Friday, January 29, 2016
Number 1847: “Crime doesn’t seem to pay.”
Fantomah (by “Barclay Flagg”) is one of his creations. He apparently wrote, drew and lettered his own comics, so they had a singular vision. Fantomah dispenses justice in the jungle, and in this story to a couple of white hunters out to loot a jungle city of gold. Fantomah is magic, and her head turns into a skull when she goes to work on the crooks. (That is a unique characteristic, although The later Ghost Rider from Marvel comes to mind.) Hanks used tracings. He would repeat poses. When he got a drawing he liked he found it economical to trace it off and re-use it in the same story, sometimes on the same page.
I also noticed his writing. In this story, from Jungle Comics #3 (1940) the final panel is anti-climactic.
[SPOILER ALERT] The villains, who are spared by Fantomah after being transformed into giant green insect creatures, have a bland reaction: “Crime doesn’t seem to pay.” “You’re right.” I wonder if they considered how they would be perceived when they landed their plane and stepped out in their new bodies. Once done with the story Hanks just wrote finis without thinking of it beyond the final panel, except maybe how Fantomah was going to defeat the “wild legions of beast-men” in the next issue, as promised in the final caption.
Talented cartoonist Eric Haven has done a pastiche of Hanks in “Bed Man” — which not only captures Hanks’s absurdism, but also manages to one-up him. You can see it by clicking on the thumbnail: