Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Number 172

From Those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Organized Crime

Bob Fujitani, who signed his work "Bob Fuje," was one of the best illustrators in comics for many years. He started in the WWII era drawing characters like The Hangman, but after the war went to Charles Biro, illustrating some very memorable stories for Crime Does Not Pay and Crime and Punishment. Later in his career he illustrated Doctor Solar for Gold Key, but he was also helping with comic strips, doing other illustrative work. He was a busy, in-demand artist. I'll show more stories by Fujitani in the future.

"Dion 'Gimpy' O'Banion" is the "true life" story of a Chicago gangster. The story has some truth to it, but as with all of these types of stories, names are changed, incidents are exaggerated. Some of the facts in the story are true: O'Banion did have a limp; he was a florist; he did get killed by rival gangsters. A good overview of his crime career is told here.

O'Banion made his money in bootlegging, thanks to Prohibition. Comic books also came out of Prohibition. There's an alternate history of comic books that needs more exploration, but a good start is the book Men Of Tomorrow by Gerard Jones, which helps explain some of the murky ties some comic publishers had with the Mafia. It's a pretty interesting story, and that book is highly recommended. A mob connection isn't so surprising, really, since New York City was the home of comics publishing, also the home of the Five Families, extremely powerful in that era. There wasn't much they didn't have their fingers in if it made money, and there was money to be made in comic books, especially in distribution, printing and other business aspects.

In the meantime, the guys who made the least money were the ones who made the comic books great. So it was with Bob Fujitani. I doubt that Lucky Luciano could ever produce a comic book, but he could make sure he got his cut of the profits. Bob Fujitani's artwork would be a reason for someone to plunk down his dime for a comic. Fujitani got a page rate and no cut of the profits.

This particular story came from Crime and Punishment #5 (1948).

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