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).

Crimson Rider

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!

Smiling Faces

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Back in 1997, Face/Off made a tidy sum for John Woo and company via the rather incredible plot device of a face swap via plastic surgery. The famed Chinese director, however, wasn’t the first to tackle such an incredible story.

In fact, the concept of “magic plastic surgery” is a well-established trope.

Decades earlier, an unnamed comic-book scribe typed up a similar tale detailing the fiendish result of a face-swap. Will good or evil persevere in this instance? Remember, dear reader, we are talking about a Pre-Code horror comic …

The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with “The Other Face.” It was originally published in Journey Into Mystery #11 (Atlas Comics, August 1953). The artist is one of my all-time favorite Golden Age greats, George Tuska.

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Golden Age Justice!!

I guess. I mean … um.

Hmmmm.

Coming tomorrow: Plastic Man takes on a vampire! Jack Cole takes a hike!!

Rx For A Beat Down

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Despite introducing such memorable characters as The Black Terror, Doc Strange, Pyroman and Fighting Yank, the initial comics offered by Standard/Better/Nedor/WhateverTHeyFeltLikeCallingThemselves weren’t especially well illustrated.

Once readers finished admiring Alex Schomburg’s striking cover art, they were invariably “treated” to interior storytelling that reached journeyman level at best. Such policies changed over time, however, as later issues of Thrilling, Exciting and other titles in the Standard line began to feature art by the likes of Alex Toth and Mort Meskin.

The following tale is a good example of how Standard’s … um … “standards” rose.

As characters go, the Golden Age Doc Strange was a decent enough Superman riff that borrowed a bit more from the Doc Savage template than Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Sadly, the feature’s art usually fell far below the bar set by Shuster and his assistants …

From Thrilling Comics #26 (March, 1942)

The good doctor finally hit the big leagues toward the end of his run, however. This story is illustrated by the great George Tuska, and goes a long way toward proving how a skilled artist can enhance a “standard” super-hero potboiler.

From Thrilling Comics #62 (Standard, 1947), here’s Doc Strange’s epic struggle against “The Eye.”

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George Tuska, RIP

Butt Riley

George Tuska, a prolific artist known for his powerful renditions of several iconic Marvel characters, has passed away. He was 93.

For my money, Tuska was THE Iron Man artist of the ’70s. His version of the Golden Avenger never attained “flavor-of-the-week” status but left an indelible impression on readers who enjoyed the artist’s exciting action sequences and efficient story-telling abilities.

However, Tuska’s greatest work appeared long before Marvel’s stable of super-heroes came to dominate the comics industry. A prolific Golden Age artist, Tuska’s gritty crime, western and horror tales far outstripped his more widely seen pencils and inks on super-hero comics.

As an example, here’s the rather awesome tale of a criminal who terrorized the Barbary Coast by smashing people’s faces with his rock-hard head. Tuska knocks the story out of the park, alternating brutal violence with a brief – but sterling – sample of his famous “Good Girl” art.

From Crime Does Not Pay #48 (Lev Gleason, 1946), here’s “Butt Riley: King Of The Hoodlums.”

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For more on Tuska’s long career, visit The Comics Reporter.