Sunday, July 28, 2013

Number 1409: Dragon Lady is no drag

Terry and the Pirates, a phenomenally popular strip, well written and drawn by Milton Caniff, was, like all newspaper features, disposable. Newspapers were thrown out after being read, or used to wrap fish. I’m sure there were people clipping and saving the strips day-by-day, but for the most part newspaper comics were one-and-done. That is, until comic books came along with an insatiable need for content. Then many popular newspaper comics, including Terry, got another life.

The Dragon Lady, one of the most popular characters, is introduced in this first issue of the Terry and the Pirates reprint series from Harvey Comics. (The comic says #3, but it was a continuation of Boy Explorers, which lasted only two issues). Although the Dragon Lady had been introduced in newspapers in 1934, the comic book was published in 1947, which gave it a huge new batch of readers who weren’t around when the original strips were published.

It was another era...China was a faraway place, a strange universe of its own, far from America of the 1930s. Stereotypes were used (Connie especially, although next to Chop Chop of the Blackhawks he seems almost acceptable). Despite being the title figure, Terry Lee was something of a secondary character next to his adult pal, Pat Ryan. Terry grew up later, but in these early strips he’s a callow youngster.


darkmark said...

Characters like Chop Chop and Ebony were meant innocently in those days, what with the likes of AMOS AND ANDY being a popular radio program. After the Sixties, they became an embarrassment. Chops was updated, image-wise, but his name seemed to be a problem for DC. I liked Chopper from the red-uniform era on up. Ebony was always a problem (he's a stereotype, but how are you gonna reprint classic Spirit without him?). In the case of Steamboat in Captain Marvel, they just didn't reprint any stories with him.

Pappy said...

I remember the buzz about Ebony in the '60s and '70s, and there was some controversy, but mainly from whites. I don't think I ever heard from any African-Americans and how they felt about the character.

I remember a story, though, that some African-Americans in the '40s complained about Steamboat, which is why he was dropped from the comic book.