Red Rider

Crimson

It’s no mystery that time has no meaning at The Time Bullet, so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that day three of Wild West Week falls about 90 hours after day two.

At the very least, we have a true Golden Age obscurity to offer our understandably befuddled Time Bulleteers.  The headliner of today’s post is “Wilton Of The West,” a standard-issue cowboy that appeared in the first 24 issues of Fiction House’s Jumbo Comics, the book that was also home to a much more famous jungle queen named Sheena.

Aside from the fact that Wilton was an early creation of Jack Kirby’s that was later drawn by Golden Age great Lou Fine, there isn’t much to note about the two-fisted cowpoke.

Nearly one-third through the strip’s run, however, Wilton met a mysterious “Lone Ranger” type named the Crimson Rider who – much like Racer X decades later – would appear out of nowhere to either offer sage advice or outright save the day before disappearing once more.

The Crimson Rider was unique among Lone Ranger analogues, however, because the masked vigilante’s true identity was a woman named Mary Benton who sought vengeance against the men who murdered her father. Since comic-book storytelling was incredibly compressed at the time, Benton accomplished all of her goals in her first appearance (Jumbo Comics #9).

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Benton’s crusade continued through five more appearances before she finally rode off to comic-book limbo in Jumbo Comics #18. It’s too bad, because her character was far more interesting than poor Wilton and was an early example of the sort of kick-a$$ heroine Fiction House would soon highlight throughout all its titles.

Today’s story, the Rider’s penultimate appearance, is easily the strangest adventure featuring the duo and is drawn by one of the Time Bullet’s favorite artists, George Tuska.

The untitled tale originally appeared in Jumbo Comics #17 (Fiction House, July 1940).

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And you thought ’90s heroes were extreme!

Coming tomorrow (probably): The Golden Arrow!

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R.I.P. Nick Cardy

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Like many comic-book fans and professionals, I was saddened by the news of Nick Cardy’s death on Sunday. His beautifully designed covers for DC – particularly during the late 1960s – taught me to appreciate how strong imagery can make or break a comic-book story.

Here are just a few of my favorites ….

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Cardy’s career encompassed more than DC comics covers. He broke into the industry in 1940 as part of the Eisner and Iger Studio and penciled numerous features for Fiction House. He also worked on Eisner’s Lady Luck feature for the syndicated Spirit section.

Cardy served overseas during World War II and even earned two Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in combat. A compilation of his wartime sketches were recently published by Titan Books.

He settled in at DC after the war and enjoyed a long career at the company illustrating such titles as Aquaman, Bat Lash and the Teen Titans. Cardy left comics in 1970 to become a commercial artist.

In remembrance of Cardy, here’s one of his earlier efforts for Fiction House. Although the art is cruder than his DC work, his staging and choreography clearly show the potential that Cardy ultimately fulfilled in his justly hallowed career.

From Fight Comics #26 (Fiction House, June 1943), here’s the beautiful and deadly Senorita Rio. The script is not credited, but the art is by Cardy under his birth name, Nick Viscardi.

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Not A Plain Jane

Jane Martin enjoyed a lengthy, if varied, career as an adventuress in Fiction House’s Wings Comics.

Although never a lead feature, she appeared in the very first issue of the title and hung around until Wings #111. Jane, who started out as a daring war nurse, eventually tried her hand at a variety of adventurous careers that included stints as a spy, a pilot-for-hire and a journalist. The only constants to the strip were the heroine’s scrappy attitude and excellent Fiction House-style good-girl art by the likes of George Evans and, especially, Fran Hopper.

Hopper, a scrappy pioneer herself, succeeded in the man’s world of Golden Age comics by turning in quality work on a number of Fiction House titles. Her art graced such two-fisted heroines as Glory Forbes, Mysta of the Moon and the excellently titled Gale Allen and Her All-Girl Squadron.

Little was known about Hopper after she left the comics industry in 1948, although the artist was recently discovered to be alive and well. Hopper will reportedly be included in the next book by the legendary comics creator and historian, Trina Robbins.

From Wings Comics #74 (Fiction House, Oct. 1946), here’s Jane Allen as drawn by Fran Hopper.

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Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em

Youngsters love to prattle on about the “zombie apocalypse,” but true veterans of the geek wars know our eventual end will be brought about by the machines that have slowly penetrated every aspect of our lives.

Siri seems friendly enough now, but one day humanity will surely bow before her as our robot empress.

Nothing proves this point better than a good, old-fashioned science-fiction story from the Golden Age of Comics. So from Planet Comics #72 (Fiction House, Fall 1953), here’s “We Shall Rise Again.”

The art is credited to John Belcastro.

C’mon, you didn’t really think the robot was a good guy. That wouldn’t have been any fun.

“We Will Rise Again” appeared in the penultimate issue of Planet Comics, which ended in Winter, 1953 after approximately 15 years worth of space-opera thrills, strong-willed heroines and heaping helpings of good-girl art.

The artist of today’s story, John Belcastro, left the comics industry after Fiction House folded and enjoyed a long career in commercial art. That’s a happier ending than a good many creators found after the comics industry collapsed in the mid-50s.

Lady Or The Tiger?

As comics’ first true jungle queen, Sheena became the first female character to headline her own title and inspired a wealth of imitators.

Fiction House, the company that published the original jungle girl’s adventures, decided it could rip-off its own character just as well as anyone and ended up with one of the Golden Age’s most memorable Sheena clones: Tiger Girl.

Debuting in Fight Comics #32 (Fiction House, June 1944) Tiger Girl differed from Sheena by palling around with tigers (natch), brandishing a whip and relying upon the advice of a faithful Sikh named Abdola. She also possessed a ring of strength that was apparently forgotten in later issues.

Featuring the art of such Iger standouts as Matt Baker and Jack Kamen, Tiger Girl proved popular enough to share front-cover status with Señorita Rio and eventually bump our favorite undercover spy off the top spot altogether.

Tiger Girl remained Fight Comics’ lead character until 1952, after which the jungle girl spent two more years as a back-up feature in Jungle Comics.

The following story originally appeared in Fight Comics #54 (Fiction House, February 1948). Readers should take note of the high body count Tiger Girl amasses in this particular adventure. As befits her name, she was one of the more violent jungle girls in a genre already full of kick-ass heroines.

“Flee The Cobra Fury” is credited to “Allan O’Hara,” but GCD and other sources identify the story’s true artist as the legendary Matt Baker, who either inked himself or was aided by the equally talented Kamen and Jay Disbrow.

Rio Or Riot

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In an era that had more than its share of badass female characters, Señorita Rio may well have ruled the roost. As an undercover agent for America, Rio didn’t wear a costume or possess any powers, but was able to topple governments with her near limitless courage, guts, intelligence and – dare I say it? – sense of style.

From Fight Comics #70 (Fiction House, September 1950), here’s a short tale of how Señorita Rio set a would-be dictator straight. The story and art are by the sadly anonymous denizens of the Iger Studio.

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It’s another typical day for Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle: Greedy criminals out to exploit a sacred jungle secret, a well-meaning – if not overly competent – boyfriend in peril, an evil twin and easily duped caricatures of African tribesmen.

And, to top it off, art by the man who steered the character through 12 years of these crazy adventures – Robert Webb!

From Sheena, Queen Of The Jungle #9 (Fiction House, 1950), here’s “Luru Temple Of The Dead.”

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Law Of The Jungle

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Although Camilla Jungle Queen never achieved the fame of such Fiction House compatriots as Sheena or even Tiger Girl, she could definitely dispense Golden Age justice with the best of them.

Here’s a particularly graphic example from Jungle Comics #103 (Fiction House, July 1948). The art is provided by the king of Jungle Girl comics, Matt Baker.

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The Unfriendly Skies

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Ginger Maguire may not have been the brightest bulb among Golden Age heroines, but in the true Fiction House tradition she was more than capable at getting the job done. Too bad chauvanist attitudes at the time defined her job as “waitress” rather than acknowledging her true skill: flying – and more often than not, crashing – airplanes.

Oh well. At least Sky Girl had the fortune of being drawn by the greatest “Good Girl” artist of all time, Matt Baker!

The following story originally appeared in Jumbo Comics #129 (Fiction House, Nov. 1949). As you may have guessed, Time Bulleteer, the art was provided by the aforementioned Matt Baker.

(P.S. An evil twin has been sighted in today’s tale. Stay alert!!)

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‘You Shall Enter The Underground Realm’

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Fletcher Hanks’ Fantomah takes center stage for a somewhat normal – by the creator’s standards, at least – tale of good versus evil in the African wilderness!

“The Temple In The Mud Pit” originally appeared in Jungle Comics #8 (Fiction House, August 1940).

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Remember, I said normal by Fletcher Hanks’ standards…