Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Number 48

Jack Bradbury's Spencer Spook

After the unintentionally silly story in Pappy's #47, here is a story that is intentionally silly.

This is a Spencer Spook story, originally published in Giggle Comics #54, June, 1948. Jack Bradbury drew it.

Bradbury (1914-2004), was originally an animator and turned into a fine comic book artist. He worked on funny animal comic books for Richard E. Hughes, the same writer/editor who turned out Adventures Into the Unknown, Forbidden Worlds, and many other comics over the years. Later on Bradbury went to work for Western Publishing and did many Mickey Mouse and Disney stories for Dell Comics.

Personally, I thought his Disney stuff seemed stiff compared to the freedom his line showed in the old Giggle and Ha-Ha Comics.

This story contains a stereotyped African-American woman, a maid, who may be offensive to some readers. I'm presenting this story as it originally appeared 58 years ago, when this sort of racist caricature wasn't that uncommon.

Several artists over the run of the Spencer Spook strip worked on the character, but I liked Bradbury's version the best. The character was revived in the 1980s, with new stories illustrated by Pat Boyette. I appreciated Boyette's skill, but in my mind no one could top Jack Bradbury.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Number 47

The Tomb Of Terror

This is an enjoyable but hokey story from Forbidden Worlds #5, March-April, 1952. It's drawn by Lou Cameron. He left comics some years ago to pursue a successful career as a writer of paperback novels.

I said this story is hokey, and it is. The plot is straight out of a pulp magazine. A doctor and his fiancée visit a town with a sinister castle, "Stormway Hall." The ghost of a girl leads the doctor into a supernatural situation involving a green sorcerer, some "fiends," and a ghost, all in a place the sorcerer refers to as The Tomb Of Terror. It was most likely written by the editor, Richard E. Hughes, who seemingly and single-handedly, wrote and edited the American Comics Group line until his death some years ago. Forbidden Worlds, and its big brother,  Adventures Into The Unknown, were successful comics that ran for many years.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Number 46

Bats #1

Yeah, yeah…so this comic is from that means it's a Silver Age comic, not Golden Age. It's Halloween, so I'm allowed to keep with a theme. Tales Calculated To Drive You Bats #1 was published to cash in on the popularity of Famous Monsters of Filmland and its imitators.

Longtime Archie writer George Gladir was the writer, and gag cartoonist Orlando Busino the artist.

The comic had a seven-issue run, although I think Busino departed early. I have only this issue of #1, which I bought off the stands about the same time I bought the first issue of The Fantastic Four.

Busino had a wonderful, clean style, perfect for this type of comic book. He used some techniques gleaned from Jack Davis. Notice the legs and shoes, especially. I'm including two pages from a section parodying advertising.

Of course, "Tales Calculated To…" is a rip-off of Tales Calculated to Drive You Mad , the Mad comic book version from just a few years previous. Archie had been well, mad at Mad for the juvenile delinquent parody of their main character as Starchie, but it didn't stop them from appropriating the Mad comics tagline.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Number 45

Frankenstein Friday: Frankenstein's Ark

This is the third and final story from Frankenstein #2, written and drawn by Dick Briefer, published in 1945. Check Pappy's archives for other Frankenstein Friday entries by Briefer and other artists.

The gag twist at the end of Frankenstein's Ark depends on knowing about ration stamps during World War II. Just about all essentials were rationed: gasoline, tires, sugar, meat…you name it, you probably had to have a ration coupon for it. Even magazine and book publishers had their paper for printing rationed. Because of reduced paper supplies, many comic book publishers were able to sell out entire print runs of their more popular titles. When the war ended, so did rationing.

The story itself seems stream of consciousness, like Briefer had an idea for a story that would end up as it did, but in order to get Frankenstein to that point the artist meandered about with various plot elements. He could have conceivably built a story out of any one of these elements, but chose to string them together in this episodic story.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Number 44

COVERING IT: Classic Golden Age comic book covers: Archie Halloween.

When I was a teen I should've had Archie's problems.Archie didn't seem to have to work; none of his friends did. They just hung out at Pop's Choc'lit Shop, drank sodas, drove their jalopies (how long has it been since the word "jalopy" has been used, anyway, and where the hell did it come from in the first place?), and went on dates.

Archie had a problem of too many girlfriends. He also had the problem of a smooth hustler, Reggie, liking one of his girlfriends and making plays for her.

It's amazing how many stories can be gotten from a simple triangle. Maybe Archie should have joined a polygamy cult and had both Betty and Veronica, or they could have some sort of kinky arrangement they couldn't mention in Comics Code approved comic books.

I'm sure that Archie comics were aimed at pre-pubescent girls. Or were they? Why would a girl want to read about a guy's problems with two girls? Would she identify with that? Was it aimed at young boys? Why would they want to read about a guy and yuchhy girls anyhow?

I read Archie when I was a kid I don't remember thinking this was anything like real life, except to wonder how two beautiful and desirable girls would go for a dorky-looking guy like Archie. You've got to admit, he wasn't drawn to look like a stud that girls would fight over. Archie has been popular enough on the newsstands to keep going continuously for over 60 years. That's a long time to have a triangle going, and if it were real life by now the once beautiful teenage girls would be fighting over an equally elderly Archie at the Senior Citizens' Center.

