Friday, February 05, 2016

Number 1850: Classic horror: the Brain Bats of Venus

I am in the mood for classic horror, a Basil Wolverton tale. It has been reprinted several times, but if you haven’t seen it, you might be surprised that the same artist who could draw the hilarious Powerhouse Pepper, Bing Bang Buster, et al., could also be one of the best pre-Code horror comics artists.

“The Brain Bats of Venus,” which I saw for the first time over 50 years ago, gives me a chill. It is the look of that thing on the astronaut’s head. Cosplayers take note: you’d look splendid at the next comic con if you made one of the brain bats out of papier mâché and perched it on your head. Yow!

These are scans from the original printing in Mister Mystery #7 (1952).

Click on the thumbnail, read a funny Wolverton Powerhouse Pepper story, and another classic horror story, “They Crawl by Night!” featuring the CRABMEN!

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Number 1849: Boy Commandos in Davy Jones’ Locker

Death comes to us all. As the caption on page 3 of “Davy Jones’ Uninvited Guests” reminds us, “The brave, the weak, the rich, the poor — all must go...” Gulp! Thanks for reminding me!

This fantasy comes to us from the Simon and Kirby studio, and features the Boy Commandos. They have survived the war only to succumb to a mine on the International Date Line, and find themselves fighting the souls of dead pirates. Holy Pirates of the Caribbean.

It is from Boy Commandos #14 (1946). The Grand Comics Database attributes the art to Louis Cazeneuve, and the writing to Joe Samachson, both with question marks because the GCD isn’t sure.

It has been a few years since I last showed a Boy Commandos story. Click the thumbnail:

Monday, February 01, 2016

Number 1848: The Latin Bombshell from Hoboken

By a show of hands, how many of you remember the Mexican Spitfire, Lupe Vélez? Hm. I see some of you remember. For the rest, Ms Vélez was born in Mexico. She became a movie star in her country, then came to America in the late 1920s and became a Hollywood movie star. She found success in movies, and failure in love. At times her public image overcame recognition for her movie roles. She had a reputation as hot-blooded, “tempestuous,” as I’ve read. She loved Gary Cooper, who would not marry her. She loved Johnny Weissmuller, who did, but they could not stay married. In 1944, after yet another busted romance, she tragically ended her own life.

In our story today, the star Nita Gomez, the Latin Bombshell, is patterned after Ms Vélez. In this version her antics are also distractions that hurt her career. Even her one noble act, taking the blame for an accident committed by her lover and co-star, Jimmy Dean (!!) gets her in trouble. 

[SPOILER] The difference is that Nita is really Nancy Grogan from Hoboken. Love comics are meant to send our hearts soaring because the lovers connect by the final panel, and Nita/Nancy finds true love...with the wealthy studio boss. My advice to my female readers is, if you can’t have the guy you love, then marry someone rich. If you can talk him out of having to sign a pre-nup the divorce settlement will be much better.[END SPOILER].

From Quality Comics’ Love Secrets #41 (1941), reprinted from Love Confessions #9 (1951). Artist and writer are uncredited by the Grand Comics Database.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Number 1847: “Crime doesn’t seem to pay.”

The quirky, oddball art of Fletcher Hanks is covered in two excellent Fantagraphics books by Paul Karasik:  I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets!  and You Shall Die By Your Own Evil Creation!  Karasik did research on the man himself, and gives us a bio of Hanks as an alcoholic with a mean streak who deserted his family. I think his personality disorders and addictive dependencies figured into his work.

Fantomah (by “Barclay Flagg”) is one of his creations. He apparently wrote, drew and lettered his own comics, so they had a singular vision. Fantomah dispenses justice in the jungle, and in this story to a couple of white hunters out to loot a jungle city of gold. Fantomah is magic, and her head turns into a skull when she goes to work on the crooks. (That is a unique characteristic, although The later Ghost Rider from Marvel comes to mind.) Hanks used tracings. He would repeat poses. When he got a drawing he liked he found it economical to trace it off and re-use it in the same story, sometimes on the same page.

I also noticed his writing. In this story, from Jungle Comics #3 (1940) the final panel is anti-climactic.
[SPOILER ALERT] The villains, who are spared by Fantomah after being transformed into giant green insect creatures, have a bland reaction: “Crime doesn’t seem to pay.” “You’re right.” I wonder if they considered how they would be perceived when they landed their plane and stepped out in their new bodies. Once done with the story Hanks just wrote finis without thinking of it beyond the final panel, except maybe how Fantomah was going to defeat the “wild legions of beast-men” in the next issue, as promised in the final caption.

Talented cartoonist Eric Haven has done a pastiche of Hanks in “Bed Man” — which not only captures Hanks’s absurdism, but also manages to one-up him. You can see it by clicking on the thumbnail: