Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Number 1323: Love is a crime

Can a girl from a slum with no prospects for the future find a better life? Can a girl without a father, who knows nothing of men, find happiness with a man who brings her along on a jewelry store robbery? Can a girl meet a hunky parole officer and find true love? Can I stop asking stupid questions?

This is day three of Pappy’s Crime Wave week. For more information visit the past two postings.

Poor Dotty. She is stuck in town in summer. As she so vividly narrates, “. . . the damp tongue of August licked the slum in which I lived!” So she takes up with Nicky, the local bad boy, and he leads her into trouble. Sometimes love comics like this, from Darling Love #1 (1949), could also be crime comics. Simon and Kirby were especially good at stories like this. “I Was Branded Bad” isn’t S&K. but it’s not bad, either. It just looks a bit generic to me. The artist is unidentified, but the publisher is actually Archie Comics, with a bit of distance between itself and the teenage books.

Because it’s a love comic, you know things will turn out well for Dotty, and she will find true love. There’s something for you to love, also. On the last page there’s a recipe for fudge!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Number 1322: Crime and/or Punishment

For day two of Pappy’s Crime Wave week (see yesterday's post for an explanation) we have the standard crime comic; i.e., what most people, especially censors, bluenoses and joykillers, meant when they pointed at something and said, “That's a crime comic!”

Crime and Punishment #1* came out in late 1947 and became the companion publication to the standard-bearer of the genre, Crime Does Not Pay. The publisher was Lev Gleason, the editors Charles Biro and Bob Wood, just like Crime Does Not Pay. We find the same kind of contents in the latter magazine as we do in the former...panel after panel of lurid criminal acts and in the last couple of panels some sort of moral and the criminal’s just due. He (or she in many cases) either ended up on the gallows, in the electric chair, or died a violent death by either cops or fellow crooks.

The contents of crime comics varied with American crime mixed in with crime in other countries. In this case we see Dan Barry’s great artwork on “Danny Iamasca, Dutch Schultz’s Triggerman” and Jack Alderman’s ink-heavy art on “The Butcher of Düsseldorf.” A note about crime comics: Their use of the word “true” doesn’t mean their version of truth got in the way of telling a good story. Truth may have figured in there somewhere, but not at the expense of cheap thrills. An exception might be made in the case of Peter Kürten, the Butcher of Düsseldorf (also called the Düsseldorf Vampire). His many crimes were so depraved the scripter and artist restrained themselves in telling the story. And that’s the truth.

C.H. Moore had a regular gig doing these informational pages. They were quite good. Moore used a style perfected by sports cartoonists in newspapers and also in the famous “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not.”

*There’s internal evidence that the title of the comic was originally Obey the Law but was changed to Crime and Punishment during production.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Number 1321: Pappy’s Crime Wave shot down!

A few months ago I had an idea. I have a lot of crime comics, with a lot of stories to show. I noticed there were no blogs specifically showing crime comics*, so I thought I’d be the one to do it. I got to a certain point in my plan, but then, like a lot of things, I ran out of steam. I’ve got about all I can handle with this blog, folks, and some other projects I work on that aren’t comics related. So the idea for a crime comics blog ended up in my almost-but-not-quite-completed file. However, during a flurry of energy I worked up a masthead. I'm not one to waste anything so I’ve decided this week we’ll have a theme week, Pappy’s Crime Wave, where I’ll show the first week's postings that were scheduled for the blog that never was.

First up, the introductory story for the newspaper comic strip, Kerry Drake by Alfred Andriola. Andriola, once an assistant to Milton Caniff, was given the Charlie Chan comic strip to do, then he took over the Dan Dunn comic strip as competition for Dick Tracy. That led to Kerry Drake, which debuted during the war year of 1943. A-1 Comics from Magazine Enterprises (ME) reprinted the initial continuity in this unnumbered comic under the masthead of A-1 Comics in 1944.

I first read the story in the mid-1980s in Blackthorne’s exceptional squarebound trade paperbacks, which went five issues. I take them out every once in a while and re-read some of the stories. If you get a chance to pick up this series I recommend it.

Kerry Drake is the good guy, but we know we're more interested in the bad guy, Fingers. He's a prison escapee who holds a young farm couple hostage. It’s the same type of storytelling (the strip was written by an uncredited Allen Saunders) that later brought down heat on Crime Does Not Pay and other crime comic books. For the sensitive, there is a scene of Fingers killing a dog with his bare hands; there is the near-rape of the pretty young farm wife, Zella, and there is torture by acid. You’ve been warned!

*Not that I was aware of at the time, that is. See the comments section for a note on a couple of blogs covering the subject.