Monday, April 25, 2011

Number 936

Grim Paree

Looking through some old crime comics I noticed that stories of Parisian criminals looked back at me from three of the five comics I leafed through. What was it about Paris that incited writers of crime comic books? France had been liberated from the Nazis just a couple of years before, yet there is no mention of war in any of the stories. Crime in any country is much the same as any other country, and god knows the USA has enough crime of its own. But Paris, to those comic book scripters of 60+ years ago, must've been a very exotic place, full of people who wore neckerchiefs, and exclaimed "Parbleu!" or "Sacre bleu!" They had the bleus in Paree in those days...

From Crime and Punishment #2, 1948 comes "The Plague Of Paris," illustrated by Fred Guardineer, he of the fastidious ink line. It is a reprint from its older sister magazine, Crime Does Not Pay #48, from 1946. And speaking of Crime Does Not Pay, Rudi Palais, his usual over-reliance on flying sweat drops missing from "The Blonde Queen of Crime," does the illustrative honors, picturing the blonde queen in fishnet stockings and her man in a beret, thus apprising us via such visualizations that yes, they are Frenchies! The story is from issue #39, 1945.

Our last story was drawn by Bob Butts, who signed his name R. Butts in the penultimate panel of page 7. I have featured the splash panel before in Pappy's #727, in my continuing quest to find all the swiped figures of what I call "Jeepers Girls."* The story, "Murders On The Rue Brevet," set in Paris in 1925 is from Pay-Off #1, a crime comic from 1948.

*More Jeepers Girls here.


borky said...

Pappy, when I read you saying, "What was it about Paris that incited writers of crime comic books?" my unthinking reflex was to respond, the murderous ape from The Murders in the Rue Morgue, the Phantom of the Opera, and Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

But just as it occurred to me you already knew about about them, (not to mention the Count of Monte Cristo, etc.), I read your next point, "France had been liberated from the Nazis just a couple of years before, yet there is no mention of war in any of the stories."

That struck me as a highly interesting observation, and certainly flummoxed me for a while, until it occurred to me a possible explanation might've been the comics' authors didn't want to risk conveying the impression they considered members of the heroic French Resistance mere assorted criminals and hoodlums, especially since many of them certainly were.

Even in Britain and America, it's my understanding the likes of the Mafia used their 'old country' criminal networks and contacts to assist the war effort.

I'm not saying this is definitely the explanation for what you've observed, but it strikes me as a possibility.

Pappy said...

Borky, the story is that the American Mafia helped in the invasion of Italy, by its contacts with the local organized crime groups. Some sources I've read have downplayed the effect it had on the invasion's success, but it's a popular story. I recall stories of the French resistance, and it seems the popular perception is that members are always self-sacrificing and heroic.

Your observations of Paris having a reputation for "Murders In the Rue Morgue," "Hunchback of Notre Dame," "Phantom Of the Opera" (and may I add Bluebeard) may have had something to do with American crime writers' fascination. Mrs. Pappy will be in Paris in September and I'll ask her to keep an eye out for any clues. (That is, if she can concentrate with all those beret-wearing Frenchmen with their pencil mustaches pinching her bottom.)

Paris is exotic to Americans, and seems as good a setting for crime stories as any. My observation was based on picking up five random crime comic books published a couple of years after the end of the war, and having three of them feature stories set in Paris. I look for themes to feature in my posts, and I'm always happy when I stumble upon one.