Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pappy“s Sunday Supplement #6: Famous Crimes

With the Sunday Supplement today I am beginning a week of crime stories. First up is Famous Crimes #1 (1948), a book published by Fox, mostly cobbled together with reprints from issues of Blue Beetle and Phantom Lady: comic book versions of “true” stories of criminals, murder and mayhem in the style that drove parents and teachers and Dr Wertham into action against comics.

Some of the artists of the unsigned stories are unknown to the Grand Comics Database. Only three signed their work, including A.C. Hollingsworth (“Bloodless Corpse”), Gil Kane and someone named Larny (?) (“Clara Peete”), and Paul Parker (“Jack ‘Legs’ Diamond”). See the photo of Kane below.

Dr Fredric Wertham, M.D., said all comic books were crime comics, and from his interpretation of what constituted a crime comic that may have been true. But the year 1948 saw a proliferation of crime titles from several publishers, based on the success claimed by Crime Does Not Pay. While a Bugs Bunny comic might be classified by Wertham as a crime comic if Bugs has a slapstick encounter with some bank robbers, comics like Crime Does Not Pay and Famous Crimes came right out by making the word “crime” big and bold on the covers. That told us they were exploitative and seedy. As I have said before, I have a fascination for that style of crime comics. I read Dr Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent when I was 12-years-old. I thought if adults hated crime comics so much I wanted to see them! I was a typical kid in that way. The difference with me may be that my curiosity toward the subject matter never went away.

This undated photo of Gil Kane in his studio was provided by artist Ken Landgraf. Thank you, Ken! Ken had mentioned that he believed Kane used a rubber artist’s manikin, which I thought might be how he was able to successfully draw the human figure in extreme action. Ken circled the manikin in the photo.

I love pictures of artists in their studios, and am fascinated by Kane’s bookshelves, which show his interests.

Kane, born Eli Katz in 1926, entered the comics business at a very young age (16), and worked at it all his life. He died at age 73 in January, 2000. He would have been about 20 when he penciled the violent story, “Clara Peete, the Beautiful Beast.” Kane’s early work in comics echoes Joe Kubert’s, who was also a teenager working in comics until getting his chance to solo in the mid-to-late '40s.


Brian Barnes said...

OK, the obvious fun one is the Clara Peete story. First, no wonder she's evil, she uses "slut" (I would guess a different meaning, or crime comics were more criminal than I thought!) "tramp" and a couple other ones. She needs a bar of soap in her mouth for that (insert your own jokes here.)

I can't get enough of the underwear shot as she's sneaking up to garrote the poor slob; her clothes are all back together in the later panels. I will say, if you're going to get killed by a deadly but hot women, at least she should do it in lingerie. It's the least she could do!

Pappy said...

Brian, as far as I know this story may be the only time that "slut" was used in a forties comic book, even a crime comic.

It also appears that Kane was given carte blanche to draw Clara as he imagined her...a slut!

Matthew Clark said...

Could those faces on the wall over Kane's drawing board explain why a lot of his drawings seemed to be looking up a character's nose?