Having always been a fat kid I probably shouldn’t have any tolerance for wholesome super student athletes along the lines of dime novel hero Frank Merriwell. But that having been said I must confess I have a grudging tolerance for Dick Cole, perhaps because he started life as a “Wonder Boy”, one of those “raised by a scientist to achieve the peak of human development” types. But he then upended all expectations by instead of fighting crime in a homemade costume he became a military cadet. He started out battling mad scientists and punching dinosaurs but was quickly shorn of his super strength and dealt with the usual assortment of jealous rivals, crooked gamblers and spy rings. He has a fairly long run in Target Comics and appeared in three issues of his own title.
One of the interesting to the verge of oddball thing about Novelty Press were the little “messages” they frequently but at the bottom of their pages that didn’t seem to be directed so much as the kid reader as the adult buying the comic. As I’ve said before, Novelty Press titles seemed to be carefully designed to not offend Grandparents and and Great Aunts.
First up is a Dick Cole adventure drawn by Jim Wilcox in the awkward, blocky style the series was known for.
I’ve on the record for liking the adventures of street level supernatural crimefighter Sergeant Spook but honestly, the art was usually so-so at best. But not here; Al McWilliams delivers some really handsome, well laid out pages, though I do have to wonder how exactly orphan boy Jerry (no last name) got invited to go on an Egyptian archeological dig. For the record in the series the afterworld was known as “Ghost Town” and in his early adventures the Sarge would regularly visit to get help from the various spirits. He did it less frequently after his psychic sidekick Jerry was introduced but the concept is referenced in this outing.
Edison Bell was originally a classic comic book boy inventor, meaning he creating robots, vehicles and the like, but that clearly was too much for the Grandmas so he became a “real world” boy inventor. Meaning he did little science projects and/or experiments to get out of scrapes and the stories would end with tutorials for the kids on how they could do the same at home. But in this “adventure” he doesn’t even do that; here he heroically puts on a Halloween costume.
Now that we’re just days away from the season premier of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the excitement is building fast, let’s take a look at (and a listen to) a little Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. Not only was Nick Fury an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. but he is (was?) the commander of the whole secret organization! But this didn’t happen over night. Nick worked his way up through the ranks, starting as a mere howling commando back in World War Two. (Hey, you’d be howling too if you were still on active duty 69 years after the war ended.) In fact, Colonel Fury looks younger now than he did back then! (Shh… maybe he’s an LMD.) But time paradoxes aside, it’s good to see Nick’s spy agency on weekly TV.
Now if you were paying attention during Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and didn’t bolt for the exits as soon as the credits started to roll, you got a glimpse of that man you love to hate, Baron Strucker! Yep, that Nazi turned Hydra bad guy managed to sneak into the movie at the last moment. He’s up to no good, I’ll wager.
The Baron, aka Wolfgang von Strucker, dates way back to SFAHHC #5, and continued to make Fury’s life miserable for several decades/issues. Not to mention being a thorn in the side of Captain Savage. Before long, he’ll turn up on the big screen or the small screen (spoiler!) I have no doubt.
So while you enjoy this cover gallery of the Baron you can hum along with the haunting strains of the Howling Commandos theme music.
OK, here’s an odd one, Okay Adventure Annuala British hardcover featuring a hodgepodge of boys own adventure prose stories and a very odd grouping of Golden Age American comic book reprints in color and black and white. By which I mean there are stories which are, for no apparent reason, in black and white and color. They clearly didn’t stint when it came to the cover.
And the end papers sure were pretty as well.
First up is an Invisible Justice story from Quality’s Smash Comics.
There was a couple of Golden Age heroes named The Voice, but the one who appeared in Quality Comics Feature Comics is undoubtedly the strangest. Secretly a 150 year old man calling himself Mr. Elixir who survived a 150 years of being shipwrecked on a desert island thanks to a steady diet of herbs which gave him long life, vitality and super strength. It seems to me that all of that would make him a unique character but maybe all those years on the island made him a little weird because he decides he also needs to use ventriloquism to fight crime.
And a page of Mickey Finn just because I like the strip so much.
So, as you can see, most of the American reprints which from Quality Comics, but that doesn’t explain this Dennis the Menace comic book story being here. It’s especially odd since the UK has its own Dennis the Menace who first appeared in the pages of The Beano in 1951.
And finally here’s a reprint of “The King of Blackhawk Island” from Quality’s Blackhawk#76.
Back in the day (I’m old enough now that I use that expression daily) comic books were considered cheap, low-brow entertainment for morons and young children. When you see big-budget blockbusters like The Avengers or Guardians of the Galaxy it’s easy to forget that comics weren’t always fodder for hit movies. At best, comics were fodder for rip-off record albums designed to separate well-intentioned parents from their hard-earned cash. (“I’ll get this cheap record for Timmy. He’s just a dumb kid, he won’t know the difference.”) Especially after the Batman craze hit in 1966, there were more ways to cheat children than you can shake a Batarang at. Enter The Capes & Masks, a group so phony they make Milli Vanilli seem sincere. Holy hoax, Batman! The Capes & Masks didn’t actually exist, nor did 11 songs about comic book heroes. But did that stop them? No! This was the Sixties and comics were the latest fad to be cashed in upon (or the latest bandwagon to be boarded, if you prefer that metaphor). Some savvy record producer found a bunch of tapes lying on the floor, changed the titles of the tracks to sound vaguely comic-booky, and released an entire LP of disingenuous and fraudulent comics music on an unsuspecting public. And they sold like hotcakes. (They probably would have been better with butter and maple syrup.)
If all of this sounds familiar it’s because I’ve told this same story several times including here, here, here, here, here and here. Hey, there are 11 tracks on the album, so I’ll tell it a few more times before I’m through. As promised, here’s another song from Comic Book heroes.
Click the link below and feel ripped off once again!
This week I’ll be revisiting Popular Comics, a particularly strong looking anthology title that had always featured wonderfully designed covers. For most of it’s run its breads and various butters were comic strip reprints but for a time it had it’s own stable of original characters. Most of these were surprisingly well written and drawn and even gave original takes on tropes that were pretty well trod even by the early 1940′s.
Take, for example, the awkwardly titled Professor Supermind and Son. Handsomely drawn by Maurice Kashuba the feature concerned Professor Harmon (“America’s Supermind” was apparently his nickname; apparently all the good ones were already taken) and his son. One of his inventions temporarily turned junior into a kind of a minimalist, generic superhero (no pseudonym, no chest insignia, etc.) but instead of fighting crime they meddled into the affairs of sovereign nations. Captain America and Johnny Canuck may have punched Hitler in the jaw, but Dan Harmon did some real damage by shaming him with a misogynistic slur. Either that or he was outing Hitler as a female crossdresser; I’m not sure which.
I’ve covered The Hurricane Kids, Alan and Dave Burnham, are a couple of All-American kids who generally had pretty prosaic South Sea style adventures, in a previous installment. But thankfully they did veer over into the fantastic elements lane as we see where they go from battling Zulus to blowing up a dinosaur real good.
But there were still comic strip reprints like Herky. Man, I love me that Herky.
Heere’s an episode of Martan the Marvel Man who sadly isn’t from Mars to make the alliteration complete. Not that you could tell from his his outing which is heavy on the spy vs spy stuff but along with a hot wife he possessed super powers and a alien/super suit. It was a sweet like number that was vaguely faux Roman with kickass shoulder pads (lots of 40′s superheroes fought crime with bare legs but Martan was the only one I know of who did it in a skirt; a skirt that shorter than his wives).
Wally Williams was one of those college boy heroes whose minor key “adventures” fill the middle of many a 40′s anthology comic. Most of them were super student athletes battling jealous rivals, shady gamblers and Nazi spy rings that they conveniently found operating in the closest conveniently located haunted house; essentially endless pressings from the Frank Merriwell template. It’s the sort of thing I usually leaf through to get to something more substantial but creators Victor Boni and Tom Hickey happily foreswore such trite antics and created something nicely homey and ordinary.
On the other hand The Masked Pilot was just another aviator with a domino mask. Pass.
And finally there’s The Voice who was more Invisible Man as a low rent superhero than a factory second Shadow. But he was also kind of that as well.
As your resident self-proclaimed expert on all things comical and musical, I know a lot about the nexus of records and comics. But even I, D.J. David B., don’t know everything. Shocking, isn’t it? I will pause now while you catch your collective breath and compose yourself. Go ahead, take a minute.
But it’s true. There are still a few musical mysteries that I have yet to solve. Today, one of my favorites.
As I’ve said on this blog before, my favorite comic strip ever is Pogo, by the absurdly talented Walt Kelly. I’ve collected and shared some of the records Kelly made himself (yes, he sang). But here’s one that I don’t quite get.
Made by Percy Faith, whose biggest hit was “Theme from A Summer Place” (literally the theme song from a film called “A Summer Place”) this was the flip side of that inescapable MOR smash. It’s called “Go Go Pogo” and it’s about Pogo Possum, star of the aforementioned comics.
Or is it?
Percy Faith in 1949.
Maybe “Go Go Pogo” is about the fad of pogo sticks. Or maybe ol’ Perce (I call him “Perce”) just needed a B side and decided to title this catchy composition with syrupy strings “Go-Go-Po-Go” simply because it rhymed. Perhaps it was just the first thing that popped into his head.
