Friday, May 29, 2015

Number 1741: Of godlike powers: giving Betty new lungs

Dr. Synthe (short for “synthesis”) has the ability to make things from the stuff that is floating around in space, including mechanical objects — a car — or money, or even new lungs for Betty, a woman he just met after arriving from space.

The short-lived character (appearances in four issues of Centaur’s Stars and Stripes Comics) was born of the superhero boom of the prewar comic book explosion. He is credited to grandly-named Harry Francis Campbell, writer, and a fellow grandly-named artist, Henry Weston Taylor.

Despite his godlike powers, Dr. Synthe is unable to fix his rocket ship, and he crash lands on Earth. I said he had godlike powers, not that he is smart with them. He thinks it would be fun to be stranded on a world with people. Even godlike entities from space must have weaknesses, including wanting to be around people. This introduction of Dr. Synthe is from Stars and Stripes Comics #3 (1941).

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Number 1740: Whizzing into the future

Whiz Wilson is able, via his Futuroscope, to travel in time. That is science fiction, but I often feel I’m visiting a place called the Future. Watching my fellow citizens with little devices in their hands, sending and receiving messages while ignoring the rest of the world makes me feel out of my own time. Welcome to the brave new world! Personal opinion, anyway...I have a cell phone, yet have never texted a message. 

In Lightning Comics #5 (1941) Whiz visits Florida in the year 3000, and according to one man he confronts, it is a world where war and Great Depressions are a thousand years in the past. In the very next panel that perfect Florida is invaded by giant robots. Is Whiz’s timing lucky, so he can help repel “madman” Baron Krawman with his army of mechanical men, or is Whiz the cause? My theory is that by entering the future Whiz has altered it. The idyllic world is suddenly one in danger. Whiz should help out and end the menace. If my theory is correct, he indirectly caused it.

If I was a visitor in 2015 from, say, 1941, perhaps by being out of my own time my presence in an era in which I do not belong would change the future so the cell phone was not the center of so many peoples’ lives. I wouldn’t have to worry about walking or driving amongst so many distracted and self-absorbed people.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Number 1739: Warning! Werewolves!

Mandrake the Magician, who seemingly never appeared anywhere without his stage get-up, slicked-back hair, fancy mustache, cape, tuxedo with tails, and top hat, was a popular syndicated newspaper strip. He was also reprinted in comic books from the dawn of comics until a certain point in the fifties, when his appearances became more sporadic. This issue of Harvey Comic Hits (#53, 1951), reprints two Mandrake continuities, and after it Mandrake wasn’t much seen in comic books for a long time. Maybe his top hat was just old hat. I didn’t think of the character that way in the fifties, when I read his adventures daily (along with the Phantom and Flash Gordon, among others) in the Seattle newspaper my parents subscribed to. I always liked the guy, even though I thought his gimmick of wiggling his fingers to cause hallucinations was stretching things.

And this tale of werewolfery pulls out the stops when stretching credulity. Where are the cops when all the loping lycanthropes are menacing innocent folk? And you may also notice the plot is as old as Mandrake’s tux. It appeared in dozens of Western know, when the bad guy was trying to get all the townspeople to sell out because there was something on their land he wanted...? You remember, don’t you? It makes this story all the more familiar. Written by Lee Falk, and drawn by Phil Davis.

I showed the other story from this Harvey issue back in 2012: Click on the thumbnail:

Friday, May 22, 2015

Number 1738: Lulu’s Witch Hazel: “If you go down in the woods today...”

The 100-page squareback giant comics Dell published in the fifties are some of my favorites. Little Lulu and Her Special Friends (1955) is all inspired John Stanley humor, and except for the covers, all Irving Tripp artwork. I love that it has four of Lulu’s “Little Girl” stories, with Witch Hazel.

“Old Witch Hazel and the Witless Whirlwind” is a variation on the three wishes fantasy. Hazel whips up a whirlwind to take the Little Girl  far away to die under horrible conditions. But Hazel’s commands to the whirlwind go comically awry. Also in the story, as a disguise Witch Hazel changes into a beautiful woman. “I hate to disfigure myself like this,” says the witch as her magic wand turns her into a glamorous blonde. That is Stanley’s sense of humor at work.

More Lulu “Little Girl” stories. Just click on the thumbnails.