Sunday, March 30, 2014

Number 1550: Monarch of Monster Isle

A few things went through my head as I was reading the first issue of Dell’s Kona Monarch of Monster Isle from 1962.

First, for a scientific expedition the Dodd family has taken a lot of guns and ammo. Dr. Dodd, who is “Grandpa,” his daughter Mary and her children Mason and Lily are flying in a surplus blimp and go down in the ocean off Monster Isle. Dr. Dodd makes sure to save all his guns. Was Grandpa using the scientific stuff as a cover? Perhaps he was really a gun runner.

Besides dinosaurs, the Isle is inhabited by Neanderthal men who are colored like the modern Caucasian members of the cast, and Pithecanthropus men who are dark-colored. The Neanderthals are good, Pithecanthropus men are bad. Is there a message there? Well, yeah, even if the people who made this comic book 52 years ago might not have thought about it. Or maybe they did.

Kona does not appear on the cover. A Pithecanthropus man is on the cover. Did I mention the Pithecanthropus men have trained the T. Rexes like pets?

Against that Dr. Dodd arms the Neanderthal men and teaches them to shoot. The Neanderthals don’t have enough technology to make fire, and yet Dr. Dodd gives them guns. I think that would be a bad idea unless they can be trained in gun safety, and even then it is still a bad idea. Better Dr. Dodd should do the shooting and train his grandkids for backup. Coincidentally, the only ad in the whole comic is a Daisy Air Rifle ad on the back cover.

If I stretch just a little more, the story seems an allegory of early U.S. involvement in Vietnam, where the U.S. sent in military advisers to train the South Vietnamese, and armed them against their enemies in the North.

I don’t remember why I passed up Kona when it was being published. It was one of the more successful titles (21 issues) from Dell after they split from Western Publishing, which became Gold Key. Maybe I thought it was a ripoff of Turok. I recognized Sam J. Glanzman’s artwork, which I had seen in Charlton comics. He was a longtime comic book journeyman whose work stretched way back to the World War II era. According to some sources Don Segall was the original writer.


Daniel [] said...

One of the problems with these Dell comics was that they cost more! Here we have a 15¢ comic book at a time when DC and Marvel titles were still 10¢. Granted that there would be a bit more story (rather than advertising) in the Dell comics; still, they didn't offer 50% more.

And, when I was a kid, the Dell and Western brands that aimed for representational realism (as opposed to funny animals) were damaged by that share of the material which had the stylistic stiffness and the color palette that one associated with illustrations in material prepared for the Edification of Youth by religious or civic associations.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I'm sure it hurt Dell's sales when they charged a nickel more, but they were the one company that was trying to raise the price of comics. There was a push by retailers to raise the price. There was also fear from other companies about breaking that 10¢ barrier. Raising the price to 12¢ was a compromise, and even then some companies issued apologies in their books for upping the price by 2¢. It seems ridiculous now, but in those days it was a big deal.

Daniel [] said...

I was too young to remember that change. (The oldest comic books that I have saved from my childhood are from '64, and 12¢.) But I remember that it was a big deal when 12¢ became 15¢ in the '70s, and how that became 20¢, 25¢, &c.

There was of course a context which must be understood to understand those increases, but it was a big deal each time.

Pappy said...

Daniel, DC Comics for a time had a heavy-bordered black box on their covers that said STILL 10¢, and that lasted until they switched to 12¢.

Otto Binder told me in 1970 that it was Mort Weisinger's belief that "a kid only has a dime in his pocket at any one time [with which to buy a comic book]," which Otto thought was screwy thinking. It sounded to me as if Mort W. was still thinking as they had thought a decade or three earlier.

Daniel [] said...

It's a shame that we don't have good data from that time and earlier on the amount of discretionary spending available to children. (I think that it climbs as inflation-adjusted personal income grows, but significantly lags inflation itself.)

But something important had changed in the formula by the early '60s. Parents had been children who themselves had read comic books as children. It was increasingly likely to be the parent at whose discretion the comic book were purchased, and without expenditures being counted against allowance or earnings.

Mike said...

Great to see good old Kona reprinted completely here. Wacky but cool premise and Glansman art which I have learned to love over the years.

Kevin H said...

I redrew part of this issue here

serloren said...

Might I suggest using an add-in that allows visitors to comment on the site (still moderated of course) using Wordpress or various other log-ins? For many of us in the blogosphere it is a bit of a pain to look-up and/or remember credentials for accounts we seldom if ever my gmail address. ;-)

Pappy said...

Kevin, wow! Very impressive interpretation using a more contemporary cartooning style. Thanks for the link.

Pappy said...

serioren, thanks for the note, and I feel your pain, because I notice the same thing when I want to comment on blogs using other providers.

I don't use add-ins or apps because I'm still using the creaking (and soon to be unsupported) Windows XP. It's from about 2002. While it serves my purposes, sometimes adding in more current or modern software screws up something else.

serloren said...

As an IT guy let me make two other suggestions.

(1) Get yourself a copy of Windows 7 Pro - once you spend a little time adjusting: you'll love it. It is very stable and solid,and Microsloth won't stop supporting it for a number of years.

(2) Let no one in no way talk you into moving up to Windows 8 (of ANY iteration). The only thing it is any good at is if you have a tablet and like to finger drag - for everything else it sucks.

(2a) Besides which, they will be releasing Windows 9 in April 2015 (Shhh! Don't tell anybody!)

Pappy said...

sorioren, thanks for the information.

Right now one of my considerations regards the older software I have used successfully and know well. Would I have to upgrade those programs as well?

I had my PC built for me, and had the builder put in XP Pro, which has been good and solid for me. Like me, though, it's old and can't last forever. Maybe we can go out together! "Here lies Pappy...and with him his XP Pro!"

serloren said...

7 Pro (w/Service Packs installed) should run pretty much any program or app that XP did. There "might" be a rare case where it doesn't want to do it, but then you can do one of two things - run the program as administrator emulating XP, OR...7 Pro (not the Home Edition) has a built-in virtual machine that essentially runs a "virtual" version of XP within 7Pro to run any XP program that 7 doesn't support naturally. ;-)