Monday, August 31, 2015

Number 1781: Bound to be popular: the original Wonder Woman

The creation of Wonder Woman was one of the most successful achievements of William Moulton Marston’s career, helped in no small part by the women in his life. Jill Lepore’s excellent book, The Secret Life of Wonder Woman, is an education in the early years of the women’s rights movement, Marston’s polygamous living arrangements with two women and their children, and Marston’s background as a psychologist, inventor, and self-promoting huckster.

As has been mentioned before, Marston was into bondage, domination and submission. It was the key plot element in many of the early Wonder Woman stories. When challenged, he used his psychology training to defend it. He claimed that the chains that held Wonder Woman were symbols: she was being shown breaking the chains with which men had bound women for centuries. He may not have passed his own lie detector test telling that whopper. The old boy liked seeing girls tied up, and used symbolism as an excuse.

This story is from Sensation Comics #4 (1942), which would be the fifth published Wonder Woman adventure (number one was in All Star Comics.) Slavery with bondage is a major story device. It also introduces the German spy and dominatrix, Baroness Paula Von Gunther. The haughty baroness became Wonder Woman’s first recurring villain.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Number 1780: It ain’t Mad, but it ain’t bad

Whack, published by St. John, was another Mad imitator, and as far as it went, probably better than most. Originally designed for 3-D, when that market crashed it was re-designed as a regular four color 10¢ format. It did not last long. Number 3 (1954), featuring “Prince Scallion,” was the last issue.

William T. Overgard drew the satire on the popular Harold Foster creation, It is also, like Mad, full of references to American culture of the early fifties, including the “king” of television, Arthur Godfrey (as King Arthur, ho-ho), toothpaste ads which sold brands based on ingredients like chlorophyll, and even mentions my favorite toothpaste ad line (which made everyone paranoid about the state of their breath and social acceptability), “Even your best friends won’t tell you...” Your breath stinks!

Overgard, who died in 1990, was a comic book artist who went to syndicated comic strips, and had a decent career. Not only did he draw “Steve Roper and Mike Nomad,” he wrote novels, and late in his career, episodes of the animated TV series, Thundercats. He also drew a critically accepted, but ultimately failed comic strip from 1983, Rudy, which featured a talking simian in the image of comedian George Burns.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Number 1779: Origin of Doll Man: Let’s get teeny-tiny

Feature Comics, which had once been Feature Funnies and was composed mainly of comic strip reprints, went over to superheroes when that genre exploded, saleswise. Will Eisner created Doll Man for Feature Comics #27 (1939). He wrote it under the name William Erwin Maxwell, and it was drawn by him, probably with some help from his art shop employees.

Doll Man is a tiny man, and the story is a tiny story. Four pages. There is no portent of how popular the character would become. Doll Man appeared throughout the forties, through the superhero crash, into the fifties. DC bought up the Quality superheroes, including Doll Man, who did show up later in DC’s revivals of the Quality heroes.

Getting small is a really popular theme, used over and over again. In this horror story from Mysterious Adventures #2 (1951), becoming tiny is the horrible fate of a young couple. They do nothing to deserve their fate but be in the wrong place with the wrong villain. That is what makes it so horrible!

In 2012 I showed the origin of Doll Girl. Just click on the thumbnail.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Number 1778: The cowardly white hunter

I don’t know how many love comics John Buscema did in his long, productive career, but I believe this is the first one I’ve seen. It is from Confessions of the Lovelorn #109 (1959). The title didn’t have much longer to go — another five issues, until #114. It was written by editor/writer Richard E. Hughes and has his trademarks: cowardly hero, beautiful girl, hunky rival, in a fairly exotic setting. In this case, Africa.

I have the same dilemma I always have when reviewing these stories featuring “natives” because the Civil Rights movement was in motion at the time. It was still a few years away from its flashpoints of the sixties, but when I see stories like this I believe the natives were written in just as local color (excuse the expression). I don’t know if anyone, Hughes, Buscema, or the folks at the Comics Code, really thought a lot about it.

Another area in which public opinion has changed is in wanton killing of endangered species, but despite a splash panel with some really nice animal drawings, there are no animals shown, beyond background. All the uncomfortable elements in the story are just props for what is a fairly standard, although well-drawn, love comic story.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Number 1777: Vampire dominatrix rides a dragon...see it by going through “The Door”

This story, from Fawcett’s This Magazine Is Haunted (#12, 1953), is an origin story, of sorts. The artwork is credited by the Grand Comics Database to Bud Thompson, a journeyman artist who also did Captain Marvel Jr for Fawcett.