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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pappy's Tenth Anniversary Sunday Special Number 4: Anarcho, Dictator of Death

It is no big deal to have comic book stories that go cover-to-cover, but Fawcett’s Anarcho, Dictator of Death (1948) is called Comics Novel. No, it probably doesn’t qualify as the first graphic novel because it was sold alongside other mainstream comic books. (Fawcett also did another book length comic the same year called On the Spot, the story of Pretty Boy Floyd.)

It stars Anarcho, a villain bent on bringing fascism back to the world. And some would say he must’ve been successful, the way the word fascist is used nowadays to describe any political opponent with whom one does not agree. But I digress. It also stars as the hero, Radar, a character who had a fairly short run for Fawcett, not exactly the most popular character, but one created in conjunction with the United States government’s Office of War Information.

Fawcett editor Will Lieberson told the story in an article from the book, Fawcett Companion, the Best of Fawcett Collectors of America (1991). He said he met with a distinguished literary group, Clifton Fadiman, Paul Gallico and Rex Stout, to create a feature. What came out of it was Radar, an International Policeman, who went around the world solving crimes and beating back the flames of fascism. I can see why Radar had a non-star look...no costume. To a comic book fan's way of thinking a reversed topcoat — turned inside out it was green plaid — is not really a costume. Radar was introduced in Captain Marvel Adventures #35 (1944), and then went to Master Comics, to appear in issues #50-87.

According to the GCD, Anarcho, Dictator of Death is written by Otto Binder, and drawn by Al Carreno. I admit I was not only ignorant of Radar (never read a story about him before this), but also of artist Carreno. He was a journeyman with a solid illustrative comic art drawing style from that era. With further research I found out Albert Carreno was born in 1905, educated in Mexico, came to the U.S. and worked in comic books for several companies in the forties and fifties. He became a member of the prestigious National Cartoonists Society, and died in 1964.





















































14 comments:

rnigma said...

I think the "MASH" character Walter "Radar" O'Reilly got his nickname from this other Radar, since Walter was an avid comics reader and had telepathic powers (albeit intermittent).

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Radar O'Reilly was a psychic? I never thought about it, but could be.
I thought he was the natural born quartermaster / orderly, a very gifted person for clerical work and capable to guess and get just what the Colonel needs even before he speaks. Cunning guy.
But it's interesting, the whole MASH crew could be seen as a bunch of mutants.

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

Oh, by the way, "Anarcho" is a mighty funny name for a Dictator!
He looks a bit like Vincent Price playing Vampire...

Daniel [oeconomist.com] said...

What is the point of hiding Anarcho's face from the reader within the story if he has been exposed as Mr Coffee-Nerves on the cover?

Pappy said...

Daniel, methinks the cover decision was made after the artwork was turned in. Radar is nowhere on the cover, which is a tell that they had no faith in him bringing buyers for the book.

Pappy said...

rnigma and J D, it's been years since I saw M.A.S.H., either the movie or TV show, but I recall that Radar had that gift, but didn't they soft pedal it later?

According to the imdb.com, "[Radar's] nickname was earned from him hearing choppers before anyone else does and he also seems to know what people want from him before they can even say it. One suggestion is that Radar has ESP allowing him to hear and know what people are thinking."

I didn't think it was such a trick. I was a company clerk when I was in the Army and within a short period of time could read my first sergeant's mind. Since he was hung over in the morning and headed to the NCO club when it opened at 10:00 a.m. for a start to the day's drinking it was easy to know he wanted me to do his work for him so and I did.

7f7f3e2a-4856-11e4-900a-bb8e57f8828f said...

What a story, Pappy. Agent Radar certainly cleaned up nice after his rigorous bout in Anarcho's torture chamber. It appears that torture nigh unto death gave him a good appetite. This story had plenty of comic book hallmarks of cheap excellence: hero gets more than one conk to head bringing on unconsciousness, settles things with fisticuffs and some wrestling moves, has intermittent ESP, pretty woman dies in his arms... Jeepers, a rouser. I was on the lookout for a volcano, baby atom bomb, a gorilla, oversize robot, flying saucers or a carnivorous dinosaur but we got a god spirit of an idol duping superstitious yokels —again that never fails. But poor Anarcho with his FOOL PROOF PLAN —never has a comic book story had a fool proof plan succeed that I can remember reading.

