Sunday, February 28, 2010

Number 692

Speed freaks!

A popular character like DC's The Flash was ripe for imitation. An early imitator from 1940 was Quicksilver, although the story below doesn't seem to show much in the way of super speed. It was toward the end of Quicksilver's run in National Comics #71, published by Quality. Don Markstein's Toonopedia has some observations on Quicksilver:
. . . There was no explanation of how he got his super power or why he put on a costume and mask to fight crime.

. . . he also didn't have a personal life or even a name other than Quicksilver (unless you count "The Laughing Robin Hood", which is what newspapers sometimes called him), and was never seen out of costume. He lived with his young Chinese servant, Hoo Mee, in a cave, fitted out with living quarters and a chemical lab, in Oakwood Park, which was located in an unnamed urban area.
This particular story was drawn in fine fashion by Dan Zolnerowich.

Johnny Quick was a knockoff of the Flash by DC Comics, themselves. Johnny was the creation of Mort Weisinger. Johnny said a magic formula for his speed. This episode is drawn by comic book journeyman Ralph Mayo. Again, from Toonopedia:
Johnny's real name was Johnny Chambers. An orphan, he'd been raised by a family friend, Professor Ezra Gill, a scientist who dabbled in Egyptology in his old age. In translating an ancient scrap of papyrus, Gill discovered a "speed formula", capable of bestowing blinding speed on its user. He considered himself past the stage of life where such a thing would be useful to him, and so passed it on to Johnny, to be used in the cause of justice.

It wasn't a "formula" in the usual sense, but worked more like a magic word. By saying "3X2(9YZ)4A", Johnny gained the power of super speed — to the point where he could even fly short distances, which may not have made sense aerodynamically but didn't seem to bother comic book readers of the time. Saying "Z25Y(2AB)6" would return him to normal.
The final story is a previously unpublished story of The Flash. They're scanned from the 100-page Super Special, The Flash #214, from 1972.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Number 691


This is the final installment from Pappy's Science Fiction theme week.

The Comics Code was implemented in early 1955. By late 1954 some of the publishers of the period, like ACG and Atlas, seemed to be anticipating the Code by toning down their comics. The last pre-Code issue of ACG's Adventures Into the Unknown, #61, dated January-February 1955, dropped the horror themes that had carried it since the late 40s.

The lead story, "The World That Was," is drawn by Kenneth Landau. It was reprinted, as a Code-approved story, in 1960 in Forbidden Worlds #86 as "Interplanetary Episode." What struck me in comparing the two is that the original pre-Code version looks cleaned they replaced parts of the story with more innocuous material, then put the worse stuff back in when they reprinted it under the Code. Yep, it's confusing all right, and seems to fly in the face of the evidence of other comics reprinting pre-Code stories much cleaned up by the Comics Code.

[SPOILER ALERT!] The story, in its second version, while more pathetic, brings more sense to the ending. Blowing up the world because Simon was accused of stealing a wallet seems mild compared to the reaction from the town when he was starving or his dog was killed. It's also not a story written by editor Richard E. Hughes. It wasn't his style to end a story in such a negative fashion. It's a head-scratcher why this particular story, of all the hundreds of ACG's stories published, was chosen to be reprinted.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Number 690

Russ Heath and the Monster of Moog

Here's the 4th installment for Pappy's Science Fiction Week.

Russ Heath, born in 1926, is a comic art great whose career extended for decades. He did Westerns, horror, science fiction and in the '60s many war stories. Like Joe Kubert, who also worked for editor/writer Robert Kanigher at DC, Heath's artwork never faded in quality over a long career.

"Monster of Moog" (a planet, and not a synthesizer), and "The Strange Car" both appeared in Atlas Comics' Journey Into Unknown Worlds #36 (actually #1) in 1950.

A decade later Heath would work with Kanigher on Sea Devils, a comic book I really enjoyed. (Someday I may indulge myself and show you a story featuring the Sea Devils and Pappy the trained seal.) The covers, three of which I've included here, were exceptionally dramatic. Heath did the artwork and DC's chief production man, Jack Adler, did the gray tones, giving the covers a modeled effect.

Some great Russ Heath art from a 1962 DC war comic is here.