Friday, May 18, 2012

Number 1159: That rockin' Rocketman

Rocketman was a Farrell comic from 1952, which looks to have been drawn several years earlier. The Grand Comics Database claims it is an Iger Shop job.

"Rocketman" has been inserted in the balloons and captions where another shorter name was whited out. Although claiming it as a shop job, GCD also guesses it's drawn by Chas. ("Cat-Man") Quinlan.

Who knows? It's an anomaly, a one-shot, and no more issues were produced. It's also a lesson in how quick styles in comics changed. Rocketman looks to be from the mid-forties, but by 1952 the art style seems archaic. As late as 1953 Fiction House, just before shutting down, was reprinting stories from the forties and the same thing applied. But then you go back to 1940 and there was a whole other style then, too. Comic books have been a living, growing thing, and have gone through many different periods and styles. With practice an art-spotter can just about guess the year in which a story was drawn.

OK, I'm getting away from the story, which is totally silly science fiction hokum. It's set in the year 25,000 (!), and includes a girl getting away from her captor by slamming his nose in a steamer trunk lid. I kid you not.


Keir said...

Intersting that in the year 25000 everyone will be white with early 20th century hairstyles when this week the US saw non-white births outnumber whites for the first time.
Anyway, I had a look just to check out the edits for 'Rocketman' in the boxes, but from what I saw they weren't too obtrusive. I'd be curious to know what you look out for from amateur lettering.
Interesting that the Beakman whose nose is slammed in "a steamer trunk lid" appears to lose his beard in the process..

Kirk said...

"A young American space pilot, in the year 25,000, flys the stratosphere lanes between Earth and the other planets"

Now, is that American = a citizen of the United States, or American = someone who lives on one of the two continents of the Western Hemisphere? Either way, given how far it is in the future, and that the Solar System is now an easy place to move around in, they're surprisingly parochial.

You're right about how swiftly drawing styles change in comics, at least back then. I follow a blog that regularly features comics drawn between 1900 and 1920, only several decades before the comics you usually focus on. Most of the artists from the earlier period were probably still alive in the period you describe. Yet, if you look at the art, there may as well be, well, 25,000 years between them.

Pappy said...

Kirk, can you provide a link or at least a name to that blog that focuses on 1900-1920? That's an area of interest to me, even if it isn't covered in this blog.

As for your question about parochial I have read a lot of 1930s and '40s science fiction prose that reaches far into the future, yet has an America surprisingly like it was in the years the stories were written. Maybe there was a point to make the reader of the day more familiar with the setting, but it dates the stories. (I don't mind dated stories as such—I read a lot of dated material from the first half of the 20th Century—but it does bother me when they are set hundreds of years in the future and people are still driving cars that use gasoline.)

Pappy said...

Keir, lettering styles to me are important for placing the material. The Iger Shop had a letterer who had well formed characters, and his lettering is found in stories the shop provided for Fiction House, especially. The lettering on the Rocketman strip just doesn't have the polish of the Iger lettering I'm used to seeing from the era in which I estimate it was drawn.

Someday I may do a posting showing different lettering styles. Some letterers like Ben Oda are immediately recognizable to me, but other letterers, with recognizable styles yet names unknown to me, worked for years and showed up in several places. I'd like to know who they were.

Kirk said...

Here's the link:

The name of the blog is Strippers Guide. No, not that kind of stripper.

Kirk said...

In many of Ray Bradbury's science-fiction short stories from the 1940s and '50s, he'd introduced a single futuristic element--more often than not space travel--but keep a lot of other details--both technological or socialogial-- more or less true to the era they were written. So, for example, one story has Christian missionaries taking a rocket ship to Mars with the intent of converting the natives. In one of my favorite stories of his, a ship explodes in space. The astronauts who survive float around for awhile until they collide with Earth's atmosphere and burn up. A boy on a lonely counry road mistakes one of those burning astronauts for a falling star and makes a wish. Nice to know there are still lonely country roads at a time when space travel has become commonplace. But it's like Bradbury said in a well-known quote of his, he wasn't trying to predict the future so much as prevent it.

Gumba G Gadwa said...

The style might be dated, but just some common sense might tell you to not put our hero getting conked on the head OFF panel, and instead showing another boring, static shot that doesn't move anything forward.

BTW, climb into an atomic catapult? Uh, no thanks!

And, something else that marks a 40s comic:

"I'm going to take on an entire army of bat men and their spaceships by myself, without any backup."
"Hi, I'm a pretty stranger, can I come along?"

I know the 1940-1950s was a horribly repressed time, but I swear these "manly" heroes just want to kill every hot women that comes into contact with them! "If she's not fixing me a steak and a drink she can just die by death ray!"

Pappy said...

Gumba, there is a very broad streak of misogyny in popular literature for men for much of the Twentieth Century, not just the forties. It's like the guys reading comic books, pulp magazines and paperback books couldn't get the hot women so lived vicariously through literature where hot chicks were forever in peril, being tortured or killed.

Oh, hell...that attitude is still there. Some guys just hate women, and don't ask me why, because I love them.

My guess of why the heroes in comic books are often loners is because several characters are hard to draw in all those panels.

Pappy said...

Kirk, I'm embarrassed, because I do link to Stripper's Guide. I just haven't looked at it in a while. It looks like I've got some reading to do, and I should get busy.

I remember the Bradbury stories, but Bradbury was writing literature, using s-f as a springboard. The stories I'm talking about used the slang of the era in which they were written. I wish I could remember the story, but there was one I read years ago where a guy goes into a 22nd Century nightclub and calls the girl singer a "thrush." The writer might as well be writing an alternate history story, where 1942 is as it was, but also existed with space ships to the moon and Mars.