Monday, July 24, 2017

Number 2079: Skyman flies in

The Skyman was a charter member of the Big Shot Comics line-up. Columbia Comic Corporation, a small publishing company, had a nine-year run without putting out a lot of product. Big Shot Comics lasted for 104 issues, succumbing finally in 1949. That left adrift not only Skyman (who ended in issue #101), but Tony Trent (formerly the Face), and Boody Rogers’s eccentric and funny Sparky Watts.

Skyman’s initial appearance in Big Shot Comics #1 (1940), shown today, did not explain his origin. Skyman was yet another rich guy who made it his mission to fight crime and bad guys. He even paid for his own advanced aircraft, Wing. As one source explained it, aviation comic strips were popular in the thirties, so not only did comic books feature many of them, like the Skyman they were sometimes costumed characters.

Ogden Whitney did the artwork. He was born in 1918, so he was about 21 or 22 when he first drew Skyman. I have featured many stories with Whitney’s artwork, and to my eyes there was very little change in his style or approach to drawing from this early time until the last artwork he did in comics. Whitney died in the early '70s, according to some accounts. For as long as Ogden Whitney was active in comics, and the wide range of publishers he worked for, there seems to be very little information about him.

What information I have on Skyman has him created and written by Gardner Fox.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Number 2078: Suzie, the Ditzy

Day three of our theme week featuring comic book females of the forties and fifties ends with “the Ditzy,” the tail end of the theme’s title, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ditzy.” I use the term “tail end” on purpose, because in this story Suzie shows her own tail end more than once in this fetishistic funny by the creator of Katy Keene, the Pin-up Queen, Bill Woggon. Suzie was part of the transition of MLJ Comics from the action-filled, violent superhero adventures to the Archie gang, the teenage characters still with us today. This issue, #53 (actual #5, 1946), was published shortly after the end of World War II, and I wonder at what audience it was aimed. Young girls or young guys...particularly servicemen just returning from Europe or the Pacific?

Later in her comic book career Suzie got a bit more tame, falling in line with the standards of the Archie characters. In the earlier days, in her own innocent way, Suzie showed a lot of her charms.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Number 2077: Betty Blinker, the Bad

This is day two of our theme week featuring comic book females of the forties and fifties. I have titled the theme, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ditzy." Today we feature the Bad, who is criminal Betty Blinker. Betty has red hair that is a visual reminder of her fiery personality and hot head. Betty is out for revenge against the gangster who killed her husband, Marty, also a Prohibition-era gang leader. She takes over her husband’s gang. They prosper under her managerial style, which is shoot your enemy before he shoots you. That is sometimes a smart way to do business, except it is bound to attract attention. And in Betty’s case, it did.

There is no explanation in the story for spelling liquor “licker.” Just another of the bad acts committed by the Blinker gang.

No artist or writer is credited by the Grand Comics Database. “Betty Blinker, the Red-Headed Rum-Runner” originally appeared in Fox’s Crimes by Women #9 (1949).

Monday, July 17, 2017

Number 2076: Jungle Girl, the Good

We begin a theme week featuring comic book females of the forties and fifties. I have titled the theme, “The Good, the Bad, and the Ditzy.” Appropriately enough, we begin the week with the Good, Leopard Girl, a short-lived character coming out of Atlas Comics in 1954-55. Gwen, no other name given, dresses as a leopard in a full-body costume to hide her identity as a typist in the jungle, working for an old man doing research.

The full-body costume is different from the usual jungle girl togs, which are as brief as possible. The jungle being hot, I am surprised Leopard Girl can stand being in costume for long periods of time. Must be why her stories never exceeded six pages. And those six pages were in the six issues of .Jungle Action, after which she appeared no more. Perhaps Gwen got heat exhaustion.

The story is by Don Rico, who also wrote Lorna, another of Atlas’s jungle girls. The art is by Al Hartley, who drew some very pretty girls, jungle and otherwise, in this period of his long comic book career.

From Jungle Action #2 (1954):

Friday, July 14, 2017

Number 2075: Gloom and doom in the tomb

When Heritage Auctions sold the original art for “Tomb's-Day” in 2011, they said: “This shocker showcases art by Jack Davis at the peak of his career at EC. The bold ink work and attention to gritty detail that Davis put into every panel contrasted nicely with his signature cartoony style, perfect for the insanely hysterical faces of his ill-fated characters. The peerless portraits of the Crypt-Keeper are original art and not stats.”

As a fan of the late Jack Davis, it has always been fun for me to look at Davis’s early career — the foundation for his later success as a cartoonist and illustrator — through the pages of EC Comics. He came quickly to his mature style. He showed in the horror comics he could provide mood and suspense as well as laughs, as he did in Mad and Panic.

Thanks to Heritage for the scans I have appropriated from their site for the purposes of this post. The pages sold at auction in 2011 for $10,157.50. I showed them before, in 2012.

The story appeared in Vault of Horror #35 (1954). Script is credited to Jack Oleck.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Number 2074: Mark Swift and the Time Retarder

Mark Swift,  no relation to boy inventor Tom Swift, is an orphan. He is taken care of by his elementary school teacher, Mr Kent, who just happened to invent a working time machine called the Time Retarder. Wow! Kent is wasting his time teaching. This was written and drawn in an era when it seemed okay to expose young children to danger. Mark, who looks about 10, and his “responsible” adult, Mr Kent, plop the Time Retarder down in the middle of a battle between King Darius of the Persians and Alexander the Great. I can only imagine what the Department of Child Services would have done if they had known that.

The feature was created by Jack and Otto Binder for Fawcett’s Slam-Bang Comics. Mark’s time (ho-ho) in comics was limited. Slam-Bang lasted only 7 issues, and after an inventory tale was published in Master Comics #7, Mark and his guardian zipped off to time and place unknown.

Grand Comics Database doesn’t guess at the artist or writer. From Slam-Bang Comics #6 (1940):