So here is your challenge, my loyal I.T.C.H. readers: Close your eyes and listen to the record. What do you see? Does the melody call to mind the adventures of Pogo Possum and Albert the alligator in the Okefenokee Swamp? Or do you picture the neighborhood kids hopping on pogo sticks and screaming until you want to stick your head out the window and yell, “Hey you kids! Get out of my driveway!”? Or maybe it conjures abstract images of swirling nothingness orbiting the very eyebones of your noggin.
For now, I’m going to presume that the song was inspired by Walt Kelly’s inspiring comic strip and share some cool related images. Enjoy!
Click to enlarge this gorgeous piece of Kelly art.
Magnificent wallpaper by famed cartoonist Jim Engel. Click to enlarge.
I haven’t seen the new movie, but they tell me it’s good. Personally, I’m more interested in the classic original which was not called “Mr. Peabody & Sherman” (or as I preferred to call it “Sherman & Peabody”) but rather “Peabody’s Improbable History.” Using great writing, excellent voice talent and crummy animation, these short cartoons told the amusing stories of a smart dog and his pet boy as they travel through time. Who knew in 1959 that one day these filler segments from The Bullwinkle Show would be beautifully animated in a lavish feature-length film? And who could have predicted that kids who were 10 years old in 1959 would grow up to be 64-year-old grandparents and bring their grandchildren to see a movie based on fairly minor characters they enjoyed (somewhat) in their youth? I’m betting DreamWorks did!
So let’s climb into our WABAC machine, turn back time, and listen to the classic theme song from the original series. Ah… memories. Sing along! You know the words!
I’ve already dealt with Smash, the British weekly comic that ran 257 issues between 1966 and 1971 that featured an oddball hodgepodge mix of British and American comics, but there’s several points of interest in this 1969 Annual edition of the title. Like, the way the cover doesn’t feature your standard symbolic, iconic image. Instead, it’s first of a three page color story featuring the characters from the humor features (Grimly Feendish, Percy’s Pets, the Swots and the Blots, Bad Penny, The Man from B.U.N.G.L.E., The Nervs, Charlie’s Choice, Ronnie Rich) engaging in a game of footie. While these kinds of crossovers weren’t unknown in British comics they were definitely pretty rare.
First up there’s a nicely drawn outing of undoubtedly the dullest stretchable hero in comics, Rubber Man, formerly James Hollis whose “powers” was actually a cruse given him by an Indian fakir.
Next up the first of two stories featuring the Legend Testers, Rollo Stones and Danny Charters who worked for the Museum of Legend of Myth in the 40th Century and traveled in time to test artifacts to discover whether the legends around them were true. People who know more than me about British artists tell me the art here was done by the series regular artist Jordi Bernet. Like Rubber Man the Legend Testers make a cameo in Albion, the 2005 limited series published by DC.
This one off science fiction story Inferno which appears to be a Spanish origin.
Lieutenant Lightning may very well be the goofiest British superhero of the 60′s, and that’s saying something. For the record his chest insignia reads “Tin”, which is the name of the future organization that emplows him.
Whenever we run out of ideas here at Comics Tunes Headquarters, we always return to the sure-fire, tried-and-true, can’t-miss-with-this show that spawned more comics-related music than anything else I’ve found – the 1966 Batman TV series. No one really knows how many bat-songs there are, but it’s a bat-load!
This time we’re presenting a real treat. Rather than the “Batman Theme” which has been na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-ed to death, feast your eyes (and soon your ears) on this: An actual record of the real Adam West sort of singing. To tie in with the staggering success of the twice-weekly TV series, this gen-you-wine 45 RPM record was actually released, along with all kinds of other bat-merch. And now, you can listen to it and (try to) enjoy it.
You may very well consider this week’s installment of whatever the hell this is supposed a deviation from it’s designated mission station, that being to read all the comic books I’ve always wanted to read before I died. Not to mention the fact it’s a new all-time low in my over reliance on what I generously like to thin of as the cut and paste school of journal (pick a subject, do some research, collect images, read other peoples posts then do a bit of cut and pasting; rewrite and you’re done). But truthfully I am just as over fascinated with comic strips as I am comic books and that goes double for Hugo Hercules, William H.D. Koerner’s short-lived strip. It ran for five months, September 1902 to January 1903 in the Chicago Tribune and is thought by many to be the funny pages very first superhuman. Albeit one who didn’t wage an never ending battle against evil so much as wander around aimlessly sans agency or visible means of support looking for cool stuff to do. The strip itself was admittedly pretty meh; like a lot of early strips it relentlessly stuck to a repetitious single theme and rarely deviated from it. In this case Hugo getting mixed up in stock situations that require a demonstration of super strength, punctuated by his not particularly catchy catch phrase.
Not being what you’d call a success Koerner left cartooning to become a painter. In a lot of ways it’s still ahead of its time; as much as the trope of the superhuman has been, often brutally, deconstructed, no one to my knowledge has created so casual a ‘crimefighter’; maybe it’s time for someone to dust Hugo off and see what they could do with him..