Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Number 2287: Ghost of the geek

The word “geek” has changed its meaning over the past couple of decades. Now its primary use is as a person who is “an enthusiast or expert especially in a technological field or activity; computer geek.” (from It can also mean a socially inept person, or, in this story, a guy who works for a carnival and does outrageous things like bite the heads off live chickens. On page 3 panel 6 the geek, Walter Bascomb, is about to take a bite, but is shown in the act of choking the chicken (which has a double meaning I won’t go into here). Ugh! The disgusting cruelty was made popular by the 1946 novel, Nightmare Alley by William Lindsay Gresham, which spawned a film noir classic starring Tyrone Power, and more recently a graphic novel by Spain Rodriguez.

That is the long way around describing a story of revenge from beyond the grave. It was published by ACG in 1954, while it was making the short-lived transition to what they called shock stories, the EC comics type of horror stories. “Terror Under the Big Top” retains an element of the more common ACG story, a ghost haunting a loving couple, and the ghost committing murder. In an EC comic it would not be a ghost, but a walking, rotting corpse returned from the grave committing the murders. The shock stories were killed by the Comics Code, which came along less than a year later.

The story is drawn by Kenneth Landau, and appeared in Forbidden Worlds #27 (1954):

Monday, January 14, 2019

Number 2286: The boy who fooled Hawkman’s hawks

Young Timmy is the son of a rich man. Timmy is an artist. His father is an antiques collector. Timmy’s dad is trying to discourage him from painting, telling him if he quits he’ll buy him a motorboat. Dad would rather have an indolent son than one with artistic talent.

Dad is targeted by a couple of crooks who steal his valuable antiques and young Timmy is kidnapped.

Joe Kubert, about the same age as the fictional Timmy (Kubert would have been 19 when he drew “Ring Out the Old, Ring in the New!”) was something of a prodigy himself.

I have a couple of gripes: Hawkman faces a dinosaur on the cover; the “dinosaur” in the story is one of Timmy’s lifelike three-dimensional paintings. Here he has painted the dinosaur on grass, which caught Hawkman’s attention while flying over. I also spotted the word “shone” mistakenly used for “shown” in one of the speech balloons. Sheldon Mayer is listed as editor by the Grand Comics Database, with Julius Schwartz and Ted Udall as story editors. The letterer and the editor(s) missed it. I mention it because I used the same hawk eye to spot the spelling error that Hawkman’s hawks use in finding Timmy.

From Flash Comics #67 (1945):

Friday, January 11, 2019

Number 2285: Fighting Females Week: Nyoka the Jungle Girl

This is the third and final posting for our theme week of Fighting Females.

Today we have Nyoka the Jungle Girl. Nyoka did not go to the regular jungle girl stores, judging by her outfit. While others like Sheena and Lorna and Rulah wore as little as possible in jungle attire, Nyoka went the other way. She dressed sensibly. I can tell the boots she wears, rather than going barefoot, would make walking on the jungle floor much easier on the feet.

Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 1932 novel, Jungle Girl,* was the genesis of the Nyoka comic book. When a 15-chapter Jungle Girl serial was made in 1941 it bore no relation to Burroughs’ work, so he had his name taken off the serial’s credits. There were two Nyoka serials, and in 1944 Nyoka began appearing in Fawcett comics, in Master Comics and also her own title. There were some efforts to simulate the movie serial format, having continued stories in the same issue. I haven’t read too many Nyoka stories, but this one doesn’t stray too far from the template for jungle adventure plots: crooked white people rip off African tribesman, and Nyoka comes along to save the day.

One thing, this story Nyoka owns a gift shop, where the villainess steals the costume with which she bamboozles the natives. I’ve seen some oddball things in jungle comics, but a gift shop...?

Grand Comics Database gives no writer or artist credits for Nyoka the Jungle Girl #6 (1946).

*The filmmakers did a clean sweep of disposing of the original novel and its characters. They didn’t use the name, Fou-Tan, Burroughs’ jungle girl. 

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Number 2284: Fighting Females Week: Blonde Bomber throws the Nazi bull

You may notice that I have finally enabled the lightbox feature of Blogger. I thought about a comment I got from a reader, Henrique Brum, a couple of postings ago. I had an objection to the feature at one time, but after looking at it again I decided to go with what Henrique suggested. Pappy

The second entry for our Fighting Females Week is Blonde Bomber.

The story is about German prisoners of war being held in the United States. The subject has fascinated me ever since my father, Big Pappy, told me about guarding German POWs in Georgia in 1942. The 1944 story was probably “ripped from the headlines,” as the old cliché goes. Both Blonde Bomber and her cameraman, Slapso, work in the newsreels. In the real world, at least 425,000 German POWs spent time in the U.S., and in the story, Nazi Marshal Von Taurus is a POW who is leading an insurrection and committing sabotage. Such things happened in the camps. While most German soldiers would claim they were not Nazis, Nazi officers still had power over their fellow prisoners. (Like Hogan’s Heroes in reverse?)

Grand Comics Database gives credit for the artwork to Bob Powell. I would advise them to turn back a few pages in the comic to the Spirit of ’76 story, which is by Powell, and compare the artwork. Blonde Bomber is drawn by Jill Elgin, one of a small number of fantastic female comic book artists of the era. Go to the link below for another Blonde Bomber story, and more information on Jill Elgin.

“Taurus the Nazi Bull” is from Green Hornet Comics #20 (1944). I love the symbolic splash panel for this story.

More Blonde Bomber and Jill Elgin. Just click on the thumbnail.