Get The Point

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Although Green Arrow and Hawkeye have endured their share of fanboy scorn over the years,  the Big Two’s super-archers are currently enjoying something of a renaissance. Both have benefited from exposure in hit television series and movies, leading their respective corporate owners to put greater thought and effort into their adventures on the printed page.

Neither, however, would be anywhere on anyone’s radar without the Golden Age ancestor who first established how well Robin Hood’s gimmick translated to the super-hero genre: Centaur Publication’s The Arrow!

Created by comics legend Paul Gustavson, the original Arrow was an intelligence agent who – as was apparently the case for many strapping, young man in the late 1930s and early 1940s – was frustrated by criminals escaping justice through loopholes and decided to remedy the situation through archery.

Or, as one anonymous police official put it …

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So … yeah, that arrow stuff was pretty effective.

Today’s adventure originally appeared in The Arrow #2 (Centaur, November 1940) and was drawn by Bob Lubbers, an artist who later left a Milton Caniff-sized mark on Fiction House’s Good Girl and adventure comics. His work on Arrow was more primitive, but still lent a nice pulp-fiction feel to the proceedings.

The fact that our titular hero doesn’t appear right away adds to the story’s mystery.

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Vampire Diary

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It’s that time of year again when comic-book bloggers’ thoughts turn away from Batman-themed boner jokes and Tumblrs dedicated to cosplay and toward all things related to Halloween.

Or, in the Time Bullet’s case, Pre-Code horror comics!

For the next 13 days, I’ll be scouring the depths of my haunted archive – well, the Digital Comic Museum  – for unusual horror tales that hopefully haven’t been posted all over the Web millions of times.

First up, a very early attempt at a horror story by one of comics’ true pioneers: Tarpe Mills.

Mills was one of the first female artists to work in comics. Her primary claim to fame is Miss Fury, the first female super-hero created by a woman.

Today’s tale, entitled “The Vampire,” appeared two years before Mills’ feline adventurer. I particularly like the Hal Foster-esque technique of eschewing word balloons for plain text, which lent the story a feel that hewed closer to ancient European folklore than early 20th century pulp fiction.

From Amazing Mystery Funnies Vol. 2 #2 (Centaur Publications, February 1939), here’s “The Vampire” by Tarpe Mills.

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Well, thank you Captain Exposition!

Coming tomorrow: Would you believe … Brother Power The Geek’s Golden Age ancestor?!?

The Amazing Everett

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Today marks the 30th anniversary of Bill Everett’s death.

Although the legacy of Everett’s formidable talents are far from forgotten – thanks to the efforts of such chroniclers as Blake Bell – I believe the broader scope of the writer-artist’s work is often neglected in favor of his apparent preoccupation with water-based heroes and themes.

(Not that I blame people for focusing on that particular fact. Everett, after all, created the Sub-Mariner, The Fin, Hydroman, etc. etc.)

Still, it’s worth noting that many of Everett’s characters dealt with darker themes than your standard, square-jawed Golden Age heroes. Namor, of course, was comic’s first true anti-hero: a super-man just as likely to destroy a city as defend its populace.

Everett’s “Aman, The Amazing-Man” – the Golden Age inspiration for Marvel’s Iron Fist – was more outwardly heroic but also fought  – at times, unsuccessfully – the corrupting influence of his greatest enemy. A subsequent adventure found the hero impulsively battling Hitler a year before the U.S. entered the conflagration and achieving little more than causing random chaos before finding himself captured.

By the 11th issue of Amazing-Man’s comic, the character’s Tibetan masters called Aman to task for his mistakes and sent a re-dedicated hero back into the world. This tale marked the end of Amazing-Man’s struggles against corrupting influences and – perhaps not coincidentally  –  the end of Everett’s affiliation with the character.

Taken together, the early issues of Amazing-Man comics offers an intriguing character arc for a super-man who was far less than a man of steel before discovering his true strength. The fact that such a story emerged from the earliest days of the super-hero genre is a true testament to Bill Everett’s talent and vision.

From Amazing-Man Comics #11 (Centaur, April 1940), here’s “Purification!” The story was scripted by Allen L. Kirby and drawn by Everett.

