Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Number 2567: Sparky Watts, glamour boy

Sparky Watts, the creation of cartoonist Gordon “Boody” Rogers, got his super powers from Doc Static and Doc's cosmic ray machine. Sparky was the strongest man on Earth, and could fly, but for some reason he still wore glasses. Occasionally Sparky had to get his powers recharged by Doc Static’s cosmic rays.  In this story Doc Static makes a mistake and Sparky becomes beloved by all, because Doc pushed the wrong button, the glamour button.

The story was published in a one-shot, Columbia Comics #1, in 1943. Boody Rogers had joined the Army the year before, but he had done a Sparky Watts newspaper comic strip before leaving civilian life, and this story appears to be an edited version of one of the continuities from the newspaper appearances. The story seems a bit crude compared to Rogers’ postwar work in Big Shot Comics and occasional full-length Sparky Watts comic books.

In the story Sparky defines “mugging” as a violent crime and robbery. He then flies off to catch the muggers. I remember as a kid being puzzled by the word “mugging.” In the context I knew it did not mean a drinking cup. When I asked my mother she said “mugging” was a slang word that meant kissing. Good thing I didn’t go to a big city and based on her definition, look to be mugged.


Monday, October 18, 2021

Number 2566: My brother, the super dead hero


Captain Triumph, singular, is actually two characters, one dead. Lance and Michael Gallant (appropriate last name for a super hero) are identical twins. They even share a birthmark on their wrists. Michael gets blown up by some Nazi saboteurs, and Lance swears vengeance. He is visited by the ghost of Michael, who tells him when there is some derring-do what they will dare to do to get vengeance against Nazis. Lance just rubs the birthmark and voila! Lance now has Michael's powers, bequeathed to him by “The Fates of Greek Mythology” and becomes a superhero with the name Captain Triumph. I'm showing the origin story here, so you can see how it works. I notice that Michael doesn't get a funeral. He is dead, yet quick to reveal himself to Lance, explaining the new super hero job, and there is no mourning or a pretense of grieving for a dead brother.

Captain Triumph appeared in Crack Comics for a few years, originally drawn by Alfred Andriola. Andriola’s career was resurrected a few times. He began as an assistant to Milton Caniff on Terry and the Pirates, then got the job of doing the Charlie Chan comic strip. Charlie Chan was a popular detective character of the time, but the comic strip only lasted a short time and if I’ve got this right, was cancelled after Pearl Harbor. Perhaps it was like today, when people don’t distinguish Asians from each other. Andriola then became an assistant on the Dan Dunn comic strip, which ended a year later. The day after it ended Andriola was back with Kerry Drake, a comic strip character in the Dick Tracy tradition that went on in newspapers until Andriola died in 1983.

The origin story of Captain Triumph is from Crack Comics #27 (1943):


Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Number 2565: Rootin' tootin' shootin' romance on the range

Cowgirl Romances was a Western-styled love comic, which seems a natural. Even during shooting wars. In this tale there was time for love while fighting the lawless in another of the all-American love stories of horses, bad outlaws, good guys, girls (both bad and good), guns, and shoot-outs.

I have said before that Maurice Whitman is an artist who has not gotten the kudos for excellence I think he deserves. He was self-taught, and good enough that he did many covers and interiors of various genres for the Fiction House line. When Fiction House folded he went to Charlton. He drew for the mix of titles they published, even the characters Atomic Mouse and Atomic Rabbit.

“The Ranch of Riddles” was the lead-off story from the last issue of Cowgirl Romances. It appeared in Cowgirl Romances #12 (1953).

Monday, October 11, 2021

Number 2564: The Yellowjacket, bees, and a short history of Charlton comics

The blog TV Tropes, in an undated entry, gives a short history of Charlton, a low budget printer/publisher. Charlton’s printing presses had been used originally to print cereal boxes. Charlton cut corners by using plastic printing plates rather than standard metal plates. It operated on the cheap for its whole existence from 1935 to 1986, when it finally shut its doors (and retired its overworked printing presses.) Wikipedia describes the origin of the business by telling that John Santangelo Jr and Ed Levy met while in prison. Santangelo had been publishing song-lyric magazines, violating copyrights, and was sentenced to a year in prison. Levy was a lawyer, whose crime is not listed. They both had sons named Charles, which created their first company name, T.W.O. Charles Company, later changed to Charlton.

Charlton went into comic books in the '40s, and published Yellowjacket Comics, which featured an unusual hero, Yellowjacket, who could get bees to help him. Note: Yellowjacket was beaten to comic books by Red Bee, from Quality Comics. Also, as has been pointed out, a yellowjacket is not a bee, but a yellowjacket costume was bright yellow, and looked better in comic books printed using plastic printing plates.

From Yellowjacket Comics #5 (1945). Artwork, pencils only, attributed by the Grand Comics Database to Ken Battefield.