Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Number 2053: Harvey Kurtzman "saw" R. Crumb before he was born.

A little bit of elementary math here: Harvey Kurtzman was born in October, in late 1942 he would have been 18. He drew these two stories for Super-Mystery Comics Vol. 3 No. 4, which appeared with an April 1943 cover date. (I don’t need to explain, do I, that the cover date is the date a magazine goes off sale?) So say it appeared on the comic book racks in February, 1943. The stories were probably handed in several weeks  before the magazine was printed early for coloring and production work.  “Hap Hazard,” has a startling caricature of what looks to be a person not yet born, cartoonist Robert Crumb. Depending on when Kurtzman drew this character, Crumb, who was born August 30, 1943, was either not yet conceived, or perhaps early in utero at the time Kurtzman was drawing pictures of him. Years later, of course,in the sixties, Kurtzman gave Crumb some of his first professional magazine work in Help! magazine.

Crumb with hat and glasses.

It is at very least an interesting coincidence.

Kurtzman’s early work lacks polish, but not earnestness. It is fun to look at the youthful drawings of someone I respect so much. He grew as an artist so that by the late forties his mature style was well on its way, and by the fifties firmly in place.

Although "Hap" isn’t signed, Jim Vadeboncoeur Jr credits it to Kurtzman.

Here is a link to some other early Kurtzman work. Just click on the thumbnail.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Number 2052: Green Lantern and Doiby Dickles go to a costume party

The original (if you prefer, “Earth One”) version of Green Lantern puts on a costume over his GL costume for a party. He and his dumpy little buddy, Doiby Dickles, take on a villain from the future who landed in America in the 1940s after aiming for another time. Knodar, the villain, is the world’s last criminal! Also the dumbest for missing his time target. (Not much smarter are the future people who put the last criminal in a museum jail, rather than a real prison.)

Speaking of time, Green Lantern’s time as a forties superhero was coming to a close. With this issue, All-American Comics #100 (1948), Green Lantern was replaced on the cover by the Western hero, Johnny Thunder. A couple of issues later, All-American Western would replace the venerable flagship title of Maxwell Charles Gaines’ original comic book line, in partnership with DC Comics. Green Lantern would go on until 1949 with his own title, and until 1951 in All Star Comics, but after that would disappear until the new (if you prefer, “Earth One”) version would appear in 1959. Sheldon Mayer, who had been editor, quit that position to go back to drawing. Issue #100 was the first by editor Julius Schwartz, and the powers-that-be at DC thought some changes in the line-up were in order.

Credits by the Grand Comics Database have John Broome as writer, and Irwin Hasen the artist.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Number 2051: “Let your conscience be your guide”

“The Bribe” is a beautifully drawn story that involves conscience and moral responsibility for the chain of events set in motion when a guy doesn’t do what is right. It illustrates my favorite law, the Law of Unintended Consequences. Sometimes actions go wildly out of control very fast. Tom Brant is the poor shlub in the story. He is seduced by a blonde and bribed to give up the combination to the boss’s safe. He knows he is doing the wrong thing, but does it anyway, and then has to live with the consequences. Religion and the concept of sin aren’t mentioned, but implied by the portraits of Satanic figures.

Morals were big in crime comics of the forties, bu mainly along the lines of if a guy does the crime, he will go to the electric chair. A “scared straight” approach. (And, the publishers thought, a way of mitigating criticism of the genre.) This story, drawn by Dan Barry, and published in DC Comics’ Gang Busters #6 (1948), appeals to the conscience, unusual for a crime comic.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Number 2050: Zounds! The Claw!

Credit goes to Jack Cole for creating the Claw, the 25-foot “Yellow Peril” monster from Silver Streak Comics, and then Daredevil Comics. When Cole created a character he did not go half way. The Claw was a monster in size, and in every other way, also.

This story, from Daredevil Comics #10 (1942), features the Claw’s nemesis, the Ghost. The Ghost is pilot Brad Hendricks, who flies a fancy plane with a big skull emblem on the front. Like the Ghost’s mask, the skull is stylized with long piano-key teeth. I guess if he couldn’t scare his enemies, he could take 'em when they were laughing at his mask. Regardless, while the Claw went on for years yet to come, the Ghost disappeared, apparently forever, after Daredevil Comics #20.

I don’t think I am spoiling anything by telling you the story ends with the Claw tied up, a prisoner on a ship. It promises to be continued in the next issue, but the story in the next issue has the Claw in a different place wreaking havoc. There is often no explanation for the way they did things in those early days of the comics, except maybe some editor didn’t care, or screwed up. I showed the story from Daredevil #11 just over 10 years ago. You can go to the link below.

Art (presumably) by Bob Wood, who created the Ghost.

From Pappy’s early days. Just click on the thumbnail.