Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Number 2122: Putting the comic in comic book

This Midnight story, from Smash Comics #84 (1949), is a superb example of Jack Cole’s gift for comic exaggeration and slapstick. Virtually every panel, including the cover, has some funny, frenetic action going on.

Besides all the funny business, in the story Doc Wackey invents a photocopy machine. Xerox Corporation introduced its first office copier in 1949. It is a gag meant for just one plot point, but with its application by Doc (making copies of invitations to the Diamond Cutters Ball), hints at how important the technology would become in the future.


Daniel [] said...

I dunno. I never cared for stories in which the protagonist is tripped-up by some foolishness on the part of a would-be assistant, and such stories are made even worse if the would-be assistant never acknowledges his or her ineptitude. Midnight has four such would-be assistants. Gabby (the monkey) isn't always inept, and Dock Wacky has his uses; but Sniffer Snoop and Hotfoot (the fr_ggin' bear cub) bring more cost than benefit to Midnight and thence to the reader. (Unless, perhaps, the reader is a fan of the Three Stooges.)

Given that it made passable tickets, Wacky's copier would have been far better than the commercial xerography devices of 1949. I don't think that I saw a really good xerograph until Kodak entered the market in the late mid-'70s. (By the way, the firm itself was known as “the Haloid Photographic Company” until 1960, when it became “XEROX”. Later, they calmed the name down a bit, going eventually from all-caps to no-caps.)

This particular story has a coherence problem, in that the fellow dressed as Midnight admits in the presence of Lefty Luger that he is, indeed, Midnight; but Clark's boss would recognize the voice of that fellow as having been Clark's, and accounts for Clark's absence in his playing cops and robbers. There would be ways of patching those problems, but nothing is offered.

Looking at this story, I was repeatedly reminded of how much influence Cole seems to have had on Will Elder. Had Kurtzman and Elder somehow been tasked with drawing this story from a script, four years later, the results might have looked very much the same, except that there would have been some additional screwball details (odd notices on walls and so forth).

Pappy said...

Daniel, I dunno, either. Until I got to your last paragraph I wondered if you had noticed that the story was an out-and-out comedy.

I agree that Cole must have had an influence on Elder.

In the '80s I was friends on the job with the guys from the printing department, where photocopying was a big part of their day. I was allowed free rein to copy, and I enjoyed the Xerox color copiers the most, making blown up copies of comic and paperback book covers I admired. I still have some of those in frames on my home office wall. But now I don't need to trek to a copy store, because my 2002 HP scanner does as good a job, and my 2010 HP printer does some nice copies. Because I am interested in reproduction (ho-ho, in a printing sense, that is), having in my twenties operated a printing press, I have seen a lot of improvements in the field, and especially compared to the hand-cranked office duplicator I used in my early teens for my self-printed fan projects.

We take a lot of this for granted, but as far as reproduction technology (still in the printing sense) we have come a long way in a relatively short time.