Reading Basil Wolverton brings me such happiness: this Powerhouse Pepper story is full of Basil’s clever and funny alliteration and internal rhymes. The story has Powerhouse, in his own innocent way, and on the water, going up against a couple of thugs who have tied in with the Nazis. Wolverton’s villains are always more funny looking than dangerous, and they always underestimate the undersized Powerhouse Pepper.
This story seems prescient. A robot (invented by the Marvels, along with the faker, Uncle Marvel, as “Shazam Inc”) drives a truck. Recently I have seen more than one news report of driverless trucks being tested on the roads, piloted by artificial intelligence. What was once science fiction, even as whimsical as “The Marvel Family and the Shazam Robot,” is coming true. I don’t know yet how I feel about a robot driving a giant rig behind me on the freeway. I’ll have to wait until it happens for real, and not just in the pages of an old comic book.
Written by Otto Binder (creator of the popular Adam Link robot stories), but with no credits for the artwork. Published in The Marvel Family #5 (1946).
One million years ago sounds like a long time, and it is. But there were no dinosaurs one million years ago, despite the premise of Tor, created, written, drawn and colored by artist Joe Kubert. Tor looks more like Tarzan, a tall, muscular white European, wandering from place to place in that world of a million years ago, encountering primitive tribes. Tor is a type of prehistoric social worker, solving problems for people who are presumably what we think of as “cavemen.” I believe the idea for Tor came from the 1940 movie, One Million B.C., which Kubert may have seen; it was very popular.
I have met people with a peculiar religious viewpoint, who believe that humans and dinosaurs literally existed together, so perhaps they would not see Tor as fantasy, but as a slice of life from the past. I like the page by Kubert, featuring himself and his co-editor Norman Maurer, where they opine on the modern world with its nuclear weapons, compared to the world of a million years ago. It is earnestly said, “If it weren’t for man’s inherent desire to conquer evil and injustice, he would have destroyed himself long ago...”
Tor is well drawn, and unlike most comic book creations Tor belonged to Kubert, so in later years he could cash in on the character. That was almost unheard of in those days, so Joe Kubert had a rare kind of relationship with his publisher, Archer St. John.
Something I read about DC Comics’ foray into crime comics in the late forties during a period of DC’s slumping sales (and the popularity of crime comics), is that they got the license for a comic book version of the popular radio program, Gang Busters. While the contents of early issues of Gang Busters probably weren’t much different than the more rowdy and disreputable crime titles, the hope was that the attachment to a popular radio entertainment would mitigate the usual criticism of crime comics. I have no idea whether it did or not. As it was, DC published Gang Busters for 67 issues until 1959. Having seen some of the later issues, all Code-approved, the stories were far tamer than the wilder days of the 1940s.
George Roussos drew “Murder Was My Business” for Gang Busters #1 (1948). If Fredric Wertham, M.D., critic of comic books in general and crime comics in particular, had seen the story I am sure he would have noticed that the joyful killer gets away with his lucrative career bumping off people, right up until he is led to the electric chair and turns into a coward. That is a way the publisher could point at a story and say the killer was not glorified during the story...after all, despite bragging about his career in killing (to a priest, of all people), inside he was just a gutless braggart.
Roussos was a journeyman who had done assisting on Batman, then worked for various companies over the years, including Marvel in the sixties where he was identified as George Bell. Roussos died at age 84 in 2000.
It was 72 years ago today, July 8, 1947, that The Roswell [New Mexico] Daily Record published its famous headline about the “captured flying saucer.” It was denied by the Air Force, the newspaper withdrew the story, and it went away for many years only to return a few decades later. It has now implanted itself in our consciousness.
I love the stories as much as anyone, and have been fascinated by UFOs since I was a kid, but I am not ready to declare any of those stories to be the absolute truth. It is the skeptic in me. But I think putting a flying saucer (as we called those unidentified flying objects in those days) on a magazine cover was a guarantee of sales. So it was with Charlton’s Space Adventures #6 (1954), which promised to tell of the “first contact” between humans and aliens from another planet. It has an attractive cover drawn by Stan Campbell; just made for attention on the comic book rack:
A young Dick Giordano, later both comic book artist and editor, in 1954 was about 21 years old by my reckoning. He did an excellent job with both pencils and inks on the story.
A major part of many legends surrounding UFOs is they are here for something we have on Earth: water, heavy metals, some people for medical exams...and this story says the well-spoken alien who talks to the two pilots is after something, also. And because we are humans and we like invasion stories, [oops! spoiler alert!] so the story ends just about the point where the 1962 gum cards, Mars Attacks! begin.*
As a final note, I do not know why the blue alien suddenly becomes comic book caucasian on the last page. A mistake by the colorist? A clever alien disguise?
