Monday, April 30, 2018

Number 2174: Alias Mr America

Keeping up with the secret identities of Tex Thomson, who first appeared in Action Comics #1 (1938), takes some research. He was Tex, then he was Mr America (his alter ego in today’s post), and then Americommando. In that last incarnation it was President Franklin Roosevelt who directed him to take training and go kick Axis butt. I am lazy, so if someone else has a better handle on the history, I turn it over to them. Deejay Dutton has an entertaining history of Tex/Mr America/Americommando in Comic Book Bin.

Mr America shows up in a town being threatened by a group wearing purple hoods, led by a gang leader called the Purple. Local farmers are harassed by the Purple for selling wheat to a “a friendly power at war.” That means Great Britain. At the time this was published, 1941, there were groups opposing America joining the war in Europe. Mr Weston, questioned by Mr America, claims to promote “one hundred percent Americanism.” (That kind of statement can be taken many different ways. Beware. Someone else’s idea of what is one hundred percent Americanism can be very different than yours or mine.)

Bernard Baily drew the strip from its start. He began his long career in the thirties, was very active in the forties, both as an artist (with Jerry Siegel he co-created the Spectre, and with Ken Fitch co-created Hourman and Tex Thomson), and with Mac Raboy formed the Barnard Baily studio, a packager of contents for comics. He later went back to DC. He died in 1996.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Number 2173: Walt Kelly does Hans Christian Andersen’s “Thumbelisa”

Fifty years ago a friend showed me his collection of the original Fairy Tale Parade. I had not seen them before, but as a Pogo fan I loved Walt Kelly. He did the whole 68 page Fairy Tale Parade #1 (1942), with tales designed for children. Even for us old geezers, anything by Kelly is worth reading, producing delight in the reader, young or old.

In the introduction to the 2005 book, The Stories of Hans Christian Andersen by Diana Crone Frank and Jeffrey Frank, this is claimed: “By 1874 Hans Christian Andersen was perhaps better known than any other living writer . . . his work had been widely read since the 1840s . . .” but in “so many interpretations and shoddy translations that the originals had been virtually obliterated.” I have no idea what Andersen would have thought of this interpretation of his story.

Here is another from Fairy Tale Parade, originally posted in 2015. The idea that the emperor has no clothes has lapsed into cliché. Cliché or not, It is still true. Just click on the thumbnail.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Number 2172: Captain Flash and the monster from the mirror

Captain Flash had a short run for a small publisher, Sterling. His first issue was published in 1954, before the Comics Code was implemented, and the subsequent three issues have Code seals on them. I believe that some publishers were looking to find titles that would sell after they couldn’t publish horror comics. (Sterling published one with the title Tormented, a title dropped under the Code.) None of the superheroes, including Captain Flash, lasted very long. It took another year and yet another Flash (no relation to Captain Flash), the Silver Age revival of the Golden Age Flash, to finally start turning out successful superheroes.

Captain Flash, created by Martin Smith and artist Mike Sekowsky, had another of those superhero origins that we in the real world know would kill a person. In this case a massive dose of radiation. The Captain also had another of those familiar young boys following him; a kid had no superpowers at all.

In this story from issue #1 (1954), Captain Flash encounters a being from the mirror. It ends with a promise from Captain Flash to continue the fight. He does, in issue #2, but my source is damaged so I don’t want to show it. Suffice it to say Captain Flash is in the same predicament at the end of that chapter, also. And Mirror Man does not appear in #3 or #4. He must still be out there. Maybe in your mirror.

I also noticed the Captain Flash logo bears some similarity to the later logo for DC’s Flash. Just saying.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Number 2171: “There is only one rule in war...kill!”

Although fighting ended in 1953 between forces of China, siding with North Korea, and United Nations troops, including the United States, the war has never officially ended. And while the shooting was going on, American war comics gave their comic book version of the conflict. There were commies and good guys, and we were the good guys.

This is a good example of a bloody war tale from that era, written by Hank Chapman for Atlas Comics’ Battle #10 (1952). The “Butcher” makes his own rules for war, as he claims. The captured American troops wish to be treated in accord with the rules of war. “Rules of war” always seemed an oxymoron to me. When I was in the U.S. Army in the mid-sixties our drill sergeants told us what the rules were to them: kill the enemy and let him die for his country.* The past few years have seen saber-rattling coming from that part of the world. and more belligerent and bellicose talk from ours. In real life things just don’t wrap up in seven pages like “The Butcher of Yingkow!”

I like Paul Reinman’s artwork for this tale. Reinman, who died in 1988, was a journeyman who spent many years drawing comics. It looks like he put more into this job than I have usually seen from him.

*For the record, I served as an orderly room clerk in an artillery unit in Germany. I went where they sent me. The only shooting I did was on a rifle range.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Number 2170: Airboy vs the rats, part 2

I showed the first part a couple of days ago, so if you haven’t read it you can go back.

You know what this story reminds me of? Those dopey movies they make for the SyFy Network. Not that dopey stories can’t be entertaining in their own way, but they are hard on the suspension of disbelief during a movie...even comic books. So it is with Airboy and the rats.

They introduce and kill off a “Dr. Eisner,” a “big scientist,” on page 3. Is this an inside joke, referring to Will Eisner? My guess is yes.

The script writer really went into “Aw, come on, man!” territory, and from me a big loud raspberry for the decision to blow up a major dam to get rid of the rats. Despite there being nothing even remotely believable in this epic, they should have seriously thought about bombing a dam as a solution.

From Airboy Comics Vol. 5 Number 12 (whole number 59, 1949). Cover by Dan Zolnerowich (“Zolne”, and the interior artwork by Ernest Schroeder.