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Monday, January 24, 2011

COMIC BOOK COMPULSIVE — Captain Hobby #1

As I have previously established I (a) always love coming across comic books I never imagined existed and (b) don’t know a hell of a lot about Golden Age Canadian comic books.  I certainly had no previous knowledge of Export Publishing, a company which seemed to specialize in doing extremely short-runs of Canadian editions of American comics as well as a few (theoretically) original titles of their own.  Their originals had tantalizing titles such as World-Wide Adventure, Super Western Comics, Thrilling Danger Comics and my personal favorite Big Giant Comics.

Captain Hobby was a solid cover that establishes it’s unique contents with the slogan “Thrilling Adventures Fascinating Hobbies for Everyone”.  As you can see it features a pretty neat pirate battle prominently featuring a busty attractive native girl as well as encircled promises of “Model Building”, “Forest Craft” and “Trick Merlin” (more on him later).

The comic itself is a strange mix of rather wholesome adventure stories that have some kind of hobby angle and supposedly education material about activities the kids can do such as ”How To Start Your Own Stamp Collection”, “Make Your Own Tom Thumb Golf Course” and “A Pinhole Camera That You Can Build”.

The first story “Old Coins Tell Strange Tales” tells the story behind  the cover (though, sadly, it does not contain an appearance by the busty attractive native girl).  The Winter siblings Jack and Joy find a coin on the beach and go to Captain Hobby’s “Fix-It” Shop (though from the contents of the shop it’s hard to imagine just what, exactly, is Captain Hobby qualified to fix.  Hobby spins them a yarn about one of his coins that involves natives and pirates which ends with information on how to start a coin collection.

Then there’s this six page story featuring Ace Bradley and his Cloud Commanders (the title of which is a bit of a boast, as it makes it sound like Ace is running some kind of flying do-gooders kind of operation ala Blackhawk when in reality he has exactly one plane) story which promises “Adventures in the sky and easy instructions of building model planes”.

And finally as promised Trick Martin.  One of my favorite recent comic books has been Northern Guard from Moonstone  which is Ty Templeton’s revival of Golden Age superheroes (his version of Trick is the guy on the left with the goatee).

As I’ve admitted I don’t know all that much about Canadian Golden Age comics, but I instantly recognized the names of most of the characters he was bringing back (Freelance, Commander Steele and of course Johnny Canuck).  I’d even read some of their adventures.  But others were a complete mystery like Zor the Mighty, Blackwing and in particular Trick Merlin.  Who the hell was Trick Merlin?

So you can imagine my surprise when I discovered that Trick Merlin was the final feature of this comic in apparently his first and only appearance.  Of course this version of the character (who dresses like Bing Crosby on opening day at the track and is just a stage magician) has nothing to do with Ty’s version (who has standard ill-defined comic book magic powers).  None of which should impair your enjoyment of this four pager (which has the Grand Comic Book Database tell us was drawn by Wes Chapman) where Trick helps his pal Archie Plunger (who seems to have escaped from a Damon Runyon story), deal with a crooked gambler and in the process teaches the kids a neat magic trick.


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