Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Number 602

Do two half-men make up one whole man?

I noticed the title similarity to these Atlas Comics stories, but the titles are all that's alike. "Half Man, Half...?" is from Menace #10, 1954. "Half Man" is from Uncanny Tales #22, but my scans are from the 1970s reprint in Crypt of Shadows #9.

"Half Man, Half...?" is drawn by Robert Q. Sale, a staple of the Atlas bullpen. At one time Sale shared studio space at the Charles William Harvey studios with Harvey Kurtzman, Will Elder, John Severin and Charlie Stern. This 1949 cartoon illustration by Severin is from The Art of Harvey Kurtzman, The Mad Genius of Comics by Denis Kitchen and Paul Buhle.

Sale is seated with his back to us, and is singing along with a radio commercial.

"Half Man" is an allegory about Jim Crow and the treatment of African-Americans in the U.S. after returning from World War II. They rightfully felt they'd be recognized for their service and given full rights as citizens. Even in 1954 when dealing with such subject matter as race, the main characters shown are white. It undercuts the point, but publishers tread a little more lightly in those days when they were scared of losing readers in areas of the country where segregation was the law.

"Half Man" is credited at the Atlas Tales website to "Fass?" which means Myron Fass, and the question mark means they aren't sure. I'm not familiar enough with Myron Fass' comic art to make a determination, but I know a bit about Fass's later life as a publisher of sleazy and exploitation magazines, including the Eerie Publications line. You can read about Myron Fass here.

Say what?

I could take you more seriously if you'd stop wearing mouse ears.

From Atomic War #3.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Number 601

"Outside the forbidden pages of deSade..."

Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham, M.D., is often mentioned in comic book circles but how many have actually read it? I read it a couple of times over 40 years ago and a lot of it is still vivid to me, especially in the illustration section with the out-of-context panels and covers. They were taken as examples from the worst comics Wertham could find.

"Veiled Avenger" is from St. John's Authentic Police Cases #3 (1948), and is a reprint from Red Seal Comics #16. Both of the appearances were long off sale by the time Wertham used them in his infamous 1954 book.

The whole silly story, art credited to Gus Ricca by the Grand Comics Database,  is best known for the first panel, page two (also the panel on top of this page). Dr. Wertham said this in a caption, "Outside the forbidden pages of deSade, you find draining a girl's blood only in children's comics." Like his other choices, he never gave any context to the panels, just used them for their shock value.

Wertham was not the only anti-comics crusader. There had been organized efforts against comic books practically since their inception. By the time Seduction was published the public clamor had reached a peak, and had even provoked senate hearings. The Comics Code was an industry attempt to keep comic books on the stands, because there were boycotts going on. The illustrations in Seduction, including this crazy "deSade panel," had a lot to do with bringing major changes to an industry.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Number 600

The Marvel Family and the Great Space Struggle

The Marvel Family #75, from 1952, is a comic I've wanted to show for quite some time. It's drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger, good in itself, but written in his inimitable Captain Marvel style by Otto Binder. Otto, who was science fiction writer Eando Binder (he started out collaborating with his brother Earl, hence Earl and Otto Binder), had a light touch with dialogue and captions, and kept the stories moving fast, with some funny moments.

I like that it's one of those future-in-the-past stories, which I define as a story with a year designated as the future, and yet is in our real world past. We get to see how far off the mark the predictions are. In "The Great Space Struggle!" 1960 is the future year, just eight years from the date of the comic book, but already far enough--according to the story--that we have rocket ships heading for other planets. Binder ignores time travel paradoxes. The Marvels would meet themselves in the future, just eight years older, and their future selves would remember and anticipate what was going to happen in 1960, blah blah blah...

It's a fun story with fine artwork.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Number 599

Vampire World!

Who's Cresto? I looked at the fount of inexhaustible knowledge, the Grand Comics Database, and they list Cresto as the artist for this story from DC Comics' Strange Adventures #6, March 1951. In all my decades of looking at old comics it's the first time I've ever come across that name, so maybe someone out there can tell me who Cresto is. Whoever he is, "Vampire World" is a very well-drawn strip, with some real dramatic panels.

I like early issues of Strange Adventures because writers are credited. Writers never got to sign their stories. It seems natural, since Strange Adventures editor Julius Schwartz was a literary agent for several science fiction writers when he began his career. Manny Rubin is credited with the story.

And who's Manny Rubin? He's quite accomplished and you can find information on him here.