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The Sorceress Of Zoom was one of comic books’ first “bad girls,” an out-and-out villain that was presumably granted an ongoing feature in Weird Comics because publisher Victor Fox liked as much T&A in his periodicals as possible.

Created by the great Don Rico, the Sorceress’ adventures certainly fit comfortably in the “weird” category. Zombie slaves, floating cities and bizarre transformations were the norm rather than the exception, as the villainess never hesitated to take any step deemed necessary toward achieving world domination.

(Of course, she never quite succeeded but you can’t fault a woman for trying … )

This particular adventure features an apparent Heel Face Turn by the Sorceress, but her sudden heroic acts are as ruthless as ever and are only based upon the character’s own selfish needs.

The dashing hero’s assertion that “she’s not so bad” is probably based more upon her provocative appearance than anything else. Nobody ever accused Fox comics of providing wholesome lessons, after all.

“Fantastic Valley” originally appeared in Weird Comics #12 (Fox, March 1941). The Grand Comics Database guesses that the story and art are provided by Rico.

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Apocalypse Then

Super-Heroes Vs. Super-Horrors Week enters Day 3 just in time for Cat-Man And Kitten to square off against the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse!

That’s a pretty tall order for a guy and a pre-teen girl dressed up like cats.

“The Four Horsemen Of Doom” originally appeared in Cat-Man Comics #23 (Et-Es-Go Magazines, March 1944). The art is by one of my favorite Golden Age creators, Don Rico.

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Coming tomorrow: Kid Eternity and a special surprise guest!!

Beat The Devil

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Don Rico entered the comic-book field in 1939 and enjoyed a long career that branched out into scripting television programs and films, writing more than 60 paperback novels under a variety of pseudonyms, drawing storyboards for Hannah-Barbara and even teaching courses on comic books at UCLA and drawing technique at Cal State Northridge.

His earliest work for such Golden Age publishers as Fox and Lev Gleason were easily as insane as the more celebrated Fletcher Hanks, yet Rico’s name rarely pops up on Internet comics blogs or the even recent spate of deluxe reprint books.

The “problem” – if it can even be classified as such – is that Rico improved his scripting and illustrative skills to the point where his output was routinely slicker and more professional than Hanks, an advance achieved at the cost of losing the inspired lunacy that makes the creator of “Stardust” so appealing to modern readers.

Rico’s work – which included a solid run on the Golden Age Daredevil and the creation of Atlas’ stable of jungle girls (Leopard Girl, Jann Of The Jungle and Lorna The Jungle Girl) – also failed to rise to the level of an Otto Binder or a Jack Cole, leaving his oeuvre betwixt and between the punk-rock thrills of the medium’s primitive origins and the innovations spurred by true comic-book visionaries.

(Although, to be fair, few people to this day equal the likes of a Binder or a Cole …)

If Rico was bothered by this relative lack of notoriety, it never manifested itself in his decades-long career. Like many from his era, he probably didn’t give a second thought to any notions of comic book creators or their creations being remembered decades after their heydays.

In fact, when Rico returned to comics in the early 1960s to script a few stories for Stan Lee (including an Iron Man tale that introduced a future summer blockbuster movie star, The Black Widow), he used a pseudonym so his paperback publisher wouldn’t know the writer-artist was accepting lower-paying comic-book work.

At any rate, here’s a good example of a solid super-hero yarn scripted and scribbled by one of the more dependable comic-book talents of any era, Don Rico.

From Silver Streak Comics #14 (Lev Gleason, Sept. 1941), the Golden Age Daredevil takes on a sinister hypnotist in “Enter The Parson.”

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Bungle In The Jungle

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Of all the jungle girls who patrolled the Golden Age of Comics, Atlas Comics’ Lorna was undeniably saddled with the most annoying and useless sidekick.

Greg Knight, a would-be explorer, spent nearly every moment of his fictional existence disparaging Lorna’s efforts to keep peace in the jungle. Insisting such tasks were best left to men, he would invariably pursue dead-end leads or find himself captured until the Jungle Girl restored everything to his rightful place.

Naturally, Lorna was madly in love with the idiot even though he rarely responded in kind.

*Sigh* No accounting for taste, right?

The following tale (an admittedly fun take on the evil twin trope) is a typical example of Greg Knight’s winning combination of ineptness and ill temper.

Fortunately, this rather unpleasant character is more than offset by the gorgeous good-girl art of Werner Roth. There may have been jungle queens less dependent on the affections of crummy boyfriends – such as Rulah and Tiger Girl, to name two – but few enjoyed better illustrated adventures.

From Lorna The Jungle Girl #6 (Atlas, 1954), here’s “Double Danger” by Roth and writer Don Rico.

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Doctor Horror

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At one time or another, I’ve posted Don Rico’s “Doctor Horror” one-shot on just about every Internet venue available. It’s simply a story that must be experienced by as many readers as possible.

Why the great affection for a forgotten comic-book tale that was churned out decades ago to fill out the back pages of a mostly forgotten title (Captain Battle) that was briefly published by a nearly forgotten company (Lev Gleason)?

Well … it’s just not every day that you see a comic apparently devote seven of its pages to remaking – and surpassing – the “Night On Bald Mountain” sequence from Disney’s Fantasia.

To be honest, I’m not sure if Rico –  a journeyman writer/artist who enjoyed a long career as a paperback novelist – actually had seen Fantasia but Doctor Horror’s similarity to the demon Chernabog is apparent: Both are creatures of pure evil bent upon corrupting the world, yet meet defeat at the hands of a higher, unseen power.

According to the always infallible Wikipedia, Rico started his artistic career carving wood engravings of Depression-era life for WPA Federal Art Project. His experience in the field surely influenced the style of drawing seen in “Doctor Horror,” as the demons are depicted as static – and oddly malevolent – creatures that probably could have given Fletcher Hanks nightmares.

But don’t listen to me. Judge the story yourself and share your thoughts …

From Captain Battle #2 (Lev Gleason, 1941), here’s “Doctor Horror” by Don Rico.

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