Monday, August 30, 2021

Number 2552: From immortal goddess to everyday queen

Camilla the Jungle Queen was introduced in Jungle Comics #1 (1940), and was seen in that comic book until the publisher, Fiction House, closed shop in 1954. The curious part of this back-of-the-book jungle girl is that she was introduced as one thing, and then became someone else. Don Markstein, in his Toonopedia blog, describes her first appearances as a “knock-off of H. Rider Haggard’s” 19th century Ayesha. ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed,’ who ruled a lost kingdom hidden from European explorers in a previously little-visited part of the world.”

After awhile Camilla had a re-origin, if there is such a word. She became a typical comic book jungle girl, who was descended from an heiress. During those comic book days jungle queens were readily available. Fiction House had a few of its own as regular features of issues of comic books coming off the presses every month. Did anyone wonder why Jumbo Comics had “Sheena the Queen of the Jungle” and Jungle Comics featured “Camilla, the Jungle Queen” in the same line of comic books? Fiction House was its own universe, and each comic they produced had no relationship to the other Fiction House comics. Did anyone care? It is obvious to me why the guys buying these comic books liked beautiful women in abbreviated costumes, and sex appeal was part of the Fiction House appeal.

This entry in the Camilla saga is from Jungle Comics #88 (1947), and is drawn by Fran Hopper, one of the female stars of Fiction House.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Number 2551: A Pogo/Aesop fable

Walt Kelly did like many story tellers, using fables and fairy tales that go back centuries to tell a modern version. “The Ants and the Grasshopper” is a well known Aesop’s fable that promotes work during the season to get food, rather than goofing off on other things, and ending up with no food.

The fable, here from the Library of Congress, is harsh. We know the idea of gathering for future needs is practical, but come on...the grasshopper practices his violin. He asks the ants for food and they turn him down. Then they admonish him for not doing what he should do. But...we all need music, too, so they could give him a free lunch at least to thank him for providing background music. But no. Those ants aren’t handing out any love thy neighbor exceptions. They are hard nosed.

Pogo meets the actors in the fable, but Walt Kelly turns things around. The grasshopper is an indolent one, but the ants are the musicians. Pogo and his fellow Okefenokee Swamp critters don’t really work for their food. No, their job is to talk a lot and say witty things. In the usual Pogo story the food often comes from off camera, and as in the story, usually by guile rather than work.

From Pogo Possum #3 (1950):

Monday, August 23, 2021

Number 2550: Wildcat murder masquerade

At first look I thought the art for this Wildcat story was by Joe Kubert. A closer look told me it was either not Kubert or someone inking over his pencils. The Grand Comics Database credits the artwork to Gil Kane, and it appears to be at least inspired by Kubert’s style.

Both Gil Kane and Kubert started work in the comics business early on when in their teens. They did the typical flunky work at first, erasing, drawing panel borders, etc. They both went to art school, and before long were drawing and inking. Kane had a reputation as an action artist, which is how I have always thought of him. The Green Lantern and Atom revivals in the early '60s are where I first saw his work. His style was perfect for superhero work, although he did the jobs he was assigned, no matter the subject.

Wildcat is a DC character whose Golden Age career spanned the first 90 issues of Sensation Comics. Not a bad run, but Wildcat, like a lot of other secondary characters, never got a star spot in those years. According to Don Markstein’s Toonopedia (one of my go-to references for many super characters of that era) Wildcat was a boxer who inadvertently killed an opponent, and was on the hitlist of the gangsters who put a poisoned needle in his boxing glove. Markstein writes: “Wildcat was the creation of writer Bill Finger and artist Irwin Hasen. Finger (rhymes with ‘zinger’, not ‘linger.’)” See what you and I both learn? I have seen Bill Finger’s name for years, but the pronunciation is a surprise to me.

Wildcat in “Murder Masquerade” is from Sensation Comics #77 (1948).

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Number 2549: Chain killer...another dope addict turned to murder

Red-Hot Blaze has the files on crime. He figures that the killer of one woman is actually the killer of four women, with consistency in the killer’s modus operandi from victim to victim. But, as Red-Hot tells his young unnamed pal (unnamed but for “sonny” and “kid”) he has the real clues in his files on who is committing those egregious crimes, a chain murderer, no less. Red-Hot says to the lad that he is sending the files to Headline Comics to solve the mystery. Golly gee, Mr Blaze...would sending the information to the police be a wiser choice?

(Was “chain murderer” used in the past to describe what is now known as serial killer? Or is the term a figment of Red-Hot Blaze’s imagination?)

The story, in the all-Kirby and Simon Headline Comics #24 (1947), ends up with some dope dissing, part of the tactics in those days to try and keep kids off drugs.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Number 2548: “Do my bidding through your frozen brains...”

Weird Comics is aptly named, or at least as far as is shown in this chapter of the Sorceress of Zoom series. The sorceress has her own magic city, which she can send anywhere. That sounds good. Why travel the old fashioned way, airplane, car, horse-and-buggy, if you could just take your home and city, and plop it down where you want to go?

Toonopedia’s Don Markstein says of the Sorceress of Zoom, who appeared in the first 20 issues of Weird Comics, that she was a villain who later became a hero, but more of “an ambiguous hero like Sub-Mariner.” Would you trust anyone who was described as ambiguous? Not me.

The article also says the early adventures were drawn by Don Rico, and he may have created the Sorceress of Zoom. It appears the history of the feature is also ambiguous.

From Weird Comics #5 (1940):

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Number 2547: “There's a Starman, waiting in the sky...”


The impetus for showing this Starman story is the David Bowie son, "Starman," which is now an earworm due to a television commercial. I am hoping posting this will make the earworm go away. The story, which is the last Starman story, is from Adventure Comics #102 (1946). Superheroes were being cancelled after the war, because many of them were out of favor with readers. Oh well...Starman was a filler feature anyway. 

Art is credited to Emil Gershwin.