Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Number 2095: Midnight meets Gabby

Gabby is a talking monkey. Gabby got the ability to speak after a series of operations by a beautiful woman known only as Miss O’Day. Gabby becomes the partner of crime fighter, Midnight, but Miss O’Day...she does not fare so well.

Dave Clark, radio announcer, was Midnight. Midnight, drawn by Jack Cole, looked like another Quality Comics character wearing a blue suit and a domino mask, the Spirit.

This is the original appearance of Gabby. Another of Midnight’s cronies, Doc Wackey, came along a few issues later. Midnight gives comic art fans another reason to appreciate Jack Cole and his special art of cartooning. Herein is a crimefighter story made much more fun by Cole’s great gifts for comic exaggeration.

From Smash Comics #21 (1941):


Gene Phillips said...

Later on, I believe Gabby gets big enough that he can be mistaken for a short human being. This caused some perhaps overzealous fans to assume that Gabby was a Negroid character drawn to look like an ape, rather than an actual anthropoid. I can't say if Jack Cole was entirely sinless in this regard, but he seems innocent of it with regard to Gabby.

Pappy said...

Gene, looking at the last few years of Smash Comics and Midnight, I can see how that conclusion could be reached. Although he has simian features, Gabby is built more like a person with a tail.

Gene Phillips said...

I have to admit that I no longer remember where I read the adverse comment on Gabby, but it seems like several years ago. Even ten years ago, I don't think we had access to any of the online "public domain" sites, so in those days a critic couldn't check on, say, who or what Gabby came about.

However, now that such sites exist, I would think it would be presumptuous to jump to such conclusions without research.

Justin said...

I think, in part, the charge that Gabby was a racist symbol are fuelled by the fact that Midnight is pretty clearly a rip-off of the Spirit. Since the Spirit's sidekick (Ebony White) was unquestionably a racist caricature, it's assumed that Gabby must be as well.

While I think there is evidence that some of Cole's artwork participated in some of the cultural racism of his time, I'm not yet convinced that Gabby was part of it. If anything, it seems to me that Gabby might be an intentional push back.

In case anyone's curious. I wrote a little more on this here: