Monday, February 3, 2014
As must be clear by now when it comes to comic books and comic strips my tastes can be as wide as they are eclectic, but that having been said I’m mostly a middlebrow; I tend to skew more towards the pedestrian and mainstream rather that the outre and avant-garde. Which probably explains my inexplicable affection for the all but forgotten comic strip. Mickey Finn which even in it’s heyday was never a top-tier feature, either creatively or when it came to popularity. But it was popular enough to last a remarkably long time, starting in 1936 and ending in 1976, especially given it’s thin premise; a mostly light-hearted look at the work and home life of a uniformed policeman named Michael Aloysius Finn that lived with his mother. Mickey was a good-natured, big kid at heart type and like a lot of comic strip protagonists of this era was a paragon of virtue and all-around role model for kids, hence, not a load of laughs. So the comic relief was mostly relegated to his Uncle Phil, the living embodiment of every vice and failing ever ascribed to the Irish save one; though he regularly featured a tavern he was not a habitual drunk. He was, however, a fantastically stupid shiftless, stubborn, argumentative blowhard and know-it-all who had the aspect of a shaved ape, all of which inexplicably proved so popular with readers that his repetitive low-rent antics soon took soon took over the Sunday strips. As demonstrated here in this Sunday page reprinted from an issue of Feature Comics.
So basically these were the endless “adventures” of a complete imbecile screwing up but for some reason they became my favorite feature in Feature Comics. I also quite enjoyed the “topper”, a comic strip term for “the short strip that ran at the top of the main feature” Nippie about a know-it-all kid who, as the subtitle established was “often wrong”. It likewise was endless variations on a single theme, but it resonated with me, perhaps because I’m so often wrong myself.
Mickey Finn appeared in the pages of Feature and Big Shot Comics as well as 15 issues of his own comic which reprinted the dailies. #6 is a good place for those unfamiliar with the strip to starts as it’s a complete sequence focusing on Mickey that shows that when given the rare opportunity he’s actually fairly capable of actual police work. It also features the introduction of Sunny, the blonde, supernaturally well behaved little kid whose presence in the Sundays always kind of puzzled me as he bore no familial resemblance to any of the other Finn’s and yet was treated as one of the family.
— Steve Bennett
Friday, January 31, 2014
“Focus on Cartoonists” catch up continues, with pages from the October 1913 issue of Cartoons Magazine.
Above, Luther D. Bradley depicts on the October cover General Victoriano Huerta, who was briefly President of Mexico during the Mexican Revolution.
Beneath, an article on cartooning by James H. Shonkwiler.
Click on the above & below pictures, to view them in detail, and be able to read their text.
Cartoonist bios for O’Dell Dean (above) and Homer Stinson (below).
Finally, October’s Landon School ad.
Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Am I amazed by Spider-Man? Maybe. As I’ve learned over the past few weeks, there are almost as many songs about Spider-Man as there are about Batman. Pretty amazing!
Granted, the majority of these are covers of the 1967 animated TV show theme, but there are plenty more that aren’t. Last Tuesday, I shared one of those, this week it’s one of these!
Previously (way back on December 11, 2007) I wrote about punk-pioneers The Ramones and their cover of the Spider-Man theme. This time it’s a punk rock version by a group called The Candy Band. As with the Batman theme, this is a tune that can be played jazzy, or slow, or as a rave-up punk rock anthem. So versatile!
Click below and rock out!
Spiderman – The Candy Band
— DJ David B.
Monday, January 27, 2014
I admittedly know almost nothing about Australian comic books so hopefully you’ll excuse me for mostly just cutting and pasting information from various websites. Jet Fury was the creation of Yaroslav Horak who made a name for himself in Australia in the 50′s for creating The Mask, a crime fighter in a vaguely skull like mask which could magically change to duplicate anyone’s face. It was supposedly a big seller for Atlas Comics until the state of Queensland banned the comic under the belief that a full mask was “evil” (!) after which he abandoned the feature. One site suggested that his character was “stolen and plagiarized by the producers of the Mask movies” which seems highly implausible (to be polite) considering how obscure the character is everywhere other than Austrlia. Plus the author seems to be unaware of the Golden Age character The Face (who probably has a better right to that claim) or that the “movie character” first appeared in comics.
He also worked on a number of other features, including Captain Fortune…
…before moving to England where he drew the James Bond comic strip.
Again, I don’t know much about Australian comics, but I know what I like, and I really like this.
— Steve Bennett
Thursday, January 23, 2014
The new Pirate series Black Sails is set to premiere on the Starz cable network tomorrow night (though I’ve just now noticed that the first episode is already available On Demand). In honor of that (or maybe just as an excuse to show this material), I’ve extracted roughly half of the “Pirate” pages from the early 1850s paperback book, The Little Joker’s Amusing Panorama, published by Fisher & Brother.
