Friday, January 09, 2015

Number 1681: Musclebound Skyman

In the early days of Big Shot Comics Skyman, drawn by Ogden Whitney, was presented as a large musclebound hero. Eventually Skyman was drawn as a more lean character. Frankly, I think the big arms and chest make him look a little top-heavy, and perhaps the folks who produced Big Shot Comics thought so, also.

Skyman was a rich playboy (yawwwwnnnnn), who used his tricked-out plane, the Wing, to help him catch criminals. The rich guy who has nothing better to do than put on a mask and costume and fight crime was done to the point of absurdity in those days, but it made it easier to explain how he had the money to get by without having to go to a day job.

From Big Shot Comics #3 (1940):

More Skyman, first with his big muscles, then as he was after trimming down.


Ryan Anthony said...

Well, that was certainly breathless storytelling! And the dialogue was typical of the Golden Age--execrable!
Page 3, Panel 8: Either there's a misplaced word balloon here, or Skyman is speaking for Doctor Jenkins.
"No place for a woman." What a turd!

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

An entertaining comic with nice art, a pretty dull story and a childish prose.
Noticeable quotes:
-"When the Skyman calls for them, they come! And no question asked!"
-"maybe this'll teach you to give up that detective agency of yours. It's no place for a woman!". Notice she found the bomber and he just ruined her work! Big macho man in his right place, indeed!
Nice plane, looks like an early, non jet-propelled version of Me 163 Komet.

Pappy said...

Ryan, J D, I am drawn to stories where the heroes are male chauvinists, and say things such as "It's no place for a woman!" It is because over the past few decades that sort of attitude has been changing, and both of you commenting shows how sharply society has been affected by change.

I am further reminded that when I was a boy mothers of that time were expected to stay home and raise the children and Dad had to go earn the living.

In that respect stories from 1940s comics that contain popular stereotypes of the day can be valuable time capsules of attitudes.

Alicia American said...

OMG hes handsum yo OMG!!

Well tha rich playboy was tha theery B-Hind Spring-Heel Jack, who was spozedly reel & botherd peeps in London. Peeps wrote storys about him & sum of tha drawerings of him wer copyed by Bob Kane 4 Batman, wich was obviusly baseded on Spring Heel Jack mixded w/Zorro. PIC HEAR Than all theze othar comix heros wer based on Batman. C? I no evrything LOL

Alicia American said...

BTW theze days UFO fans think Spring Heel Jack was a spaced alian butt back than peeps thot mayB he was a rich playboy who culd afford 2 invent stuff like Batman L8R inventeded <3

Daniel [] said...

Skymanwould have looked less top-heavy if he hadn't been fairly slender downward from the bottom of the rib-cage.

It always sticks-out for me when the hero whallops the villains (or apparent villains) and then lets them run away, or leaves them unconscious to run away later. This happens not only in golden-age comic-book stories, but in old-time radio drama, such as Boston Blackie.

Of course, this failure to do something more lasting allows villainous characters to return to action more quickly; but it embraces a world-view in which adults regulate each other using the same means as do children. (If you or I could have defeated the neighborhood bully, we wouldn't have then have taken him off to jail.)

Pappy said...

Alicia, and I thought I was the guy with the arcane information. I am aware of Spring-Heeled Jack, but only vaguely, just that he was a legendary bogieman type (I will soon hear from readers who will set me straight if I err, I am sure). Tying him in with UFOs seems a real stretch, although there is a lot of stretching of hypotheses in that field.

Love the picture, and yes, in that picture he does look like an early version of The Bat-Man.

Pappy said...

Daniel, the bad proportioning of the upper torso is what bothers me. I knew a guy once in the early '70s who had built up his chest, but it made the rest of him look out of proportion and freakish. Obviously Skyman must've gone on some sort of program to reduce the size of his upper body. Which begs the question, why didn't anyone notice that Allan and Skyman were both huge on top, then both slimmed down at the same time?

Literature and movies are just full of heroes and villains who let their adversaries live to torment them again. It is an absurd plot device when you mention it, as you did.

Nowadays in movies the heroes are just like the villains, more apt to shoot a guy and put him out of commission or kill him. It makes more sense, but also has a dubious moral. And that was something I think the old style was going for; the good guy was always good, and the bad guy was evil, so the good guy would let the villain live to do more evil.

