Monday, December 10, 2018

Number 2271: Babyface Nelson: live fast, die young

George “Babyface” Nelson (born Lester Gillis, 1908, died November, 1934), was one of the early 1930’s “cowboys in cars,” driving from town to town robbing banks and killing some innocent folks along the way. It wasn’t called the lawless era for nothing, and antisocial psychos like Nelson helped the nascent Federal Bureau of Investigation become the foundation for today’s FBI.

Jack Kirby drew this version of Nelson’s death, which leaves out some key characters; his wife, for one. The story was just one of a whole comic book full of crime and true-life crooks whose stories are told with artistic license. My mother, at the age of 13, with my grandmother, attended the funeral of Samuel Cowley, FBI agent. Cowley was one of the two FBI men who shot it out with Nelson; Cowley and his partner, Herman Ellis, were both killed by Nelson, although Cowley lived for a time in the hospital before dying from his wounds. Nelson died soon after escaping the scene. He was wrapped in an Indian blanket by his wife and left outdoors by a church, where his body was discovered.

This shortened, action-packed drama of Nelson’s last days, appeared in Headline Comics #23 (1947).

Friday, December 07, 2018

Number 2270: Doc Strange’s big apes made a monkey of me

I'll be damned! I have been took! I have been fooled...hornswoggled! I found the splash panel for “Doc Strange” from America’s Best Comics, and thought it terrific. Two huge apes threatening a hero! But as I read through the story, to my disappointment I found out those apes do not appear. About the best the creators could muster is a weird-looking crocodile, for which the uncredited artist used no reference photos. The story seems typical of  Nedor comic books, where logic and coherence are thrown out in favor of slam bang action panels.

I originally thought Doc Strange was a Doc Savage knockoff, but found he is more Superman than Savage. Since I feel snookered by the splash panel, and out of pique not willing to write any more, I am including Public Domain Super Heroes’ online capsule history of the character. So, take it away, PDSH!*
Origin Doc Strange

“Dr. Hugo Strange was a brilliant scientist who developed a serum called Alosun, a ‘distillate of sun atoms’ in order to ‘defeat crime.’ He spent many years developing it before he decided to field-test it in his first appearance, when he faced off against the Faceless Phantom. Ingestion of this serum gave him superhuman strength, the ability to fly, and invulnerability. Doc Strange was assisted by his sidekick, Mike, and his fiancée, Virginia Thompson.

“Doc Strange didn't have a secret identity and he was usually recognized on the streets of his native city. The city’s mayor occasionally contacted him to request assistance in some case that was beyond the capacities of mundane law enforcement. However, he wasn't as widely known in the greater United States, which allowed him and Mike to travel incognito on several occasions.”

Real Name Dr. Hugo Strange
First Appearance Thrilling Comics #1 (Feb. 1940)

Original Publisher Nedor
Created by Richard E. Hughes and Alexander Kostuk

Golden Age Appearances: America's Best Comics #1-23, 27, Thrilling Comics #1-64
The untitled story is from America’s Best Comics #15 (1945):

*I did a few small edits in the text for grammar purposes, not any factual information.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Number 2269: Love is a circus

“Savage Sweetheart” is a three-ring circus of love and hate. Marcia loves Leroy and hates David; David loves Marcia and hates Leroy. Leroy loves gambling and he owes $3000 to some crooks. He pretends to love Marcia. The crooks love that they can manipulate Leroy into having Marcia, who is now owner of the circus after the death of her dad, include some crooked gambling into the circus. Despite beautiful Marcia throwing herself at him, Leroy just pretends to love her so he can carry out his felonious plan.

This torrid tale of the tanbark is drawn by Emil Gershwin, and art-spotter Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr puts a question mark beside the name Celardo as inker. According to some biographical information I read online, Gershwin, who usually didn’t sign his name, was a top illustrator, with rave reviews from Alex Toth. Further reading finds that Gershwin assisted Dan Barry on the Tarzan newspaper comic strip, and later John Celardo took over the feature. Some Tarzan-styled stuff is included in the drama, when David fights a lion. I wondered if Emil Gershwin was related to the famous Gershwin brothers, George and Ira. Emil’s daughter, Nancy, says the famous composers were Emil’s first cousins.

The story appeared in ACG’s Romantic Adventures #7 (1950).

Monday, December 03, 2018

Number 2268: Bad old Doctor Time

We begin our December posts with a reminder that time is a relentless and persistent enemy. I think about it a lot. It is one of the reasons I found this story of the Target and the Targeteers appealing; they kick Doctor Time’s butt.

[SPOILER ALERT] When Doctor Time tells his story he says he had invented a serum to stay young, but was framed for murder. He was sentenced to 99 years and got out of prison at age 124! Then to get revenge he created a reverse formula, making people old. As I now know, all too well, no one needs to make a formula to make people old. On the other hand, Doctor Time should have gone into business with his youth formula. That would be a much better revenge. Anyone with such a formula would make himself rich as Croesus, and hopefully without having to be an ugly green criminal with stereotyped Asian henchmen. [END SPOILER]

The art is by Bob Wood, for whom time was not kind. Later in life he killed a woman in a hotel room while on an alcoholic binge. He ended up in prison.

The Target and his two buddies were business partners, and had a long-time career in Target Comics. Wood went on to draw the Claw when he went into business with Charles Biro on Daredevil Comics and other titles for Lev Gleason. This story looks like something Biro may have had something to do with, uncredited. I have seen more than one Biro story go along at a regular pace and then wrap up on the final page by cramming everything into several panels.

From Target Comics Volume 2 Number 5 (whole number 17, 1941):