Friday, September 28, 2018

Number 2239: Der Zub-Mariner himszelf!

In my opinion Bill Everett was one of the top artists of the earliest days of comic books. His drawings were excellent, full of action. He fully understood the advantages of the format, where he could tell a story.

This is one of his early adventures of his creation, Sub-Mariner, from 1941. Everett also had a sense of humor; not gut-busting laugh-out-loud funny, but a bit more subtle. The panel where he buys fuel at a filling station for his homemade jeep — "Five gallons of alcohol and five of water!” — makes for some light humor as well as verisimilitude. Anybody who drives a car from Salt Lake to Oregon would need to stop for a refill, and it is likely they would need to use the restroom. We assume that bit of business is between panels.

I caught something Everett missed in the story. On page 6 Sub-Mariner is tied up, but the ropes have disappeared by the next panel, even though the caption says he is “securely bound.” They don’t reappear on the next page, either. Everett’s editor must have been taking a nap when Everett turned in the artwork for this story from Marvel Mystery Comics #23 (1941):

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Number 2238: “We will blast you loose from your brains!”

“Big Red McLane” was another comics creation of the oddball comic book writer/artist, Fletcher Hanks. Big Red is not as powerful as another of Hanks’s heroes, Stardust, but has that eccentric charm that is a hallmark of Hanks’s comic book career.

Big Red is a lumberjack boss, and he goes up against “Sledge,” an evil lumberjack boss who wants Big Red’s neck of the woods. And who wouldn’t? It looks terrific! Consider the splash panel, where Red struts blithely down a groomed path, where nary a fallen leaf or dead tree impedes him. He looks so happy that he is unaware of Sledge’s gang lurking behind those perfect trees.

Red can fight.* The sound effects of his blows to the villainous crew remind me of the Batman television show of the 1960s. On one page we “hear” SOCK! BIFF! BANG! On another SLUG! BONG! and the incongruous ZOWIE! Fletcher Hanks had a fascinating and quirky way about his stories, and it is why over the years his reputation has grown.

From Fight Comics #7 (1940):

*In Fight Comics #9 Red went to San Francisco to look for a former fiancée, and wound up in a boxing match. The teaser at the end said we will see more of his boxing career beginning in the next issue, but the bell rang and the fight was over for Red. He was never seen again.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Number 2237: Pat Patriot: Women can fight, too!

I have told this story before, but it seems time to dredge it up tell it again. In the early '70s I helped my wife with an essay for a class she was taking. Her paper was on patriotic comic book heroes of World War II. It was the era of anti-war protests, and while I was definitely anti-war, I was also a veteran and writing about WWII comic books was hard to resist (it still is). The teacher liked it so much he had her read to the class. When she got to the name Pat Patriot her classmates exploded in laughter.

I subsequently found out that Pat Patriot’s name was Patricia Patrios, and she was introduced in Daredevil Comics #2. Some character in the origin story misspelled her last name and she became Pat Patriot. It was a short-lived series, lasting only until Daredevil #11. But what I like about it is its portrayal of a female character who is without super powers, but who can fight. That was considered fanciful 80 years ago, but then as now some women kick butts as well as a man.

The Grand Comics Database has questions about who wrote and drew this story from Daredevil Comics #3 (1941), Pat’s second appearance. They guess it was written by Charles Biro and Bob Wood, and also guess at artists Frank Borth and Reed Crandall. I see a couple of panels I believe are by Crandall, but I would not be able to identify anything by Borth.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Number 2236: Ditko: Merlin’s black magic

“I Dared to Defy Merlin’s Black Magic,” a 5-page story, is one I remember well from the days when I picked up anything by Steve Ditko. It is richly textured artwork, and a story well told. Okay, so the story isn’t very surprising. The early Marvels didn’t stray too far from some basic plots, all of which I was familiar with even at my tender age in 1959. But at least Ditko tells it well.

In those days I went for artists I liked who signed their names to their work. With these post-Atlas-early-Marvel titles I collected for Kirby and Ditko because they signed their work. Other artists I especially liked were the Mad artists I first saw in the paperback reprints, The Mad Reader, Inside Mad, et al: Wood, Elder, Davis. Wallace Wood was then doing illustrations for Galaxy magazine and Mad; Will Elder and Jack Davis could be seen in some of the Mad imitations crowding the magazine racks. Davis did the cover for this issue:

The fun of collecting for me was in the artwork of comic books, and that is only right, because it is a visual medium. When I got more interested in stories it was because of The Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man, with two of my favorite artists, Kirby and Ditko. When I found out years late they had responsibility for the stories as well, it made me appreciate Kirby and Ditko all the more.

From Strange Tales #71 (1959):

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Number 2235: Goodbye Black Pirate

All American Comics #102 was the last issue before it turned into All American Western. It featured the first Johnny Thunder story, and the last stories featuring Green Lantern, Dr Mid-Nite, and Black Pirate, which I am showing today.

It was a good run for all of those characters, especially in the here today/gone tomorrow world of 1940s comic books.

Black Pirate appeared in three popular comics titles in his career. Created by Sheldon Moldoff, he first appeared in Action Comics #23, then switched to Sensation Comics beginning with issue #1. After 50 issues, he then moved over to All American Comics, bumping out The Atom. Not bad for a comic book character who never had his own book, or was on the cover of any issues of the comic books where he was a second tier feature.

I have read less than half a dozen adventures of Black Pirate, so I can’t give an opinion of how Jon Valor (Black Pirate’s secret identity) fared as a pirate, but in his final adventure he was inland, and rode away on a horse.

Artwork by Arthur Peddy and Bernard Sachs.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Number 2234: Two ogres

Both of the stories today are from Ha Ha Comics, and true to the comic book’s title, both of them made me laugh.

The Grand Comics Database has no guesses for the writer or artist for “The Magic Ogre,” from Ha Ha Comics #29 (1946), but it is the same team that created the second story, “Stalwart Swinburne,” from Ha Ha #33 (1946): writer Hubie Karp and artist Al Hubbard. Hubert Karp and Allan Hubbard both worked for the Sangor Studio, which produced comics drawn by moonlighting animators, and were published by the company that became ACG. Hubie’s brother, Lynn, was an artist for Ha Ha and Giggle Comics, and said that besides his comic book work Hubie wrote jokes for Bob Hope and Martin and Lewis.

Al Hubbard went on to draw other features; he took over the Peter Wheat giveaway comics from Walt Kelly, and later he drew “Mary Jane and Sniffles” stories for Dell Comics’ licensed comics based on Warner Bros cartoon characters.