Sorry for the long absence but real life and all that …
To make amends with the remaining Time Bulleteers out there, we’ll celebrate the conclusion of Dan Slott’s surprisingly fun “Spider-Verse” cross-over (and this is coming from a guy who hates modern comic-book crossovers) with a week of posts dedicated to the arachnid-themed heroes and heroines of the Golden Age.
First up: Fox’s Spider-Queen, funny books’ first honest-to-gosh web-slinger. Like most of the characters in the Fox stable, the Queen only appeared in three issues of The Eagle, itself one of the publisher’s more obscure titles.
As everyone knows, however, super-heroes never truly die and Spider-Queen returned as a villain in a ’90s revival of Marvel’s Invaders super-team. Roy Thomas, who seemingly knows of and wishes to write every Golden Age character ever, reintroduced the character and other public-domain heroes as American Nazi sympathizers who viewed Hitler as the world’s best weapon against Communism.
She also adopted a rather bad ’90s hairdo about 50 years ahead of its time but the less said about that the better.
So let’s focus on happier times when the Spider Queen contented herself on beating the living daylights out of petty criminals. From The Eagle #3 (Fox, November 1941), here’s the thrillingly titled “The Torture Racketeers” as drawn by Elsa Lisau.
I would watch out for The Gladiator if this wasn’t Spider-Verse Week. So instead, come back tomorrow for the fearsome Black Spider! He’s scary because he throws poisonous black spiders at criminals!!
Did everyone survive the 13 Days Of Halloween?
As yours truly winds down from the dual high of leftover Halloween candy and a Netflix marathon of Mario Bava films, here’s an All Souls Day bonus featuring Fox Publications’ answer to the Spectre: The Wraith.
Like Jim Corrigan, Gary Kennedy was a policeman who was gunned down by criminals and returned from the dead to exact his revenge. Unlike the DC’s long-lived spirit of vengeance, however, The Wraith possessed a more limited power set that encompassed flight, intangibility, super-strength and the Deadman-like ability to possess humans.
Unlike most of the other rip-off characters that were Fox Publications’ stock-in-trade, The Wraith also had a cool character design. There’s something about a green corpse wrapped in sheets that stands out …
From Mystery Men Comics #27 (Fox, October 1941), here’s “The Wraith.” The story is signed by Paul Devlin, but I can’t find any biographical information on the gentleman to determine if he really existed or was just a nom de plume.
I could earn $30 to $50 a week? Man … I should’ve been a radio technician instead of whatever it is I do these days.
Fox Publications’ Phantom Lady may have been the poster girl for “headlight comics,” but her toughness could never be questioned. Not only did she turn back threats from serial killers and Communist zombies, but as today’s tale proves Sandra Knight had more than enough skill to take down one of the may werewolves that populated Golden Age comics.
The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “The Monster In The Pool” from Phantom Lady #16 (Fox, February 1948). The story is uncredited, by the Grand Comics Database guesses the story was scripted by Ruth Roche and drawn by either B. Tirado or Gus Schrotter.
Coming tomorrow: A tormented artist tries to win over his true love! It’s a Pre-Code horror comic, what could possibly go wrong?!?
The Big Bang Theory recently made headlines by pointing out that Indiana Jones wasn’t particularly effective in Raiders Of The Lost Ark. While it may be true that the Nazis would have been dead at the end of the film with or without Indy’s involvement, he was far from the most inept hero of the 1940s.
Judging by this story from 1942, Fox Publications’ signature super-hero was lucky to survive as long as he did. Not only is he consistently bested by the villain of the piece, he even plays no useful role in escaping from the de rigueur Golden Age death trap.
Geez…Batman fights giants all the time and you don’t see him getting punked.
Hmmm … well Batman doesn’t take Vitamin 2X like the Blue Beetle so … umm … yeah.
At any rate, here’s the Blue Beetle’s less than finest hour from Big 3 #7 (Fox Feature Syndicate, January 1942). The story, entitled “The Giants Dagger,” is uncredited, aside from the pseudonymous house signature “Charles Nicholas.”
Well, all’s well that ends well I guess. See you Saturday for the start of our 13-day Halloween spectacular!
Rulah was created by Matt Baker, the greatest “good-girl” artist of the Golden Age. Perhaps because the character was under the aegis of the sensationalistic Fox Publications, however, Rulah was a bit seedier than such Baker characters as Sky Girl.
