Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Number 154

Hang 'em High

I heard recently that Captain America died. I don't buy new comics, and haven't for several years so I don't know anything about what direction the Captain America comics have taken. Actually, I haven't cared since the 1960s, but that's beside the point. The point is, Superman "died," Robin "died," and for all I know, Magilla Gorilla "died." They are imaginary characters in an imaginary world, so dry your tears, fanboys.

'Way back when, having a comic book character die was unheard of, which is why when The Comet, a second banana character in Pep Comics died, it was a real big deal. Second banana or not, comic book characters were invincible: they got out of impossible traps, bullets bounced off them, they foiled the most dastardly plots and fought (successfully) with the world's most insidious super villains. And back in World War II they had some real villains to fight.

After his death along came The Comet's brother, a vengeful character called The Hangman. He starred in his own comic book series in the early 1940s, and was quite successful. His brother, The Comet, didn't make it to his own title, but The Hangman did. Here's an introductory page from the inside front cover of Special Comics #1, Winter, 1941-42.

Some things I like about these early issues of comic books from the MLJ line, which morphed into Archie Comics a couple of years later, are the wild plots and the action. They cleaned up their comics after awhile, but in these earlier issues the exploitation of violence is prevalent. It was the kind of thing that started the early campaigns against comic books, but it also brought in a lot of readers.

In this story from Hangman #2, Spring, 1942, Hangman fights with a sinister Nazi villain, Captain Swastika. Nazi villains were often presented as comic opera characters, or old-time vaudeville foils with thick fake accents, big lips and bulbous noses. You can tell who Captain Swastika is because he wears a hood and shirt emblazoned with swastikas. The costume ended at the waist. The ensemble was continued with blue serge pants, white socks and blue shoes. In addition to his sartorial sins, Captain Swastika was also a real stone killer. As an addicted comic book reader you just know he'll get his ass kicked by The Hangman. After all, The Hangman had his own comic book, and this was story number one in issue number two. You could be assured that unlike his brother, The Comet, he'd live long enough to see Page 64.

The artwork is credited to Al Camy.

1 comment:

Romulus said...

The artwork for the Hangman was done by Al Camy.