Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Number 1596: Congo Jack and the green and blue attack

This is the second offering from our theme week, Aces Up My Sleeve, featuring early characters from comics published by Ace.*

Congo Jack did not appear in more than a few issues of Lightning Comics in the early forties. This particular sequence, spread over two issues, has a science fiction setting in an underground kingdom. Congo Jack is kidnapped by green men because he is white. (The green men blow up the African tribesmen they first encounter, all part of the unconscionable racial attitudes of the day...natives were “expendable.”) There is a sinister green man who doesn’t want Jack getting the beautiful green queen’s favor. In the second part of the story some blue dwarfs enter the action. And action there is...Congo Jack is good with his fists and there is a lot of sock-bam-pow going on.

Mark Schneider, who signed both chapters in panels every couple of pages or so, is not credited with comics beyond about 1942. I assume he went into the Armed Services during World War II like so many men, but I have no verification. He was a decent artist, and his work fit in perfectly with the still young comics industry.

From Lightning Comics Vol. 2 No. 1 and Vol. 2 No. 2 (1941):

*This is the same Ace that published all of those cool science fiction paperbacks in the fifties and sixties, including the collectible and desirable Ace Double Novels. Publisher Aaron A. Wyn (born Aaron Weinstein 1898, died 1967) started in the pulp magazine business, was active with a comic book line in the forties until quitting that business in the mid-fifties, and is probably best known for the genre paperbacks, crime, romance, Western, and the aforementioned science fiction.


Daniel [] said...

“Mo-let-ta”! / I just met a girl / named “Mo-let-ta”! / And suddenly that name / will never be the same / to me!

Moletta is, of course, yet another character modelled on Haggard's Ayesha. One could make an very expensive hobby just of collecting a copy of each comic book in which such a character appears. Haggard's stories of Ayesha, however, don't have two guys fighting about one dame, but two dames fighting over one guy. Perhaps, in the case of mid-Twentieth-Century comic books, such experiences were alien to the writers, or expected to be too alien to the readers.

I note the expendability of people here. Things start with a large number of black men being slaughtered, and no one is ever held to account. Congo Jack's willingness to set aside these killings, and the attempts by Lugi on various other lives, leads to an invasion in which a number of Molemen are surely killed, but Moletta doesn't give Jack so much as a bitch-slap.

The second part of the story follows a pattern that I've seen previously, combining the the theme of a thwarted man-of-ambition making a pact with neighboring enemies in order to take the throne with a hero rallying a conquered force to rise and strike as their conquerors are drunk and gorged. Such things have happened in real life; I'm not sure when they may first have been put into one story.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I can't tell you when that tactic of getting an enemy drunk and killing them began, but it was probably shortly after intoxicants were discovered. When it comes to killing, human beings are always looking for an advantage.

I don't know how the 20th century stacks up on the genocide totals against the whole history of humanity, but it's probably pretty high on a percentage scale. There was colonialism and the subjugation of native populations. And of course two world wars and bunches of minor skirmishes. That ratcheted the totals up some. This story was published just before the U.S. entered the war, but even then the idea of killing off a bunch of guys who aren't "us" seemed acceptable in fiction, as well as real life. It seems jarring to us because we've been sensitized over the last few decades.

These stories teach us lessons about attitudes of their era, something that very few people probably even noticed when the stories were published, and obviously nothing the writer, artist or editors even considered when going through the process of creating them.

Brian Barnes said...

"That thing took away my wind!" Sigh. I'm thirteen!

The racism is a bit like your old jungle movies; be white and eventually you'll run everything and certainly you'll be more desirable to the queens. Noted, that's also men's literature, as much as racist.

That said, signing every couple pages is something you don't normally see. When you note he might have signed up for WWII, the unspoken part is he might have never come back. That leaves this art as his tombstone, if true.

Pappy said...

Brian, I'd be interested in learning more about Schneider. He also did stories of The Eye Sees, originated by Frank Thomas.