Monday, November 28, 2016

Number 1978: Crack Comics crack up!

The Black Condor, in one of the captions from today’s story, is said to be “the only man in the world endowed with the gift of flight.” In the self-contained universe the Black Condor occupied in Crack Comics, there is no room for any other flying men...well, except for the kite men, who can throw lightning bolts and bring down buildings. Despite the fine Lou Fine artwork (yuk-yuk), the story is fairly typical humdrum mad scientist with a hideout, directing chaos from a mountaintop

Madam Fatal, at least, is one of the most non-traditional comic book heroes ever, because she is really a he in women’s clothes, masquerading as an old woman. The story of artist Arthur Pinajian is even more interesting. After leaving comic books he took up painting, at which he was unable to earn a living. He never married, and lived with his unmarried sister until he died. After he died over 3000 pieces of art were found when his former home was sold, and Pinajian was at last discovered. As the late art historian, William Innes Homer wrote of Pinajian, “He pursued his goals in isolation with the single-minded focus of a Gauguin or Cézanne, refusing to give up in the face of public indifference.

“He was passionate and unequivocally committed. Ultimately, Pinajian's work reflects the soul of a flawed, yet brilliant, artistic genius. When he hits the mark, especially in his abstractions, he can be ranked among the best artists of his era.” Just as Madam Fatal was unusual for mainstream comic books, so was Pinajian's posthumous success in the rarified air of the art world.

Finally, the Clock ticks along in another story by George E. Brenner. The Clock is a very early masked vigilante character, who was created in 1936. Brenner left the feature when he became editor of Crack Comics, and the Clock chimed his last in 1944.

All stories are from Crack Comics #6 (1940):


Brian Barnes said...

One thing to note about these three stories, the Condor story is much more "modern", which a big splash, some well placed action, and a bit more of a story structure, as cliche as it is.

The Madam Fatal story reads like a early 40s super hero story, and the less said of the Clock the better. Why the only innovation is the unnecessary panel borders, I'll never know! I do like the idea of a "gang" or 2 people (!!!) so dedicated to their name they take arsenic to be more skeletal!

Daniel [] said...

Just weeks ago, Brian Barnes commented on the recurring motif of linking villainy to shortness of stature. Kids reading these comic books might have wondered why President Roosevelt didn't intern those d_rn'd dwarves! Well, perhaps the incoming President will institute a dwarf registry, so that authorities can keep an eye on them and stop their various nefarious schemes.

As to one of the villains looking just like Madam Fatal, I am reminded of when Dave Stevens had a contest to find a young woman who looked most like Cliff Secord's girlfriend Betty, with the prize being a portrait of the winner. Stevens wasn't looking to stretch there, and Richard Stanton doesn't have to stretch much here.

In any case, the telling bits of the story are when it refers to Stanton as “Madam Fatal”, as for example in the panel that you highlighted: “But Madam Fatal is an expert swimmer….” It is not that Stanton hits the water, is an expert swimmer, reaches the shore, shoves the chair, or heads for the hideout; it is Madam Fatal who does these things, because Madam Fatal is no more a mere rôle played by Stanton than the Batman is a mere rôle played by Bruce Wayne. Stanton truly is Madam Fatal, and not the other way around.

I appreciate the archaic look — simultaneously elegant and primitive — of the Clock's adventure.

Pappy said...

Brian, I have gained a few pounds this past week...too much holiday has lead to too much avoirdupois, and we aren't even near the Christmas gluttony-cycle yet. Do you suggest I take arsenic for weight loss? 'Twould be permanent, that's for sure.

I also enjoyed the link to your work on YouTube that Daniel provided us with. I thought the Ub Iwerks Headless Horseman take was especially entertaining. Good work!

Pappy said...

Daniel, Randy Newman also had something to say about lack of stature. But villains? I remember Dr Loveless (from the original Wild, Wild West, played by Michael Dunn)was popular. Personally, I don't see anything sinister at all with shortness, unless someone can't see over the steering wheel to drive. (Now, when I see those folks coming down the street, I proceed with caution.)

I agree with you that the Madam Fatal identity is the true identity, not Stanton. I believe Kim Deitch hit on that fact in 1972 when he did a Madam Fatal story in Corn Fed Comix. I disagree with the late Don Markstein (Toonopedia) when he says: "And DC Comics, which bought properties from Quality in 1956, never put [Madam Fatal] in a story at all. The only one who did was comix writer/artist Kim Deitch . . .who did a new story in 1972 that purported to be about Madam Fatal. But inasmuch as she did things in it that it's hard to imagine a mainstream comic book character doing, there could be some question about the character's identity." As I recall (without having to dig out my underground comix collection) Madam Fatal is saying, while performing an act that Markstein hints at, that if she plays her cards right she won't need an operation. So I think Kim Deitch understood the true Madam Fatal.

Brian Barnes said...

Thanks for the look and the complement Pappy, it's an honor!