Love And Death


Bob Powell’s Mr. Mystic faces off against his greatest foe, The Shadowman, in a surprisingly dark story printed days before Christmas of 1940.

The Shadowman was a precursor to Powell’s Man In Black, the human personification of death. Given the nature of such a foe, it’s not surprising that Mr. Mystic would have much to lose if defeated.

What is surprising, however, is that … well, let’s just say Spider-Man wasn’t the first super-hero to fail in a key, life and death situation.

The following story originally appeared in the Dec. 22, 1940 edition of The Spirit Section.







Clan Of The Cave Girl

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Cave Girl was Magazine Enterprises’ entry in the Golden Age’s ever-popular “Jungle Girl” genre, albeit one that borrowed elements from Edgar Rice Burroughs’  Lost World novels as well as Fiction House’s iconic Sheena, Jungle Queen.

Despite the character’s lack of originality, however, Cave Girl did benefit from the talents of her co-creators: the legendary Gardner Fox and Bob Powell.

Powell, of course, was one of the field’s greatest “good girl” artists – which, to be honest, was the entire point of the genre –  while Fox could always be counted on to provide solid stories that added a twist or two to the formula.

(For example, fearsome city that provides the title for today’s tale is a reference to modern civilization rather than a lost, prehistoric land.)

From Cave Girl #11 (Magazine Enterprises, 1953), here’s “The City Of Terror” by Fox and Powell.

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Death And Gremlins

October is right around the corner, which means it’s time for yours truly to plan a few Halloween-themed posts to whet fans and followers’ appetites for pre-Code thrills, chills and candied corn.

In the past I’ve left the heavy lifting to Internet all-stars like Karswell – who celebrates Halloween year-round at the excellent Horrors Of It All blog – but this time the Time Bullet will expand its focus a bit and dedicate the entire month to All Hallows Eve.

That means not one … not two … not three …. but four weeks of themed posts over the next several weeks!

My plans could change  – let’s be honest, 31 straight posts is a lot to pull off in this Tumblr-centric era  –   but for now I hope to dedicate one week to super-heroes taking on supernatural threats; one to Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein; one to Steve Ditko’s groundbreaking work on Charlton’s The Thing; one to a collection of personal pre-Code favorites; and a few bonuses in between.

We’ll see how all that works out, but as a token of my good intentions here’s a classic tale of supernatural suspense that could have easily fit into the format of Rob Serling’s Twilight Zone a decade or so later.

From Green Hornet Comics #33 (Harvey, March-April 1947), the Man In Black tells the story of “The Gremlin And The Airplane.” The story and art are courtesy of one of my favorite Golden Age creators, Bob Powell.

Note: Although Powell’s story works just as well in the 21st century as it did back in the late-40s, a filler strip at the bottom of the last page contains a racist stereotype that is not acceptable under any reasonable standards of good taste and decency. I considered editing it out, but decided we’re better served confronting such embarrassments head on rather than censoring what is unfortunately part of our culture’s history. If you disagree with this opinion and find the image too upsetting, it’s probably best to skip the final panel or simply avoid the story altogether.

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Big Numbers


I’ve devoted many a post to the work of writer-artist Bob Powell, a talent equal to any of the Golden Age’s better remembered creators. The following tale makes a strong case for why Powell is worthy of such praise: a one-off science-fiction fantasy that incorporates the story’s page numbers into the layout itself.

Judging by the editor’s note, Powell or whoever pulled the strings at Harvey back then hoped Atoma would graduate to an ongoing series. It was not to be, but at least we have this colorful and imaginative story to look back upon and appreciate.

“Atoma” originally appeared in Joe Palooka Comics #15 (Harvey Comics, December 1947). The art – and in all probability, the story – is by Bob Powell.








Magic Man

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Will Eisner’s Spirit debuted more than 70 years ago in an innovative format that combined the storytelling format of newsstand comic books with the distribution and frequency of newspaper comic strips.

Called – appropriately enough – “The Spirit Section,” Will Eisner’s masked gumshoe headlined a 16-page, tabloid-sized newsprint comic that appeared in 20 Sunday newspapers from 1940 to 1952. It was a revolutionary move that enabled Eisner – and his many assistants – to perfect the techniques he picked up from the fledgling comic-book field and create material aimed for more mature audiences.

