Along Came A Spider Man

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The Time Bullet is briskly moving along at a two-post-per-month clip these days, which by my estimation should ensure this site’s eventual domination of the Blog-O-Net by the year 3025.

Of course, by that time, blogging about pop culture artifacts should be obsolete – if it isn’t already. We at Time Bullet Central are not concerned about such mundane matters, however, as long as there are still action-packed Golden Age comics scans to unearth and share with the unseen masses.

Here’s one such story featuring one of our favorite super-heroes, Bulletman, taking on one of comics’ many arachnid-themed super-villains. As always, the adventure is enlivened by the presence of Bulletgirl, one of the more competent super-heroines of the Golden Age.

“The Black Spider” originally appeared in Bulletman #1 (Fawcett, Summer 1941). The story was penciled and inked by Charles Sultan, a prolific artist whose long career included illustrating pulps and men’s magazines.

There is no writer credit.

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Poor Suzy! I guess that’s why the Comics Code was created…

Bullet The Blue Sky

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If Dick Briefer worked in the modern comic-book industry, Internet fandom would probably condemn the writer-artist for his overly stylized, cartoony style.

As those familiar with Briefer’s Frankenstein can attest, however, the legendary creator was just as proficient at straight-up horror as big-foot humor. Like Jack Cole, Briefer possessed the talent, imagination and skill to make any sort of story work.

Submitted tonight for your approval, Time Bulleteer, is a Western tale that illustrates how Briefer’s “cartoony” approach transformed a rather typical “outlaw terrorizes community” story into an effective story of brutality and eye-for-an-eye justice.

(In my opinion, Briefer’s art makes the story’s black-humored denouement more disturbing to modern eyes…)

From Dead-Eye Western Comics vol. 1 #8 (Hillman, February 1950), here’s “Rattler Matt: Horned Toad Of The West” by Briefer.

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Thoroughly Modeling Millie

Millie

I’ve written this before, but since that blog no longer exists the sentiment bears repeating: Dan DeCarlo is the Jack Kirby of teen humor comics.

Like the legendary King Kirby, DeCarlo’s distinctive style defined the way a certain genre of comics is drawn to this very day. During his 43-year tenure on Archie comics, DeCarlo modernized creator Bob Montana’s take on the characters and played a major role in ensuring the Riverdale teens remained relevant to generations of readers.

Along the way, DeCarlo created such memorable characters as Josie And The Pussycats, Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Cheryl Blossom.

Much like Jack Kirby, DeCarlo also left Archie comics under less than ideal circumstances with the artist unsuccessfully battling the publisher over ownership rights of his characters.

(The dispute is summed up in this rather condescending New York Times article, which notes the comic book industry’s sales decline but fails to anticipate the licensing boom major and some not-so-major publishers currently enjoy.)

Before Josie, Sabrina and even Archie, however, Dan DeCarlo made his mark on another famous teen-ager who starred In Marvel Comics’ longest running humor title: Millie The Model.

Debuting in 1945 and drawn by pioneering female cartoonist Ruth Atkinson, Millie and her friends were guided by DeCarlo’s talents from 1949-1959. As is the case with Archie, the cartoonist provided a template that was closely followed for the majority of Millie’s run until her numerous comics finally ended in in the early 1970s.

While Timely/Atlas/Marvel’s humor titles weren’t always particularly original, DeCarlo – like Al Jaffe on the publisher’s other teen icon, Patsy Walker – added substantial flair to what otherwise would have been run-of-the-mill adventures.

As an example, here’s a tale from the early ’50s that was signed – and probably written – by Stan Lee and “anonymously” drawn by DeCarlo. It originally appeared in Millie The Model #50 (Atlas, January 1954).

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Gotta love Chili!

Iron Man

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Roy Thomas never met a Golden Age super-hero he didn’t like, a characteristic that certainly served the legendary writer-editor well over the decades.

His voluminous knowledge of comics’ original super-hero boom  – and apparent awareness of copyright abandonment within the industry – led to Marvel’s surreptitious acquisition of the Ghost Rider, introduced elements of Bill Everett’s Amazing-Man to the origin of Iron Fist and provided Bronze Age fan-boys like myself endless hours of nostalgia-tinged fun via The Invaders, Liberty Legion and All-Star Squadron.

One of Thomas’ more memorable pastiches, Iron Munroe, emerged after DC Comics’ infamous Crisis On Infinite Earths reboot wiped out the publisher’s well-established parallel earths mythos and – in the process – demolished much of its Golden Age continuity.

DC’s new order left a “Super” sized hole in Thomas’ All-Star Squadron, necessitating a quick replacement for the Man Of Steel. Somewhere within his voluminous memory, Thomas recalled an extremely obscure character called “Iron Munro,” a space-opera hero reportedly based on John W. Campbell’s ’30s sci-fi character Aarn Munro.

Thomas mixed and matched the Munro moniker with Philip Wylie’s Gladiator and voila

The All-New, All-Different Iron Munro

I’ve always been intrigued by the “real” Iron Munro, but never had the pleasure of reading any of the character’s stories until the advent of the Internet and what I’d like to call of Golden Age of Public Domain Comics sites.

I finally stumbled upon the character in the back pages of Shadow Comics #7 (Street & Smith, November 1940) and was pleased to discover his adventures were every bit as awesome as hoped.

(Satanic aliens! Jules Verne-styled spaceships!! Global destruction!!!)

The real discovery, however, is the identity of the story’s author: Theodore Sturgeon, one of the greatest science-fiction and horror writers of the 21st century. I’m not sure how the author himself would have graded Iron Munro under “Sturgeon’s Law,” but it’s always interesting to note how many pioneering science-fiction writers doubled as funny book scribes during the dawn of American comics.

The story is drawn by Jack Farr and is the apparently the final part of what modern readers would term a “multi-part arc.” Not to worry, though, Time Bulleteers. The Golden Age is the era of compressed comics, where all stories are summed up in one or two meaty captions!

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Helen Twelvetrees

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helen twelvetrees

 

Millie, a Pre-Code melodrama starring the largely forgotten actress Helen Twelvetrees, airs on TCM Jan. 9 at 6 a.m. Pacific/9 a.m. Eastern. Although many actresses of the classic era endured their shares of trials and tribulations, the saddest aspect of Twelvetrees’ story is that we never had a chance to see if she was capable of fulfilling her potential. For more about Twelvetrees, read this excellent post.

Peace On Earth

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A 1939 cartoon about a post-apocalyptic world inhabited by intelligent animals doesn’t sound like your typical holiday fare … which is probably why it isn’t played on a 24-hour loop like A Christmas Story. The tale, however, does present an important message for one and all this – and every – holiday season. Directed by animation pioneer Hugh Harman and featuring the voice of the legendary Mel Blanc, here’s “Peace On Earth,” a Christmas story that views rifles and other instruments of violence with a critical eye.

Happy Whoniversary

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Happy Who-niversary

I first saw Tom Baker as Doctor Who in the early 1980s on my local PBS station. The character and concept struck such a chord that I’ve been a fan ever since that very moment. Although the current series, under the guidance of Stephen Moffat, has frustratingly transformed the character from an eccentric scientist into a cosmic Peter Pan, I do appreciate the great performance of Matt Smith as No. 11 and couldn’t be happier that The Doctor is still going strong in the 21st Century. Geronimo!