Monday, July 31, 2017

Number 2082: Poisoning as a career

Let me, a retired person, say something about careers. I played it safe and stayed over 30 years with a job that provided me a pension. It worked for me. But that was my choice, which has provided me the opportunity to spend my golden geezer years providing Golden Age comics to you. I would never tell you what I think you should do for a career, but I strongly advise against the career path William Palmer took, which was poisoning people for money to finance a life lived in indolent comfort. Until the hangman caught up with him, that is.

There were several famous poisoners in 19th century Britain, and while Palmer was found guilty of one murder and subsequently hanged for it, his murder career went back years. It is detailed in this story from Crime and Punishment #5 (1948), drawn by the ever-so-precise Fred Guardineer.

Guardineer made a career choice, also. After years as a freelance comic book artist (he was from wayyy back, including Action Comics #1), in 1955 Guardineer decided he needed a job with a pension, so he went to the U.S. Postal Service where he worked until his retirement. He was able to continue drawing wildlife for a local newspaper, as opposed to crime comics and the wild life of crooks. It was his choice and it worked for him.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Number 2081: Plastic Man in transition

Last month I showed the Jack Cole Plastic Man story from Police Comics #2. Plastic Man was still wearing the costume from his origin story in Police #1. In Police Comics #3 (1941), which is where our story today appeared, Plas’s costume has evolved past the boots, one bare arm, one sleeved arm top to two sleeves. But one side of his top still has that strange black shading, which I have yet to figure out. By Police Comics #5 the costume that Plastic Man wore for the rest of his career was fully intact.

That in itself was not unusual in the artistic development of a character, but Plastic Man went further. His former identity as criminal Eel O’Brian was mostly never mentioned or shown, and he appeared to live 24/7 in his costume. In that way he avoided those sorts of clumsy plots found in most comics, where the hero was trying to keep his secret identity secret. Instead, Cole could get Plas right into the fun stuff.

In 2013 I showed a story which explained that Plastic Man’s face was deliberately changed from Eel’s. Just click on the thumbnail.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Number 2080: Brink of the jabbering panic

 We know we are reading a pre-Comics Code story from the American Comics Group when the evil force tries to talk his victims to death. Such is the case in “Terror in Black Hollow,” where the evil entity describes the victims of “jabbering panic,” when it is he who is doing the jabbering. (Dictionary note on the word jabber: to speak rapidly or excitedly with little sense.)

Our hero and heroine, like most ACG couples, overcome the evil by blundering through the situation, yet with intuition know what to do to combat the supernatural force threatening them.

What I can say positive about the story is that I like the artwork by Jon L. Blummer, another early comics journeyman who showed many times in these comics that the story may not make much sense, but his artwork is atmospheric and eerie. Blummer, who had drawn for pulp magazines, was another artist who had a history in illustration before going to work in comic books. He had also drawn a couple of syndicated comic strips in the thirties, including The Lone Ranger, and Hop Harrigan. Unfortunately, Blummer, born in 1904, died young at age 51.

From Skeleton Hand in Secrets of the Supernatural (whose title was almost longer than its lifespan of six issues) #3 (1953):

Monday, July 24, 2017

Number 2079: Skyman flies in

The Skyman was a charter member of the Big Shot Comics line-up. Columbia Comic Corporation, a small publishing company, had a nine-year run without putting out a lot of product. Big Shot Comics lasted for 104 issues, succumbing finally in 1949. That left adrift not only Skyman (who ended in issue #101), but Tony Trent (formerly the Face), and Boody Rogers’s eccentric and funny Sparky Watts.

Skyman’s initial appearance in Big Shot Comics #1 (1940), shown today, did not explain his origin. Skyman was yet another rich guy who made it his mission to fight crime and bad guys. He even paid for his own advanced aircraft, Wing. As one source explained it, aviation comic strips were popular in the thirties, so not only did comic books feature many of them, like the Skyman they were sometimes costumed characters.

Ogden Whitney did the artwork. He was born in 1918, so he was about 21 or 22 when he first drew Skyman. I have featured many stories with Whitney’s artwork, and to my eyes there was very little change in his style or approach to drawing from this early time until the last artwork he did in comics. Whitney died in the early '70s, according to some accounts. For as long as Ogden Whitney was active in comics, and the wide range of publishers he worked for, there seems to be very little information about him.

What information I have on Skyman has him created and written by Gardner Fox.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Number 2078: Suzie, the Ditzy

Day three of our theme week featuring comic book females of the forties and fifties ends with “the Ditzy,” the tail end of the theme’s title, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ditzy.” I use the term “tail end” on purpose, because in this story Suzie shows her own tail end more than once in this fetishistic funny by the creator of Katy Keene, the Pin-up Queen, Bill Woggon. Suzie was part of the transition of MLJ Comics from the action-filled, violent superhero adventures to the Archie gang, the teenage characters still with us today. This issue, #53 (actual #5, 1946), was published shortly after the end of World War II, and I wonder at what audience it was aimed. Young girls or young guys...particularly servicemen just returning from Europe or the Pacific?

Later in her comic book career Suzie got a bit more tame, falling in line with the standards of the Archie characters. In the earlier days, in her own innocent way, Suzie showed a lot of her charms.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Number 2077: Betty Blinker, the Bad

This is day two of our theme week featuring comic book females of the forties and fifties. I have titled the theme, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ditzy." Today we feature the Bad, who is criminal Betty Blinker. Betty has red hair that is a visual reminder of her fiery personality and hot head. Betty is out for revenge against the gangster who killed her husband, Marty, also a Prohibition-era gang leader. She takes over her husband’s gang. They prosper under her managerial style, which is shoot your enemy before he shoots you. That is sometimes a smart way to do business, except it is bound to attract attention. And in Betty’s case, it did.

There is no explanation in the story for spelling liquor “licker.” Just another of the bad acts committed by the Blinker gang.

No artist or writer is credited by the Grand Comics Database. “Betty Blinker, the Red-Headed Rum-Runner” originally appeared in Fox’s Crimes by Women #9 (1949).