Monday, January 24, 2022

Number 2595: The great lover, Jon Juan

Jon Juan, is, as today’s title declares, a great lover. In the story we are told he is a man who gets what he wants.

Jerry Siegel and Alex Schomburg are the writer and artist who did this story of a gallant gentleman/sex addict. Jon is not only the world’s greatest lover, he can fight, too. Swordplay! Even a scene of knife fighting! To Jon Juan a kiss is worth risking a fight with armed interlopers. He is immortal. On the make and doesn't die. A longtime dream of many men...although 'tis just a fantasy. 

The story was originally published in Toby Comics’ one-shot, Jon Juan (1950). I got it from a 1958 IW reprint, Dream of Love #8. I showed the story previously in 2011.

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Number 2594: That law-breaking district attorney, Mr Scarlet

The Fawcett comics hero, Mr Scarlet, is Brian Butler, a District Attorney. As a DA he can’t put all of the crooks and criminals away, so at night he dresses up in a bright red costume and goes out to kick crook butts. The Public Domain superheroes website calls him a “vigilante,” which, to Brian, is okay. If he goes around the law, well then, why not? He’d probably only get bounced from office if the voters knew. Or maybe not. In the era Mr Scarlet and Pinky appeared the idea of a vigilante wasn’t as shady as it is now.

Mr Scarlet (and Pinky) were around for a few years as secondary characters, never getting their own comic book, unlike several other Fawcett heroes.

What surprised me is that writer France Herron and artist Jack Kirby are given credit for creating Mr Scarlet. I should not be surprised, because I have always felt that Jack Kirby could come up with a superhero at the snap of his fast-drawing fingers. But in my opinion, Mr Scarlet seems mostly from hunger, derived from other superheroes.

From Wow Comics #10 (1943). No writer or artist is credited by the Grand Comics Database.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Number 2593: A key not to own, here in the Twilight Zone

Like my peers in the late '50s and early '60s, I watched television, everything everybody else watched. We watched Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Thriller, One Step Beyond, Outer Limits, and of course The Twilight Zone. Even if one had never watched the latter, today we know that the show’s title has taken on a meaning as part of our speech, “twilight zone” means to me an event that has a level of strangeness, not easily understood. Other definitions may vary, but people know it means something mysterious when they hear the phrase.

There was nothing new about such stories with O'Henry-style endings, but the musical theme and host Rod Serling’s dramatic openings to the the stories have stayed in the culture for decades now...60 years at least.

When I saw a Twilight Zone comic book I snapped it up. I showed this story from the Gold Key Twilight Zone #4 (1963) in 2007. It’s drawn by Alex Toth, and its ending fits into those stories enjoyed by the fans of the Twilight Zone and the genre.

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Number 2592: The thrilling Bill Everett draws the thrilling action for the thrilling Amazing Man

In the early days of comic fandom (early 1960s) a man* had a letter published in a fanzine with an article telling why Amazing Man was so amazing. Amazing Man (or John Aman, taking a test by some Tibetans who had raised him) could fight a cobra with his hands tied behind his back, and he could survive knives being thrown into his body. The writer of the letter called those events "thrilling." 

It took me a couple of decades before I was able to see the origin story of Amazing Man, and I guess those panels are thrilling. (I was impressionable in those days.)

Bill Everett, who created, wrote and drew this origin story, moved on after a while. Centaur, the publisher of Amazing Man, went out of business, and Everett went on to other comic book character, including Sub-Mariner. 

Everett died young, but in his time he was a “thrilling” good artist, just as that long ago comics fan claimed.

*The letter writer's name I don't remember. It was a long, very long time ago.

From Amazing Man Comics #5 (actual issue #1, 1939):

Monday, January 10, 2022

Number 2591: H. H. Holmes...the gallows got him

Over 11 years ago I first showed this story of the notorious serial killer, H. H. Holmes. At the time I neglected to mention it contains one of the most egregiously violent panels in crime comics. In the panel Holmes kills a child with a knife. The action is done in silhouette, but the dead mother is in the foreground, with blood dripping from her dead mouth. I wonder if that panel might be the reason that Fred Gardineer did not sign the splash panel with his signature, something he was otherwise known to do?

H. H. Holmes was born Herman Webster Mudgett, in 1861. He is the murderer known for the torture castle in Chicago. It is hard to tell what is true and what is exuberance from yellow journalists sensationalizing Holmes’s murderous lair. Holmes padded his own image as a killer. He lied about his body count, claiming to have killed people who were actually still living.

Besides the gruesome violence mentioned, something in the last panel gives me pause. When Holmes is hanged he is wearing the same clothes as he was wearing in court when he was sentenced. Maybe, with his status as a murderer to live up to, he did not want to be hung in some ugly old prison clothes. Holmes was only 34 years old when the gallows got him, and perhaps he wanted to look stylish.

From Crime Does Not Pay #53 (1947):