Monday, January 16, 2017

Number 1998: “I think they call it the payoff!”

This is the second day in our week of crime comics. If you missed it, scroll down to the Sunday Supplement from yesterday, showing the complete Famous Crimes #1.

So-called “true crime” comics were obsessed by gangsters, killers and thugs who were part of organized crime. Such was the case of Vincent “Mad Dog” Coll, who was a psychopath and killer during the 1920s, getting lots of press at the time because of his association with big-time mobster Dutch Schultz. There were a lot of criminals out there, but some of the same names, including Coll’s, pop up in several crime comics. I showed another story about Coll, drawn by Leonard Starr, in 2009 (see the link). I am a sucker for stories set during that wild period of the twenties and thirties, when prohibition was the law of the land, gang wars were erupting, and newspaper headlines were screaming bloody murder (literally).

This story is Vincent Coll drawn by Bernie Krigstein. It’s from Hillman’s Crime Detective #3 (1948):

Another version of the Coll story. Just click on the thumbnail.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Pappy“s Sunday Supplement #6: Famous Crimes

With the Sunday Supplement today I am beginning a week of crime stories. First up is Famous Crimes #1 (1948), a book published by Fox, mostly cobbled together with reprints from issues of Blue Beetle and Phantom Lady: comic book versions of “true” stories of criminals, murder and mayhem in the style that drove parents and teachers and Dr Wertham into action against comics.

Some of the artists of the unsigned stories are unknown to the Grand Comics Database. Only three signed their work, including A.C. Hollingsworth (“Bloodless Corpse”), Gil Kane and someone named Larny (?) (“Clara Peete”), and Paul Parker (“Jack ‘Legs’ Diamond”). See the photo of Kane below.

Dr Fredric Wertham, M.D., said all comic books were crime comics, and from his interpretation of what constituted a crime comic that may have been true. But the year 1948 saw a proliferation of crime titles from several publishers, based on the success claimed by Crime Does Not Pay. While a Bugs Bunny comic might be classified by Wertham as a crime comic if Bugs has a slapstick encounter with some bank robbers, comics like Crime Does Not Pay and Famous Crimes came right out by making the word “crime” big and bold on the covers. That told us they were exploitative and seedy. As I have said before, I have a fascination for that style of crime comics. I read Dr Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent when I was 12-years-old. I thought if adults hated crime comics so much I wanted to see them! I was a typical kid in that way. The difference with me may be that my curiosity toward the subject matter never went away.

This undated photo of Gil Kane in his studio was provided by artist Ken Landgraf. Thank you, Ken! Ken had mentioned that he believed Kane used a rubber artist’s manikin, which I thought might be how he was able to successfully draw the human figure in extreme action. Ken circled the manikin in the photo.

I love pictures of artists in their studios, and am fascinated by Kane’s bookshelves, which show his interests.

Kane, born Eli Katz in 1926, entered the comics business at a very young age (16), and worked at it all his life. He died at age 73 in January, 2000. He would have been about 20 when he penciled the violent story, “Clara Peete, the Beautiful Beast.” Kane’s early work in comics echoes Joe Kubert’s, who was also a teenager working in comics until getting his chance to solo in the mid-to-late '40s.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Number 1997: Kit West and the stockade full of suspects

For an 8-page story there is a lot going on in “Murder in the Stockade,” from Cow Puncher Comics #6 (1949). There is a cast of pretty gals, with an equal number of embittered-in-love types, one of whom is apparently murdering said pretty gals. There is also a handsome frontiersman, Dan, who, when one of his fiancées gets killed by person, or persons, or thing unknown, just takes up with the next gal in line. I have to say that the solution to this mystery is about as off-the-wall as a mystery by, say, Edgar Allan Poe, who is obviously the inspiration here.

Kit West, heroine in buckskin, is buxom, bare-legged, and bold. She even sets herself up to be killed, just so she can solve the mystery. Add “brave” to her description.

The Grand Comics Database lists Jill Elgin as the artist.

Originally posted in 2012, another Kit West story. Just click on the thumbnail.