To The Moon!

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Today is the 92nd anniversary of Kurt Schaffenberger’s birth! He was one of those veteran artists I encountered often during my ’70s adolescence (being an avid reader of DC’s Superman Family), but never quite appreciated as much as flashier, younger superstar creators like Jim Starlin and Marshall Rogers.

As I grew older, however, I saw the brilliance of Shaffenberger’s ability to balance cartoon-like characters with realistic settings. Few artists outside of C.C. Beck could make Tawky Tawny a viable part of a super-hero universe and qualify as one of the medium’s better Good Girl artists.

Few characters suited Schaffenberger’s style better than the original Captain Marvel (aside from Superman, perhaps, but that’s six of one/ half-a-dozen of another). From Whiz Comics #120 (Fawcett, April 1950), here’s “Rockets To The Moon” with pencils and inks by the great Kurt Schaffenberger.

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Get The Point

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Although Green Arrow and Hawkeye have endured their share of fanboy scorn over the years,  the Big Two’s super-archers are currently enjoying something of a renaissance. Both have benefited from exposure in hit television series and movies, leading their respective corporate owners to put greater thought and effort into their adventures on the printed page.

Neither, however, would be anywhere on anyone’s radar without the Golden Age ancestor who first established how well Robin Hood’s gimmick translated to the super-hero genre: Centaur Publication’s The Arrow!

Created by comics legend Paul Gustavson, the original Arrow was an intelligence agent who – as was apparently the case for many strapping, young man in the late 1930s and early 1940s – was frustrated by criminals escaping justice through loopholes and decided to remedy the situation through archery.

Or, as one anonymous police official put it …

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So … yeah, that arrow stuff was pretty effective.

Today’s adventure originally appeared in The Arrow #2 (Centaur, November 1940) and was drawn by Bob Lubbers, an artist who later left a Milton Caniff-sized mark on Fiction House’s Good Girl and adventure comics. His work on Arrow was more primitive, but still lent a nice pulp-fiction feel to the proceedings.

The fact that our titular hero doesn’t appear right away adds to the story’s mystery.

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The Atomic Age

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Charlton published a vast array of titles from the 1940s to the 1980s, but the imprint is best remembered today for its short-lived “Action Hero” line that brought the world Steve Ditko’s Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, Nightshade and The Question as well as such stalwarts as Peacemaker, Sarge Steel, Judomaster and Peter Cannon, Thunderbolt.

Although DC eventually purchased and published their own versions of the Action Heroes to varying degrees of success, the characters achieved their greatest fame serving as templates for the quasi-heroes that populated Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal Watchmen.

Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s recent The Multiversity: Pax Americana brought the Action Heroes and Watchmen back to the forefront in a masterfully complex, beautifully illustrated story that examined super-heroism in the 21st century, the intersection of fiction and reality and the United States’ role in a post-terrorism world, among other equally challenging topics too numerous  – and too far beyond my reach – to summarize in a single paragraph.

Heck, Morrison and Quitely even resurrected this guy from the first comic ever published by Charlton (or “E. Levy/Frank Comunale” as it was referred to in the indicia) back in 1944.

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For all the ways the Action Heroes have been deployed, however, I don’t know if many people have read the original stories published during the Silver Age. The Time Bullet has already posted classic adventures of the Blue Beetle and The Question, so it’s time for Captain Atom to get his due in a fun super-hero romp that also introduces the judo-flipping heroine Nightshade.

From Captain Atom #82 (Charlton, September 1966), here’s “How Do You Catch A Ghost?” by David Kaler (script), Steve Ditko (pencils) and Rocco Mastroserio (inks).

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Crook Buster

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Did everyone survive the 13 Days Of Halloween?

As yours truly winds down from the dual high of leftover Halloween candy and a Netflix marathon of Mario Bava films, here’s an All Souls Day bonus featuring Fox Publications’ answer to the Spectre: The Wraith.

Like Jim Corrigan, Gary Kennedy was a policeman who was gunned down by criminals and returned from the dead to exact his revenge. Unlike the DC’s long-lived spirit of vengeance, however, The Wraith possessed a more limited power set that encompassed flight, intangibility, super-strength and the Deadman-like ability to possess humans.

Unlike most of the other rip-off characters that were Fox Publications’ stock-in-trade, The Wraith also had a cool character design. There’s something about a green corpse wrapped in sheets that stands out …

From Mystery Men Comics #27 (Fox, October 1941), here’s “The Wraith.” The story is signed by Paul Devlin, but I can’t find any biographical information on the gentleman to determine if he really existed or was just a nom de plume.

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I could earn $30 to $50 a week? Man … I should’ve been a radio technician instead of whatever it is I do these days.

Rude Awakening

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The 13 Days Of Halloween conclude with a classic written and drawn by the one and only Basil Wolverton! From Weird Tales Of The Future #3 (SPM Publications, September 1952), here’s “Nightmare World.”

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Yikes!

That’s it for this year’s fright fest, but there’s still one more piece of business to conclude Time Bulleteers. Come back Nov. 2 for an All Souls’ Day special starring The Wraith!

Alien Encounters

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One of the more interesting facets of ’50s horror and sci-fi comics is how effectively they captured the underlying paranoia of the times. From thinly-veiled allegories of the Red Menace to more subtle examinations of the horrors hiding within seemingly placid suburbs, Pre-Code comics often conveyed potent messages using the most lurid methods possible.

Case in point: Today’s Red Scare tale courtesy of classic Commie-Baiting publisher, Atlas Comics. The uncredited writer  – Stan Lee, perhaps? – does an excellent job of evoking the paranoia of McCarthyism through the guise of man-eating, shape-shifting aliens.

(Now that I think of it, those Atlas and Marvel comics of the 1950s and early ’60s did have a lot of Communist super-villains. It’s probably because the Timely-Atlas-Marvel imprint never saw a popular trend it couldn’t exploit.)

The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “The Man Eater!” from Astonishing #8 (Atlas, January 1952). The art, drawn in the style of Atlas stalwart Joe Maneely, is credited to Norman Steinberg.

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Another happy ending!

Coming tomorrow: Basil Wolverton reveals humanity’s deepest nightmares!!!

Memories

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Unrequited love once again leads to complications as the 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “Night Screams” from Journey Into Fear #2 (Superior, July 1951). The story and art emanated from the omnipresent Iger Studio.

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Man … taken together the Halloween posts this year are creating one messed-up romance comic.

Coming tomorrow: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you!!!

He’s Your Puppet

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Has any story concerning a ventriloquist and his or her puppet ever ended well for the person who purportedly held the strings? Since we’re well into the 13 Days Of Halloween, it’s a good bet the answer is “no.”

“The Devil Puppet” originally appeared in Worlds Of Fear #5 (Fawcett, July 1952). The story was drawn by Mike Sekowsky.

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Well … it was kinda sorta a happy ending for somebody.

Coming tomorrow: Another relationship gone sour! I could have posted most of these stories on Valentines’ week!!