Friday, September 15, 2017

Number 2102: Keeping murder in the family

Belle Gunness was a real person, suspected of up to 40 murders. A physically imposing woman (six feet tall, over 200 pounds) she used a lonely hearts lure, then robbed her husbands after killing them and burying them on her farm. Gunness even killed her own kids, which puts her in a special category of cold-blooded psychopath.

“Mrs Bluebeard” is from Crime Does Not Pay #44 (1945), and is drawn by Jack Alderman, an artist who drew stiff figures and drenched his drawings in black ink. He was proud of this job, you can tell, because he signed it twice. I can only imagine what effect it had on gape-jawed parents, teachers and (if he saw it) Dr Wertham.

As I have mentioned before, “true” is something of a floating concept in crime comics, but the Wikipedia entry on Belle Gunness confirms much of what is shown here.

I have shown similar stories lately, people who poison family members for instance. Heh-heh. Nothing sinister here, folks, heh-heh-heh. Sometimes I like crime comics about infamous gangsters (the Genna Brothers, a couple of weeks ago) sometimes about lone wolves, like Belle, who find the handiest victims lying next to them in bed. All types of criminals found their way into crime comics.


Daniel [] said...

One can see that most of these comic-book artists never dug a grave. They imagine graves dug by murderers as like those dug by professionals for ceremonial purposes. It's hard work to dig such a grave!

Gunness is depicted in this telling as having died in the final house fire. In reality, she got away, with a fortune stolen from her victims, and her fate is not public knowledge.

Brian Barnes said...

This is one of those cases where I don't know what to think of the art. As you said, it's stiff and the inks are like gazing into a black hole. But it almost has a kind of quaint wood-cut like quality. I don't know if it works, but I'm not sure that I don't like it.

Yeah, Belle was one that didn't really need fluffing up for the comics. She was pretty damn bad!

Kirk said...

Like the "prewar...war...postwar" ad at the end. Covers all the bases.

Pappy said...

Daniel, the ending of the Belle Gunness story fits into the editorial theme of crime not paying for the criminal in a crime comic, who is supposed to come to a bad end. Obviously real-life Belle's ultimate fate being unknown is not a way to end a comic book story, because it looks too much like she got away with her life of murder...and perhaps she did.

Pappy said...

Brian, I believe Jack Alderman used a heavy inking style to cover up his inadequacies as an artist. For crime comics I think his style works, adding mood. I have seen a couple of superhero stories by Alderman where it doesn't.

I don't think I have seen any of his horror comics for Atlas, but the heavy inking style would work for those. tells us that Alderman spent the latter part of the 1950s drawing Tweety and Sylvester stories for Dell Comics. A long way from Crime Does Not Pay.

Grant said...

I wonder if the Belle Guinness story partly inspired Laurel and Hardy's short film "Oliver the Eighth."
Except in that film, the woman isn't an opportunist, she's an abandoned wife who goes around specifically marrying and killing men named Oliver.