Thursday, December 29, 2011

Who Does Batman Fear?

Being from 1968 I'm sure this scene from above found in World's Finest # 173 is thoroughly out of continuity, heck, stuff from six months ago it out of continuity much less almost 44 years ago!

But still, does it hold? Of his villains over the years whom would Batman be the most afraid of? In that issue it was stated as being Two-Face, would that still hold today? I'm guessing not, what with ones that have broken his back and killed side-kicks... for a while at least.

What do you think?

Who gives the Batman the jim jams?

Monday, December 26, 2011

Why all the Red-Headed Mermaids & Sea Goddesses in Pop Culture?

Ever notice how many redheaded mermaids and sea goddesses there are in pop culture?
I’m not just talking about the one from the `B I G  F I S H’ when talking about pop culture chops, i.e. Disney and the House of the Grand Mouse’s Arial, their take on the little mermaid, I’m talking before and beside that character, or which there are more than a few auburn haired queens of the briny deep.

There are all these bits of mermaid kitsch from the 20’s to the 50’s, also Aquaman’s sweetie and sometimes wife Mera, Queen of the Sea, from the film Ponto there’s cute little Ponyo and her Mum, and the “Woman in the Water” from a less successful film.  

I’m not saying they’re all redheads, there are plenty of depictions of blonde and brunette mermaids and sea goddess, take Dyesebel from the Philippines for instance. That character has been around since 1953 and has been had three or four films and a television series made about her and she’s a brunette.


I’m just saying the percentage of ginger Ladies of the Sea seems higher than average to me, and I wonder why that is.
Perhaps they get it from their mom? If that is Aphrodite is their mother, she being born from sea foam and all. And I’m just taking her for a redhead based on one famous painting in which she is mistakenly called Venus.

It’s not much to go on, but it’s all I have at the moment.
Oh! And let’s not forget Amy Pond, who while not a mermaid is redheaded and her last name is Pond which are, in order to qualify for that noun made out of water…

I’ll stop speculating here.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Four-Color Sherlock Holmes

With a new Sherlock Holmes film out and about at the moment I’m reminded of the character’s appearances in another media, the comics.

Being so well known, so popular (and so in the public domain) has led to Holmes and Watson having a lot of different comic book interpretations, both close to Canon, and wildly off on their on tangents (I’m thinking of one near pornographic one where those responsible needed a good talking to, and maybe a punch in the face afterward), both color and black & white, serious and humorous takes and a number of different languages.  

With over 150 appearances in graphic media it stands to reason that there would, and should be some variation in those appearances.

Here are just 8 of them, including one of the first from Classic Illustrated, some very stylistic ones, Holmes going up against zombies and vampires (there were at least two different comic series devoted to him battling Dracula) and completely tossing logic out the window having him team up with Batman and in another battling the Joker! 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Need Help With the Bills Lois?

What’s this, Lois Lane muling for Tupperware? I guess plucky girl reporters in the 60s didn’t make as much as I thought they did.

The image above comes from a comic book called, as you can see on the cover, Tupperware Dating Party, which it seems features one Dorothy Dealer. (I can hardly wait for the Post Modern reboot on THAT character!)

A freebie produced something around 1968 that was given to woman thinking about joining the cult of… I mean becoming a Tupperware distributer.

It was published by Common Comics, which was a subsidy of American Comic Group, the comic company known mainly for a long string of mild “horror” comics and a fat little character known as Herbie, or sometimes the Fat Fury.
They got out of regular comics in the 60s, but still produced them for companies like Sears, Tupperware and others.

The art in this one was supplied by Kurt Schaffenberger, the artist who for over ten years was THE artist for Lois Lane, becoming so iconic that he was even brought in to draw her in comics being done by other artists so that she always looked the same.

It seems he also pulled her out for this item as well, despite being called “dealer” Ruby Robins and given a by the unknown colorist a somewhat different hair color, (not Lois’s natural blue from Superman’s Girlfriend Lois Lane,) that’s Lois Lane, down to the little Jackie Kennedy hat she sported in her adventures at DC at the same time.
Perhaps she needed the extra income to make up for all the time she spent being shrunk, trapped in the Phantom Zone, tossed around in time, being abducted by aliens and going though one weird transformation after another.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Suicide is Easy... it's getting people to buy the title that's hard

Everybody knows DC had the Suicide Squad first in the 60s, as is so often the case with “what everybody knows” everybody is dead wrong. Seems it's been around longer than that, and been used by more than DC. 

