Sunday, July 05, 2020

Number 2440: Tom Mix and a hearty breakfast

Ralston-Purina made animal food, and also made breakfast cereal. Both the animal food division and the breakfast cereal division have been sold a few times, and I’m not really interested in all that. I am interested in Ralston-Purina’s affiliation with Western movie star Tom Mix. A radio show based on Mix was sponsored by Ralston-Purina, and in 1940 they produced a comic book version of Mix. For two box tops from Ralston Purina cereal a fan could get the comic book in the mail! That’s worth buying a couple of boxes of cereal, I guess. The first issue came out in 1940, and I have the whole issue here.

It looks like some thought (and hard work) went into it. It is a top-notch comic book for 1940. The artwork, by Fred Meagher (pronounced “Mar”) for the Tom Mix stories is excellent. It looks like the issue may have been produced with help from Charles Biro (Daredevil, Boy Comics, Crime Does Not Pay, et al.) Biro signed one of the stories. There are also a couple of racial caricatures of a type sadly common 80 years ago, so be aware.

Tom Mix Comics had nine issues, then three more as Tom Mix Commandos Comics, switching to a wartime theme. The partnership with Tom Mix ended there, although Tom Mix had nothing to do with it, as he was deceased. He died in 1940 on an Arizona road when he crashed his 1937 Cord. The Tom Mix business continued without Tom Mix. Other actors had been portraying Mix on the radio show. The posthumous heroics of Tom Mix continued with a series of stories in a couple of Fawcett’s anthology comics, Master Comics and Western Heroes, as well as his own title for 61 issues, from 1948 until Fawcett ended its comic book line in 1953.


Daniel [] said...

Yes indeed, the production values of this comic book were quite high for their time.

I wonder if someone ordered the advertisements deliberately to have the reference to fried Ralston on the same page as Tom was avoiding being electrically “fried”. (Of course, it was extraordinary luck that allowed Tom to land on all the witnesses to his arrival, as opposed to crashing into something and adding still more Xs to the chart, before the aforementioned witnesses added more Os.)

The scale of the rustlers' power plant was absurd, but I've seen a lot of popular entertainment from that time and earlier which arbitrarily includes things of that sort.

Tony seems truly to have been remarkably intelligent. I don't quite know how Mix felt about Tony. On the one hand, he had that horse perform some very dangerous stunts; on the other hand, Mix retired Tony after he was slightly and recoverably injured. Tony died two years to-the-day after Mix.

rnigma said...

Leonard Maltin, in "The Great American Broadcast," wrote: "The Tom Mix Ralston Straight Shooters (radio show) was a pet project of 'Old Man' Danforth, founder and president of Ralston, who'd been a Tom Mix fan when he was a kid." For much of its run, Curley Bradley, a busy Chicago radio actor, played Mix.
Jim Harmon attempted to revive the show in the '70s, again with Bradley in the title role.

vgmclassics said...

Interesting to see that Fred Meagher held back enough to draw Wash in a realistic manner as opposed to attempting to capitalize on Little Black Sambo’s visuals, which many companies didn’t hold back on and probably goes to show the nature of the beast of comic book business from back then, in that many bosses from their viewpoints would gladly push aside human decency for racial caricatures if it meant selling more books off the stands.

-3- said...

Fine timing, Pappy. I've been enjoying these Tom Mix Comics and the few issues of Tom Mix Commandos that followed, and am currently posting Jane At Dream Castle. Jane in that comic is Jane Webb, one of Tom Mix's Straight Shooters. Comic fans might like to know that she grew up to play Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Betty & Veronica, and many other familiar characters as a voice actor on '60s & '70s cartoons.

Only 12 issues with the combined run, but they packed a lot of well crafted fun into those pages.

@vgmclassics: I suspect that it helped that Wash was a real person with photographs running around as part of the Straight Shooters. But, whatever the reason, i appreciated it, too.

Darci said...

By coincidence, I was watching the first 2 episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies (where the Clampetts became millionaires and moved to California) and Jed asked if they'd be living near Tom Mix? They had to inform Jed that Tom passed some years previously. That was in 1962.

Pappy said...

Darci, the only tie-in I can think of with The Beverly Hillbillies is that I probably watched that episode when it was new. I liked Buddy Ebsen. He was around for a long time, including working in Hollywood when Tom Mix died.

Pappy said...

vgmclassics and -3-: thanks for your input. My objection to Wash wasn't his portrayal, which wasn't as crude and cruel as were being published in those days, but in his speech. I hate reading dialect for characters, anyway, but that ascribed to black people is for me part and parcel of racial prejudice.

More typical for its time is the depiction of Wash on page 15, as drawn by a young "artist."