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Wolverton In Space

It’s safe to say that few approached Golden Age Sci-Fi comics – or any genre for that matter – in the same manner as Basil Wolverton. His bizarre creatures and exotic tableau ensured the creator’s stories would always stand apart from the pack.

Here’s one of his earlier efforts for Centaur Publications that starred the generically titled “Space Patrol.” Wolverton’s “sand rats” and refrigerator-esque space-suit designs, however, are anything but generic.

The story – written and drawn by Wolverton – originally appeared in Amazing Mystery Funnies #23 (Centaur Publications, August 1940).

Eye Spy

It’s time for another adventure starring the Golden Age’s most unusual super-hero: The Eye!

I did plan to make a snarky comment about the story’s depiction of white, strawberry-blonde Afghans but it turns out that such people do, in fact, exist. A defeat for Internet smart-asininity I suppose, but it’s always good to reaffirm that even the moldiest of comic books contain something educational.

Stick that in your craw, Fredric Wertham!

Today’s story originally appeared in Detective Eye #2 (Centaur Publications, December 1940). The art is by the creator of both The Eye and Dell Publications’ Owl, Frank Thomas.

A Centaur Is A Centaur

Is Speed Centaur the most bizarre super-hero of all time?

Well, let’s tally up the facts.

He’s an honest to gosh centaur who fights crime … which in the following story is represented by a mad scientist who puts human brains into dogs.

Hmmm …. I think Speed has one or two up on Woodgod!

This particular adventure first appeared in Amazing Mystery Funnies #22 (Centaur Publications, which makes perfect sense when you think about it; July 1940). The artwork is credited to Malcolm Kildale.

Eye-Yi-Yi

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Sorry for the delay between posts. I planned to put something up sooner, but ended up injuring my cornea after attempting to lift an 8 lb. poodle.

It’s a long and embarrassing story …

At any rate, the pain has finally subsided after a million or so antibiotic eye-drops and I should be back on my feet in no time. To celebrate, here’s a vintage crime tale starring the most unusual Golden Age super-hero of all: The Eye!

For those of you unfamiliar with the ocular avenger, The Eye was … umm … a giant floating eyeball who understandably struck fear into the criminal element whenever and wherever he (she? it??) appeared. It’s admittedly an obscure concept for a costumed hero, but at least DC couldn’t sue the creators for copying Superman!

From Keen Detective Funnies #24 (Centaur Publications, 1940), here’s “The Eye Sees.” Story and art are credited to Mark Schneider.

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Be seeing you!

Hero Takes A Fall

Although Bill Everett had a well-known affinity for water-based crime-fighters (Sub-Mariner, Hydroman, The Fin), his ability to create compelling characters that eschewed traditional notions of heroism separated the writer-artist’s work from his contemporaries and established Everett as one of the great pioneers of the comics field.

Prince Namor, of course, is widely recognized as comic’s first true anti-hero. However, that same streak of rebelliousness can be found in much of Everett’s other work. From his hard-boiled interpretation of  Atlas Comics’ Venus to the innumerable pre-Code horror classics created in conjunction with Stan Lee, Everett’s style never quite veered toward the center of the road.

A good example of this tendency can be found in one of Everett’s earliest creations, Amazing-Man.

As related in the character’s origin, John Aman was sent to Earth by the fabled “Council Of Seven” to use his skills and abilities for good. Unfortunately, a disgruntled member of the council –  a cloaked mystery  man known only as “The Great Question” – sought to control Aman and fulfill darker ambitions.

The surprise twist to the following story is that the villain actually succeeds in corrupting Aman. Even at this stage in the game – mere months after the debut of Superman – Everett demonstrated an interest in depicting heroes with discernible weaknesses. Later, of course, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would utilize similar techniques to bring about the Marvel Age Of Comics.

Though his name isn’t often credited for such accomplishments, I believe Everett’s work helped pave the way for the Marvel revolution.

The following story, written and drawn by Everett, originally appeared in Amazing-Man Comics #6 (Centaur Publications, 1939).