Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Number 1713: Two dummies fooled by a dummy

The Mouthpiece, a district attorney who wears a mask and blue, suit like the Spirit, was a back-up character for a time in Police Comics. These two stories, taken from Police #2 and #5 (1941) are crazy but have energy, and the obsessively smooth ink line of Fred Guardineer.

In story one the Mouthpiece rescues a girl who has been thrown down a well after having had her feet encased in concrete. She is really lucky to have him to rescue her, although I wonder how she felt when he had to chip that concrete off her feet. Ouch. But the Mouthpiece and the girl rig up a trick with a store manikin to fool the two cretins who tossed her in the well. Justice prevails!

The second story is even wilder, with a mad professor in a monk’s robe, who uses the old mirror-on-the-road trick to reflect the headlights of cars. In the words of the professor: “YEOW-HA, HA, HO!” I’ll let that serve as my feelings about this craziness, also.

Click on the thumbnail to go to a posting with three backup stories from Police Comics, including another adventure of the Mouthpiece.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Number 1712: Donna’s web of lies

Donna lies, you know. She moved to the big city and her roommate told her lying would get her far, and it has. On the job. Unfortunately it also gets her in trouble with men. Also on the job. Donna is “come-hitherish,” to Gil, to Ralph she is “stand-offish.” But she is never a cold fish, because she goes to both of them before being hooked and landed by her new boss, Frank.

As with most lies and liars, the truth catches up to Donna. So, learning from Donna’s bitter experiences as a prevaricator, I give you my vow. When it comes to love, I stand before you with my right hand raised and my left hand resting on ACG’s Lovelorn #14 (1951), where this tale appears, to swear to you that I will never lie to you, Pappy readers. I love you deeply and am committed to your happiness.

Ha-ha. And if you believe that then I am a better liar than I thought. Here is what I have learned in a lifetime’s experience. Everybody lies. On the job, to the traffic court judge, to the significant other. It is part of being human. The part that gets you in trouble is the bad lie, trying to lie yourself out of trouble with the boss or the law. Lying in love...well, all is fair, as the wise one said.

Art by Paul Cooper.

From years past, here are two more entertaining stories from Lovelorn. Just click on the thumbnails.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Number 1711: “But he hasn’t anything on!”

Walt Kelly’s beautifully drawn adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s original 1837 story is fairly faithful to the original. The Kelly touches and comic exaggeration are all over it, though. Andersen’s story works on several levels, but is also political satire. Andersen, according to some sources, was either bribed or bought off with a royal gift of jewelry so he would quit writing such satiric fare. It worked. It was a lot easier on Andersen than some governments’ responses to satire, including banishment, or imprisonment, or even death.

From Dell’s Fairy Tale Parade #2 (1942):

After leaving Disney, Walt Kelly went on to his comics career, doing much work for Dell in the 1940s, including early versions of Pogo. Pogo became a newspaper feature in the late forties, even while Kelly was still working on the comic books. My understanding is he had a falling out with Dell in the early fifties over his objection to reprints of early Pogo strips in the Dell giant, Pogo Parade. (Despite Kelly’s problem with it, from a fan’s perspective one of the best squareback Dell giants ever published).

Kelly occasionally had things to say about comic books. These short sequences from the Pogo newspaper strip take aim at comic books of the day, under heavy criticism for content. That would not be Dell Comics, though, a publisher that mainly kept itself out of the censors’ line of fire.

Scanned from The Incompleat Pogo, published by Simon and Schuster in 1954. My thanks to friend Dave Miller for providing me with a gift of this and other early Pogo books.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Number 1710: Frankenstein and the Terror

David J. Skal’s excellent 1993 book, The Monster Show, A Cultural History of Horror, reminds us that what we take for granted now, horror movies, were widely criticised, censored and reviled in the days when Dracula and Frankenstein became cultural icons. To paraphrase an old saying, everybody hated them but the ticket-buying public. A couple of decades later the comic books took the same kind of heat over horror. With the benefit of history and an overview of pop culture, nowadays we see both old horror movies and horror comics as relatively harmless entertainment...even quaint. We can watch a television program like The Walking Dead (itself made from a comic book) with graphic violence, exploding heads and gruesome walking corpses, and it makes the original horror movies look tame by comparison. But those original movies made a real impact. Unlike about 90% of the motion pictures made at the same time as Frankenstein and Dracula, the horror movies are still being watched.

Trading on the popularity of the movies, cartoonist/writer Dick Briefer kept his own versions of Frankenstein going through three different incarnations over a dozen years or so. The Comics Code, not villagers waving torches, killed his Frankenstein.

In this tale from Briefer’s cartoony, funny Frankenstein, the monster meets his mirror image in a Wild West tale from Frankenstein #15 (1948). At 17 pages the story is longer than usual, setting up a whole series of situations based on a Frankenstein “doppleganger.”

Shifting gears and becoming like the critics I criticise, I have a criticism of this otherwise harmless story. There is one panel of a bloody bullethole in a forehead, used as comedy. Bulletholes are not funny. This is from 1948, and a bullethole in a forehead is probably a spillover from the crime comics that proliferated that year.