proper origin story. He just appeared already in action as a do-gooder, in this case going after a grafting politician. Of all the things a criminal can do, this one fed poisoned turkey to orphan children!

The Face appeared in Big Shot through issue #62 with his fright mask, then went back to his civilian identity as Tony Trent through the end of the Big Shot run, issue #104 in 1949. He even had a couple of solo issues of The Face and two of Tony Trent. Early on his success might've been a surprise for the publisher, because the feature's name doesn't appear on the cover of the first issue.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Number 1271: Eye in the sky

The introduction of the Eye, by Frank Thomas, is our third posting of four in our early superhero/costumed characters comics week. It's the earliest story, having appeared in Keen Detective Funnies Volume 2 Number 4 (whole number 16), published by Centaur in 1939.

Despite inclusion in our theme week, the Eye doesn't really count as a costumed hero, although he could be said to be super. That is, if working miracles is a super power. So what was the Eye? No one knew, because he was never explained. I assume, as do some other comic historians, that the Eye was some sort of comic book version of God. He appeared for a year, until Keen Detective ceased publishing. He appeared in two issues of his own comic, then went wherever old comic book characters, including comic book gods, go.

Thomas did features like “The Owl” and “Billy and Bonny Bee.” He was a talented cartoonist and writer. I've featured him before, the post before this being this past February: Pappy's #1105.

Tomorrow, the Face.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Number 1270: The Captain America copycat

This is day two of our theme week: early costumed heroes of the comic books. We're wrapping up November with some real vintage stuff.

Compared to yesterday's posting with its elegant and excellent Joe Doolin art, we have today a tale told with artwork that is mostly amateurish. The Grand Comics Database doesn't know who did the artwork, nor do I. The character is another in a whole platoon of red, white and blue patriotic costumed heroes. He's also close to one of the most famous patriotic heroes of all, as the index at the GCD notes:
“There are noticable themes here - the patriotism, the Army private who is secretly a superhero, the kid sidekick, the chemistry-related origin, the murder attempts on Army generals — that parallel Captain America.”
Not only did Lone Warrior have a kid sidekick like Captain America's Bucky, the kid's name is Dicky. As I've mentioned before, originality was not a big priority in comic books. An editor or publisher of Banner Comics probably hollered out, “Give me someone exactly like Captain America — only different!” No publisher could have failed to notice the sales figures for that character. Unlike Captain America, though, who is still kicking ass after 71 years, Lone Warrior lasted a scant four issues. Perhaps Martin Goodman, who published Captain America Comics, noticed Lone Warrior, which is why Lone Warrior had such a short career.

From Banner Comics #3, 1941:

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Number 1269: “Nuts to you, Super-Brain!”

This posting begins another theme week, specifically costumed heroes of the early days of comics. It was brought to mind by seeing the name of old friend Raymond Miller pop up on Wikipedia. The article quoted Ray on Fiction House comics. Ray and I corresponded for a time in the sixties, when we traded some comics. Ray wrote me then that he considered the comics up to 1943 to be the best comic books. Ray, born in 1931, would have been about eleven or twelve-years-old in 1943, and, as someone once observed when asked the question, “So when was the Golden Age?” shot back the answer, “Twelve.”

There is truth in that, and I'm a good example.

First up in our theme week is Rangers of Freedom #2, a Fiction House comic from 1941. A couple of months ago in Pappy's #1248 I showed you the lead story from issue #1, which told us that a group of young boys were chosen to lead the fight against America's enemies. Now doesn't that sound like a twelve-year-old's fantasy? The Rangers of Freedom didn't last long, only seven issues. The lead feature was dumped and the comic became just Rangers Comics. Yes, the story is silly. Something that isn't silly is the beautiful artwork by Joe Doolin, another fantastic Fiction House artist.

Come back tomorrow for our second entry, a Captain America copycat, Lone Warrior.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Number 1268: Plastic Man and the rubber expander

In 1956 I bought Plastic Man #64 off the comic book spinner in a  local drugstore. It was the first time I'd seen the character or read superhero stories that looked like they belonged in Mad comic books. I didn't realize at the time that it would be the last issue of Plastic Man, not to mention it was all reprints (it hardly matters if you haven't seen the stories before).

The story I'm showing today was the lead in that last issue, with the title “The Expander Device” lettered into the splash panel. My post today is from Plastic Man #24 (1950), the story's first of three appearances (the other issue it was reprinted in was #44.) Plastic Man is one of my first true loves from Golden Age comics.  In my early years as a collector I bought, traded and stole borrowed what I could.