Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Number 1794: Spacy Stories Week: A machine to take you under control

This is another in our theme week, Spacy Stories. In this story an alien entity, in the form of a metal box, takes control of human minds. That sounds a lot like the Influencing Machine, made famous in psychiatric circles by Victor Tausk in 1919, in an essay titled “The Influencing Machine in Schizophrenia.” Tausk, described as a disciple of Sigmund Freud, quoted several cases of mental illness where the patient believed he was under the control of a machine. I don’t know who wrote the Space Ace story, but it was probably Gardner Fox, who wrote regularly for Magazine Enterprises. It would not surprise me if Fox wrote it, because Fox was an educated man who had a large reference library to use in his writing.

In some cases, the Influencing Machine was described as projecting images. In the pre-movie era, more like a magic lantern, but to our modern minds sounding like television. Our worst nightmares are realized...the Influencing Machine is real and in everyone’s home.

Where was I? Oh, yeah...there is a comic book story involved. “The Thing in the Box” is a reprint, drawn by Fred Guardineer. It was originally published in ME’s Manhunt #2 (1947) as “The Being in the Box,” and scanned here from its appearance in Space Ace #5, a one-shot comic book from 1952.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Number 1793: Spacy Stories Week: Joe Kubert’s Star Pirate

To end September and welcome October, we have another theme week, to wit, Spacy Stories Week, where each story will take place in that fictional space of the imagination. First up is Star Pirate, a Planet Comics strip that featured some great artists, including young Joe Kubert, whose familiar style is evident here.

Ever notice something about this style of science fiction? It is a pirate story, transplanted from Earth’s seas into outer space. One of the tricks used to make it sound more spacy is to insert the word space: space billiards, space coppers, space racketeer. Here's my friendly advice to would-be science fiction writers: do not emulate that outdated and cornball technique.

From Planet Comics #32 (1944):

Friday, September 25, 2015

Number 1792: Revenge of the hunchback

“The Horror of Gaul” is an oddball story; published in a crime comic, it has some crime at the center of it, but mainly it is about the “crime” of being ugly. Quartrino, who according to the splash panel, “ . . . could very well have served as the model upon which [Victor] Hugo penned his famous classic, The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” is a hunchback, bullied and insulted by his master. It takes place in 1527 in France. Crime comics often used historical settings for crimes. I have no idea whether this is based on truth or not.

It wasn’t uncommon for comics to have stories about pathetic characters who are ugly and treated horribly because of it. It evokes emotion in the reader, leading to a revenge ending. (“Hop-Frog” by Poe springs to mind as one of the best examples.*) There is a lesson in tolerance in there, somewhere, or at least a warning. If you are a bully and ridicule someone you may end up thrown off the battlement. You would deserve it, in my opinion.

From Atlas Comics’ Crime Can’t Win #43 (actual #3), 1951. Signed by Myron Fass.

*Henry Kujawa has been doing an exceptional job collecting all of the comic book versions of Poe stories, either direct adaptations or swipes, for his blog. Here is “Hop-Frog”.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Number 1791: T-Man shakes a lady’s maracas

T-Man Pete Trask is a tough guy, with a tough job. He trails a known diamond smuggler even though the smuggler knows Trask is following him. Being “made” by bad guy Anton Wolak doesn’t matter to Pete. Being known to the smuggler gives Pete an excuse for a little hands-on action. He tells the smuggler, “Where did you get that black eye?” With a set-up like that, Wolak should have known Pete would deliver the punch-line — with a punch! — to that jokey question. Pete is a fine example of a government agent (“T-Man” stands for Treasury Man, you know), dogged in his pursuit, ready with his fists, and he can also crack wise when the mood strikes him, or in this case, when he strikes someone else.

The Grand Comics Database credits Harry Anderson for the sharp artwork, and Joe Millard for the script. “Musical Murder” is from T-Man #2 (1951):

Monday, September 21, 2015

Number 1790: Wacky Wolverton

Basil Wolverton not only had one of the most unusual and interesting names of any of the cartoonists of the Golden Age, his art was unique. It is impossible, once educated in Wolvertonia, not to recognize Basil’s artwork at first glance.

Not only is Wolverton’s comedy work* unique, but it is also funny, which sets it apart. I am speaking of real screwball humor. Very few cartoonists could pull it off, the alliteration and internal rhyming. The stuff he could pull out of his brain and put on paper is amazing to me.

Here are three BingBang Buster strips, and a Scoop Scuttle thrown in, because the BingBang Busters are only three pages each. Wolverton’s work was often filler material, but to collectors may have been the primary reason for buying a comic book.

BingBang Buster stories are from Black Diamond Western numbers 20-22 (1950), and Scoop Scuttle is from Daredevil Comics #18 (1943), all published by Lev Gleason.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Number 1789: Favorite Females Week: Señorita Rio

Here is the third and final post in our Favorite Females Week, Señorita Rio, drawn by one of our real-life favorite females, Lily Renée (born Lily Renée Wilhelm). She was, you may recall, a war refugee from Austria, who ended up in New York. She was fortunate to be reunited with her parents, who had also made their way from war-torn Europe. Her mother saw an ad for artists wanted at Fiction House, and encouraged teenage Lily, who had a talent for drawing, to apply. Rio was a regular character appearing in Fight Comics, and Ms Renée also regularly drew “The Lost World” for Planet Comics, and “Werewolf Hunter” for Rangers Comics.

In this entry, from Fight Comics #41 (1946), Rio faces off against an impersonator. Renée said she drew Rio in clothes she herself would like to wear, and for Fiction House, that meant the less clothes the better. On Rio, that is. I am not sure how Lily presented herself, but I guess she didn’t go to work dressed like Carmen Miranda.

More Rio: