Monday, March 05, 2018

Number 2150: Nell from hell, and Dr Maggot’s ape

So called “Pre-Trend” EC Comics — those published before the popular EC New Trend, could be a mixed bag. They published some standard fare, crime and love comics, after EC founder Maxwell Charles Gaines died in 1947 and his son, William M. Gaines, took over as publisher and editor. Story quality could vary widely, even in the same issue of a particular title. Two stories from Crime Patrol #12 (1949) are good examples. “Nell Baker,” written and illustrated by Al Feldstein, is a straightforward crime story, typical of the genre. Was there a real Nell Baker? I don’t know. The story isn’t claimed to be true despite the cover blurb of “Real Stories from Police Records!” Nell was a stereotype of the female criminal in crime comics, tougher than most men, and more bloodthirsty.

There is an inside joke on page 7, where William Gaines, publisher, is introduced as William Seniag, police artist.

On the other hand, “The Hanged Man’s Revenge” mixes genres, a crime story with a horror story. Most horror comics had crime as the basis for the plot, but this story is a horror in another way. It is not well written. It is by an anonymous writer, and for a good reason. I’m showing it because I like Howard Larsen’s artwork, and I am a sucker for ape/gorilla stories, as longtime readers know. No matter how tepid the plot, I am showing it for purely selfish reasons. Besides the ape, I like the names of the bad guys, Dr. Maggot and Fench.

Here is a 2012 posting from Crime Patrol. Just click on the thumbnail.


Daniel [] said...

The story of Nell Baker was teaching America's youth the wrong lessons! For example, casing a restaurant only on the previous night is not a praticularly good idea, as business may vary by the day of the week. I suspect that Feldstein never actually committed a robbery in his life!

I especially appreciate Doctor Maggot crying out that he was being throttled. I'm reminded of that scene in The Whispering Shadow (1933) in which Jack Norton is strangling Professor Alexis Steinbeck, who cries out “You've killed me!” (Norton takes him at his word and leaves.)

By the way, welcome back, Pappy! We've missed you since last Friday's entry!

J_D_La_Rue_67 said...

That's what happens when redhead crime gals are not smart enough to dye their own hair, all by themselves, or to just shave their heads (Persis Khambatta/Moondragon style) and grab a wig. Tough, but unimaginative. Too bad.

I love the "flying cleaver" sequence. What can I say about Feldstein's art? Let's see... I think he was more versatile than Ingels (who was absolutely great in Horror, but a little too "ghastly" for strictly criminal stories).

I agree that the writing is poor in the horror story (I never heard of that mirror superstition, but who knows?)
Those two are so clumsy they are funny, they remind me of Pinky and the Brain.

Thank heaven the story is short and un-developed, my sensation is that we were dangerously close to an Iger Shop's "masterpiece".
Had it been fully developed, we might have had another screwy story like "Corpses, coast to coast".
Larsen is great, I like his paneling, very effective (page 3).

By the way, what's the exact meaning of "Fench"?

Pappy said...

J D, you know that "Corpses, Coast to Coast" is some sort of weird classic, don't you? But I understand your criticism, just pointing out that the most oddball can sometimes turn into classics. If you haven't seen the movie, Plan 9 From Outer Space I recommend it as a good example of how the totally awful can also be totally awesome.

There is no definition for "fench," because it is a made up word. It is real close to the word, "felch," which describes a pornographic act that, from its description, is way too repulsive to me. I also don't know if that word was in use in those days, so we'll just assume "fench" was used because it is short, and it sounds funny.

Brian Barnes said...

Oh Feldstein, such an easily recognizable style, and he just can't stay away from his forte, the headlight girls.

Feldstein's writing is a bit jagged here but he art is as it was through the rest of EC's time. It's pretty amazing how set in stone his style was. This is a fun little crime story, though nothing really interesting happens.

The ape story caught me a little off guard -- it seemed to be heading to a story where the doctor puts the hanged man's brain in a gorilla ... but, instead, he brings him back to life, immediately kills him, and a mirror transfers his soul. WHAT?

Darci said...

"The Hanged Man's Revenge" reminds me of Paramount's 1941 "The Monster and the Girl". It also reminds me that Roy Thomas had the Ultra-Humanite transplant his own brain into an albino gorilla (which always seemed a let down from Delores Winters). OTOH, Dr. Maggot never did reveal what his experiment was, did he?

wikipedia lists Illinois used the electric chair from 1926 to 1990. It also notes they kept a hangman too, just in case the chair didn't work. (They had used hanging prior to 1926.) I wonder which Nell Baker got?