Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Number 2157: The Fox goes to a nightclub

The Fox is another costumed hero who has no super powers. He is Paul Patton, a newspaper photographer with a hidden camera hidden in his chest emblem. The first body cam?

MLJ, who published Blue Ribbon Comics #8 (1940), where this story appeared, cut back its roster of costumed and super heroes over time, and became Archie Comics. While this episode of the Fox seems relatively tame, early MLJ had a reputation for rowdiness.

The Fox was gone after the last issue of Blue Ribbon (#22, 1942), not to be seen until the mid-sixties, when Archie Comics resurrected their MLJ heroes.

Artist Irwin Hasen, who went on to draw Green Lantern for DC and in the fifties drew “Dondi,” a popular newspaper strip, was another of those early comic book journeymen. He died in 2015 at age 96.


Daniel [] said...

Everything in this story seems thrown-together.

The reader gets a huge amount of the story not from watching events unfold but from verbal explanations provided by the Fox and then by Mike Ruminoff. Ruminoff had fallen in love with Helen Day, which serves no real purpose except to get Mrs van Wolff to shoot Ruminoff later. Somebody brought Day into the insurance-fraud scheme for some reason. Betty Stevens just happened to pick Paul Patton to trust. She asked him to meet her at the club but none-the-less had the necklace sent to his home address. Van Wolff and Ruminoff fake the robbery in the same night as the murder, at the same club. Working on a guess, the henchmen happened to showed-up right after Patton received the necklace. We're told no more about the contents of Steven's diary than that it mentions Ruminoff and that Ruminoff, looking through it, declares that it contains nothing of interest, yet the Fox infers Ruminoff's love of Day from something.

And the art itself is as if Hasen did a rough set of layouts, and then just inked them.

Billy Wade was treadiing on thin ice with his use of the character of Peter Pan to promote the Junior Sales Club. The character would have been a trademark in 1940. But it seems that, in any case, most or all advertisements of this sort found in comic books were fraudulent, with no costumed superhero trying to right their wrongs.

Pappy said...

Well, dang it Daniel, I haven't figured out the rest of those fairy tale names yet. Peter Pan is the only one, and that's because I read it in the ad copy.

You can blame the story on Joe Blair, whom I neglected to mention in my comments.

Everybody gotta start someplace! Irwin Hasen is sloppy here, but later made a nice career out of drawing. First comic books, then a successful daily/Sunday comic strip. May 14 I have a Green Lantern story drawn by Hasen (written by John Broome). It has the advantage of being inked by Bob Oksner. Just thought I'd give you a
heads-up so you can skip it if you want.

Brian Barnes said...

Wow ... this is ... amateur. From the art, to the story, to even the central mystery which our hero seems to figure out nearly randomly.

And, a giant camera, with a flash, under his skin tight fox costume?

And it suffers even more from the super hero not doing a single thing to solve the crime! No kidding! What heroics did he do? He didn't even kill the bad guy!

I actually like these kind of stories. Yes, I might complaint, but they are so interesting to see. Normally all I see is the good stuff. But these turkeys? Interesting.

Pappy said...

Brian, I appreciate you and Daniel giving your time to make me regret having posted this story. Sheesh. It's hard to second guess a writer from 76 years ago, but I'd say he was dashing out the script to keep food on the table. You might say the story was from hunger. Maybe he had a wife and hungry children awaiting his paycheck so they could pay the rent! I am overwhelmed with sorrow for the lot of a comic book writer in the early days of comic books.

I like you as a critic, and enjoyed your latest Mondopiece Theater. Note to readers: if you like really bad movies (much worse than the comics you find here, frankly, because they involve a gaggle of really bad actors, matched only by the bad directing) you will love Brian’s critiques on YouTube. Go here for the torrid tale of a wife with a 73" chest seeking revenge on her husband's killers.

Daniel [] said...

In the age before the WWWeb, there were many books about the Golden Age of Comic Books, and various golden-age reprints in contemporary comic books. Sometimes they were carefully curated and sometimes they were opportunistically assembled. But they were rarely representative. The carefully curated collections were almost always “Best of” things, without declaring themselves to be so. The opportunistic collections were stuff expected to appeal to nostalgia. The reprints within new magazines had to conform to the Comic Code. And nearly all of it was material from DC, from Timely, from Quality, or from EC.

(There was, of course, also Iger studio material showing-up in the Eerie Publications, but that stuff wasn't really explained, and its origins mostly baffled me.)

So I had an impaired understanding of Golden Age material.

When work such as this story of the Fox appears in your 'blog, I ampretty much thinking “Wow, this material is weak.” But I'm not wondering “Why did Pappy reproduce this? Does he hate us? Has he been at the Dr Pepper again?” Instead, I'm responding to it as an exhibition of some of what the Golden Age really was. This 'blog can be entertaining, and that's great, but I'm mostly here to learn.

And, yes, I figure that the writer and artist didn't deliver less than they were paid to deliver. I'd be interested to learn to what extent Hasen could do better work at that stage, and to what extent his underlying skill later increased.

Pappy said...

Daniel, like you I read a lot of books on the comics, but I thought most of them too gosh-wow for me. When I was finally exposed to old comics I found that the stories just weren't that great. Even characters and comics that were highly touted in the fan press, or those books you mention, just were not as great as the writer presented them.

That was when I decided that most of the enthusiasm for those very early comics was nostalgia rather than actual craft or quality.* The comics of that era are no different from our era in that they endlessly copied each other. Writers and artists were churning it out, and in those days art be damned. Production was paramount --fill those pages! -- and don't worry about little things like plots or immaculately rendered artwork.

I believe superheroes lost popularity after World War II because readers were bored. That they came back for new genres, crime, horror, Western, love, showed that comic books as a product were still popular, but the readers needed a different stimulus for buying them.

As for Hasen, I view his work in the same category as many of the journeymen artists who got their pages in to fill up the books, and did it for years without much distinction. Hasen rose above the crowd and grabbed the brass ring with "Dondi" in the mid-fifties. It was the dream of many comic book artists to ascend to the status of a successful daily/Sunday newspaper comic strip, and Hasen achieved it.

*I fall into the nostalgia trap, too. My posting of The First Batman" is pure nostalgia.