Catch Of The Day

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After super-heroes like Doc Strange, The Liberator and American Crusader lost their popularity in the late ’40s, the publishing house known at various times as “Better,” “Standard” and “Nedor” decided to sex up their product a bit by casting their lot with the always-popular Jungle Girl genre. Super-heroine Miss Masque was subsequently tossed from her berth at Exciting Comics in favor of the more scantily clad Judy Of The Jungle, a character created and drawn by Ralph Mayo.

The plan must have worked, because Judy soon took over the cover slot and received the benefit of Alex Schomburg’s typically attractive – and provocative – “good girl art.”

Aside from featuring Mayo’s attractive art, one of Judy’s adventures was illustrated by a young gun named Frank Frazetta. If you ever thought Frazetta would be the perfect artist to helm a jungle girl comic … well, let’s just say other people obviously found the idea equally appealing.

From Exciting Comics #59 (Better Publications, January 1948), here’s “The Deadly Quest” as pencilled and inked by Frank Frazetta.

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Mommy Dearest

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Al McWilliams started writing and drawing comic books in the mid-1930s and never left the field until his death in 1993.

His name has been somewhat forgotten by modern fans of the medium, but McWilliams’ sleek Mac Raboy-styled work appeared in just about every genre of comic book and comic strip possible and earned the respect of countless peers and employers. Some of the best examples of his handiwork appeared in such syndicated strips as Twin Earths and Dateline: Danger.

McWilliams also lent his skills to the romance genre, where slick art was deemed a necessity by publishers and editors to hammer their magazines’ melodramatic plots home.  The following story, about a musician who really needs to cut the cord with his mother, is a particular stand-out.

“Mama’s Apron Strings” originally ran in Darling Love #2 (Archie, December 1949). The art is by Al McWilliams.

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MMMMMM …. cheese furters!

Plant Vs. Primate

Most stories starring The Heap tend to fall under two categories: 1. He’s a rampaging monster causing terror throughout the land; or 2. He’s an elemental force for justice causing terror in the hearts of evildoers.

There are a few elements common to each tale, however. One, obviously, is “terror.” (The Heap is a shambling muck-monster after all …) The other is that many of the creature’s adventures are somehow tied to his former identity as a German World War I flying ace.

The following story straddles just about every category as The Heap avenges an insult to his honor as a former pilot, teaches some shady characters a lesson about respect and picks a fight with a natilly dressed ape to boot. Along the way, there’s the requisite amount of collateral damage and terror.

All in a day’s work for comics’ original Swamp Man-Thing!

“The End Of The World Cafe” originally appeared in Airboy Comics Vol. 5 #9 (Hillman Periodicals, Oct. 1948). The art is by Mike Roy And John Belfi.

I actually feel sorry for Albert the Ape …

Full Of Bull

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Dick Briefer is primarily remembered today for his exemplary work on the classic horror/surreal humor strip Frankenstein. His 16-year career in comic-books spanned numerous genres however, as Briefer’s skills as a writer and an artist proved just as adept in the genres of science-fiction, high-seas adventure and super-heroes.

Prize Comics, the anthology title that birthed Briefer’s Frankenstein, lost its super-hero features in 1948 due to the genre’s declining popularity after World War II. The legends and mystique of the Wild, Wild West proved far more alluring to readers of the time, so the book was renamed Prize Comics Western and published the exploits of such noted fictional – and at times historical – frontier heroes as “Dusty” Ballew, Wild Bill Hickock and the American Eagle.

Although he continued producing Frankenstein, Briefer also contributed to the Western fad by drawing – and perhaps writing – the inaugural adventure of a faux Zorro known as “The Black Bull.” The story itself is fairly standard, but Briefer’s “bigfoot” approach to the art adds a surreal element to the proceedings that place the feature – and its protagonist – far from the usual one-horse-town shoot-em-ups.

From Prize Comics Western #71 (Prize Comics Group, September-October 1948), here’s “Bullets At Salt Lick”.

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With Great Chutzpah …

In the midst of the imbroglio over Alan Moore and Before Watchmen, Rob Steibel’s Kirby Dynamics blog reminds us that Marvel’s record of caring for creators isn’t any better.

