Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Number 2163: From Champion to Champ, from Foreign Legionnaire to Human Meteor

Champion Comics made a title change to Champ Comics with issue #11 when, with that issue, Harvey Comics took over. The first ten issues were published by Worth Publishing. The Human Meteor also made a change. He started out as Duke O’Dowd of the Foreign Legion in Champion Comics #6. According to Public Domain Superheroes, he got superpowers when he met “. . . Wah Le, the ancient ruler of a lost city in Tibet.” I wonder how many superheroes got their powers from someone in Tibet? Apparently several.

Besides becoming Human Meteor, Duke became a cab driver, with a young pal named Toby. (Origin in Tibet, friends with young boy. Check those off your superhero qualifications list.) Oh, and he was half-naked. I have never known why some male superheroes showed skin, unless it was beefcake for a potential readership, or, maybe leaving bare skin, adding trunks, boots and a cape was a way of getting out of designing a costume. No one knows who created Duke O’Dowd/Human Meteor, so we’ll likely never know, although Human Meteor does look like an amalgam of some other superheroes of the era. As for his name, I know enough about meteors to know that most of them falling to Earth burn up in the atmosphere, as did the Human Meteor. After Champ Comics #25 (1943) he was seen no more.

From Champ Comics #11 (1940). Grand Comics Database lists no writer or artist for this story.


Daniel [] said...

While it was probably easiest to write stories with little more than action, such stories might also have been what many readers sought. An untalented child could construct his or her own fantasies, and not feel as if these were inadequate by comparison. (One might consider various popular music genres in which there's not much to the work.)

Nurses used to be seen as the epitome of feminine virtue. They're still popular characters, but they've much changed, and have lost much of their relative significance in popular fiction. Had I been writing these stories, I would have found ways to keep bringing that nurse into them.

I will leave that last panel for analysis by more deviant readers.

I think that the reasons that superhero costumes tend to be revealing are discernible:

[1] The influence of Flash Gordon as depicted by Alex[ander Gillespie] Raymond. Raymond deliberately eroticized his work. His work set a standard imitated by other artists and expected by readers, regardless of whether they were conscious of the eroticism.

[2] Many artists, whether they eroticize their work or not, are fascinated by the human body as such; and they have had far more practice in drawing nudes than anything else. Were they instead fascinated by fabric, then swirling cloaks would abound.

[3] Readers who like to imagine themselves as superheroes further like to imagine themselves as having bodies that are seen and admired. (Note all those body-building advertisements, in which even acts of self-defense take place at the beach.)

Pappy said...

Daniel, excellent point about Raymond's artwork on Flash Gordon, since he had a major influence on comic book art.

I read recently that King Features, the syndicate owned by William Randolph Hearst, for whom Alex Raymond worked, prohibited showing nipples on men. I'm not sure why, but that prohibition was in effect in comic books, also, unless it was solely because the artists were imitating Raymond.

I thought the nipple-less look came from the Victorian era, where people covered up, even on the beach. Not like today where, like Cole Porter proclaimed, "Anything Goes."

Pappy said...

P.S., Daniel, I read about the King Features nipple prohibition in the book Cartoon County by Cullen Murphy. Murphy’s father, John Cullen Murphy, took over the "Prince Valiant" artwork chores from Harold Foster.

BillyWitchDoctor said...

Yeah, that last panel. (GULP), indeed, young man. (GULP) indeed.

As almost-naked heroes go, I don't think anyone can beat Bob Fujitani's Captain Truth; he wasn't just starkers, he was flamboyantly exposed:

"His costume consisted of red boots, red gloves, red trunks, a cape and a big floppy Three Musketeers-type hat which tends to fly off a lot during his one and only adventure."

Nae shirt, nae trous, nae nipples. But when that single adventure was reprinted some time later, he was recolored so that he appeared to be wearing a yellow onesie under all that red, and the gloves were recolored to look as if his bare hands emerged from his rolled yellow sleeves. Might the original have been a coloring error?

Daniel [] said...

I was a bit shocked when Neal Adams put nipples on the Batman.

Now-a-days, there are people who act as if it is a matter of grave concern that female nipples aren't accorded equal exposure; perhaps someone at Hearst wanted to head-off that fight. (Let's agree to blame Neal Adams!)

Cullen Murphy seems to have been part of the reason that John Cullen Murphy took-over Prince Valiant. Foster of course gave trials to other artists, such as Wallace Wood; but Foster was apparently concerned for Murphy's family.

Pappy said...

Billy, if any readers are curious about what you said about Captain Truth, they can find him in Pappy's #1673, from 2014.

I am confused about the IW reprints, because I understood publisher Israel Waldman got the printing plates from Eastern Color Press. He printed his comics with new advertising, but I don't think he did much, if anything, with the contents to change them. The recoloring of Captain Truth throws cold water on that belief.

Perhaps Fujitani or someone in the editorial department who allowed the Captain Truth story to be printed was sneaking in some gay erotica...? (Gulp.) I hesitate to say that, because I might be implying a motive that was not a motive at all, but rather an attempt to create a different sort of costume. And different it was.

Pappy said...

Daniel, when it came to Neal Adams, designated DC cover artist and one helluva Batman artist, perhaps his more realistic, illustrative style would have made a nipple-less bare-chested man look silly.

I remember the Wallace Wood Prince Valiant tryout page when it appeared in my Sunday comics section, and thought how great it would be to have someone like him do the page. But could Wood? Would Wood? He had his health problems.

I was surprised when John Cullen Murphy got the job, because I thought his inking was a little "scratchy," compared to Foster's slicker style. Murphy had drawn the strip, "Big Ben Bolt" for years, and was probably known for meeting deadlines. Also when Foster sent him scripts and roughs for each page he was able to reproduce Foster's detailed layouts with few changes.

Quinten Quartermain said...

In an Invaders mini-series in the mid-90's, the Human Meteor became a member of Battle-Axis a team of American Nazis.