Monday, January 25, 2016

Number 1845: Captain Midnight: Doom beam and other gimmicks

This story, from Captain Midnight #12, published in 1943, smack-dab in the middle of World War II, is full of gimmicks. Some of them outrageous (a “fluotian tablet” to put out large fires? We need that for the guys battling massive wildfires in the Western U.S. every summer.) At least one gimmick is real, the gliderchute outfit Captain Midnight uses to fly. 

The least realistic is a “doom beam” that Captain Midnight uses to illuminate the enemy’s chest with a clock hand pointing to 12:00. Shades of the Hangman and his superimposed gallows! (See the link below).

The whole premise, evil angel Nazis who trade on the superstitions of ignorant natives, is visually exciting if improbable. There is also stereotyping of the South Americans, with one of them called Taco. For all that I enjoyed the story, which is yet another way of bringing in 1943 creative minds were having problems coming up with more sabotage plots for the enemies of America to use.

The Grand Comics Database gives “?” to all the creative team. To me the art looks like it comes from the Jack Binder shop.

From the very early days of this blog, the Hangman. Just click the thumbnail.


Daniel [] said...

To me, the art looks like slick inking of primitive pencilling.

I was amused by the tiny propeller revealed in 6:7. If that is what provided lift, it had to turn at an incredible rate; it's hard to imagine materials being refined and forged, cast, or machined to the necessary specifications in 1943. (And one expects trouble keeping the costumes in place!) But apparently Captain Midnight was able to understand the device so well as to introduce just the right amount of gum into their fuel to clog the engines at or near the perfect moment!

Interesting that Marz should cry «Schreck!» (“Fright!”) in 5:7, but a sentry cries “Help!” («Helfen!») in 7:4. What sort of Sprachwortschatz were our fathers thought to have?

I've listened to a sampling of old Captain Midnight radio shows (some dating to when the character was sponsored by Skelly Oil). They are rather like British pantomime theatre, with over-the-top performances by the actors playing the villains.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Never mind the one called Taco, Pappy.
The real deal is the one called "Pasquale"...
"Pasquale" is a typical Italian name, nothing to do with South Americans (except perhaps some Argentinians with italian ancestors).
So, the Germ says: " Pasquale, you are a goot spy- My anchels vill fix der General", and this becomes, in truth, a combined Axis operation. "Pasquale" is an Italian fascist operative who can disguise as a South American peasant. Wow!
Oh, how I love you when you post these things!
By the way, Cap Midnight was the one with the "Code-O-Graph" in radio serials sponsored by Ovaltine, right? In pre-internet days, I relied on Harlan Ellison and is short story "Jeffty is Five", now i can actually LISTEN to those shows!

Pappy said...

J D, my next-door neighbor is a man who was born in Italy and spent his formative years in South America before emigrating to the United States. The only first name I know him by is what his wife calls him, "Che" (as in Guevara), although his last name is Italian.

Pappy said...

Daniel, both you and J D mention the Captain Midnight radio shows, which I have never heard. I guess I will have to set aside a block of time to listen. Since my retirement I spend much time during the day with no external sounds to distract me. When the silence gets too "loud" for me I put in a CD to distract me from the lack of noise.

rnigma said...

In World War I, the German word for terrorism, "Schrecklichheit," was used in Allied propaganda. Nowadays in Germany the press uses an Americanized term, "Terrorismus."

Yup, Captain Midnight began on the radio, sponsored at first by Skelly Oil, and then by Ovaltine - its American manufacturer at the time, the Wander Company, bought the rights to the character, and brought it to TV. When the TV series was syndicated without Ovaltine's sponsorship, it was retitled "Jet Jackson" and the episodes had to be re-dubbed (badly) with the new name.

Pappy said...

rnigma, thanks for the information. I like the word "terrorismus," even if it sounds like a holiday. "I heard the bells on Terrorismus Day, their old familiar carols play..."

Thanks also for explaining the Captain Midnight/Jet Jackson connection. I did see some of those episodes in the 50s when they were shown as Jet Jackson.