Friday, August 31, 2012

Number 1219: Baseball by moonlight

Ty Cobb (1886-1961) was an awfully great baseball player and a greatly awful person. There are many stories of his nastiness. Despite the records he set and his accomplishments on the field he's just as well known for his bad temperment, his aggression and intimidation of opposing players. The story is that Cobb filed his steel cleats to be razor sharp, and when he stole bases he slid into base “with his feet up and steel showing.”

I'm sure that Ty Cobb was the inspiration for “Foul Play” in Haunt of Fear #19 (1953). The story, with its gory ending, was fairly typical EC-revenge. But it was brought before a stunned public of non-comics readers with a page in Seduction of the Innocent (1954) by Fredric Wertham, M.D.

The caption reads, “A comic-book baseball game. Notice the chest protector and other details in the text and pictures.”

In 1986 I attended a panel with Harvey Kurtzman and Jack Davis at the San Diego Con. Davis made mention of the horror comics and the trouble they caused. Speaking of the Senate hearings and uproar over them Davis said, “I'd lie awake at night and think, did I cause this?”

This is the infamous baseball story, drawn by Jack Davis, and written by editor Al Feldstein.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Number 1218: Capp slapped by the Spirit

Here are a couple of questions for knowledgeable Pappy readers. Some years ago I read an interview with Will Eisner where he told a story of being contacted by Al Capp. The Li’l Abner creator told Eisner he wanted to trade satires of each other’s strips. Eisner said Capp never followed up. So what I’m wondering is, where did I read that, and is this the strip Eisner used for his satire, or is this an Eisner “Slapp at Capp” after feeling betrayed?

Either way, this is Eisner going after the big boys of comic strip syndication. I would think either Harold Gray (Elmer Hay) or Chester Gould (Hector Ghoul) might feel insulted, not to mention Capp. As satire it seems more than just a friendly nod or gentle nudge in the ribs. A particular target of Eisner's satire is the Dick Tracy/Fearless Fosdick situation. Gould felt that Capp over-reached by making Fearless Fosdick — who began as a one-off caricature of the Dick Tracy comic strip — a semi-regular character in Li’l Abner. I assume he was further aggrieved when Fearless Fosdick got commercial endorsements like Wildroot Cream Oil, which made $$$ for Capp, none for Gould. As for Harold Gray, I have no idea what he thought of The Spirit.  Maybe Gray didn't care what Eisner did. Maybe he never saw it. Unlike Gray’s large following, there were only a few papers carrying the Spirit's Comic Book Section.

This is an interesting Spirit story, and I'd love to know the background of this particular episode.

Originally published July 20, 1947. This is scanned from The Spirit #1 (Warren, 1974):

Monday, August 27, 2012

Number 1217: Happy 100th birthday, Tarzan

According to Alistair Boddy-Evans of, it was 100 years ago today, August 27, 1912, that Tarzan of the Apes made his first appearance when the October, 1912 issue of All-Story Magazine went on sale. It was an immediate success, and success continued to follow author Edgar Rice Burroughs.

In 1965, after Jesse Marsh left the Gold Key Tarzan for health reasons (and died the next year, at age 59), Russ Manning* took over the comic book. Manning’s first issue was a typical story that Marsh would have illustrated, but with the next issue, number 155, Gold Key began adapting Tarzan novels. The first was (naturally) Tarzan of the Apes. I've scanned my copy, bought off the stands in 1965. I've been a Manning fan since I first saw his work. (Later he took over the Tarzan comic strip, which is a whole other thing.)

Next to Sherlock Holmes, Tarzan is one of the most recognizable literary characters in the world. I expect that Tarzan will be known in the 22nd century and beyond. This issue of Gold Key’s Tarzan is an important issue, and I'm glad to present it to you on the 100th anniversary of Tarzan's introduction to the world.

Script adaptation of the original novel by Gaylord Du Bois.**

From Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan #155, December, 1965:

*The Grand Comics Database also gives Mike Royer credit for assisting Manning on pencils and inks.

**I've seen Gaylord Du Bois' name spelled Dubois and DuBois. Apparently he spelled it both as it is on his birth certificate, Du Bois, or DuBois. 

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Number 1216: Bad blondes 2 — more blondes, more bad

Women usually fell into one of three categories in crime comic books: victims, gun molls, or ruthless criminals. These three stories, featuring blondes, fall into the criminal category.

Kathryn Kelly, wife of George “Machine Gun” Kelly, was said to have promoted her husband’s criminal career, much like a publicist or agent. She was arrested right along with him. The story, “Machine Gun Kelly,” is from Avon's All True Detective Cases #3 (1954), reprinted from Famous Gangsters #2 (1951). Kathryn goes from blonde to redhead in this story, but that's no big thing...I've been married to a blonde, brunette and redhead, and they're all the same woman.

Betty-Jane Watson, a tigress with some sharp claws, is hot but hostile. This busty gal busts out of prison. Her tale is told in Prison Break #4 (1952), drawn by Mort Lawrence.

“Angel Face,” aka Connie Farrar, has a face that appears innocent, but she's no angel, she's a devil who murders men when it suits her purposes. She's featured in Underworld True Crime (called Underworld in the indicia) #2, 1948.

These blondes may have more fun, but the guys with them, fun at all.

I showed more bad blondes in Pappy's #1114.