I like this old Halloween cover from a 1940s issue of Archie, but in the opposite way from how it was intended. I can't imagine why anyone thought putting Archie on a broomstick with a witch's hat was funny. I see some hidden symbolism is the long broomstick with the pumpkin head between Archie's legs. If you had a couple of babes like Betty Cooper and Veronica Lodge fighting over you your broomstick would be long, too.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Number 43

The Werewolf's Victims

What's Halloween without a werewolf story? I'm partial to werewolves. They get to run around and bite people. Baaahahaha!< This story is from Atlas Comics' Mystic #31, June 1954. It's by an artist of the Wally Wood school, Sid Check. I only know of a few Sid Check comic book stories from the Golden Age. He must've hung out with the EC gang, though, because some of the stories were published by them.

Doing a search of Sid Check's name came up with this page from, but no biographical information, birth date, etc.

The Werewolf's Victims would have been right at home in Creepy or Eerie magazines a decade later. The stories they ran in their earliest issues had stories and endings that were very similar. And the story is both creepy and eerie! The idea of a bunch of men held captive in a cave, being killed off one-by-one by a werewolf is pretty scary...unless you're the werewolf.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Number 42

Old Number One

Occasionally a curious person will ask me, "What's the oldest comic book you have in your collection?"

I think it's a fair question, but my answer is, "I don't know." I'm surrounded by books and comics. Half the time I can't remember what I have. However, Uncle Scrooge #7, September-November, 1954, is the oldest comic book I still have that I personally bought off the comic book rack. That I remember.

 My first experiences with comics were with two boxes of coverless and otherwise poor-condition books. The first box was in my neighbor Allen's basement. He led me down some wooden stairs.* I sat under a light set up by the furnace and looked at comics his older brothers and sisters had read to pieces. As I recall, they included one with a horror story about a flower turning into a gorilla — or was it the other way around? — and a coverless issue of The Human Torch. I was mighty impressed by that flaming on stuff!

The other box of comics was one given to me by my cousin, Dickie. It included a lot of Dell Comics, like Francis The Talking Mule, Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and many Walt Disney titles. That was in 1953. I was a first grader, six-years-old. I was bright enough, but up until that point a bad reader, because I didn't have anything interesting to read. Let's face it, the Dick and Janereaders, as collectible as they are today, weren't The Human Torch or a flower turning into a gorilla. "Run, Spot, run!" Oh, yeah. That's just fascinating. Yawn. It took my interest in reading comics, brought on by those boxes of old comics, to put me in front of the first grade reading group.

I bugged Mom until she caved in and let me buy some of my own comic books. At that time there was a lot of publicity about horror and crime comics rotting kids' minds, so she was careful what she let me buy. Years later she said, "I worried you'd be scared by Casper The Friendly Ghost."

In those days my favorite comics were the Disney's, and specifically Uncle Scrooge. I wasn't alone. I believe at the time these comics sold in the millions.Uncle Scrooge #7 was a special favorite and I have hung onto it for 52 years. As you can see from the scans the book is in real battered shape…the back cover even worse than the front. That was because I read it many, many times.

For anyone unfamiliar with the story, Scrooge looks for new ways to make money. He already owns everything in town. He finds Donald and his nephews collecting arrowheads to sell and he joins in. Through a series of comic events they find themselves in the Seven Cities of Cibola, where they find a Spanish treasure but also the terrible Beagle Boys, Scrooge's longtime nemeses. Anyone who read this comic and loved it as much as I did recognized the scene in Raiders Of The Lost Ark where Indiana Jones removes an idol only to set off a booby trap and find himself outracing a large boulder.

The gag was set up in Uncle Scrooge #7. The Raiders producer, George Lucas, had a partner, Gary Kurtz. Under the publishing imprint, Celestial Arts, Kurtz reprinted the story in 1982 as one in a deluxe edition of Uncle Scrooge stories, Uncle Scrooge McDuck His Life And Times by Carl Barks.

Uncle Scrooge #7 is not the oldest comic book in my collection by a long shot. It's not the first comic book I bought. But it is the oldest comic book I bought that I still own. Because of its condition no one would ever want to own it but me, and maybe I'll have someone throw it in my casket when they lower me into the ground.

*Whenever I think about descending into that basement Danny Elfman's theme from Tales From The Crypt goes through my head.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Number 41

Frankenstein Friday: Frankenstein's Job

This is the second story from Frankenstein Comics #2, published in 1945, written and drawn by Dick Briefer.

There is a whiff of kinkiness in this story: Frankenstein on a leash, with a big collar being led around by a beautiful woman. In those more innocent times knowledge of individuals who enjoyed such activities as bondage and discipline was so esoteric that most people never heard of them. Or maybe it was a sly joke on his readership by author/artist Briefer. It's hard to tell from a vantage point of six decades, but I tend toward the former. I think the images of Frankenstein being led around like a dog appealed to Briefer's sense of humor, and not because he was a closet BDSM fan.

The panel where the dog pound boss, feet on his desk, orders the dogs to be led to the gas chamber is jolting. In the short time after a war where millions of people died in gas chambers it seems very insensitive. It also seems cruel in the modern era where many groups remind us we need to treat not only humans but animals in a humane fashion.

All in all, it seems to be a typically bizarre Frankenstein story.

Next week: Frankenstein's Ark