Monday, June 29, 2015

Number 1754: The Sub-Zero Man cools it

Where I live the calendar is moving us into the hottest time of the year. Not that it hasn’t been hot, already. It just gets hotter.

So I don’t know if the Sub-Zero Man will make us cooler, but maybe if we put our faces closer to our computer screens we will feel a gentle, cool breeze wafting over us. Ahhhhh. I can feel it.

The Sub-Zero Man is an early superhero who appeared in Blue Bolt Comics. He was yet another alien who came to Earth* (in this case from Venus) with superpowers. When you read the story you’ll easily enough understand his powers. Oh yeah...he is called Sub-Zero by the other characters, and officially Sub-Zero (dropped “The” and “Man” from his name) sometime later.

From Blue Bolt Comics #3 (1940). Signed by Larry Antonette.

*For some reason these good alien superheroes land in America. Lucky for us Yanks, eh?

Friday, June 26, 2015

Number 1753: “Dead men’s soundless screams”

Over the past few years I have read several news stories about funeral homes and crematories that cheat customers. Overcharging for cheaply built coffins, and worse. There was a story of a Georgia crematory where unburned bodies were stacked up in nearby woods. Another story from Baltimore tells of 40 bodies in a garage. Gee, makes me not want to die if I’m going to be treated like that. I thought at the time those stories would make good horror comics material. And they have. The Beyond #25 (1954) has a story about the dead coming back to life because of the shoddy caskets they have been given to lie in. I am fairly certain that corpses rising from the dead notwithstanding, in real life thievery of the living who are paying to honor their beloved dead has gone on many, many times.

Art attributed to Jim McLaughlin.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Number 1752: Spy Smasher — hot head!

The Man In the Iron Mask...not the Alexandre Dumas Man In the Iron Mask, but a musician who fails to salute Hitler, and gets a metal helmet locked on his dome for his offense. (Some people, including evil despots, just don’t cut anyone any slack.) Not only does the musician become a metal-head, he is ordered to America to kill...Spy Smasher!

This is one of those goofy stories from three-fourths of a century ago. The story moves right along. But everything that happens in this story, including the Man In the Iron Mask putting an iron mask on Spy Smasher, is totally unbelievable. What else would you expect with a set-up like this story has? Spy Smasher, who shared Whiz Comics with Captain Marvel, has no super powers. I guess it is just good luck — and the Man In the Iron Mask stupidly leaving the room where Spy Smasher is tied up with a flaming torch roasting his head — that gives him the advantage. (Why do villains give their victims a chance to escape? Why do I foolishly ask rhetorical questions?)

If you can’t accept the story, at least you can appreciate the artwork, attributed to Emil Gershwin. From Spy Smasher #4 (1942):

Monday, June 22, 2015

Number 1751: “The world’s finest clues are often taken from a waste basket.”

Graham Ingels drew this tale of an embezzler, a gambler and a hapless millionaire for Exposed #6 (1949). It is a crime story, but adds a detective who carries a cat.

The detective is Ephraim Gilpin, “independently wealthy, and very independent in his methods.” Well, yes, I should say bringing one’s kitty cat to a crime scene is probably not the usual detective method.

In the late forties, before settling into a regular gig with EC Comics (and cementing his reputation as one of the greatest horror artists), Ingels did like many other artists were doing, freelancing. I have shown his work before during this same era with stories from EC, Fiction House, and crime comics like Exposed. In this story the artwork is not up to the usual Ghastly standards of the horror comics, but the thing about Ingels is his style, no matter the genre, is instantly recognizable.

 I am a sucker for Sucker Bait and Other Stories Illustrated by Graham Ingels

Fantagraphics Books keeps the history of EC alive and vibrant with their series of books highlighting a different artist in each. The stories are shown in black line, which is perfect for this book of stories by Graham Ingels. Of all of the EC artists, I believe Ingels’ stark and noirish panels benefit most from not having comic book colors covering his carefully detailed work.

There are 26 stories from the EC horror comics, Tales From the Crypt, Vault of Horror and Haunt of Fear. What I miss are Ingels’ covers, which are moody and nightmarish.

The stories about Ingels are that he was alcoholic, and had trouble with deadlines. He must have caused his bosses some consternation, but in Bill Mason’s introduction for Sucker Bait, he quotes publisher Bill Gaines as saying “. . . we just stuck Ingels into the horror books and it didn’t take us very long to realize what had happened — that Ingels was Mr. Horror himself.” Al Feldstein, editor and writer of all of the 26 stories in Sucker Bait, said: “Graham Ingels’ work stands out because of his technique, which was a product of his total makeup — his physical, psychological, emotional makeup.” You don’t see the word “alcohol” in there. Maybe Feldstein just wanted to avoid mentioning that problem of one of his former stars.

If it was part of his makeup, then at least we have what we do of what came out of pencil and brush, and that is shown very effectively in this book.
 Drenched in black ink and mood, and yet often with a playful sense of humor...the best of Ingels is represented.

Like the others in this series, beautiful printing, tightly bound, made for permanence. Retail price is $28.99. Available from Fantagraphics or your usual book store or comic store. Highly recommended.


Not included in the book is this, “A Sucker For a Spider” is from Tales From the Crypt #29, shown in scans of the original art. Just click on the thumbnail to see it.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Number 1750: Hot librarian, cold romance

Darrell Dane, the Doll Man, is handsome, but a “milquetoast,” according to the beautiful librarian. (A milquetoast, as in the popular H. T. Webster newspaper comic panel featuring the wimpish Timid Soul, aka Caspar Milquetoast).

With Doll Man, it is when he becomes small that he becomes a big man, if you know what I mean. Since she has obviously not read the book on superhero behavior, the librarian cannot know Darrell is Doll Man, so she cannot know he is just pretending to be a coward.

This brightly colored, beautifully illustrated entry into the Doll Man series is from Feature Comics #47 (1941). There is a discrepancy with the Grand Comics Database for the artwork credits. Quoting the indexer notes: “According to Lee Boyette in Alter Ego #90, Fran Matera sneaks his initials into panels on pages 5 and 7. According to Jim Amash, in the Quality Companion, and who had done an interview with Matera, he states this art is by Reed Crandall.” I’m siding with Jim Amash on this one.