Monday, May 30, 2016

Number 1899: Pot-shot Pete by Kurtzman

When I look at the Pot-shot Pete stories in Toby Comics, I see Mad a couple of years hence. The editor at Toby Press* bought at least three 5-page slapstick Pot-shot Pete adventures from Harvey Kurtzman, who wrote, drew and lettered. Kurtzman even borrowed a couple of them back to run in Mad.

The original art was auctioned by Heritage Auctions, and went for  $46,605, undoubtedly much, much more than Kurtzman earned for drawing it.

There is at least one more Pot-shot Pete page that was published by DC Comics, first in Jimmy Wakely #4 (1950), reprinted at least a couple of times over the years, including this appearance from Blackhawk #143 (1959).

“The Sheriff of Yucca-Pucca Gulch,” is from John Wayne Adventures #5 (1950).

*Was it Mell Lazarus, of the future comic strips, “Miss Peach” and “Momma”? He was an editor at Toby for a time. Lazarus also wrote a novel, The Boss is Crazy, Too, about the comic book biz. Lazarus died recently, on May 24, 2016.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Number 1898: Sheena makes her debut to American readers

Here is the third and last of our Jungle Jive week.

In an event best appreciated by Golden Age comic fans, scans of Jumbo Comics #'s 1-8 have been released by the Digital Comics Museum. In an introduction by Edward ‘Josh’ Petrie which accompanies the individual issues, the story (as much as is understood after 75 years) is told of Eisner and Iger's fledgling business, producing comics, and finding their first markets in Australia and the UK.

As the article says, Eisner was able to buy the printing plates for the issues published, and because of the large size, it made it necessary for Jumbo Comics to be larger than usual newsstand comic books. After those issues were printed, they went to a more regular comic book size. They also printed in one color, black, on a couple of different color papers. It was a bold experiment and luckily it worked. Jumbo was published until Fiction House went out of business in 1953.

Note: The first Sheena is printed on a bright orange paper, and it is hard on my old eyeballs. So I used my software and blew out the color, leaving just the black line on white background. If you want to see what it looks like, here is an example of page 31, the first Sheena page, as it appears in the comic book:

We are dropped into the Sheena story. A number in the first panel say “11” so are there 10 pages missing? Apparently Eisner wasn’t able to get all the printing plates, but it looks like the beginning of a storyline. The man who became Sheena’s “mate,” Bob, is introduced as he meets Sheena for the first time.

The issues of Jumbo Comics are very entertaining, and you can read them by going to the Digital Comics Museum’s Jumbo Comics pages. The art for Sheena is done by comics journeyman Mort Meskin.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Number 1897: The Goddess and the Harpies

Day two of our Jungle Jive week, today featuring Rulah, a cute chick in a two-piece giraffe suit. In this story Rulah meets some harpies, who are more commonly found in Greco-Roman mythology. Perhaps things got crowded in Greece and Rome over the years, and they emigrated to Africa.

Don Markstein of tells us that Rulah was “born” in 1947 in Zoot Comics #7. Up until that time Zoot had featured funny animals (included in issue #1, a sexy kitty named Pussy Katnip), then teenage strips. Rulah was a hit, and why not? It was aimed at young men who had an insatiable appetite for panels full of hot chicks in abbreviated costumes. Zoot did not disappoint. If there were other women in the Rulah stories, you can be sure they were also as close to undressed as the postal laws of 1947 would allow. Zoot eventually changed its title to Rulah, Goddess of the Jungle.

Rulah today is from Zoot Comics #10 (1947). GCD guesses Matt Baker for artwork, but I do not agree. It looks like various hands worked on it at the Iger Shop.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Number 1896: Jungle Jive Week: Lorna meets her sexist boyfriend

We have three stories this week featuring jungle women.

Issue #2 of Lorna the Jungle Queen #2 (1953) introduces us to Lorna’s boyfriend, the “mighty white hunter, Greg Knight.” Greg is a guide, leading rich “sportsmen” to unwary prey for the purposes of bagging trophies. Lorna is in the background for most of the story, watching and listening.

Greg is a male chauvinist. From this point on his relationship with Lorna is that of a downer, a naysayer telling her a woman can’t do what a man can, all while Lorna is pulling his keister out of one mess after another.

The story is by Don Rico, the pretty artwork by Werner Roth.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Number 1895: Up 'n' Atom

The original Atom was a second-tier costumed hero for DCs. The Atom is a small guy who worked out and pumped up his body, then put on a costume to battle crime. The art in this story, from All-American Comics #71 (1945), is by Jon Chester Kozlak, and is written by Joe Greene. In addition the Grand Comics Database tells us the editors are Sheldon Mayer and Julius Schwartz.

Anyone who knows the Atom in his 1961 incarnation knows the two characters have nothing in common. The second Atom can make himself small and retain his mighty wallop. I have said that DC used the old name, but appropriated the powers of Doll Man. Doll Man had been moribund since 1953, and then the publisher, Quality Comics, was sold to DC in '56. Doll Man was a direct influence on the modern Atom, but at least they owned the rights to the character they were swiping from. As it turned out, Doll Man did show up in the DC Universe again, but that isn’t a concern here.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Number 1894: “The thrills didn’t come.”

Michael is guilty of looks-ism. He loves Faye only because she is beautiful. In almost every panel where Michael appears in “I Couldn’t Go Back to Him,” he comments on Faye’s beauty. Faye and Michael are so close to marriage that Michael has even bought them a house. But then something awful happens, an accident. It makes Faye doubt her beauty. And Michael’s love.

While reading this little essay on the shallowness of some men the phrase “trophy wife” came to mind, The artwork is by L.B. Cole, whose glossy style lends itself to pretty characters. Faye needs plastic surgery and complains that her face is completely different, but to me it looks exactly the same after surgery as before. It must’ve puzzled Cole when he read the script. Make her beautiful still, but different. Cole’s figures look like they are out of magazine ads. Michael and Bob (the doctor who performs the surgery, and falls for Faye) even look alike, down to the unfortunate use of the same colors for their suits. In that way it seems Michael’s prejudices have rubbed off on Faye.

From All Romances #1 (1949):

More L.B. Cole, this time with a Toni Gayle story. Just click on the thumbnail.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Number 1893: The Jaguar and the Fourth-Dimensional Force

The Jaguar was a character who, as Toonopedia says, was basically cut from the same cloth as the Fly. They were both published by Archie in another attempt to introduce some superheroes into their line.* I didn’t buy The Fly after Simon and Kirby left (and especially when the Fly became — ugh! — Flyman). I bought a couple of issues of Adventures of the Jaguar, but probably because they had pretty girls on the covers.

John Rosenberger, who drew the feature, was not an artist I associated with superheroes. Robert Bernstein, who created and wrote the Jaguar stories, was a journeyman scripter who wrote a lot for DC. And in reading this story from Adventures of the Jaguar #3 (1961), it has some of the same genial goofiness I expect in DC Comics of that period.

*I haven’t forgottten that when Archie Comics were born as MLJ Comics, their early line was made up of superheroes, including the Shield, the Wizard, Black Hood, Hangman, and several others. When they revived those characters as the Mighty Heroes in the mid-sixties I believe they failed because of the art, and presenting the characters as “camp.”