Today’s story, for example, breaks just about every notion of propriety a modern audience could conceive. There are startling instances of racism mixed in with a surfeit of good girl shots, bondage and – if one were inclined to think along the lines of noted Rulah hater Frederic Wertham – hints of bestiality.
That said, there’s still something undeniably entertaining about “The Frenzy Of The Dishonored Idol.” Forbidden fruit, perhaps? However, I can’t help but wonder how Baker, an African-American pioneer in the comics field, felt about portraying Africans in such an unflattering matter.
“The Frenzy Of The Dishonored Idol” originally ran in Zoot Comics #10 (Fox, November 1947). Grand Comics Database identifies Baker as the the story’s artist, although the cover image shown at the beginning of the post is credited to Jack Kamen.
“Punish the woman as you see fit.” Golden Age justice!
To Victor Fox, sleazeball publisher extraordinaire, no story was too violent or sensational to appear in one of his funny books. So when true crime comics came into vogue, Fox upped the ante by rushing out a publication that focused on crimes committed by women.
Not just any women, mind you. Sexy women …. whether or not that particular aspect of the story was true or false.
True to its name, Fox’s Crimes By Women featured some of the most salacious contents of the Golden Age. The cover to the third issue alone was scandalous enough to warrant mention in Fredric Wertham’s Seduction Of The Innocent.
Today’s post, however, comes from Crimes By Women’s second issue because the story is better drawn than most of what appeared behind the cover that outraged Wertham. Don’t worry, faithful Time Bulleteer, the tale I’ve selected is just as exploitative as you would hope.
The wonderfully titled “Jean Torson, Satan’s Daughter” originally appeared in Crimes By Women #2 (Fox, August 1948). The writer and artist are not credited.
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.
Long before Hawkeye became an Internet sensation, the Victor Fox incarnation of The Phantom Lady set the standard for striking seductive poses and kicking serious @ss.
(Yes … I know Hawkeye Initiative devotees would probably dislike Phantom Lady comics but it was the snappiest intro I could think up on short notice. Besides, the character does kick serious @ss.)
“The Subway Slayer” originally appeared in All Top Comics #12 (Fox Feature Syndicate, July 1948). According to the Grand Comics Database, the story was pieced together by the nameless denizens of the Iger Studio. Others suspect it was written by Iger editor Ruth Roche and drawn by Matt Baker.
Golden Age justice!
Day 6 of Super-Heroes vs. Super-Horrors Week stacks the deck against everyone’s favorite “Good Girl,” Matt Baker’s Phantom Lady, as the sexy sleuth takes on “An Army Of Walking Dead.”
The story originally appeared in Phantom Lady # 15 (Fox Feature Syndicate, December 1947) and was drawn, naturally enough, by Matt Baker. The Grand Comics Database believes the plot is courtesy of the Iger Studio’s prolific staff writer, Ruth Roche.
Don’t underestimate the Phantom Lady just because she’s drawn like Jessica Rabbit! Coming tomorrow: Spy Smasher gets in a fist-fight with Death! (Spoiler: It doesn’t go too well for the hero…)
After DC sued Wonder Man – Fox Publication’s faux Man Of Steel – out of existence, the publisher went back to the drawing board and rebooted the disgraced super-hero’s showcase title, Wonder Comics, as WonderWORLD Comics.
Fox’s second step was to commission a new character that couldn’t be confused with Superman. Turning once again to Eisner-Iger shop, a hero with very un-Kryptonian fire-based powers soon emerged.
(And before you get any ideas, smart guy, said character also debuted a few months before the similarly themed Human Torch.)
The Flame, created by Will Eisner and Lou Fine, was the lost son of a missionary who was raised by Tibetan monks and granted mastery over the element of fire. Armed with his trusty “Flame Gun,” the hero debuted in the third issue of Wonderworld Comics (July 1939) and enjoyed a fairly healthy career as one of Fox’s top characters until 1942, when the publisher abandoned most of its super-heroes.
The Flame’s best stories, however, were the earliest by Eisner and Fine. Boasting a true pulp feel and art that was far and away superior to just about anything else issued by Victor Fox, The Flame was one of his few characters that could truly stand side-by-side in terms of quality with other publishers’ super-heroes.
See for yourself. From Wonderworld Comics #6 (Fox, October 1939), here’s “The Arson Ring Of Mr. Crass” by Eisner and Fine.
Golden Age justice!