Friday, May 30, 2008

Number 317

Robotbody Meets a Body!

This Robotman story is from Detective Comics #152, October 1949. It's drawn by Jimmy Thompson, who I understand was an old timer, an artist who went back to pre-comic book days, working for newspapers. His drawing style is excellent and well-suited for DC Comics of the 1940s, so he adapted well to then-current art styles. I love the panels where Robotman wears different bodies: a midget body, a glass body, a helicopter body…

The story shows me again what I've said before: backup features in DC Comics could be as good as the lead features. DC's B-list characters were often better than other companies' A-list. I wish I had more of these to show you, but this is my sole comic with Robotman.


The Hairy Green Eyeball posts a rare 1990s fanzine, It's Melvin, devoted to the EC days of the late Will Elder. It includes an index of Elder reprints up to the date of publication.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Number 316


Speaking of love--without the sick--I really love Jack Bradbury's comic art from the late 1940s and early '50. The work he did later for Disney comics I find less interesting, but he was working in a stricter panel format on characters well established by other artists. Bradbury created Spunky and Stanley, published in Spunky Junior Cowboy, and it is Bradbury's genius that makes the strip so good.

Every panel with Stanley, the love-sick horse, is funny. Spunky's horse belongs to an animation tradition, and I'm thinking of Ichabod Crane's horse in Disney's The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow. Bradbury had a true gift for comic exaggeration and every time I look at his work I admire it more.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Number 314

Captain without wings

The movie, Iron Man, is a big hit. We can expect at least one big superhero blockbuster every summer. We have more than usual this year, with a couple more coming up later this season. I have seen Iron Man, but haven't read the comic book since its earliest days when it was drawn by Don Heck. I didn't remember much about the character so I had no expectations or prejudices going in. It was a fun couple of hours.

In the early 1940s when superheroes were new movie studios took notice. Consider this version of Captain America. That character I know. They took the name and the basic costume and changed everything else. Giving the studio complete creative control would've come with the contract that was signed with the publisher. I can imagine how Jack Kirby and Joe Simon reacted when they saw their original creation and concept so screwed over. From Steve Rogers to…Grant Gardner? From a GI buck private living in a tent with a young boy (!!) to a fighting District Attorney with a female helper? No shield? No chain mail? They also dropped the wings from Cap's hood. Oh well, I never understood the wings, so that meant not all of it was bad.
This article is from Jim Warren's Screen Thrills Illustrated #7, February 1964:

There's Money in Comics! There's Money in Stan Lee!
Marshal McLuhan's The Mechanical Bride, sub-titled "Folklore of Industrial Man," came out in 1951, and the edition I have is a reprint from 1967. McLuhan--much studied and quoted in universities, I might add--had several things to say about 1940s comic strips and comic books as part of the folklore of the mid-Twentieth Century.

The one constant between 1951, 1967 and now is the ubiquitous Stan Lee, who was attained near folklore status himself. He popped up in a Hugh Hefner pose, pipe in hand, to proclaim to the readers of Writer's Digest that "There's Money In Comics!" which became the subject of a McLuhan essay in The Mechanical Bride. At the time Lee was busy editing and writing dozens of comics, flooding the market with coat-tailing imitations of popular magazines like Crime Does Not Pay, and anything else that happened to be selling at the moment. He would supplement his income by self-publishing the book, Secrets Behind The Comics, which he sold from his apartment address, and for an article like "There's Money In Comics!" in a magazine aimed at writers.

I read that Lee had gotten a settlement with Marvel Comics , which the article said was worth ten million dollars. There's money in comics, indeed!

When his 1947 article appeared in Writer's Digest, comic book writers didn't get royalties for their work. If they wanted to eat that month they kept the pages flying from their typewriters. Lee was in a better position than most because he was also paid as an editor. He kept his job even when Martin Goodman, who owned the publishing company, ordered Lee to fire the permanent bullpen staff of artists and writers. From then on work done for Atlas Comics was on a piecemeal, freelance basis. I imagine Lee was one of the few who was pulling down a salary.

Flash forward over 60 years and Lee, born in 1922 but keeping the Grim Reaper at bay, appeared in a cameo in Iron Man, in what I perceived in the few seconds it flashed before me, as that Hefner-type again, with women. It was Stan Lee in another of his cameo appearances. I wonder if Lee got paid for this bit or did it because his fans have expectations, and because he wants to remind everyone that he was there when Iron Man was born in the comics back in '62. As far as money goes for a cameo, he probably doesn't need it. He gets money, he gets adoration, he gets adulation. There's more than money in comics…if you're Stan Lee.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Number 313


This 5-page story from Harvey's Tomb Of Terror #12, November 1953, was appropriated (read: swiped) from the science fiction story, "The Man Who Evolved" by Edmond Hamilton. Hamilton, who was born in 1904, was a prolific writer from the 1920s until the 1970s. He wrote the Captain Future pulps. He was also a writer for DC Comics, writing many, many stories for editors Mort Weisinger and Julius Schwartz, both friends of his. "The Man Who Evolved," which appeared in the science fiction pulp Wonder Stories in 1931, was a favorite of Isaac Asimov, included in his anthology Before The Golden Age.

Oh yeah…the comic book story, "Evolution," was drawn by Manny Stallman and John Giunta. For a well-done Atlas horror story that may be Stallman go to The Horrors Of It All.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Number 312

Babe and the triple-lunged twins

I think you'd have to look pretty hard to find a more oddball comic book than Boody Rogers' Babe.

A couple of months ago I bought a copy of Babe #10, Feb.-Mar. 1950, along with coverless copies of the first two issues of Rogers' Dudley. Dudley is an Archie-styled comic book, and Babe is a version of Li'l Abner. Boody puts Babe in Abner-type situations, but his plots seem slightly more whacko than Al Capp's, if that's possible. See if you agree when you meet the triple-lunged twins.


In the Henry Boltinoff posting a couple of weeks ago I mentioned that a few years ago I bought three originals from him. One of the comments to the post mentioned that it would be nice to see them, so here they are. I have a correction…I was wrong when I said one was a Cap's Hobby page; it's actually a Little Pete page, which looks to be an ad for a company called Emenee, if I'm reading it correctly. This may be the first appearance of the other pages, which I don't believe have ever been published. According to indications on the pages they were written off by DC in the early '80s. The pages were too big to scan, so I did them in two halves and friend David Miller stitched them together. Thanks, Dave!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Number 311

The Hidden Vampire!

In line with my co-conspirators/friends Chuck Wells and Karswell of Comic Book Catacombs and The Horrors Of It All respectively, here's a nifty little vampire story from Atlas Comics' Journey Into Mystery #21, January 1955, making it near the end of Atlas' pre-code horror comics.

Atlas Tales gives credit to Manny Stallman ? with a question mark.