Sunday, July 26, 2020

Number 2443: Not much mystery in Mystery Men

I have wondered what it was like during the explosion of comic books at newsstands and magazine sellers during their early days. Especially if a kid had just 10¢ and was trying to choose one comic from an abundance of titles. As Mystery Men Comics #1 (1939) shows, the first thing is to have an eye-catching cover. That was provided by Lou Fine, and would cause the kid to look at it. As the kid leafed through the pages he would see a typical anthology: a variety of characters, superheroes, science fiction, cowboys, spies, magicians. Mystery Men #1 provided all of the elements a comic book reader reader would expect.

Will Eisner and staff provided the artwork. Eisner even got a byline on the two-page text story, “The Haunted House.” Furthermore, Eisner gets a question mark in the listing for the story of the Blue Beetle in the Grand Comics Database. They aren’t sure if Eisner did the script, nor am I. It is known that Charles Nicholas (aka Wojtkowski) did the artwork. It is not an origin story, but it is the first appearance of the Blue Beetle in comic books. It is a four-pager, placed toward the back of the book. How much attention did a kid in 1939 give the story? Of all the stories in that comic book, Blue Beetle is the only one whose name has been used up until the present day. Some comic book historians have said the Blue Beetle was inspired by the radio hero, the Green Hornet. Originality is not a prerequisite for publication in comic books, then or now.

If you choose to read all the stories you will find them not very original, exactly like most other comics on sale at the time. But by looking back 81 years you can see what your grandparents...or great grandparents, saw when they went to buy a comic book.

Rex Dexter of Mars first appeared in Mystery Men Comics #1. His origin was retold in a one-shot comic book, with a variation on his origin, and then the origin story reprinted from Mystery Men. You can see both from a 2013 Pappy's post. Just click on the thumbnail.


Daniel [] said...

Even thirty or thirty five years later, I would have missed 10¢ per day; and I wonder for just how many days boys and girls would have had to surrender those dimes to get that typewriter. I think that, of the boys and girls who wanted a typewriter, those reading Mystery Men Comics would also have been reading the pulps, while many of them who read the pulps would not have read Mystery Men Comics, so that the advertisement were not well placed.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I have no idea why Remington Rand would think a comic book was a good place to put an advertisement for a typewriter. My eyes glaze over when looking at ads like these.

I have an opinion on the gimmick of 10¢ a day. I'm sure that even if they sent a typewriter on approval, a bill for the full price would quickly follow. Any kid (or adult) who envisioned mailing the company 10¢ a day would be in for a surprise when the billing department apprised them that a dime a day was a come-on, and what's more, here is the bill and the full amount, plus shipping, payable now.

Daniel [] said...

Buying typewriters on installment plans was once quite common.

I got curious about the typewriter being advertised. What's shown in the ad is a Deluxe Noiseless; a little on-line reading revealed that these were made from May 1938 to April 1941,* and that in 1940 they cost $72.50 in installments. So, from the dime-per-day claim, we may infer that buyers were given about two years to pay-off the amount, probably with a down-payment of about $3 and then a monthly payment of $3.

I stand by my belief that buying an ad in Mystery Men Comics was a bad idea, but I also think that a kid who, beginning in 1939, would scrape together $3 per month for two years in order to buy a typewriter probably accomplished quite a bit later in his or her life. (Me, I sacrificed no more than a birthday or Christmas wish to get my first typewriter.)

*Typewriter production was halted for the duration of the war, as factories were retasked.

Darci said...

Looking at Dan Garrett taking Vitamin 2X reminds us immediately of Bob Benton taking "formic ether", but that was 1941. Even Rex Tyler taking Miraclo didn't start until 1940. So maybe not so unoriginal?

Pappy said...

Darci, thanks for showing (again) your remarkable memory. I appreciate your insight.

Pappy said...

Daniel, I guess my blogs can be more provocative than I ever envisioned. We're having a conversation about typewriters.

I used a manual typewriter during my Army days as a clerk in Germany. When I got home my mother gave me my late father's IBM electric and she kept his old manual. The IBM lasted about 20 years and I used it constantly, typing every document I made in those years. I never had to buy a typewriter.

(As an aside, I took a type class in 8th grade, and the typewriters were manual. In the '70s I went to work for a school district where my old typing teacher still worked, although by then she had been promoted. I told her she had provided me with a good job in the Army by teaching me to type, and thanked her. I don't believe anyone had ever thanked her.)