Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Number 56

The Kill-Crazy Carlins

Fred Guardineer was a fine but underrated comic book artist of the Golden Age. He's probably underrated because he didn't do superheroes or flashy longjohns-wearing characters. If there are the equivalent of movie stars for comic book artists, then Guardineer was a character actor.

Guardineer's excellent crime story, "Mother Of Murderers" was presented in Pappy's Number 2. This story, "The Kill-Crazy Carlins," came from Black Diamond Western #17, January 1950, and was one of a special genre, the Western crime story. That's appropriate, since it was published by Lev Gleason, edited by Charles Biro and Bob Wood, the same group that did Crime Does Not Pay, where "Mother Of Murderers" appeared.

Dr. Fredric Wertham M.D., in Seduction Of The Innocent, claimed all comic books were crime comic books, so that's no big surprise. The story follows a typical crime comics arc: The killers commit a lot of crimes, get hunted down by law enforcement, get punished in the end by death.

What I notice about the story is an air of authenticity in characters, clothing and buildings I don't usually see in Western comic books, which usually closely followed the popular idea of the Wild West promoted in movies. I'm not saying it's 100% authentic, because the sheriff is a clean cut blond hero stereotype straight out of Hollywood Central Casting. But I like the touches Guardineer throws in to give it an 1876 look, or at least more of that look than readers in 1950 were used to seeing.

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