Monday, April 27, 2015

Number 1727: Sam, sci-fi, and the Spirit

Sam is an everyday working man, going home one night to his apartment and finding...monsters. And not just monsters, but metal monsters from another planet, checking out Earth so it may be invaded a thousand years hence. What is an ordinary guy like Sam to do? He goes to the authorities but no one believes him. They even throw him in the mental ward. But then he gets the Spirit to buy in to his story...

Originally published in the weekly Spirit Comic Book Supplement on February 3, 1941, this is an example of author/artist Will Eisner’s unique blend of fantasy, as a break from his usual stories of crime and criminals. He used this type of tale occasionally, and I admire how his vision transcends what would be just another alien invasion story.

Years ago in an article about Eisner I saw this panel from the story:

It was forwarded by the newspaper to Eisner through his partner, Everett “Busy” Arnold. An anonymous reader had clipped the panel and attached it to a note, saying if he saw something like this again he would cancel his subscription. I wonder if the reader was offended by the reference to the crucifixion of Christ, or that the Christian is in a strait-jacket.

This reprint — with that panel still intact — is from Police Comics #40 (1945).

Friday, April 24, 2015

Number 1726: Pyramid scheme

We have our final posting for this theme week, Deceased Comics, presenting stories from comic books DC cancelled many years ago. Our story today is from Danger Trail #5 (1951), the final issue of that title.

Alex Toth and Bernard Sachs did the effective work on this Egyptian adventure amongst the pyramids, when our hero (not named until the last panel, when his new girlfriend tells him her name), falls in with some crooks involved with stolen antiquities. The writer is listed by the Grand Comics Database as David Vern.

As to why Danger Trail was cancelled I don’t know. I have speculated before that editor Julius Schwartz might have been too busy. (See the link below the story.) What throws my spec off is that with issue #5 the title of the comic appeared ready to change, dropping Trail. This half page house ad from the issue, with all of DC’s titles listed, shows just Danger. Also, the title between the DC colophons at the tops of each page is blank.

Maybe for a time someone at DC thought the book was worth saving, and that could be done by changing the title. Maybe, as I have also speculated in the past, sales were just bad for a book of stories featuring exotic locales and adventurous characters. It is a bit late for us to know for sure.

As promised, the link to another Danger Trail adventure. Just click on the thumbnail.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Number 1725: A happy trail for sexy Dale

This is the second of our three-part theme week, Deceased Comics, featuring material from comics no longer published by DC Comics. Today we have a story from Dale Evans Comics. DC published 24 issues from 1948 to 1952. (It was taken up again in 1954-1959 by Dell Comics as Queen Of the West, Dale Evans, for another 24 issues.)

Dale, born in Texas, with a pretty face and body and able to sing, seemed perfect for Hollywood, especially in singing cowboy movies. It is where she met Roy Rogers, whom she eventually married. As her biographical information states, she was his third wife, he was her fourth husband. This seventh-time-is-the-charm marriage worked for both of them.They remained married until Roy died in 1998. Dale died in 2001.

As you can see by this photo, Dale held her own in the glamor department in the thirties and forties.

That fits into our story today, originally published in Dale Evans Comics #2 (1948). Dale notices two of her ranch hands going bug-nutty over a señorita, so she gets into the act of distracting them in her slinkiest red gown. Yowza!  Roy must have been out of town that week!

The Grand Comics Database identifies the writer as likely being Ryerson Johnson, who wrote most of the early issues, and the art is attributed to Jim McArdle.

Here is another Dale Evans story, where she once again charms some local yokels. Just click on the thumbnail.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Number 1724: Star Spangled robots

Today we begin a theme week I’m calling Deceased Comics Week. Postings will come from DC titles no longer being published. Like the other comic book publishers, DC (aka National Comics or Superman DC), published what sold, and if it didn’t they axed it and published something else. The public is fickle, fads come and go, including what comic books sold the most.

First up are two stories, both featuring robots, from Star Spangled Comics #36 (1944, published in an anthology format for 130 issues, from 1941 to 1952 ). The character, Robotman, masqueraded as a human. The feature was drawn by veteran cartoonist Jimmy Thompson. Thompson was a good artist, but in this case it appears he didn’t read the script. Creatures are thawed out of the ice, and the script says they are “mammoths” and ancestors of elephants, but Thompson drew dinosaurs.

The second story features one of the female patriotic heroes of the World War II era, Liberty Belle, created, written and drawn by Chuck Winter and Don Cameron. In the story an inventor creates robot soldiers. Liberty Belle makes a rah-rah speech about Nazi soldiers acting like robots, and that American men, superior because they fight for democracy, should fight. Not robots. Say what...? Modern robots, as we know, are useful in many industries as utility devices, designed to do critical but repetitive work. I would say that if robots could stand in for humans when bullets and bombs are flying, then we need robots, not humans, to take the brunt of the attack.