Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Number 2305: A Seduction tale: Hands off!

This story, from Tom Mix Western #9, is what is called a Seduction of the Innocent (or SOTI) story. The complaint about  “Hands Off!” is told in Chapter 12 of Fredric Wertham, M.D.’s infamous anti-comics book. If you go to the link below you will find a blogsite with the chapter, which will explain more. Why Wertham and Tom Mix Western publisher Fawcett got into the threat of a lawsuit for libel and other back-and-forth between them is fascinating, with its example of how a publisher could become defensive about their product when it was singled out by Wertham.

As for my opinion of the story, I think it is thin; Tom has a dummy of himself, made by Indians. Why? No reason given. It figures into the story’s end, though. In one of his rebuttals to Fawcett’s argument Wertham says there are three pictures of “hacked-off hands” in a box found by two little boys. No hands are shown in the pictures, so that’s misleading. Cutting off hands does seem to be the talent of the tale’s villain, besides being a sharpshooter who has escaped from an “insane asylum.” Wertham doesn’t mention the two pages of panels where Tom Mix is hanging by his wrists from a tree limb. Bondage and torture were big in comic books, but if the victim and villain are both male, maybe it didn’t count with Wertham.

Comedy relief was supplied by a panel of Tom Mix standing on his head and shooting his gun while riding his galloping horse. As a kid I saw acrobatic cowboy action in many of the old B-movie Westerns I watched, but that one was new to me!

Tom Mix Western #9 was published in 1948; Grand Comics Database has no artist or writer listed.

Fredric Wertham, M.D., spoke of this Tom Mix story in his book, Seduction of the Innocent. You can read the relevant information on this website: Altruistic World Online Library.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Number 2204: Give Mighty Man a great big hand!

I like the splash panel for this adventure of Mighty Man from. It tells us Mighty Man’s powers: He can grow! He can shrink! He can change his features! I especially like the big hand he can produce to get to his enemies. It reminds me of Plastic Man, but without the plastic. I like what Don Markstein’s Toonopedia says about Mighty Man: “Mighty Man was such an early jumper-on to the Superman bandwagon, it was still possible to give him a generic name, one that, like Wonder Man or Amazing-Man, says nothing about the character except ‘I'm a super guy.’”

The episode is evidently part of a longer story, but is full of Mighty Man’s tricks on a villain called the Witch, whose witch powers apparently give her the appearance of a normal looking young woman. (What? No broom?) I also like that Mighty Man can become Mighty Kid. I guess that is where one of the promises of the splash panel comes in: He can change his features!

Grand Comics Database attributes both story and art to Martin Filchock. Filchock is the creator of Mighty Man, according to Public Domain Super Heroes. The story appeared in Centaur’s Stars and Stripes Comics #2 (1941).

Friday, February 22, 2019

Number 2303: Wacky Wolverton

“Professor Jogg’s Travelogs” was a one-shot strip (I can’t find any other listings under that title). It appeared in the late forties, and is typical funny Basil Wolverton, full of alliteration (“Plunk your peepers on that peculiar puss, Professor!”) and internal rhyming (“It’s okay to gawk, but sock a lock on the loud talk!”)

It was published in Marvel’s Gay Comics #27 (1947). I believe the editor was Stan Lee, who was smart. He gave Wolverton his lead, letting him write, draw and even letter his own comics, much like Harvey Kurtzman did with his one-page “Hey Look!” strips for Lee around the same time.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Number 2302: Captain Marvel and the space dragon

I have always assumed that Captain Marvel stories were done for youngsters, probably ages eight to twelve years. The drawings are usually fairly innocuous for comic books,* and Otto Binder, who wrote most of them, had a sense of humor so they can’t be taken seriously. This is also a story where someone says they can defeat a space dragon by gathering up “atomic rockets” and Captain Marvel does just that. He collects 1,093 atomic rockets, which if aimed at Earth might end all life on the planet. It never ceases to amaze me when I read in comic books — I have shown the phenomenon before — where the hero is handed nuclear weapons to use at his own discretion to end a threat.