*Click on the thumbnail to see the set of Mars Attacks! cards presented by Hairy Green Eyeball:
I hope I have gotten this right: the Puppeteer is a super hero whose super powers come from a magic organ playing the famous first few bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Dressed in a patriotic costume (there was a war going on), the Puppeteer flies by riding something called the V-ray. He has a secret identity, and in his civilian identity he carves puppets that look like the Puppeteer. He is not only a super hero called Puppeteer, but an avocational puppeteer as well. Finally, he has a talking raven called Raven.
It is probably no wonder the Puppeteer had a short lifespan as a super hero. This story, “The Bleeding Statue,” was his introduction, and he made a couple of appearances afterward in various Fox comic books. He was drawn by Alvin Carl Hollingsworth, whose secret identity we also know was as one of the few African-American artists drawing comics.
The publisher of record is R. W. Voight, Chicago, Illinois, whom I believe was someone with a paper allotment that the book packager, Victor Fox, used for the 128-page one-shot giant comic, All Good Comics (1944).
A couple of years ago the news outlets were full of stories of predatory men in positions of power acting in sexually inappropriate ways with females. One of them was a famous movie producer who used his power in the industry to mistreat women. And so it is with this tale of a young woman who wants to be in movies. She meets a nice guy, but nearly ruins her chances with him and finds herself in the unwanted embrace of a notorious Hollywood rogue! We know he is a rogue because he has a pencil-thin mustache. Since it is a love comic we know Lora will be spared that fate, and she does go back to the arms of the more worthy man.
So Lora will have her chance in movies, but she has already shown another talent. On page 5 she takes in hand a drape from the window and in the next panel has turned it into a slinky gown, just right for the image she wishes to project as a sexy, seductive siren (the cause of her trouble with the grabby guy). Lora’s seamstress talent with a drape shows if she does not make it as a movie star there will surely be a job in the costume department.
“Promise of Passion” is from Quality Comics’ Hollywood Diary #2 (1950). Grand Comics Database credits the pencil artwork to Sam Citron and guesses the inking is by Bill Ward.
This story from Ibis #3 (1945) is drawn by comic book journeyman Gaspano “Gus” Ricca, and written by veteran scripter Bill Woolfolk.
A boy comes home from school, tells his mom he’s hungry, yet she sends him to clean the attic while he waits for dinner. He does it willingly. (That would not have happened in my house when I was that youngster's age.) The boy finds a book from his grandfather’s collection on how to conjure up Karlan, the sorcerer. (It seems a thick book considering the spell for conjuring Karlan is printed on one page.) The title of the story is “The Last Sorcerer,” and as you who have followed this blog for a long time already know, there are more sorcerers in comic books than anywhere else in the universe.“Last” sorcerer, indeed!
Said sorcerer has not been conjured in 3000 years, and is holding a grudge against Ibis for being part of a council of Egypt that “decreed his death” — yet Karlan summons a demon from Purgatory, which is apparently where Karlan has been for 3000 years. As you probably know, Purgatory is a Catholic belief, which just shows...what? That writer Woolfolk was raised Catholic? I have no idea, except he was not ancient Egyptian.
What an offer! Such a deal! A free house, free food, free giant screen television (that black and white comes in high definition, I hope). Meals are cooked for the occupants, and they even have a guaranteed income of $200 a week...in cash. Oh, and they have robots to do the work. Those occupants, the Jenkins family, have hit the jackpot, and just when they were at their lowest point, sharing a tiny apartment with another family. They are offered a dream house, making their dreams come true. Who wouldn’t take the word of a kindly old man like Mr Appleby, who is so generous?
Me, for one. I remember the old saying: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. And for the Jenkins family, it is not only too good, it comes with a hidden price.
“The Dream House” was written by Gardner Fox, using the pseudonym, Robert Starr, for Strange Adventures #3 (1950). It was drawn by Jim Mooney, pencils, and Ray Burnley, inks
Black Rider, a popular Western character from Atlas Comics, had his book cancelled with issue #31 in 1955, and was revived for a one-shot, Black Rider Rides Again #1, in late 1957. Black Rider featured some of the top artists in the Atlas stable, like Syd Shores and Joe Maneely. His revival has a great cover by John Severin, plus an action-packed retelling of his origin by Jack Kirby. Kirby also did the other two Black Rider stories in the issue. In Kirby’s version the mask of the Black Rider was changed from a bandanna to cover his face to a domino mask. A skinny little mask to me is no disguise at all, but if the Lone Ranger could get away it...then why not?
Here is the Black Rider origin story from 1951. Just click on the thumbnail.