Friday, September 12, 2014

Number 1630: Rangers of Freedom and the art of sockology

I stand (or rather sit, since I'm at my keyboard) before my multitudes of readers, and I am ashamed. Yes, multitudes of readers, it has been almost two years since I showed you the last installment of the short saga of the Rangers of Freedom and their battles against their chief enemy, Superbrain. I can only try to atone by giving you, here and now, part 3, from Rangers of Freedom #3 (1940).

Not only is it another chapter in the ongoing war between Superbrain and teenagers in fancy outfits with shark fins on their heads, but it also includes their pal, Gloria, who is now Ranger Girl. A huge huzzah for Gloria!

A couple of years ago I showed a story that included U.S. soldiers with the old-fashioned helmets. A reader asked "why the Tommy helmets" (meaning British — but known in America as the M1917 helmet). That is because the American armed forces did not adopt the familiar M1 steel pot helmet until 1941. It was worn for 40 years until replaced in the ‘80s. I can testify the M1 is heavy...I was in the U.S. Army during the 1960s.

The terrific artwork is by Joe Doolin. The cover is by Dan Zolnerowich.

Read the first two chapters by clicking on the thumbnails:

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Number 1629: Simon and Kirby’s plot to kill the king

The all-Simon and Kirby Headline Comics #23 (1946) is an excellent example of the duo's handling of crime comics. They took real cases (like that of Baby Face Nelson: see the link below the story) and gave them the S and K treatment with lots of action.

Their version of the Gunpowder Plot, which gave Britain Guy Fawkes Day, stacks up basically as history, but omits some important things. The plot to assassinate King James and his parliament was done to replace the king with a Catholic monarch. S. and K. carefully, and considering religious sensitivities wisely, left out any mention of Protestants or Catholics. They show torture, but the gruesome fate of those convicted of high treason in those days included disembowelment and other inhumane acts, and they gloss over that. They also change Fawkes’s ultimate fate, which was to fall or jump off the scaffold, breaking his neck, thereby avoiding the most egregious punishment. His corpse was still desecrated, but at least he wasn’t alive to watch them cut off his genitals and (...shudder....ulp....) burn them.

We have as a modern reminder of Guy Fawkes the famous V for Vendetta mask, worn to show opposition for whomever the opposers happen to be opposing.

 More from the same issue of Headline Comics, the short and murderous career of Babyface Nelson. Just click on the thumbnail:

Monday, September 08, 2014

Number 1628: Little Frankenclones

I love the little Frankenstein monsters created by a junkman using the notes of Dr. Frankenstein. But the little “clones” come with a serious flaw: prick them and they vanish!

This funny tale is cover-featured on Frankenstein #3 (1946). It’s by — who else? — Dick Briefer.

Briefer shows a magician named The Great Bruce. It is a caricature of Bruce Elliott, who helped Briefer write this issue. I don’t know a lot about Elliott except that he did some of the Shadow pulp novels, subbing for regular Shadow author Walter Gibson.

Briefer, who also did a comic strip for The Daily Worker, the Communist Party USA newspaper, takes a humorous dig at capitalism early in the story. Being a known communist in the postwar era would have presented a problem with the general public and certainly would have him on the FBI’s list. I don’t know if Briefer later changed his politics, nor do I know if his affiliation with the party was common knowledge amongst his peers or publishers.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Number 1627: “Om mani padme hum!”

We conclude our theme week, Heroes in Green, with a tale of Green Lama.

Don Markstein’s Toonopedia entry for Green Lama ends with, “To a comic book aficionado, however, The Green Lama will always be Mac Raboy's lithe figure gliding gracefully through the air, dressed in a streamlined version of a Tibetan monk's outfit.” Toonopedia goes into detail on the career of Jethro Dumont, wealthy playboy (like other superheroes) who was trained in Tibet (again, like other superheroes). Each of the 1940s incarnations of Green Lama, pulp magazine, radio, appearances in Prize Comics, had relatively short runs. The comic book version published by Spark, a small publisher, is, as Markstein said, known for the artwork by Emmanuel “Mac” Raboy, who had a clean and uncluttered style, and whose artwork adds much to any feature he worked on.

I have a question about this story. Why is Mr. Jerome, in Jerome Toys, serving drinks in his toy store? Is that a soda fountain or a bar we see?

From Green Lama #3 (1945):

Reader Darci went to Hakes and found a Green Lama decoder for that last panel. Here it is, and thanks, Darci!

Before I saw this a couple of other readers had figured it out on their own. Check the comments for the code-breakers’ results if you’re like me and too lazy busy to do it on your own.