Monday, January 30, 2017

Number 2004: The patriotic poison gas

After having a ghostly encounter, our hero, Gordon, is led to the ghosts of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, both telling him to turn over his formula for a super potent nerve gas to the U.S. Government. What could go wrong with that decision, eh? (As if nerve gas isn’t deadly enough in its original form.)

“The Unknown Ghost” is of its era, when it was unpatriotic to question the wisdom and motives of the government. Even so, had Gordon divulged to the powers-that-be in 1952 that his decision was made by listening to ghosts I think he would have found himself in a hospital for a mental evaluation. This is another of those oddball ACG supernatural stories which for its full effect is better read by you than described by me.

The story of a ghost that “holds all the trumps” is from Out of the Night #4 (1952). It  is drawn by Lou Cameron.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Number 2003: Human Meteor: a bullet for the boy

Human Meteor was another short-lived superhero of the early forties. He was a cab driver, Duke O’Dowd, who had been given a magic belt by a Tibetan. Duke shed his clothes for his role as Human Meteor, and did his super deeds bare-chested and bare-legged — the better to show his muscles, I guess. Duke had a boy pal, Toby, who had no powers, but who Duke took into battle with him. And Duke had no right to do so...especially when Toby took a bullet from the Nazis when they flew to France to help out a British commando. To compound Duke’s bad judgment, he even lied to Toby’s mom when he and the boy went home, telling her Toby had been injured in a car accident. Apparently lying to a boy’s mom is not a bad thing; the guys are winking at each other in the last panel.

It is probably no wonder Duke and Toby only had two more adventures in Harvey’s Champ Comics before their careers were ended. Perhaps Child Protective Services caught up to Duke O’Dowd.

The nice artwork is identified by Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr, as Arthur Peddy. tells us while working in the Iger shop Peddy is the artist who drew the first episode of Phantom Lady for Quality Comics. He had a long career in comics. I remember Peddy mainly as an inker for DC Comics in the sixties. He died in 2002.

From Champ Comics #23 (1942):

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Number 2002: Frazetta’s Spartacus

Given a choice I think a kid in the forties would rather read a regular unwholesome crime, horror or superhero comic than something — ugh — educational. But there were titles out there purporting to show factual material in comic book form: Picture Stories from the Bible/American History/Science from Maxwell Gaines at DC, then EC, It Really Happened (Pines), True Comics (Parents’ Magazine) and from Better/Nedor/Standard, Real Life Comics. I will make a guess that these comic books had another purpose than being textbooks in comic book form. It might be they could be held up to critics of comics so the publisher could say the comics biz wasn’t all just blood and thunder. Or could they? Any comic book story needed some action for visual appeal. So even the educational comics would come up with stories like “War of the Gladiators” from Real Life Comics #50 (1949).

It is also an early work by Frank Frazetta, which shows he had some rough edges when he entered the comic book industry. It is a version of the famous slave rebellion led by Spartacus. The slaves held off the Romans for a while, but lost in the end. The story glosses over that part, but the Roman punishment was severe for those who escaped slavery and were then caught.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Number 2001: Lady Satan no good for the Hood

The Hood seems generic to me. The character appeared in comics in the mid-forties, including Cat-Man Comics, which is where this story appeared. Here he mixes with Lady Satan, who joins a whole string of Lady Satans throughout comic book history, all of them for different companies and in different degrees of ladylike behavior, Satanic or not.

The Hood also joins the company of comic books characters like Black Hood. The Hood also had no super powers; he was an Army major who put on a costume.

This story was drawn by Jack Alderman, an artist I don’t see as fitting in with costumed characters. I see him doing what I thought he did best, crime stories. His dark panels lend themselves more to nefarious deeds of the underworld than heroics. Alderman drew stiff figures, not good for superhero comics. In order to do a hero socking a bad guy panel (last page) Alderman borrowed a Jack Kirby pose. If you don’t usually draw action poses, Jack Kirby is the artist to swipe.

In the story the Hood’s girlfriend is Ray Herman. Ray, or Rae, was a real person, an editor and publisher in one of the most confusing mixes of comic book publishing ever. Due to some sleight of hand of the guy who started the company — or companies — over 70 years ago it is hard to trace the connections between Et-Es-Go, Continental, Holyoke, et al. Rae Herman was involved in them, and she was co-owner of Orbit Publishing, which published Wanted Comics, Toytown, and Westerner, among others. The story also uses the name “Quinlan“ — a nod to Charles M. Quinlan, mostly identified with Cat-Man, which he drew.

Writing credited to Jack Grogan. From Cat-Man Comics #23 (1944):

Friday, January 20, 2017

Number 2000: Woody: Faced with horror

This is the fourth and last posting of our crime week.

“Faced with Horror!” was written by EC Comics publisher Bill Gaines and editor Al Feldstein, and drawn by Wallace Wood. My interest in showing it to you is not because of the weak story— the surprise ending is telegraphed and obvious — but the artwork by Wood, which overwhelms its flaws.

Wood (signing himself “Woody”) was coming to the top of his form as an artist. His work here is inspired by Eisner, for whom he was also working during this time. Looking at his original art, which was sold at auction by Heritage for $11,950 (cheap!) his drawings, drenched in black india ink, give the story a noirish look, imbued with a power the story probably didn’t deserve. But that was Wood. His personal story, told in the recent Fantagraphics book, The Life and Legend of Wallace Wood, Volume 1,* makes clear that at the time Wood was an obsessive, dedicated to his craft.

Scans of the original art are from Heritage Auctions. The story first appeared in EC’s Crime SuspenStories #3 (1951).

 *Highly recommended!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Number 1999: “Come and get me, coppers! Ha ha ha!”

This is day three of our crime comics week.

The usually staid DC Comics got into the crime comics business in 1948 when several other publishers flooded the newsstands with gangsters and gunplay. DC did it a different way, by licensing a popular radio show, Gang Busters. Maybe the powers at DC thought that would keep away the outrage from censorious groups. But looking at the cover of Gang Busters #1 we find some of the same elements as we’d find in other crime comics, including a crook getting shot by a cop, and a pretty girl for sex appeal.

In the story, “Crime Agency,” we see other things we have come to expect from crime comics: bondage, shootings, a criminal conspiracy. We also get a crook under fire yelling, “Come and get me, coppers!” Did any crook in the history of crookdom every really yell, “Come and get me, coppers!" at the cops firing at him? Maybe.

Dan Barry did the beautiful art for this tale of a policewoman working undercover for a gang burglarizing the homes of the wealthy. From Gang Busters #1 (1948):

Monday, January 16, 2017

Number 1998: “I think they call it the payoff!”

This is the second day in our week of crime comics. If you missed it, scroll down to the Sunday Supplement from yesterday, showing the complete Famous Crimes #1.

So-called “true crime” comics were obsessed by gangsters, killers and thugs who were part of organized crime. Such was the case of Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll, who was a psychopath and killer during the 1920s, getting lots of press at the time because of his association with big-time mobster Dutch Schultz. There were a lot of criminals out there, but some of the same names, including Coll’s, pop up in several crime comics. I showed another story about Coll, drawn by Leonard Starr, in 2009 (see the link). I am a sucker for stories set during that wild period of the twenties and thirties, when prohibition was the law of the land, gang wars were erupting, and newspaper headlines were screaming bloody murder (literally).

This story is Vincent Coll drawn by Bernie Krigstein. It’s from Hillman’s Crime Detective #3 (1948):

Another version of the Coll story. Just click on the thumbnail.