Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Number 1912: Avenge THIS!

“Avenger,” singular and plural, has been used several times for individual heroes (DC’s Crimson Avenger, ME’s The Avenger, the subject of today’s post), Avengers (British male-female secret agent team for television, and Marvel super team). Avenger is used often enough it seems a bit generic to me. And another thing, what exactly is each Avenger avenging? (That is a rhetorical question. Here is another rhetorical question: does it matter?)

The Avenger from ME was a Code-approved comic. I think it was intended to replace the Ghost Rider, which the publisher knew could not get Code approval in those strictly censorious days of the mid-fifties. ME also published a second hero, Strong Man, who was not as colorful as the red-clad Avenger, but lasted exactly as long, four issues.

The Avenger, first issue drawn by Dick Ayers, subsequent issues drawn by Bob Powell, was an attempt to revive the superhero genre. The Avenger was not “super,” but like Batman was a rich guy who set out to fight evil.. The Avenger was probably a couple of years too early, and then his name was co-opted for the Marvel gang now burning up movie screens worldwide.

From The Avenger #2 (1955):

More Avenger, this time by Dick Ayers. Just click on the thumbnail.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Number 1911: Britain’s most wanted

Charley (or Charlie, or more properly Charles) Peace was a real-life criminal in Victorian England. The Daily Mail has this interesting short article with illustrations about Peace, who was a murderer and all around bounder, villain and miscreant in his day. He was also, as the article is headlined, “...the son of a one-legged lion tamer.” (The effect of his father on his later criminal career can only be guessed at.)

The description of Peace in the splash panel, “England’s worst murderer of the 19th century, and perhaps of all time . . . the acme of evil in all lands, in all times!” is pure hyperbole. When the story was published originally in 1948 there were a lot of war criminals of the late world war whose zeal for mass murder was much more the worst “in all lands, in all times.”

I give credit to Sid Greene, the artist, for doing a good job on the period atmospherics of this ripping yarn from Crime Must Pay the Penalty #3. My scans are from a reprint in issue #36 (1954).

Friday, June 24, 2016

Number 1910: Man (and heel) of Steel

Steel Sterling had a unique twist to the secret identity business...the superhero dressed in a suit and tie and pretended to be his own twin brother. One brother a superhero, the “twin” a private detective, and a heel with women.

I have shown Steel before, and the same things always bug me about the character. He jumped into a vat of molten steel to be come the Man of Steel. Steel was then hardened like steel rather than becoming a steel girder for a skyscraper.

Steel can fly, but has some unique powers: he can magnetize himself to a car so he can follow it (in the days before GPS tracking), and he can also tune into the radio by positioning his tongue to his teeth. Maybe for his amusement he could tune in The Shadow or The Jack Benny Show.

 I showed Steel Sterling’s origin story in 2011, and as a bonus, I am throwing in a story from Zip Comics #11. Just click on the thumbnails.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Number 1909: The Spawn of the Spawn of the Spawn of Venus

“The Spawn of Venus” by Wallace Wood is a famous unpublished EC Comics story. It was originally drawn by Al Feldstein (who also wrote it) in 1950 for Weird Science #6. A few years later the story was re-drawn by Wallace Wood for a 3-D comic that was never published. The market fell out from under the 3-D comics, and the artwork went on the shelf.

Feldstein’s art is very crude and stiff compared to Wood’s, like a layout for the latter version. I scanned it from the reprint of Weird Science #6, published in 1993.

Wood’s art for the 3-D version was sold by Heritage Auctions in 2011 for $38,837.50. I am using the HA scans here, which show the layers of depth. I also love its patina after many years, adding to its charm. This job wasn’t easy for Wood, because of the amount of opaquing (white paint) on the back of each figure on each overlay to prevent show-through.

The story was first published was in 1969 in Wood’s own magazine, Witzend. I took my scans from the photocopies I made before I (sob, sniff...) sold it on eBay. I hated letting it go when I sold it, and regret it to this day. But that is how a lot of things I wish I still had went missing from my collection. At least I had the presence of mind to make copies. I am sure that whatever money I made in selling it went to something frivolous like groceries or a mortgage payment.