Texas Tea

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Today is the 84th anniversary of Don Heck’s birth. One of the more skilled Milton Caniff acolytes of comics’ Golden Age, history has been unkind to Heck due to his less than stellar super-hero work toward the end of the artist’s stellar career.

(Gary Groth and Harlan Ellison once cruelly dismissed the artist  as the “worst … in the field,” apparently ignorant of the fact that Heck suffered from diminished vision in his later years and still turned in work on time.)

A good summation of Heck’s career, and importance to the early years of what would later be labeled the “Marvel Age of Comics,” can be found here. In the meantime, here’s a tale from Heck’s earlier days featuring two-fisted wildcat oil men.

From Danger #1 (Comic Media, January 1953), here’s “Black Gold.”

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Crazy Apes

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Comic Media apparently wasn’t the most reputable of Golden Age publishers; most comic-book historians tend to focus on the company’s logo (a financial bar chart) than the contents of its titles. Still, any publisher that prominently featured the work of Don Heck and Pete Morisi couldn’t have been all bad.

Throw in a horror tale about a killer’s brain implanted within the body of an ape and … well … it’s clear that Comic Media was solely working for the betterment of the world.

From Weird Terror #10 (March, 1954), here’s “The Man-Ape.” The story was drawn by Don Heck.

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War And Remembrance

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Aside from Harvey Kurtzman’s justly lauded Two Fisted Tales and Frontline Combat titles, Golden Age war comics are generally considered to be little more than jingoistic – and at times borderline racist –  propaganda.

While there is some truth to the contention, there were also a surprising number of titles that contained content nearly as gritty and uncompromising as their more heralded EC counterparts.

Comic Media’s War Fury, for example, featured appropriately stark artwork from the perennially underrated Don Heck and – in the case of the following story – didn’t shy away from illustrating the often capricious brutality of armed combat.

From War Fury # 3 (Comic Media, 1953), here’s “Grim Trio” with art by Heck. The cover image is also reproduced above.

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Key Publication’s Battle Cry at times contained stories that conformed to the war comics’ stereotype, but its third issue also featured a tale that concentrated on the collateral damage of battle and presented Korean townspeople as fully fleshed-out characters rather than racial caricatures.

“To The Victors!” appeared in Battle Cry #3 (Key Publications,1952). The story was drawn by Eugene Hughes, although I’ve also included Irv Novick’s striking cover image for the issue.

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The Time Bullet dedicates this post to all soldiers and civilians who lost their lives in combat. We continue to hope for the day when the pain and sacrifice caused by war will no longer be seen as a “necessary evil.”

Heck To Pay

Despite its current occupation with all things Sheen, Twitter does has its uses as a resource of information and communication.

(Ask some Middle Eastern dictators if you think otherwise, but that’s a conversation for another day. Our immediate concerns are much more parochial.)

Yesterday evening, comic-book scribe Beau Smith shared a beautiful peace of original art by Don Heck via everyone’s favorite non-Facebook  social networking site. I complimented Smith for posting the page and restated my firm belief that Heck’s work is criminally underrated.

Smith’s reply?  “Without a doubt. A true craftsman influenced by (Milt) Caniff and (Noel) Sickles.”

Sometimes 140 characters sums up a sentiment quite aptly. That brief Twitter exchange also inspired me to dig out an old favorite illustrated by Mr. Heck himself, “Fool’s Gold.” An appropriately violent Pre-Code mix of the Western and horror genres, the story originally appeared in Death Valley #2 (Comic Media, 1953).

Secret Invasion

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Only a few hours left before Halloween!

To whet our appetites for the big day, here is the paranoid tale of a man who learned – much to his displeasure – that seemingly random acts of fate aren’t necessarily all that random.

Illustrated by the woefully underrated Don Heck, here’s “The Evil Ones.” The story appeared in Weird Terror #7 (Comic Media, 1953).

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