Monday, April 19, 2021

Number 2514: Dr Miracle's miracles

Dr Miracle is described by the folks at Public Domain Super Heroes:

“. . . the Master of Magic (white magic) who used his “miraculous” powers to fight crime and the Axis powers during World War II. His magic powers included telekinesis, the ability to levitate and fly at tremendous speeds, the ability to elongate his own limbs, the ability to transform himself into a flying ball of fire, the ability to walk through solid walls and the ability to cast illusions, often used to disguise himself or others. He was pretty much given any ability as the plot required, but he was not omnipotent. Apparently, he could not stop bullets, so guns were a potential danger to him. He was not omniscient either, but he was a good detective. Also, he was powerless without the amulet that he wore around his neck. This amulet could neutralize the power of amulets of black magic.”

I like the part about “he was pretty much given any ability as the plot required.” On the one hand a character can be boring if he is always doing the same old stuff (Mandrake “gesturing hypnotically”), but on the other hand, a character who can come up with a power to meet every danger can be dull and give the reader that old so what else is new? attitude. In this story we get to see Dr Miracle wrap some criminals in a fiery ring, and my favorite, Dr Miracle floats through a wall like a ghost. (See the teaser panel above.) A cult leader is the villain, and he leaves some documents that prove he is not who he claims to be. Dr Miracle doesn’t need any special powers to catch someone who is dumb enough to leave damning evidence in plain sight.

From Champ Comics #21 (1942). No writer or artist(s) listed by the Grand Comics Database.


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Number 2513: “Hup! Toop! Thrip! Four!” Soldier ants are marching!

It’s April, and time for the appearance of insects, without whom I would not know it was spring (I don’t get out much), when ants begin their annual invasion. I am not fond of ants making my home a residence, so I have my ways of getting rid of them. What if, though, the ants were as big as a human, and could think. Not only think, but say things like, “O antmen! It is time for your first test! Go forth this night and try your new power! Kill the hated mortals! KILL!”

My usual ant traps would not work with man-sized soldier ants. What I may have to depend on is the solution to get rid of those giant ants in the story. Personally, I had not heard of an enemy of soldier ants, but it is right here.

The artists who soldiered on by drawing this tale, are listed as Ken Bald ? (which means the Grand Comics Database is guessing) for the cover. Dick Beck and George Klein are credited for the artwork on “The Ant Master!” It is from ACG’s Forbidden Worlds #21 (1953).

Monday, April 12, 2021

Number 2512: Tomb it may concern...Frankenstein in love

In this tale of the meandering monster, Frankenstein is smitten with love for a woman who has a young son. Said son gets sick. Appendicitis, no less...oh woe. While the doctor takes the boy to a hospital, Frankenstein makes off with the mom to a nearby tomb, where he keeps her a prisoner...of love. The monster is apparently not up on a mother's love for her child, and of course not only would she rather be with her sick boy, she’d much rather be anywhere else than with the Frankenstein monster.

Dick Briefer, artist/writer, did the story, “Entranced!” for issue number 29 of the Prize Comics’ American Frankenstein comic book. As longtime readers know from lessons I have been pounding into their skulls (I have a big hammer), Dick Briefer had done three different versions of the monster until the title ended when the Comics Code came in.

This black line version is from the UK Frankenstein #4, published by Arnold Book Co. I have blown out the yellow color of the pages and enhanced the black lines. The only things I left alone were the the bottom tier of panels. Arnold Book Co. cut the bottom panel borders off. I guess the act of cutting had something to do with the proportions of the printed product. But really, who knows? Who cares? The comic book has 68 pages, and besides Frankenstein it has a non-Frankenstein story by Briefer, and what looks to be the contents of an issue of Airboy Comics. Also, an ad for their reprints of Black Magic, another Prize Comics title, is done by Mad artist Bill Elder. Elder, who had done it for the EC Mad or Panic comic books. I haven’t done the research (laziness) for which comic it originally appeared in. Maybe one of you know.

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

Number 2511: Those murdering Fleagles

Jack Kirby did a short history of the infamous Fleagle Gang, bank robbers. They robbed a bank in Lamar, Colorado, in 1928, and it's where their life of crime began to catch up with them. The story hits the high notes of the bank robbery and aftermath and is fairly accurate judging by other sources I have read of the Fleagles’ history. A gang member was shot in the jaw by the bank president as the bank was being robbed. Later, a doctor was called to treat the wounded man. Apparently the treacherous Fleagles' solution for not having health insurance was to kill the doctor when his usefulness was over.

Jack Kirby is credited with the artwork, but no writer is given. The 1947 issue of Hillman Publishing’s Clue Comics (Volume 2, Number 3, whole number 15), was the last issue.

Hillman’s “obscene” crime

I have been re-reading Greg Theakston’s Complete Jack Kirby books. In a volume on Kirby’s output in June-August 1947, several crime comics stories by Kirby and Simon are shown. A point Theakston made about Hillman Publishing, where Kirby/Simon art was published for a time after World War II, was that in 1940 a newsdealer who carried a Hillman black and white magazine, Headquarters Detective, was raided by police and all copies of the magazine confiscated. There was a law in several cities, including New York, that publications devoted exclusively to crime were considered obscene. The newsdealer went to jail, and it took a Supreme Court ruling in 1947 that there was uniform freedom of the press, even for publications that were devoted to lurid crime stories.

Theakston made a claim I have never before heard: “By 1947, one of every three periodicals sold in the United States was a comic book. This is an important statistic to consider when examining the war against comics.” Theakston then added, “Who stood to benefit by the condemnation of the comic art form? Using ‘follow the money’ logic we can dismiss the actions of mothers and fathers, teachers and librarians. The real enemies of the comics were the other media. Comics had cut deeply into the sales of movies, magazines and newspapers.”

Theakston did not use any footnotes to guide us to specific evidence his claim was true. I know comic books were big sellers, but were they one third of all American periodical sales? That I don’t know.

Sadly, Greg Theakston is not here to ask. He died in 2019, at age 65.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Number 2510: The “mister-y” of Mr Justice:

Mr Justice...hmmm. That name just doesn’t sound right, considering the origin story of Mr Justice has him a ghost of Prince James of England. Prince James was trapped in a castle, and died. The castle was dismantled and sent to America to be rebuilt. Mr Justice was “born” after a German U-Boat sank the transport ship. Beside wondering about the wisdom of putting a heavy load of stones and building materials on a ship during wartime, shouldn’t Mr Justice to changed to Prince Justice?

Mr Justice isn’t a bad character, as supernatural characters go, and my problem with him being a “mister” changed somewhat when I read the Wikipedia origin of the word “mister:” 

“Mr. (US) or Mr (UK), is a commonly used English honorific for men under the rank of knighthood. The title 'Mr' derived from earlier forms of master, as the equivalent female titles Mrs, Miss, and Ms all derived from earlier forms of mistress.” 

Apparently Mr Justice got a royal demotion, going from prince to mister, but if he can accept that, then so can I.

Script is by Joe Blair, and art by Sam Cooper. From MLJ’s Jackpot #6 (1942):