Friday, June 30, 2017

Number 2069: Herbie and Dracula’s Pizza

We are leaving June, and Herbie Popnecker, as the Fat Fury, is taking us out.

Herbie meets Dracula, who has a taste, not for blood, but for pizza. That seems typical of a Herbie story, doesn’t it? Anyone familiar with the character knows the comic book has a surreal atmosphere, and the charm of Herbie is that nothing is surreal to him. He just solves problems put before him. Nothing seems out-of-bounds for Herbie, even a pizza-loving vampire.

I make note that the Comics Code (created in 1954), prohibited characters like vampires as well as other monsters. From the Code itself: “(5) Scenes dealing with, or instruments associated with walking dead, torture, vampires and vampirism, ghouls, cannibalism, and werewolfism are prohibited.” The Code was relaxed a bit for so-called classic monsters like Dracula, Wolfman, mummies, even the Frankenstein monster. That may have been the effect of the age of the late night horror hosts and old monster movies on television. And as television went, so did the Comics Code, adapting itself along with other popular media of the era. But Herbie...I doubt Herbie could have existed anywhere but in comic books, especially in his superhero identity as Fat Fury.

From Herbie #20 (1966). Written by editor Richard E. Hughes using the pseudonym Shane O'Shea, and drawn by Ogden Whitney.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Number 2068: Severin and Elder and the Lazo Kid

For at least a couple of years in the late forties-early fifties the team of John Severin and Will (then called Bill) Elder did work on Prize Comics Western. Besides their collaborations, Severin’s work shows up in Prize during the whole time he was also working for EC Comics. Such was the life of a freelance comic book artist in those days.

I was charmed by the Lazo Kid and Pedro story, “The Lost Trail,” that appeared in Prize Comics Western #79 (1950). I obviously like the artwork, but I also like that the story has a sense of humor about it, especially with Pedro’s goat, “Billee,” pulling his small buckboard like a Roman chariot.

I have said before I don’t like dialogue done in dialect. The main characters are Mexcan, and trying to approximate their speech is annoying. Unfortunately, this was common in fiction.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Number 2067: Plastic Man sans shirtsleeve

Plastic Man’s origin was published in Police Comics #1 (1941), and immediately stood out because of creator Jack Cole’s writing and artwork. Cole was a guy with a sometimes twisted sense of humor, a great cartoonist working in comic books, injecting his stories with his gift of comic exaggeration.

There were some minor changes after Police Comics #'s 1 and 2. As a design, Plastic Man’s costume just did not work; Plas wore a top with only one sleeve, and some odd-looking black boots. By Police Comics #3 the boots were gone and a sleeve added. I mention it because the story today is from Plastic Man #2 (1941), and features the original costume.

Of all the characters created for early comics, most never went on to the great popularity of Plastic Man. He was a great success, going from backup feature to headliner. He earned a couple of one-shot issues during the war, and got his own regular title to go along with his Police Comics appearances after the war ended.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Number 2066: Ramona Fradon puts us through the wringer

Ramona Fradon was a comic book artist off and on for decades, beginning her career  in 1950, and along the way drew Aquaman for Adventure Comics, Metamorpho, the Element Man, and Super Friends. She left comic books to draw the Brenda Starr comic strip until her retirement in 1995. As of this writing, Ms Fradon, at age 90, is still doing commission work.

Fradon had a looser, more cartoony style than many of her male contemporaries, which serves the funny “Through the Wringer,” written by David V. Reed and published in The Amazing World of DC Comics #10 (1976).

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Number 2065: Daredevil aces the spinning chair

After his symbolic appearance in the splash page, Daredevil doesn’t show up in this story until page 10. The story is mostly about Daredevil’s secret identity, Bart Hill, joining the Air Corps and learning to fly. He survives the Air Corps physical, shown as a spin in an office chair (page two). On a training flight he even takes out a Japanese sub!

This story appeared in Daredevil Comics #10, cover dated May, 1942. It was written and drawn shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Patriotic fervor was high in those days.