I think that was considered moral, anyway.

Anonymous said...

I wondered when I reread some Herbie stories if Ogden Whitney used himself to base the character of Herbie's father on —who looks like the Burton character in this story, esp. the last page, panel 4. I searched and found a self-portrait of the artist, middle age. Probably not. Like a lot of artists Whitney had both a man and a woman characters that were used over and over. One of the ways I detect Ogden Whitney's art. He certainly was good at his art.
That Skyman sure led a fast-paced life. Typical of those rich, secret-identity types, poor bastards. =smile=
Thanks, Pappy!

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

"why didn't anyone notice that Allan and Skyman were both huge on top, then both slimmed down at the same time?"

They never caught Clark Kent, right? Guess you call it "suspension of disbelief".

Springheeled Jack in comics: He's a recurring villain in the italian series "Martin Mystère, Detective of the Impossible". If I remember well, he's an immortal highwayman and has connections with aliens.

There is, also, a british comic called "Springheeled Jack":

Love reading Alicia's comments, they have a certain je ne sais quoi.

Pappy said...

J D, on 19 January I have a story about just that subject, suspension of disbelief. In this case it is Bulletman. His only "disguise" is a helmet.

I suppose for it to be proper I should introduce you to Alicia:

J D, this is Alicia. Alicia, meet J D.

Pappy said...

7f7, now that you mention it, I read once that Herbie's look was based on Whitney as a boy. The only selfie I have ever seen of him is the one that was published in the comics' splash panels...and he looks a bit like the character.

He did have a sense of humor that was obvious in the Herbie series, which I consider his magnum opus. I think his otherwise non-flashy style worked well with the zany humor. Everything, no matter how strange or bizarre, looks natural in Herbie stories because of Whitney's deadpan depictions.

Whitney's characters all looked alike because he had a Central Casting he went to to draw a generic woman or man; he could draw likenesses of real people, as many of the Herbie stories show.

Kirk said...

It's possible that while Skyman is a chauvinist, the unknown writer of this comic was not. After all, if the woman here didn't have the detective agency in the first place, the bad guy presumably would have gotten away from it. Yes, this unknown writer may have not been aware of the contradiction, but I'd like to think otherwise. When perusing old pop culture, I'm always hoping to find someone willing to buck the prevailing social attitude.

Pappy said...

Kirk, good point. I neglected to mention that Gardner Fox is given credit for the script by the GCD.

Vincent Sullivan, editor of Big Shot Comics, was formerly an editor at DC when Superman became a huge phenomenon. I think many of the females in superhero stories in those days are based on Lois Lane. Lois was certainly plucky, had a career, took no crap from men. Actually a very positive female role model, despite having to be constantly rescued by Superman. In fairness so did the male, Jimmy Olsen.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Funny how things can be seen from different angles...
Quote from the mini series "World's worst comics Awards" by James Schumeister - Rich Larson, [Kitchen Sink, 1991] vol. 2:
"For most of her career, Lois Lane's role was confined to three modes: 1): being rescued by Superman, 2): trying to prove Superman was Clark Kent... or, in a fit of inspiration, 3): both at once. Clumsiness and stupidity ... Still, many feel that she reached the nadir of her career in the 70's when she tried to be relevant..."

Two covers of "Superman's girl friend Lois Lane" are shown (looks like Neal Adams' art). On one, Superman puts Lois into a "body moulder" to turn her into a black woman for 24 Hrs just to see "how it is"; on the other cover she is dressed like a squaw, holding an "indian baby" and confronting an angry mob.
Now, judging by the covers this looks pretty silly to me, but who knows...
Anyway I guess the 1970's L.L. was not the same character of 10-20 years before.
She was quite "stupid" and annoying, in a childish way, in some campy stories of the 60's I read as a kid. Not the smartest girl around but again, this might be my "angle".

Kirk's point is interesting indeed. Did the writer want to portray Skyman (in a very subtle way) as a big oaf? Not very probable, but interesting. All in all, he looks like an early version of Megaton Man...
My last comment for this very interesting discussion, I swear!