Rider Of The Purple Prose

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The Time Bullet is wrapping up April with a week of Wild West themed posts because … well, why not?

First up is Atlas’ Black Rider, a Lone Ranger expy distinguished by the fact that he was later retconned into Doctor Strange’s back-story.

Many of the Black Rider’s adventures were illustrated by the legendary Syd Shores, but Atlas Tales guesses this particular tale was ghosted by Chris Rule. “The Spider Strikes” originally appeared in Black Rider #27 (Atlas, March 1955).

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Golden Age justice! As a bonus, here’s the cover of Black Rider #27 as illustrated by the legendary Joe Maneely.

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Coming Tomorrow: Silver screen star Tim Holt, alias The Red Mask!!!

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!!!

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!

Silent And Deadly

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By the mid-1950s, the comic-book industry was in a serious slump and the Comics Code had effectively eliminated whatever edge had previously attracted a wide-ranging audience to the medium.

Combined with competition from the burgeoning television industry and genre paperback novels that contained more than enough adult thrills for audiences, it was a difficult time to find quality work in U.S. comics on par with the best Pre-Code horror, crime, romance and super-hero tales.

That doesn’t mean the industry was completely barren, however. Although the remaining comic-book publishers were clearly running scared, the field still contained enough major talent  to avoid complete irrelevance.

Bill Everett was one such talent, and his artwork in today’s talent definitely elevates the cliched – if still entertaining – horse opera of the uncredited script. From Western Outlaws #9 (Atlas, June 1955), here’s “The Quiet Man.”

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Smiling Faces

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Back in 1997, Face/Off made a tidy sum for John Woo and company via the rather incredible plot device of a face swap via plastic surgery. The famed Chinese director, however, wasn’t the first to tackle such an incredible story.

In fact, the concept of “magic plastic surgery” is a well-established trope.

Decades earlier, an unnamed comic-book scribe typed up a similar tale detailing the fiendish result of a face-swap. Will good or evil persevere in this instance? Remember, dear reader, we are talking about a Pre-Code horror comic …

The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “The Other Face.” It was originally published in Journey Into Mystery #11 (Atlas Comics, August 1953). The artist is one of my all-time favorite Golden Age greats, George Tuska.

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Golden Age Justice!!

I guess. I mean … um.

Hmmmm.

Coming tomorrow: Plastic Man takes on a vampire! Jack Cole takes a hike!!

Two-Fisted Tales

One of the more gratifying aspects of the 21st century comic-book reprint renaissance is the long-overdue attention paid to the man Jack Kirby once called the real “King of Comics,” Bill Everett.

Comics historian Blake Bell has written an excellent biography of Everett and compiled a nifty collection of the creator’s pre-Timely/Atlas/Marvel work. A host of scan blogs, including the excellent Comic Book Attic, have also posted vintage Everett classics accompanied by insightful analysis.

Although this blog has displayed its share of Everett super-hero epics, I haven’t really delved into his work in such genres as horror, romance and war. Today’s post begins to address this imbalance, as we pick a ’50s classic from Atlas’ Men’s Adventures that criticizes media war propaganda.

(Which, ironically, included most of Atlas’ war comics of the period.)

Doubling as a humble tribute to Veterans Day, here’s “The Education Of Thomas Dillon” from Men’s Adventures #10 (Atlas Comics, Oct. 1951). The art is by Everett.

The Joker

Like such veterans as Don Heck and George Tuska, Werner Roth is an underrated comic-book artist who owes his relative obscurity to the fact that most didn’t see his work until long after the creator had passed his prime.

Many fans point to Roth’s unspectacular work on the Superman Family titles of the 70s and  groan, but fail to note he did solid work for years on Roy Thomas’ X-Men and truly shined on non-superheroic comics published by Marvel’s predecessor, Atlas Comics, in the 1950s.

The Time Bullet’s Four-Star Fright Fest continues with a good example of Roth’s Pre-Code output, “Poor Mister Watkins” from Menace #1 (Atlas, March 1953).

The story was written by none other than Stan “The Man” Lee himself.

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Mano A Maneely

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Before his tragic death at the age of 32, Joe Maneely was indisputably one of the stars of Atlas Comics’ diverse and ever evolving line of titles.

(Name a comic book genre and you can bet Atlas had it covered back then. Some titles, such as Venus, were practically genres unto themselves …)

Maneely’s ability to adapt his distinctive style to just about anything Atlas published – along with his legendary, Jack Kirby-like speed at pumping out quality pages – reportedly earned the artist the nickname “Joe Money” around the Atlas bullpen.

He was also Stan Lee’s favorite artist. In fact, Marvel’s Excelsior-In-Chief once said Maneely would have been “another Jack Kirby had he lived. He would have been the best you could imagine.”

The following story is a fine example of how Maneely could convey both grit and grace. From Men’s Adventures #24 (Atlas Comics, November 1953), here’s “No Guts.”

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All The King’s Men

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Still more Gene Colan!

This story was published eight years after the artist’s “Clipper Kirk” strip, yet it seems as if a lifetime had passed.

By this point, Colan had moved beyond crude imitations of Milton Caniff and forged a distinctive identity of his own. The noir elements readers would later associate with Tomb Of Dracula, Daredevil and Doctor Strange is present in this short horror tale by Stan Lee, a then-obscure writer-editor who would move on to bigger things himself.

From Menace #6, Atlas Comics (August 1953), here’s “Checkmate!” The story is by Lee and Colan.

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