Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Number 2588: Witch Hazel’s niece, Little Itch, makes her debut

Despite the title of today's post, I am not sure the story, “Ol Witch Hazel and Her Niece, Little Itch,” is the actual debut of Little Itch. I looked at various sources, including the Grand Comics Database, and they list the story as the debut, but with a question mark. They are guessing, like me.

You’d think a grown man would have better things to do than spend a morning looking for such arcane information, wouldn’t you? You’d be correct.

Despite wasting time on the search, I am happy for the story, typical to me of writer John Stanley’s talent. My favorites from the Little Lulu comic books are Witch Hazel and Little Itch. This is the final story I am posting for the Little Lulu and Her Special Friends Annual #3, from 1955. Little Itch’s first appearance or not, Lulu’s impromptu and inspired story, by way of John Stanley, still made me laugh.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Number 2587: Dr Sivana’s vampire

How dumb can people get, anyway? The city fathers have brought to America a castle from Transylvania and rebuilt it as a museum for a park. It is said that at one time a vampire lived in that castle. Ewwww...that is dumb, folks! In this comic book there is a mad scientist and a superhero who is a young boy in “real life.” One should not tempt fate by putting innocent people in a place where a vampire lived. After all, vampires don’t just die, do they? Everybody knows that...don’t they? Maybe not.

This story appeared in The Marvel Family #4 (1946). According to the Grand Comics Database It is credited to C.C. Beck (with a question mark) for pencils, and inking by Pete Costanza. The story is credited to Otto Binder.


Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Number 2586: I read the news today, oh boy — boys can fight!

Newsboys, once a common sight in big cities, sold newspapers on the street. In the pre-television and pre-Internet days they hustled their papers to the many people on the sidewalk, morning and afternoon. Newspapers are becoming passé, and kids selling them on the street are gone. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon used newsboys as another kid gang. Their token adult was the Guardian, a civilian who put on a costume and used underage boys to help him fight.

The Newsboy Legion, along with the Guardian, were created in the early '40s and got cancelled later in the decade. Simon and Kirby also created Boy Commandos, which followed much the same arrangement of team members. A male adult, and some underage boys. I have always assumed the boys were meant to bring interest to teenage and younger boys who would identify with some kids their own age kicking the butts of criminals or America’s enemies. That feature also came to an end in the late '40s.

Jack Kirby could draw action, and perhaps it was about what he said a few times in interviews: when he was a kid he fought a lot. When people got socked in a Jack Kirby panel you know it had to hurt. In that way Jack could reminisce at the drawing board about the fists that had flown in skirmishes from his youth.

From Star-Spangled Comics #14 (1942):

Monday, December 20, 2021

Number 2585: The uplifting story of Ginger and Ickky

In the splash panel of today’s story Ginger seems not too hot on buying a pair of spike heels, but a couple of pages later we see her in platform shoes. Her boyfriend, Ickky, feels threatened by her added height, and has to do something about it. It reminds me of an old advertising campaign for Adler Elevator Shoes, whose shoes could add 2 inches to a guy’s height. The slogan was, “Now you can be taller than she is.” They don't mention, “Unless she is wearing 3" or 4" heels or platforms, that is.”

Ginger was published, as you have probably noticed, by those folks who gave us the Archie comics dynasty. Ginger lasted only 10 issues from 1952 to 1954. The artwork here is by Harry Lucey.

“Shoes Your Partner” is from Ginger #6 (1953):

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Number 2584: The Clock strikes midnight

The Clock, created by George Brenner, is known as the first masked hero in comic books.  The Clock was yet another rich person who put on a mask, and went out to take on criminals. The pulp magazine heroes were the inspiration, and they were what the Clock was striving to be. Pulp magazines had a lot of text, and undoubtedly daunting for children to read. The Clock was a bridge between pulps and comics. He appeared first in Funny Picture Stories in 1936.

Clock creator George Brenner went to work for Everett “Busy” Arnold. Brenner created other characters, including my favorite, Bozo the Robot. Arnold made Brenner editor of the Quality Comics line, but he was fired in 1949. (Some say it was because of drinking, although some dispute that. So, another mystery from the Golden Age.)

In this story we have an element I call a dumb idea that for some reason works. The Clock sends the villain a business card that says he will strike at midnight, and he does. Despite being warned, the bad guy gets the Clock in his house. Only in the comics.

I like a couple of things. One, when a henchman says about the District Attorney, “He has a ‘way’ with gals...ha-ha...if ya get what I mean.” Maybe the kids reading this comic in 1940 didn’t know what he means, but I get it. And in the very last panel the Clock, as Brian O'Brien, tells his friend and helper, Pug, that because he knows the Clock’s secret identity he can tell no one, even if it should mean death. Pug agrees. In my opinion, asking someone to die for you is really asking a lot, if ya get what I mean.

From Crack Comics #1 (1940):


Monday, December 13, 2021

Number 2583: John Lee survived the gallows

Englishman John Lee, often called John “Babbacombe” Lee, was sentenced to death and met the hangman in 1885. The gallows trap door did not open, and after three attempts to hang the murderer, his sentence was changed to life imprisonment.

The version of John Lee, surviving execution as told in Crime Does Not Pay #26 (1943), has the basic story of Lee fairly straight, but the ending is fanciful. The problem is that Lee’s further fate, after prison is mostly unknown. Some say his fate brought him to the United States after deserting his family in England, the rotter! Lee is purported to have emigrated after deserting his wife and children. It makes for a good story, anyway, which makes it sound a lot like folklore.

Art by Dick Briefer.