Little Joker is part of a small group of early 1850s American paperback titles – all of them quite rare – in which publishers gathered and re-used the material found in their prior two decades worth of comic almanacs. (The Clown, or The Banquet of Wit, which I posted examples from earlier this month, is another such book.) In the case of Little Joker, the majority of its pages are reprinting material first published in the Davy Crockett Almanacs, filled out with pages from the (President William Henry) Harrison Almanac, at least one Comic Almanac, and – I am guessing – from the Pirate-themed Almanacs (unless there was a large abundance of pirate material inside the Crockett Almanacs that I’m unaware of).
I am taking guesses here, because the Crockett and Pirate almanacs are quite scarce and in demand, and so are extremely expensive. I own very little of that material. Little Joker, however, is rarer than all of them, so much so that it has remained virtually unknown, and so it slipped under the radar of Crockett and Pirate collectors when it came up for sale, years ago. (I’ve yet to see another copy for sale, while Crockett Almanacs pop up repeatedly.)
Anyway, following beneath are a number of pirate bios, from a time when these characters were within many readers’ living memory.
Click on the above & below pages, to view them in greater in detail, and be to read the text.
I’ll end this post with a few pages that came directly from Crockett Almanacs — 1842 (above) and 1839 (below) — taken from pictures that were posted when they were up for auction. I have a bunch more such pictures saved elsewhere – I’ll just have to save them for the next worthy Pirate event.
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
Last Tuesday, I discussed (hmm, is it a discussion if I’m talking to myself?) that although Batman still seems to be in the lead, it looked like Spider-Man is a close second.
Of course I’m talking about comics-related songs about these two characters. Since they both had jazzy theme songs for their TV series, the bulk of the comics tunes are covers of these melodies. But in both cases, there are plenty of other songs that mention Batman or Spider-Man that are original songs unrelated to either the 1966 Batman TV show or the 1967 Spider-Man cartoon show. Here is one of them.
Link Wray was one of the coolest guys in rock ‘n’ roll, with one of the coolest names. Link Wray! He even sounds like a comic book super-hero! It’s no wonder he recorded a song called “Spider Man.”
In the weeks, months and years to come, I’ll continue to share these Spider-Man songs, along with more selections from my Batman library. With new movies and new theme songs coming from both characters, I don’t know if we’ll ever have an accurate tally of how many records these two have inspired, but it’s fun to hear them all.
Click the link and enjoy this instrumental by Link.
Spider Man – Link Wray
— DJ David B.
Monday, January 20, 2014
As someone who has been semi-obsessed with British superheroes Pow! Annual 1971 is a comic I’ve been wanting to read for a long time as it is just chock full (80 pages) of British superheroes who as far as I know never appeared anywhere else. Which is odd in and of itself as British Annuals frequently relied, sometimes heavily, on reprints of already published material. It’s possible they are reprints, and, as is often the case, I just don’t know enough about British comics, but this time I don’t think so. For one thing Lew Springer’s wonderful Blimey! blog tells me it was original material, though he suggests that the material “looks European” and might have been reprinted in other countries. Then there’s the fact that 1970 (British Annuals appeared the year before their cover date, arriving just in time for Christmas sales) was a little late to try to jump on the superhero bandwagon. This one also pops up on the Stupid Comics website which I don’t think is entirely fair; these are fairly flat, generic superhero stories to be certain, but they are handsome and certainly serviceable ones.
— Steve Bennett
Thursday, January 16, 2014
Catch up time! Back last Summer, we were having website issues, and I stopped uploading “new” old material for awhile. Once I did return, it’s been with less frequency of posting than I had been before. One reason, is that I simply burned out on scanning, organizing, and posting Cartoons Magazine material — I thought it would be fun to do a month-by-month Centennial as each issue came out, but I hadn’t realized when I started, how predominant it would become, squeezing out material from other sources. A second reason, is that I actually end up damaging the things as I was pressing them flat against a scanner.
Well, I’m restarting our Cartoons Magazine coverage, this time hopefully without overdoing it. And I just bought a new digital camera, testing first that it can produce high enough definition images for use here on SuperITCH. This posting is the first one (from me) making use of photographed instead of scanned pages. So, on with it!…
It’s been July since we’ve done a “Focus on Cartoonists” feature, presenting pages from Cartoons Magazine that focused on the cartooning itself. I plan to run a couple of these each month, until we catch up with a truly “Centennial” schedule again. Above if the front cover of the August 1913 issue (my copy of September is coverless, so, can’t show it to you). The subject of this cover by cartoonist Fred Morgan, is Summer Heat/Humidity (perfect timing for those of us who experienced the recent “Polar Vortex”). Immediately below — also from the August issue — are two quick bios on cartoonists James H. Shonkwiler and H. Robert Manz.