First off I personally was a little disappointed to find out where the phrase came from, it seems that it first was used in football, the suicide squad being the squad used on kickoffs, that being more dangerous than other plays, or so they tell me. 

However a expression with umpf like that can't be expected to say on the gridiron. 

The first fictional Suicide Squad appeared from March 25, 1936 to April, 1943 in 22 stories in Ace G-Man Stories featuring 3 tough as nails FBI agents battling gangsters, Nazis, and even the occasional super-villain, a Mr. Zero to name pseudonyms, written by Emile C. Tepperman, the man who gave use Operator # 5, Secret Agent X and a number of the adventures of The Avenger (the one with the gray moldable face) the first Squad fought crime and / or evil in such stories as Mr. Zero and the Suicide Squad, Suicide Squad Reports for Death, The Suicide Squad's Murder Lottery & Blood, Sweat, and Bullets. Mostly forgotten they they have recently had a bit of a revival with the reprinting of all 22 of their adventures just last July.  

The next Suicide Squad was a comic printed in Australia by Frew starting in 1952. I have been unable to find out a single blessed thing about this crew.... however I'm willing to bet the guy with the pipe on the cover of # 1 is the boss. 

Then DC did the Squad, not once but twice, at least one of these teams you probably already know about. The latest version most likely, just like the first two the 60s version, also sometimes known as Task Force X, kind of quickly slipped from the collective mind as well... must have something to do with the name, it is, lets face it, a little bleak.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Back When Snoopy Had a Comic Book

Long in the long ago comic books and newspaper comics were practically joined at the hip, which was logical enough what with comics having their origin starting out as just a bunch of daily and Sunday strips collected, colored if needed, and put into comic book formatting.

However even in the 50s and early 60s, after it had all become original content, Newspaper strips were seen in the spin racks with Beetle Bailey, Allie Oop, the Phantom, and even for a short while the Peanuts gang in comic books written and draw by other people.

Which was one of the problems with those things, the jobbers they hired to do the comic book versions of those well known characters just never got them quite right.

By the 70s, except for the Phantom, who still shows up today he being a superhero and all, that sort of thing was mostly over. I think Charlton did one with Blondie and Dagwood, but things had so changed that the newspaper comics and comic books were just too different, with more items such as Superman, Spider-Man and a short lived DC Universe strip, going from comics to the newspapers than coming from the newspaper's funny pages to Comics.

Such is life, or mass media anyway.

However..... What if they were to do that sort of thing again today?

I mean bring out original Comics featuring some of the newspaper strip characters of today.

Frank Millers' Luann? (guess who’s a killer psycho prostitute now?)

Okay, maybe not.

But still, of the fairly new strips on the scene now which ones might you at least give a look if they had a comic book published doing longer sustained adventures of the characters?


Cow and Boy

Rabbits Against Magic

Over the Hedge (Heck they had a cartoon already)

Heart of the City

Lio (put that one on my pull list)

Cul de Sac

Non Sequitur with Danae and her family (this one as well, though I doubt anyone other than Wiley would get it right)

Pearls Before Swine

Drabble (Oh Glob the horror! If the artist got the art “right” a full 22 pages of a comic like that would probably cause retina scaring.)

Get Fuzzy (If for no other reason than to see those characters somewhere other than that damned bare, stark apartment he and those psychopathic talking animals live in. Say? Do you think that human in that strip might be crazy and in a mental hospital somewhere and imagining those critter? Nah! If he were crazy it might actually be funny from time to time.)

Or perhaps some sort of team-up comics, you know.... Garfield and Marmaduke together to see who can be the least original?

Any others you think might at least be worth a try?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Eight Decades of Wonder Woman

Not eighty years mind you, but the character has appeared in comics in eight different decades.

Below (just click the picture for a bigger view) you will find an example of one from each decade, from the first Sensation Comic in 1942, through the 3-D fad of the 50s (everything old is new again) to the debacle of the “Mrs. Peel version of Diana, which really started in the late 60s but it went into the 70s so I’m using it for that decade, and ending with the latest issue of Wonder Woman released just a few days ago.

