Friday, April 22, 2016

Number 1883: Bitten by escaped gorillas!

After re-reading this “X the Phantom Fed” story from Sure-Fire Comics #3* (1940), I am beginning to regret not saving it for my Thanksgiving Turkey Awards feature in November. It is that screwy, with one jaw-dropping bit of business following another until the whole crazy plot (such as it is) plays out.

In the final panel we are told that X, the Phantom Fed, “fights single-handedly against the underworld,” which goes against the idea of being a fed and having the backing of the federal government to fight evildoers. If this story is typical of X’s cases, then it is no wonder the rest of the feds don’t want to get mixed up in his business.

The Grand Comics Database lists no writer on whom to assign blame. The artist is also unknown.

UPDATE, April 29, 2016: Reader Darci has asked a question of her friends in the Pulp Magazines group online, brought up in the comments section of this posting. They have confirmed that the story is taken from a 1934 Secret Agent X  novel,  City of the Living Dead. Many thanks to Darci for her follow-up.

*There were actually two #3 issues, and our story today is from the one Grand Comics Database identifies as #3a. The total run of Sure-Fire Comics was four issues, and was replaced by Lightning Comics which continued the numbering with #4. How hard could it be to count up to five? I can imagine the editor: “Good grief, I have five issues and yet only four numbers! What went wrong?”


Daniel [] said...

Really, the biggest problem is the superfluous gorilla costumes. Essentially the same crime could have been committed without them — a deadly medical disorder could be induced and a cure offered for payment. Of course, we know that kids buying comics once loved gorillas; possibly they still do.

The Phantom Fed appears to be an official vigilante, as it were. That might have been a calculated attempt to have things both ways in terms of attitudes towards the law. But I suspect that it were more a matter of having things both ways in terms of the heroic cachet of the loner and that of the G-man.

In real life, the state does a fairly effective job in apprehending those who commit crimes against the state, but offers more in the way of theatre when it comes to what was once supposed to be the primary mission of protecting the civilian population. So perhaps we should want more of our feds to become phantoms.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

So, these were FAKE gorillas...
I understand how you feel, pappy... such a disappointment.

Anyway, this story is a gem for its silliness and whimsical dialogues.

"Monkey business, eh boys?"
and don't monkey with the Phantom Fed, etc. etc.

Page 1 just made my day, when I read :
"Strange that so far this epidemic only struck down rich people"
I couldn't help thinking: "Gorillas of the world, unite!".

You sure know how to pick them, Pappy.

Brian Barnes said...

GOOD LORD *choke*!

That thing smelled worse than a wet gorilla. The artists decision to make the glasses opaque gave our hero a really creepy look in places. I just love how he smashes through a plate glass window and then attacks a gorilla. Yes, we know at the end it's not a real gorilla, but that's one brave-sure-to-soon-be-dead phantom fed!

And then he, a mayor (who X just met, and had no idea could fight) and the completely cliche female reporter, take down an entire mob of dangerous criminals. Add in the "fence off the town!" "deadly germ gorillas" and just *everything* there isn't a bit of this story that isn't hilarious.

If next turkey day beats this one, I'll be surprised!

Debbie American Hooray! said...

OMG its tha Reel Truth BHind BIGFOOT yo OMG~~!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MayB Bigfoot dru it & didnt sine it so tha otherer Bigfeets wuldnt get angry @ him 4 giving out there secrets Hooray we luv u Pappy! My new single got 95 likes in its 1st 3 hrs on failbook, thats OK I gess xoxoxoxoxoxo

Pappy said...

Daniel, it's better to create interest in a visual medium by showing fake gorillas than guys in suits and ties. The images got me interested enough to actually read the story. (After I was done I thought, "What the hell was that?!")

When J. Edgar Hoover was building a reputation for the (at first, largely dysfunctional) FBI, he used Melvin Purvis as a symbol of intrepid law enforcement. When Purvis' image outshone his own, he got rid of him. The image became that of a unit, like soldiers...mostly faceless, diligent men out to do their duty, rather than some lone wolf solving crimes on his own. I think Hoover had a strong point, there, although even while doing that he built a cult of personality around himself. By thinking of "the feds" en masse it would make criminals fear the organization, rather than worrying about Melvin Purvis chasing them down dusty highways.

Pappy said...

Brian, I think I'd really have to search to find anything as outrageous as this one, but it will make me look a little bit harder.

I can imagine some sort of editorial conference with a writer and the editor telling him to write a story with some fake gorillas, and a girl reporter and a mayor, and leaving it to the writer to come up with something, no matter how strange, to fill the page requirement.

And in the end that is the point, isn't it? To fill those pages, no matter how. The readers of comic books won't care...they'll just go on to the next story. I assume the people who published comic books in those days didn't give the readers much credit for being discriminating about such fare.

Pappy said...

J D, I just think if it has gorillas then it is worth a look. Even if the gorillas turn out to be fake.

So, now you know my technique for "picking them."

Pearse O'Leary said...

This is the comic version of the pulp Secret Agent X: He was pretty dull, but REALLY good at disguise. I haven't read enough of them to know if this is a direct take from a pulp story, but I wouldn't doubt it.

Pappy said...

Pearse, I am inclined to believe this is based on that character. They were published by the same company (Ace, publisher A. A. Wyn).

Pappy said...

Debbie, what is the link for? I don't see a connection.

Ryan Anthony said...

I shouldn't even bother trying to enumerate the boners in this story since they're back-to-back-to-back.

Okay, here are a few:
Does X have superpowers, as he was able to smash thru a big window with his bare hands and throw a [fake] gorilla over his head? (And why didn't he try the door first?) The town is in the midst of an epidemic, and X thinks it wise to eat food there?! How incompetent were those cops to let X get a "smoke" while they were arresting him? If Donald Warden were so sick, why would he have been the one sent for the cure? Why does X travel around with a hypodermic needle full of knock-out drug on his person? A "phantom" agent who doesn't even use his real name has a business card??

Like I said, those are just a few. But thanks, Pap, that was a hoot.

Pappy said...

Ryan, I wouldn't change a thing because the story is perfect as it is. Perfectly screwball, which puts it high on my list of early comic book oddball treasures.