Friday, June 24, 2016

Number 1910: Man (and heel) of Steel

Steel Sterling had a unique twist to the secret identity business...the superhero dressed in a suit and tie and pretended to be his own twin brother. One brother a superhero, the “twin” a private detective, and a heel with women.

I have shown Steel before, and the same things always bug me about the character. He jumped into a vat of molten steel to be come the Man of Steel. Steel was then hardened like steel rather than becoming a steel girder for a skyscraper.

Steel can fly, but has some unique powers: he can magnetize himself to a car so he can follow it (in the days before GPS tracking), and he can also tune into the radio by positioning his tongue to his teeth. Maybe for his amusement he could tune in The Shadow or The Jack Benny Show.

 I showed Steel Sterling’s origin story in 2011, and as a bonus, I am throwing in a story from Zip Comics #11. Just click on the thumbnails.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Number 1909: The Spawn of the Spawn of the Spawn of Venus

“The Spawn of Venus” by Wallace Wood is a famous unpublished EC Comics story. It was originally drawn by Al Feldstein (who also wrote it) in 1950 for Weird Science #6. A few years later the story was re-drawn by Wallace Wood for a 3-D comic that was never published. The market fell out from under the 3-D comics, and the artwork went on the shelf.

Feldstein’s art is very crude and stiff compared to Wood’s, like a layout for the latter version. I scanned it from the reprint of Weird Science #6, published in 1993.

Wood’s art for the 3-D version was sold by Heritage Auctions in 2011 for $38,837.50. I am using the HA scans here, which show the layers of depth. I also love its patina after many years, adding to its charm. This job wasn’t easy for Wood, because of the amount of opaquing (white paint) on the back of each figure on each overlay to prevent show-through.

The story was first published was in 1969 in Wood’s own magazine, Witzend. I took my scans from the photocopies I made before I (sob, sniff...) sold it on eBay. I hated letting it go when I sold it, and regret it to this day. But that is how a lot of things I wish I still had went missing from my collection. At least I had the presence of mind to make copies. I am sure that whatever money I made in selling it went to something frivolous like groceries or a mortgage payment.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Number 1908: Blackhawk, Red Laura, Nazis...and ratty Scavengers

This very early Blackhawk story looks a lot like Will Eisner’s work, but is signed by Chuck Cuidera. Eisner is credited with creating the feature, and Cuidera drew the origin in Military Comics #1. In this story, from Military Comics #5 (1941), the resemblance of Blackhawk, shirtless and tied to a whipping post, and the Spirit in many stories penciled by Eisner, is striking.

It also has some other Eisner hallmarks, including grotesque villains (the rat-like Scavengers) and a beautiful bad girl, Red Laura. Cuidera handled the feature until he entered military service, then returned after the war to become Quality Comics’ art director, and among other assignments, inker of Blackhawk. He went with his penciler, Dick Dillin, to DC, when Quality publisher Everett “Busy” Arnold sold his entire line to his former competition. Blackhawk continued on until 1968 with the Dillin and Cuidera team.

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t point out Chop Chop. In this story he’s almost as ugly as the Scavengers. Cuidera was with Blackhawk long enough that later the depictions of Chop Chop became human. He was even a member of the team, not just a cartoon buffoon. But this early entry in the Blackhawk saga has Chop Chop in his full-on racist version. It was the times, folks...and we show 'em as they were.

In 2013 I showed the last Blackhawk story published by Quality, followed by the first story done by DC. You can see them by clicking on the thumbnail.