Hey she’s got a dad now!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

4 Normals & a Gimmick

Comic Books seem to go through periodic sea-changes where interest in one thing drops off and a scramble then ensues to find the next big thing, at which point everybody jumps on that.

After Superman in 1938 there were more superheroes than you could shake a Cosmic Rod at, after the first superheroes wore their welcome out there was the first scrum starting around 1947 between Western, Romance, War, Crime and Horror comics for the top spot, with horror pretty much winning out.

This led to comics just about being wiped out in the backlash which led to the gray mediocrity that was 1953 to 1957, until things started to perk up with the introduction of the new red suited version of the Flash, the science fiction Green Lantern, and leading to the coming of Marvel.

Until the so-called “Marvel Age of Comics” took over the post of “next big thing” however was still open, and at DC one of the contenders that seemed to be in competition with the return of the superhero was something I call

4 Normals & a Gimmick:

The first such team was the Challengers of the Unknown, which appeared in the January-February 1957 issue of Showcase (# 6), which in the way that comics were numbered back then means it appeared in December of 1955.

With plot and pencils by Jack Kirby; script by Dave Wood and inks by Rosalind "Roz" Kirby, (however it's generally agreed that Jack Kirby was the real creative mind behind it) they would over the years become one of DC Comics most persistent B-team group of characters.

Made up of test pilot “Ace” Morgan, daredevil mountain climber Red Ryan, wrestler (later heavyweight boxing champion) Rocky Davis and “Prof” Haley, a scientist specializing in underwater exploration. These four strangers meet when they get to be the first passengers to fly in an experimental robot airplane (sure, if I had an untried iffy item like that these are just the four sort people I would stuff into it,) the plane however proves to still have some bugs in it and crashes.

If it had instead first shot into space and exposed the quartet to cosmic rays Comic Book history might have been changed, instead what happens is that the four on surviving the crash decide they are now “living on borrowed time” and team up to take on challenges from the unknown.

Fortunately for the Comic Book reading public at the time this leads not, as it would in real life, to some interviews in the paper as they become 90 day wonders to be quickly be forgotten as the next detraction comes along leaving them to get together every year or so in a bar and gas on about “that crash,” but instead fantastic and weird menaces from space, and from various mad scientists fall all over each other throwing themselves at the team.

Along with Kirby’s art  there is another thing that makes the Challengers standout.  At the time they appear in Showcase # 6, all comic books were made up of at least two, but usually three or four separate stories. Kirby's introduction story of the CotU was the first to devote a whole comic to just one group of characters in one story separated into three chapters. (Alright Fawcett tried this most than 10 years earlier with Radar the International Police Man, but it was a flop and no one really remembers it) Which when Kirby took it to Marvel and the Fantastic Four would be one of the major changes to comics in the 60s, and which has become so much a part of comics that most readers today don’t know it was ever otherwise. (Well… except that now it takes around 4 to 38 comics to finish one story, but I digress.)

After three more tryouts the Challengers get their own comic.

Challengers of the Unknown
This setup would also led to perhaps the only challenge, if at best a weak one, to the superhero.

The Challenger's title apparently doing well, DC let things cook for about a year and then came out with four more such teams, only by then things had been tweaked so that it seemed that one editor or another, and they were really the ones who ruled comics back then, not artists or writers, had come up with a template so that these teams would consist of

1.  The competent in-charge strong-jawed leader, his steadfast right-hand pal who was often also a strong man, the leader’s girlfriend, and a fourth spot filled by a kid, or brain.

2.  No superpowers or any impressive gadgets other than…

3.  The one gimmick that lets them do their thing, i.e. mole-machine, scuba gear, time machine, a government license to get in trouble.

4. Normal (for the comics anyway) clothing.

5. The inability to do anything more complicated than opening a can of beans without it turning into the impossibly fantastic with only them standing between whatever came out of that can of beans and the destruction of the world.

The four that came out in quick succession where:

1.      Rip Hunter: Time Master
Showcase # 20
May-June 1959
With Rip Hunter, Jeff Smith, Bonnie Baxter, and Bonnie's young brother, Corky
 Rip has a time machine and the four go tooling around in time getting in a mess everywhere and every when they land.
And while time travel should have its own rewards and dangers they, like most DC characters at the time, seem to spend most of their time dealing with alien invaders, dinosaurs (though almost none of them in say the Jurassic period, but during the days of the knight or in Ancient Rome) monsters and strange transformations (Rip becomes a big blue monster and almost gets turned into a robot.)
After their tryout these character got their own comic which lasted almost three years.

