Friday, July 13, 2018

Number 2206: Ace Powers and the Panther Men

Ace Powers was one of those early comics heroes who went about fighting crime in his civilian clothes, without having the burden of changing into a costume or maintaining a secret identity. (Although “Ace Powers” sounds fake...maybe he changed it from his real name, something like John Smith.) Ace takes on the Panther Men, who are terrorizing a town. The head of the gang gives his henchmen a hacksaw to cut through their bars at the "Insane Asylum” (we don’t use that title anymore; it conjured up visions of murderous maniacs and other boogeymen who were put away in an asylum for the good of society). What I know of hacksaw blades is they break, so these “insane” guys got lucky, or maybe Panther Man had to keep running to the hardware store to buy more blades, and we were spared the boring details.

The story is drawn by Gaspano “Gus” Ricca, another journeyman professional who came to the comics in the 1930s when joining the Funnies Inc. studio, a comic art service. Ricca’s work is seen quite a bit in the forties and early fifties, although he left the business in 1953 when there was a crash in the industry. I have seen his work associated with Fawcett, drawing Ibis the Invincible, and he did some stunning and morbid covers for Harry “A” Chesler’s Dynamic Comics.

Drew Friedman, portraitist, did this painting of Ricca. In the portrait he is smoking a cigarette. Ricca died in 1956 at age 50. Coincidence?

The story is from Silver Streak Comics #5 (1940).

Here is a story that puts Ricca in an infamous comic art gallery: one of the examples used by Dr Fredric Wertham, M.D., in his book Seduction of the Innocent, to warn parents of the evils of comic books. Just click on the thumbnail.


Brian Barnes said...

I did a little experiment and ignored the captions when I read this. As I thought, I could easily follow the story. Then I re-read it with the captions. It was pretty amazing that they couldn't break out of the use of captions. Captions are fine, but the bulk of these just re-explain the art. It's that kind of development that really changed things around when the 60s hit.

I do like the Panther men, though why they are orange I don't know.

Pappy said...

Brian, I think stories are better without captions, but sometimes the reader needs a little help understanding the story. What I object to, and I surmise you do too, is the captions that just re-tell what the pictures have already told us.

Dialogue balloons! "Darn it all to heck! Captain Cleanliving has found me!"

"Yes, Mr Slagg, I have discovered your hideout, and am ready to pummel you into submission!"

Caption: Captain Cleanliving finds the hidden hideout and Mr Slagg, and prepares to give him a thrashing!

It's insulting to the reader, assuming he doesn't get it even though he has seen the picture and read the balloons (we hope so, anyway).

Darci said...

Panther Man apparently debuted in #4 (and met his end in #6). I haven't read those issues, but according to HeroGoggles he donned the mask because he was disfigured in an auto accident. That has me wondering if he was like Dr. Doom, with a tiny scratch that drove him nuts?

Pappy said...

Darci, WHAT?! Doctor Doom didn't have a face like the Phantom of the Opera under his mask? Another of my early beliefs shattered!

Darci said...

IIRC, Doom's face wasn't really messed up until he impatiently put on that newly-forged metal mask and did irreparable damage.