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Sunday, July 24, 2011

COMIC BOOK COMPULSIVE — Yankee Comics #1

Yankee Doodle Dandy

Image via Wikipedia

It’s hard to definitively say which Golden Age patriotic superhero had the goofiest name.  Probably because the competition for the title was something fierce.  I’m sure there are a lot more out there but after only a two minute Internet search I was able to find Star Spangled Kid, U.S. Jones, The Spirit of ’76, The Fighting Yank, Red, White and Blue and Minute-Man. Former plain clothes adventurer Tex Thompson deserves special mention because when he took up the mask he got not one but two, Mr. America and the even worse The Americommando.

But if I am absolutely forced to choose just one it would undoubtedly have to be Yankee Doodle Jones from Yankee Comics. Name-wise the only one who had it worse than him was his kid partner, Dandy.  That’s right, Yankee Doodle and Dandy.  We can only imagine the ribbing poor Dandy must have gotten from the rest of the  Golden, Whiz, Amazing, Super-Boy Detectives.

But Yankee Doodle Jones also had the weirdest and most disturbing origin in Golden Age history.  The Whizzer and the mongoose blood? In comparison that was nothing. Let’s take a look at “The Case of the Strangling Hair” drawn by the legendary Lou Fine.

Here’s a confession, maybe I’m slower on the uptake (I originally wrote “on the update” so clearly that’s confirmed) than I previously thought but even after reading that page a couple of times I somehow didn’t get the full implications of what the unnamed scientist was doing.  Let’s take another look at the first three panels:

There’s always been a wafer thin line between the mad scientist and the super scientist but here that line disappears entirely.  Supposedly out of patriotism and a belief their lives had no value a trio of handicapped war veterans volunteer to (somehow) have their bodies fused together…

..creating not a Frankenstein monster but instead a blonde Aryan looking lower case superman.  The creature, inexplicably named Yankee Doodle Jones, then receives from a “invincibility injection” from the scientist, giving him the strength of an army.

And in a scene that Dr. Wertham easily could have included in his book The Seduction of the Innocent the unnamed son of the scientist is then seen shooting up the remainder of the serum.

Let’s take a moment to consider Dandy.  We tend to think of Golden Age boy sidekicks as exclusively being wisecracking yet desperately earnest paragons who unreservedly worshiped their costumed role models.  And while that’s true for the most part the wishful fulfillment inherent in the characters went way beyond beating the crap out of adults and skipping school.   By the standards of the 1940′s kid sidekicks routinely got away with murder; in this one panel alone Dandy talks back to an elder and demonstrates disrespect, laziness and gluttony.  The 1940′s were a more innocent age in at least one way; unlike today kids back then did not have unlimited on-demand access to chocolate cake.  Though clearly the dream of it burned brightly within them.

And in spite of his science fiction/horror origins Yankee Doodle and Dandy received their marching orders directly from Uncle Sam himself!

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One Response to “COMIC BOOK COMPULSIVE — Yankee Comics #1”

  1. Claudio P. Says:

    Nice article.
    The story, however, wasn’t drawn by Lou Fine, but by Charles Sultan, a good artist strongly imitating Fine.

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