Sunday, November 19, 2006

Number 55

COVERING UP: Classic covers of Golden Age Comics

Trolling around the Internet is an interesting experience for me. I keep finding things I haven't seen before. Just when I thought there weren't any Golden Age comics I hadn't seen before, I find a couple that are new to me.

The first cover, Down With Crime #7, from November 1952, is a Fawcett Comic, with a cover that looks to be by Bernard Baily. I'm astonished a girl would have her window open to let a guy in, especially a guy wearing a gas mask and carrying a gun! At least she has a gun in the drawer to reach for, and she has the Hollywood style of hair: in bed with no hair out of place. Since I don't have the comic book itself to look at I'm not sure if the cover illustrates a story inside, but it reminds me of a famous true story I read years ago.

In a Texas town during WWII a woman reported that during the night a gasmask-wearing weirdo had opened her window and sprayed gas into her room. Within a short period of time other women were reporting the same thing. At first the reports were taken seriously, but quickly it was determined to be a case of mass hysteria. It was believed the power of suggestion and war jitters were making people imagine such crazy events. I don't know if there has ever been a resolution to this story, except that it's commonly used as an illustration of how delusional hysteria can become infectious.

The second cover, Crime Mysteries #4, also from November 1952, reminds me of Seduction Of The Innocent, by Dr. Fredric Wertham, M.D. That book reprinted an illustration of two crooks — and you could tell they were crooks, because they were wearing little Lone Ranger-style maskshad a girl on an operating table, tubes coming out of her. One crook is saying, "We'll drain this dame dry!" Dr. Wertham's caption mentioned (and I'm paraphrasing because I don't have the book to reference the exact quote): "Outside the forbidden pages of de Sade you will find draining a woman's blood only in a comic book."
Crime Mysteries was part of a group of comic books that are tied to DC Comics. Twenty years earlier DC's owners were the publishers of the notorious Spicy pulp magazines. After the pulps went out of the business some of the same people associated with the Spicy line published comic books. It's kind of a murky tale, with the illustrated examples in the website, DC's "Other" Comics.

The whole early history of comics is somewhat shadowy and murky. Some of it deals with semi-pornography, and organized crime.

In the DC's "Other" Comics website there is a link to a bibliography detailing the earliest years of the comics. The bibliography includes my favorite article on the subject, "DC's Tangled Roots," by Will Murray, from Comic Book Marketplace #53, November 1997.

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