The dragon is discovered by prison inmate Bozo Smith. I like that Captain Marvel works toward Bozo’s rehabilitation, even though his capture by Captain Marvel sent him to prison.

The story originally appeared in Captain Marvel Adventures #104 (1950). I scanned it from a 1953 Captain Marvel Annual from the UK. The whole annual (all 32 pages) is in color, which is unusual for reprints from the UK.

Grand Comics Database does not guess the writer and artist, so I’ll take a (hopefully educated) guess that it was written by Otto Binder, and drawn by the C.C. Beck studio.

*About 1953 Captain Marvel turned to horror for some of the stories, when horror comics became the vogue. Here is a link; just click on the thumbnail.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Number 2301: The Gunpowder Plot

Simon and Kirby dipped into the history books for this tale of insurrection and a murder plot during the reign of King James I of England. Guy Fawkes,* who was a conspirator attacking the throne, has had a long lifespan in the history of England .

Jack Kirby and Joe Simon did some fine artwork in this story, and looked as if they enjoyed drawing the old clothing and hair styles, not to mention the armor and fighting men. But the story was used in a crime comic book, so they tweaked it to fit the usual crime comic book clichés. In real life Guy Fawkes, at the moment of his execution, probably did not give a sermon saying, in essence, “Crime does not pay.” History says he gave an apology to the king. He was also not hanged, as the story shows. He jumped off the scaffold and broke his neck, killing himself. It didn’t spare poor Guy’s corpse from being quartered. The public came to see a bloody and cruel execution and the public were not disappointed.

The religious component is left out, also. The Gunpowder plot was an attempt to murder the king and replace him with a Catholic sovereign. You may remember from your history books that James’ relative, Henry VIII, had a falling out with the Pope over his plans to divorce his wife. It has always struck me as backwards that they would leave religion out of a story like this, which sold itself as being historical, but I understand why they did not want to get complaints and letters from offended church members. Instead they did not spare the reader some brutal torture scenes. Like the bloodthirsty public of the 17th century, the 20th century public would be shown the violent stuff so they would not go away disappointed.

From Headline Comics #31 (1947):

*I am aware of Alan Moore and David Lloyd's V For Vendetta, and the impact the Guy Fawkes mask has had. I am mentioning it, although it is outside the scope of this blog.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Number 2300: The Fox from Montana

The Montana mentioned in the title of this, my 2300th posting for this blog, is artist Bob Montana. He is best known for being the artist who gave the original look to Archie and his gang back in 1942. Before he became linked to Archie (comic books and a long-running newspaper comic strip), he drew more regular comic book fare for various publishers. That includes this episode of the Fox from Blue-Ribbon Comics #18 (1941).

Montana could draw superhero action as well as the more passive Archie teenage poses. He could also draw the sort of thing that caused the hue and cry of those who thought comic books unfit for young minds. The splash panel for this tale is a good example. In Archie comics being “stabbed in the back” was not shown as literal, as it is here.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Number 2299: Advice for a woman in love: lead with your left

Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, so it is a good time for a love story. First, I love Bill Everett’s artwork on “When a Woman Fights Back.” Everett was one of the best artists in comics, yet I think this is the first love story by him I have seen. For me it is a Valentine’s box of chocolates and Valentine card from my sweetie, all rolled into one.

Being a love story means there is drama: Florrie loses her boyfriend, Ray, to the rich girl, Gloria Dane. Ray is on a success track with her father and cannot refuse her blatant advances. You can see his distress when Gloria tells him she has excellent taste...especially in men! (Last panel, page 3.) Had I been in Ray’s shoes I would have wondered how many she means by using the plural “men.” Florrie’s dad, who has raised her since his wife died in childbirth, is comfortable enough to sit on Florrie’s bed while she sits at her dressing table half dressed. He gives her advice that she should fight for her man. By that he means fight in the boxing sense, and in a public assault Florrie does. I wonder what Florrie would be capable of after she got away with it? Next time shoot her rival...? The story does not extend that far, ending as it does on a happy note of love for the young couple.

This hard-hitting story is from Love Tales #50 (1952).