1.      Suicide Squad
Brave & the Bold # 25
August-September 1959
Lt. Rick Flag, Jess Bright, Karin Grace, Dr. Hugh Evans
As these characters had a vaguely military theme, being a team of experts the army tossed at weird events with the idea being that they probably wouldn’t survive. The fourth slot was filled not by a kid brother, but by someone with a PhD in Everything.
This time the concept didn’t do as well as. After all with a team bearing the rather pessimistic title of the “suicide squad” and yet still insisting on coming back and back again they start to sound like a cheat.
As such they were soon retitled Task Force X (and yet none of them had the decency to be mutants) and only made it for around 5 outings in which they deal with alien invaders, dinosaurs, monsters and strange transformations (they get shrunk to only a few inches in height and have to battle seagulls and stuff.)
They never make it to an on-going series and are soon forgotten, with the name Suicide Squad, and Rick Flag’s son being used years later for a much more successful version involving the government using super-villains for dangerous missions.

1.      The Sea Devils
Showcase # 27
July-August 1960
Dane Dorrance , Biff Bailey, Judy Walton and Judy's younger brother Nicky Walton.
With these we find four people exploring the world’s oceans via the then exotic method of scuba-diving.  
There you go, Jacques Cousteau, Sea Hunt, and all that “frogman” stuff,  that ought to lead a different sort of story and…. They run into alien invaders, dinosaurs, monsters (the giant Octopus Man being one of the more persistent) and at least one strange transformation where a sponge diver gets jabbed by a mutant sponge and turns into a 30 foot tall sponge man who can absorb anything, including color and sound, and who leads to the Sea Devils being in a team-up with the  Challengers of the Unknown.
This team also gets a series that like Rip lasts for about 3 years.

1.      “Cave” Carson: Adventures Inside Earth!
Brave & the Bold # 31
August-September 1960
Calvin "Cave" Carson, Bulldozer Smith, Christie Madison and Johnny Blake
The last of the 4 Normals & a Gimmick took their adventures underground, they were revolutionaries? No, spelunkers with a mole machine, that looked suspiciously like sports car, a to make things easier.
I’ll give you one guess what that ran into in their only five outings, only now these almost regulation monsters were found in the surprisingly well lit lands beneath our feet, or at least the feet of people in the DC Universe.
They at least did come across something a little different when they ran into a few civilizations hungry to take over the surface and they never got turned into aliens or trees or whatnot.
That however was not enough of a difference to get them a title of their own, and they, and soon the rest of these un-powered adventures, were replaced by the new army of superheroes, heroines and villains that became not just the main thing, but eventually the only thing, comics could tolerate for quite a few years.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What Happened to the Rest of Me?!?

Everything has meaning, and everything means something else, or at least there is a pretty good chance that’s the case.

If it’s not true then people sure have been wasting a lot of time with Rorschach tests, dream interpretation, handwriting analysis, and the 23 or more different speculations about the secret meaning of The Wizard of Oz.

So let’s say there is something to it, taking that stance it stands to reason that an illustration heavy art form like Comic Books must be chockablock with hidden context, so hidden that even those who were doing didn’t know they were doing it.

On the whole the 50s were a pretty repressed era, and during the era the comics almost got repressed right out of existence though efforts from a number of different groups taking as their champion Fredric Wertham and his Seduction of the Innocent. (This ironically was published by the company that published Crown Comics in the 40’s)

One of the results was that comic book creators, a group already not very highly regarded, found themselves being put in an even more appalling light.

Yet still they soldered on, after all they were making money, just not as much as they use to.

Considering all this, what might we conclude is the secret hidden message Marvel (at the time mostly calling itself Atlas) was sending out with these covers?

These are just six examples from the future “house of ideas” which would not become totally Marvel for almost 10 years (though for some reason while there Western, Horror and War comics of the time were marked as being from Atlas, they had Millie the Model was marked as a Marvel comic.)

That’s an awful lot of missing and / or melting naughty bits, I wonder where they all went?


They floated about in Comic Book Limbo for two or three years then came out over at DC Comics.

Who would have guessed?