Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Number 1166: The All-American flying, two-fisted, butt-kicking girl

Miss America was one of the patriotic heroines of World War II, created for Marvel Mystery Comics in 1943. You can read her history here. Otto Binder is credited for her creation, as he is for these two seven-page backup stories from Marvel Mystery Comics #52 and #56, both 1944. The Grand Comics Database credits Charles Nicholas with pencils and inks.

I like Miss America, and I like the earnest attempt to create a super character for girls. Miss America is slim and svelte, looks like a teenager, but looks can be deceiving. She can fly, put a grown man out with her fists, and give the heave-ho to enemies of Uncle Sam.

I found these stories online in about 2003, and saved them. They were only 500 pixels wide. I have enlarged them to 725 pixels. If you are the person who put these online originally I'd like to hear from you, give credit where it's due.

Today is the release date for Zombies, yet another book in Craig Yoe's fantastic series of comic book reprints.

This time Craig has teamed up with one of the great bloggers, Steve "Karswell" Banes of The Horrors Of It All. I've followed Steve's blog since its inception, and his knowledge of horror comics of the 1950s is unparalleled. Craig was right to get Steve to help, because in my opinion there isn't anyone more qualified.

I haven't seen the book, and yet I'm recommending it. Readers who've read my past reviews of the series know how highly I prize these books from Yoe, not just for their contents, but for their permanence. When you buy a Yoe book you are buying a guarantee of a quality product, printing, paper, binding...there is no skimping, but the books are very affordable. You can't afford to miss them, that's for sure.

Go to or Yoe Books to order. If you're fortunate enough to have a great comic shop locally that carries these books, please support them.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Number 1165: “Lend me your comb.”*

Edd Byrnes was the hip, cool, jive-talking Kookie, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. was Stu, Roger Smith was Jeff. Crazy, man..."you meet the highbrows and the hipsters, the gangsters and the phony tipsters..." During its first run on network television 77 Sunset Strip was on my must-watch list. Now, fifty years later I'm damned if I can remember anything about it but the theme song and the main characters.

Russ Manning did a fine job on this strip from the first Gold Key issue of 77 Sunset Strip, featuring two of those characters, Kookie and Stu, and a villain. The story involves a switched briefcase and some stolen plans (and how many times have you seen that one)? Despite the clichés, Manning does a lot with the atmosphere. Setting the story in the rain gives more visual interest to a fairly straightforward story. If all you've ever seen of Manning are his Tarzan, Brothers Of the Spear or Magnus, Robot Fighter adventures, he was right at home in a contemporary urban environment, also.

Russ Manning died at the young age of 52 in 1981.

From 77 Sunset Strip #1 (Gold Key, 1962):

 *This stupid song by Byrnes and Connie Stevens was everywhere. I'm putting it onto you, and you can have it running around in your head like it is mine.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Number 1164: The phantastic Phantasmo

 E. C. (for Elmer Cecil) Stoner was an African-American pioneer of the comic book field. Already an established artist when comic books began, he fit into the earliest comic books with his solid contributions, working his entire career in comics via various comic art shops.

The Ken Quattro blog, The Comics Detective, has an excellent article and biography of Stoner. You can read it here.

"Phantasmo" was a strip drawn by Stoner. Phantasmo, secret identity of Phil Anson, was trained by Tibetan monks (like several other super-characters of the era, keeping those monks busy). He could release his astral projection, making it extremely big (size varied between panels), and despite being transparent and a projection, it could also lift heavy objects like ocean liners and subway trains.

Large Feature Comic was an early Dell series, reprinting comic strip adventures of Dick Tracy, Popeye, among others, in black line. In #18, published in 1941, it reprinted several of the early Phantasmo strips, including the origin, from The Funnies. Dell never seemed really comfortable with super heroes, and while Phantasmo was around for a couple of years, it was dropped in favor of funny animals. Dell sold millions of comic books without using traditional superheroes.

I have some opinions of Stoner's art on Phantasmo. He used a heavy ink line, all the better for reproduction in those days of quick-and-dirty comic book printing. He drew well-composed, meticulously detailed panels. (There's a jarring sequence of two panels on the top of page 11, with skinny ink lines in panel one, and a misshapen, out-of-proportion head in panel two that I'm sure isn't by Stoner.) In many panels Phantasmo and his young friend, Whizzer McGee, have somewhat goofy smiles even in times of peril. Since I'm Pappy and my mind sometimes needs lifting out of the gutter, I can't help myself. I must mention the phallic look to the cover: the character's hands on the gun barrels, his smiling face as they are going off. I'm sure no one planned's just my dirty mind conjuring up things that aren't there, surely. "Sometimes a gun barrel is just a gun barrel," to paraphrase Dr. Freud. Uh...yeah, sure, Sigmund.