Click on the above & below pictures, to view the cartoons in detail, and read the text.
Above, an ad for bound sets of the first three volumes of Cartoons Magazine (almost certainly made from returned/unsold copies — these bound volumes typically are missing the covers and advertising pages, as it was general policy for magazine stands to tear off at least part of the cover, as proof of the copies they had failed to sell.)
Beneath, from August, a three-page article by artist James E. Murphy, accompanied with some of his cartoons (the last one created for this article).
Above & below, from the September 1913 issue, short bios of cartoonists Gaar Williams and Terry Gilkison.
Finally, below, an ad for the Landon School for cartoonists, from the rear cover of the August 1913 issue. (The September issue also had a (different) Landon School ad, but again, I don’t have that cover.)
Tuesday, January 14, 2014
I’ve mentioned many times on the I.T.C.H. blog (use the search box in the upper right if you don’t believe me) that the 1966 Batman TV show inspired more comics-oriented songs than anything else under the sun. But examining the cartune landscape in detail, I see that Spider-Man is running a close second! Wow!
As with Batman, many of the songs are versions of the cartoon TV show theme, “Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can…” There are fast versions, slow versions, vocal versions, instrumental versions, jazz versions, punk rock versions, and more! While this accounts for a lot of the Spider-Man-related songs, there are plenty more from the Spider-Man movies. Of course, there are batloads of Batman movie themes as well, and Batman has the edge because there have been more Batman movies than Spider-Man movies (so far). If you take away the film soundtracks, I’d estimate that Batman and Spider-Man are pretty close in terms of number of song tributes. Since I’ve covered Batman so many times in the past, I’m going to balance that out with a bunch of Spider-Man music. Okay with you?
Click the image for a huge close-up
We begin with the first (and so far, only) Rockomic. Browsing the blogosphere I see that several others have beaten me to the punch on this one, so I’ll be brief.
Not based on a movie or a TV show, this is an album of Spider-Man songs along with a story. You can even kind of read along with the panels as you listen. A neat idea that didn’t quite take off, but still a historic artifact in the nexus of comics and music that we call home.
Click the picture for a giant-sized view.
Click the link below to hear the “hit” from this collectible LP. In the weeks to come we’ll bring you more Spider-Music to enjoy.
Amazing Spider-Man Rockomic – The Webspinners
— DJ David B.
Monday, January 13, 2014
As previously noted, in the 60′s there were a handful of British titles, Fantastic, Pow, Terrific, Wham! and Smash, which mixed black and white reprints of Marvel Comics with the Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder comic strip along with indigenous original material, both humorous and adventurous. As so often happens the weaker selling titles merged with the better selling ones until, Battle Royale style, only one remained, in this instance the last comic standing was Smash.
This issue from 1968 is a particularly eclectic mix. By this point the Marvel reprints were off the cover and pushed back to the middle of the book where they chopped up and laid out in various oddball ways in what I assume was an attempt to get as much as much material into the limited space as possible. First and foremost there’s pages reprint from Fantastic Four Annual #1 and The Mighty Thor #149 featuring The Growing Man, an incredibly minor Lee/Kirby character that inexplicably become one of my favorites for reasons I can not fully explain.
And as always, I do love seeing American comic book art in black and white, especially Jack Kirby’s.
There’s also a sequence from the Batman comic strip guest starring Superman (I had no idea he appeared in the 60′s strip). Amongst the indigenous material are the usual compliment of humor strips and some fairly conventional adventure serials that might have appeared in any British boys comics of the era. As I’ve already discussed Brian’s Brain so only two are really worth mentioning; The Spectre, who isn’t an undead guy working battling supernatural creatures, but rather a ”guy believed dead” kind of crimefighter ala The Spirit. Though this one doesn’t even the figleaf of a domino mask to conceal his true identity. But lastly there’s Laird of the Apes.
There were a plot of nosebleed high concepts in British comics, like Six-Gun Gorilla about a gorilla gunfighter in the old west and The Iron Teacher, a formidable robot who went into education, but I’m prepared to say that in the history of comics, British or America, there was like nothing else remotely like Laird of the Apes, Nothing. Well, there were a couple of late entry British strips which came close though. Like Yellowknife of the Yard about a “Red Indian” who became a Police Inspector, which started off fairly straight but quickly owned up to the ridiculousness of it’s own premise. And of course Kid Pharoah, about a revived ancient Egyptian prince who became a prize fighter. But what makes Laird of the Apes especially odd is I can find absolutely nothing about the strip anywhere on the web; I like to think that he was a Highlander who got marooned in Africa and became a Tarzan type, but sadly that’s merely speculation on my part.
— Steve Bennett
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