In a new documentary about Stan Lee, “The Man” takes sole credit for creating the Black Panther when history indicates that some guy by the name of Jack Kirby had just as much – if not more – involvement in conceiving the character.

Lee also claims credit for The Falcon, when the idea – as originally revealed in the forward to a Marvel Masterworks Captain America volume – apparently originated from the mind of Gene Colan.

Guess those constant cameos in every single Marvel film, cartoon and video game weren’t enough to stroke Stan’s ego…

The Lion King

Epitomizing the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality of the Greatest Generation, the denizens of Golden Age comic-books had little or no trouble embarking on super-heroic careers. Sure, there may be a slain loved one or two along the way but for the most part civic-minded citizens usually decided to don colorful uniforms and smash criminals in the puss because it was the right thing to do.

The Black Lion, one of Fox Feature Syndicate’s many answers to Batman (an illustrious list that includes Black Fury, The Moth and The Lynx), has a well-defined reason for seeking justice but no “on-panel” training or even rationale for his code-name. He presumably designed a costume, picked up a teen side-kick and got to work.

The following story – Black Lion’s first appearance, by the by – appeared in Wonderworld Comics #21 (Fox Feature Syndicate, January 1941). The art is by Charles A. Winter, a creator with several Golden Age credits who apparently left little biographical material behind.

Undercover In The Night

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Before Ogden Whitney achieved cult fame as the co-creator of Herbie, the prolific artist achieved a reputation as one of the industry’s better good-girl artists.

That particular skill is in ample display in the following adventure of “Undercover Girl,” one of the typical scantily-clad heroines of the era who still managed to get the job done more proficiently – and without the aid of men, I must add – than many of their modern-age counterparts.

From Undercover Girl #5 (Magazine Enterprises, 1952), here’s “The Riddle Of The Radio Death.” The art is by Ogden Whitney.

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The above story was originally published in Manhunt #7, as Magazine Enterprises wasn’t above reprinting their own work as often as possible. As an extra bonus, here’s the cover of Undercover Girl #5, which offers a nice twist on two of Doctor Wertham’s old favorites: murder and bondage!


Fun House

Although the idea of three actors impersonating The Three Stooges in a big-screen, big-budget Farrelly Brothers comedy sounds less than promising, I’m sure the original trio (quartet if you count Shemp Howard as an official Stooge, which I do …OK Curly purists ?!?! ) wouldn’t disapprove of the effort to extend the “brand” into the new millennium.

After all, Moe Howard and Larry Fine kept the act going as long as they could by plugging in names like Joe Besser and Joe DeRita after the untimely deaths of the remaining Howard brothers. As true veterans of Vaudeville, they would probably be pleased to know  “the show goes on” even years after they passed beyond the mortal coil.

(Doesn’t mean the new movie will be any good, but still …)

During his lifetime, Moe Howard licensed the Stooges name for a wide variety of merchandise that provided income for the act even after the comedians themselves were no longer able to perform their famed brand of no-holds-barred slapstick. Such merchandise included comic books that were published by many companies over the years, like St. John Publications and Gold Key.

The comics were often written and drawn by Norman Mauer, brother of St. John editor Leonard Mauer and – more importantly – husband of Joan Howard, Moe’s daughter. Mauer’s association with the Stooges ensured the comics were of high quality and his artwork – which appeared to be influenced by Don DeCarlo and Will Elder – fit the tone of the humor quite nicely.

From Three Stooges #4 (St. John, March 1954), here’s Moe, Larry and Shemp in “Up An’ Atom.” It is written and drawn by Norman Mauer.

We’re Only In It For The Money

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We’re Only In It For The Money

Envisioned by Frank Zappa and Cal Schenkel as a “direct negative” of the iconic Sgt. Pepper album art, objections raised by Capitol Records – as well as apparent apathy on the Beatles’ part –  delayed the release of The Mothers’ We’re Only In It For The Money by four months until Verve put out a bowdlerized version of the cover that Zappa despised. Ironically, the entire episode pretty much proved that Zappa’s distrust of Flower Power populism was justified.