Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Challenger

From the very start of comic books there have been ones that had a theme, detectives, romance, funny animals, science fiction, horror, etc, in 1948 however a rather unique one came on the scene.

Called The Challenger, it was the only thing published by The Interfaith Committee Of The Protestant Digest, Inc and it's mission statement, as spelled out in the first issue, was that it would be “a magazine pledged to fight race prejudice, discrimination and all other forms of fascism in North America."

Featuring artwork by the likes of E.C. Stoner, one of the few African-American comic books artists at the time, Bob Fujitani and a 19 year old Joe Kubert, the comic featured the adventures of Bill Day, who Having, along with thousands of other Americans, participated in taking down fascism in Europe is dishearten on returning home to find that it is alive, well and active in the States.

Deciding to do something about it he calls himself the Challenger and travels the nation fighting American Fascists, race haters, union busters, and hate mongers. He also creates the Challenger Club to bring like minded people come together for his cause. Having no special skills or abilities The Challenger just shows up where he finds himself needed and keeps at it until he makes a difference. At the conclusion of which he makes a speech.

As was the case with other prejudice fighting heroes of the time (see DC comics Johnny Everyman and Fawcett's Radar the International Policeman) The Challenger shunned a superhero type costume and instead wore a snap-brim fedora and trench coat, however unlike many mystery men of the time he was not adverse to carrying heat, with his adventures usually featuring at least one running gun battle with the forces of bigotry.

Along with The Challenger each issue also featured at least two or three general non continuing character stories about understanding overcoming hate, such as `Prejudice' by Bob Fujitani, found in issue # 3 which dealt with Japanese Americans encountering bias in post World War II America, and in a story by Joe Kubert a downed American solider behind enemy lines being told the story of the Golem by the Jewish family hiding him, along with some run of the mill humor strips about nothing much in particular to fill out the rest of the four issues that made up this unique experiment in comics.

                   Typical Challenger villains plot their evil

Having murdered a union organizer they frame a black member of the union, but The Challenger is having non of it

Meanwhile the job creators are creating jobs by hiring thugs to stir up trouble

The Challenger however, having figured out what's really going on goes looking for the real murders, having found them he shows that he as yet is not an adherent of passive resistance.
The real murder caught, he confesses, (the rich guys behind it all however are not arrested, giving this comic book fantasy an odd touch of reality) and The Challenger challenges the towns people to stay away during his speech in the final panel.

As for how many kids joined the Callenger Clubs of America, if any did, that I am afraid is a stitistic that will have to remain lost to history.

Monday, February 20, 2012

He ain't heavy, he's a guaranteed boost to sales this month!

The fireman's carry is one of the easiest ways for a person to carry another person without assistance, the superhero carry however is something else altogether.*

The earliest example I can find is in Batman 156, ever the iconoclast Bats does it with the head of Robin, the Is He Dead Again? Wonder, facing to the right.

It has been used a lot after that, from the 50s to I don’t… next week?

Some we have here are

Sergeant Rock in an unusually touchy feelie mood while DC’s Go-Go Check of the time watch on.

Superman practicing with Lois in the 70s with Lois as a stand-in for Supergirl in the future.

Marvel’s Captain Marvel (not be confused with the REAL Captain Marvel!) in a pose I’ve seen somewhere else. Oh yeah, I know, on the cover of an early graphic novel, but I used this one as the earlier version was a little to cluttered for my taste.

See… that practice from the 70s paid off.

Worked so well that it keeps rising from the ashes like a phoenix. Ah heh

They killed Robin again? You bastards!

Still there is just something familiar about this pose… have I seen it somewhere before?

Ooooooh yeah.

* by the way, just for the record, carring someone in the manner above is bad both their and your back.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Superman, Batman & Robin Playerz of 1948.

While as characters they have little in common, one being the fantasy embodiment of hope and optimism and the other being a quai psychopathic obsessive perfection / justice freak with a fetish for a Halloween image (seriously enough already with the bat symbol on everything, I bet he even pays the Charmin people big bucks so he can have toilet paper with it on the rolls in the john in the Bat-Cave even though only he, and perhaps Alfred, ever see it.)

They being the two most popular and iconic characters at DC Comics, and pretty much the only popular characters they have that originated at the formerly named National Periodical Publications, most of the others, from Wonder Woman to Captain Marvel, having been obtained from other companies, (DC sort of being the imperial Rome of comic companies) it stands to reason that they would want to figure out ways to put them together.

In recent years this was complicated by the two just not getting, along and while this in no way stopped DC from still publishing Superman/Batman, the relationship was at best strained.

Contrast this to the 32 years they spent in World’s Finest comics, starting in 1954, where they were best buds. How things will be depicted in DC’s new 52 era remains to be seen.

However there is another era in the relationship between Superman and Batman that even the most dedicated comic book fan is unaware of, taking place from 1947 to 1948, seven years before their official team-up, this took place not in stories, but only on the covers of World’s Finest Comics.

At the time the comic was twice as large as a regular comic and cost 15 cents, and was made up of separate stories featuring various DC characters such as the Wyoming Kid, Green Arrow, and others. However it’s main draw were stories with Superman and Batman in them.

To showcase this they were featured on the covers in images showed up nowhere on the inside, and such images they were, I give you.
Superman, Batman & Robin Playerz of 1948.

All of them showed the Dynamic Duo and the Man of Steel being very undynamic  and non-steel like, mostly just larking about at State Fairs, giving shoe-shine guys a hard time by their red, blue and green boots, and at swimmin' holes, many however show them apparently trying to impress or pick up girls.

Superman can fly faster than the speed of light and make it to moon before and back 523 times before you blink twice and Batman can thread a needle from 100 paces away in the dark using a batarang while doing two other things and yet they feel the need to form a human chain? They were just giving the boy a chance to cop a feel.

So there you have it, the first team-up of Batman and Superman was not them saving the world, but going out on a double dates… unless this was just a publicity campaign by DC to provide beards for them!
Oh my