(Another plus: Eisner retained full ownership of the characters he created …)

The early Spirit Sections were rounded out by back-up features Lady Luck (created by Eisner, but artist Klaus Nordling’s version is considered definitive) and Mr. Mystic, a Mandrake-style adventure co-authored by Eisner and Bob Powell.

Mr. Mystic’s origin was typical of the era. An adventurer named “Ken” (no surname required, apparently) gained his powers in Tibet after receiving a tattoo of a powerful, magic symbol on his forehead.

Powell initially drew the stories based upon Eisner’s scripts, but he eventually took over the strip in its entirety until the artist was drafted to fight in World War II. Although Powell’s art on Mr. Mystic was widely hailed by peers, the character itself never achieved much popularity.

Unlike The Spirit and Lady Luck, the crusading magician’s adventures were never reprinted as Quality Comics features.

Mr. Mystic ended its run in 1944, by which time Fred Guardineer had taken over the strip.

The following story is credited to “W. Morgan Thomas” (a pseudonym used before by Eisner for Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle) and Powell. Since the “Shadowman” character bears a striking similarity to one of Powell’s most famous creations,  The Man In Black, I suspect the artist’s involvement in this particular adventure extends beyond pencilling and inking duties.

This story was originally published in the March 30, 1941 edition of The Spirit Section.

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Soul Power

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One of my favorite Golden Age artists, Bob Powell, vividly brings the following Dickensian tale to life.

“The Soul Of Benjamin Sprague” originally appeared in Weird Thrillers #3 (Ziff-Davis, Spring 1952), but these particular scans are taken from a reprint published two years later in Nightmare #13 (St.John Publications, August 1954).

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Don’t Fear The Reaper


Bob Powell’s “The Man In Black” is one of the more interesting – if obscure – ongoing characters from the Golden Age Of Comics.

The personification of death – later toned down to “destiny” – the character usually narrated O. Henry-style tales of individuals caught up in forces beyond their comprehension.

Yet unlike EC’s later horror personalities – i.e. The Crypt Keeper, The Old Witch and The Vault-Keeper – the Man In Black also took an active role in many of his appearances and even interacted with a supporting cast that included the human embodiments of “time,” “mischief,” Christian angels and the Three Blind Fates from Greek mythology.

In that respect, “Mr. Twilight” and company can be viewed as predecessors to Neil Gaiman’s Endless. Was Mr. Gaiman familiar with Powell’s work?

The following story contains such elements and more, as Powell employs many of the cinematic techniques Will Eisner and his studio heaped upon The Spirit. That’s definitely no accident, as Powell himself once worked for Eisner.

From Green Hornet Fights Crime #35, Harvey Comics (May-June, 1947), here’s The Man In Black. The story and art are by Bob Powell.











Twice Alive

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When given the room to stretch, Bob Powell proved he was one of the most inventive artists of the Golden Age … or any other comic book era for that matter.

The following story cleverly plays to Fawcett Publications’ fondness for delving into the mysteries of the “Great Beyond,” but the real star of this show is Powell’s freaky imagery. Just imagine what this guy could have done with a Doctor Strange story …

From Worlds Beyond #1 (Fawcett, 1951), here’s “Twice Alive.”

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Crusade For Vengeance


Bob Powell was one of the greatest artists of comics’ golden age.

Renowned for his “good girl” art on such strips as Sheena and Cave Girl, Powell also displayed a cinematic flair on numerous crime, horror, super-hero, and romance comics. Heck, he excelled in just about any genre you could imagine.

This particular story was taken from the first issue of Magazine Enterprises’ I’m A Cop, a hard-boiled detective strip that owed more than a small debt to Jack Webb’s Dragnet. Powell’s effective use of inventive “camera angles,” coupled with the artist’s ability to convey genuine human emotion through a character’s facial expression, lifted the series above mere pastiche.

Oh yeah … there’s plenty of action as well.

From 1954, here’s “Crusade For Vengeance.”