Daniel [oeconomist.com] said...

There's so very much wrong with this story — at base, it seems to be a tale of brutal violence written for seven- and eight-year-old children — that I wasn't going to say much of anything; but J.D.'s amused comment about the name “Anarcho” moves me to make a point.

Most Americans don't know what “anarchy” means; they've just been conditioned to imagine it as something bad. It actually has two meanings. The first is that of a collective human condition without order; the second (owing mostly to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon) is that of a society without a state. Neither of these descriptions conforms to the objectives of fascism, and there is no such thing as a ruler of any sort without a state, let alone without some sort of rules (albeït that the rules might ultimately be that the aristocrats get to do what they want with support from and without hindrance by the rest of the population, and that the consequences of rules can be a sort of economic chaos). So, as J.D. notes, “‘Anarcho’ is a mighty funny name for a Dictator!”

The sloppy use of “anarchy”, not unlike the sloppy use of “fascism” that Pappy notes, or the sloppy use of “capitalism”, or that of “socialism” has stood in the way of any sort of clear-headed dialogue on where we are and on where we ought to be. Most Americans use the term “liberalism” to mean something almost perfectly at odds with what that term originally meant (though Europeans hold onto more of its original sense), which is how one of our major parties has ended-up where it is now; and “conservatism” is used for a terrible stew of incompatible elements, which is how our other major party has ended-up where it is.

Pappy said...

7f7, the great Bobby Burns said it best with his poem, "To a Mouse. . ., and yes, you are correct: there has never been a fool-proof plan. A villain who thinks he has a fool proof plan is himself a fool!

Pappy said...

Daniel, thanks for the definitions. I assume that Anarcho is culled from those cartoons in the early twentieth century, when anarchists were portrayed as cloaked, slouch-hat wearing terrorists carrying cannonball shaped bombs, the fuses lit. It has more to do with what the name became associated, and less about the actual definition of the word anarchist.

Going to anarchism.net, in the preface to their site they say: "Anarchism is a widely disputed label, there are probably as many different kinds of anarchisms as there are different ideologies or traditions in statism. Therefore anarchism is used in a number of ways--by people who want to abolish the government, abolish capitalism, abolish violence, abolish technology, abolish large-scale production, or abolish society. But what does anarchism mean?

". . . It is true that there are many different kinds of anarchism which cannot go well together--collectivist and individualist, socialist and capitalist, pacifist and revolutionist etc. But they all provide the anarchist movement with important and powerful insights and arguments for abolishing the state!"

It sounds ideal, doesn't it? But I think you would have to change basic human nature in order to be able to live peacefully with other human beings in such a condition.

Daniel [oeconomist.com] said...

Yes. Even amongst perfectly rational people (were such exclusively to exist), there would always be areas where a natural law could not be seen and demonstrated. The establishment of rules to serve in those areas amounts to the creation of a state. Anarchists tend to imagine such rules put into place by happy agreement amongst concerned parties, but that is no more than a social contract theory of the state.

7f7f3e2a-4856-11e4-900a-bb8e57f8828f said...

The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men
Gang aft agley,

Robert Burns dot org! Complete works! Pappy not only are you a bit older than me, you know more than I do. Thanks.

Morbid said...

This is indeed, the first graphic novel. It meets all the criteria. In fact, graphic novels in their earliest "recognized" form were also sold side by side with comic books in comic book shops. It's long enough to be recognized as a short graphic novel today. No doubt about it, the graphic novel was born a lot earlier than is recognized. This is it.

Pappy said...

Morbid, thanks for your note, and I have to respectfully disagree with you. If we say that this is a graphic novel as we think of them today, then consider Dell was publishing issues of Dick Tracy, Smilin' Jack, etc., comic strip reprints, in full 52-page formats, with no ads. Before that we had Large Feature Comics, which published in black and white. They would also have to be considered predecessors to the graphic novel, also sold on newsstands next to "traditional" comic books.