Pretty Fly

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In the annals of obscure super-heroes, few characters suffered through an origin story more bizarre and violent than Harvey Comics’ Fly-Man. From a nutty scientist father to gun-crazy thugs wielding acid, Clip Foster probably deserved more than two appearances for all the trouble he encountered while launching his war against crime.

From Spitfire Comics #1 (Harvey, August 1941), here’s the “Origin Of The Fly-Man.” The art is credited to Sam Glanzman.

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Golden Age justice … and then some!

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His ‘N’ Hers

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For every Captain America there is an American Avenger; for every Wonder Woman an Amazona.The pages of Golden Age super-hero comics were rife with would-be supermen and women who received one chance at stardom but instead faded immediately into obscurity.

Sometimes the reasons for a character’s failure were woefully apparent (Centaur’s “The Buzzard,” a non-powered crime-fighter who disguised himself by donning a fake, bird-like nose) while other concepts worked well enough on paper but for whatever reason plummeted out of favor (“Ghost Woman,” a spectral heroine who fought werewolves. What’s not to love?).

Scarlet Nemesis and The Black Orchid were a crime-fighting duo that definitely deserved better exposure than a one-and-done. The set up was simple: a smug, condescending private eye and his hyper-competent Girl Friday fight crime as costumed mystery-persons.  Although Nemesis and Orchid frequently team up, both are unaware of their partner’s true identity.

It’s “Mr. & Mrs. Smith” decades before the fact!

If we’re being honest, however, the Black Orchid is the true star of the story. She has a better codename, costume and “calling card” (a floral dagger!) than the generic at best Scarlet Nemesis.

Perhaps that’s what held the duo back, or maybe it was the simple fact that the publisher already had a darkly clad female vigilante who readily captured readers’ imaginations: the Black Cat.

Judge for yourself. From All-New Short Story #2 (Harvey, March 1943), here’s “The Case Of The Crumbling Skyscrapers.” The art is credited to Ken Battlefield.

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Now that I think of it … there’s a slight similarity between the Harvey Black Orchid’s costume and the look of DC’s Black Orchid, who debuted in the 1970s.

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Is it possible? Probably not, but then again …

Love And Marriage

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The 13 Days Of Halloween continue with a sweet tale of love and trust as depicted by one of the all-time great Golden Age horror artists, Howard Nostrand.

“Shock!” originally appeared in Witches Tales # 20 (Harvey Comics, August 1953). The story was written and drawn by Nostrand.

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Coming Tomorrow: Swamp Things! Evil Science! ’50s Sexism! This one has it all, true believer!!!

Return Of The King

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Nothing can get me off my big, fat, non-blogging butt faster than the 97th anniversary of Jack “King” Kirby’s birth!

To celebrate, here’s a classic tale written and drawn by The King himself from Harvey’s post-Code science-fiction anthology, Alarming Tales. Entitled “Forbidden Journey,” the main character of the tale embodies the adventurous spirit that typified Kirby’s own career over the decades.

The story originally appeared in Alarming Tales #4 (Harvey Comics, March 1958).

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The last panel just seems to sum up everything regarding Jack Kirby and his contributions to comics and culture in general. We are all in his debt.

If you would like to own higher quality reprints of Kirby’s (and Joe Simon’s) science-fiction work with Harvey and other publishers, pick up the beautiful hardcover collection issued in 2013 by Titan Books,  The Simon And Kirby Library: Science Fiction ASAP!

Invisible Woman

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Invisible Scarlet O’Neil was the first super-powered heroine to headline her own comic strip. She wasn’t exactly a super-heroine – Scarlet didn’t sport gaudy spandex outfits or go by a colorful code name – but the character did possess the power of invisibility and that was enough to distinguish herself from the horde of adventurers and crime-fighters that populated newspapers and comic strips in the 1940s

Created by Russell Stamm, a cartoonist who had previously assisted Chester Gould on Dick Tracy, Invisible Scarlet O’Neil debuted June, 1940 in the Chicago Daily News. Despite Stamm’s history with Gould, his approach to Scarlett’s adventures was considerably more gentle than the blood and guts action that defined Dick Tracy.

Scarlet proved popular enough to cross over into comic books and related merchandise. Her strip ran until 1956 and gradually shifted from gentle super-heroics to soap-opera melodrama until the character was dropped from the feature altogether.

Today’s story, taken from Harvey Comics’ short-lived Scarlet O’Neil title, is one of the character’s spicier adventures and demonstrated Stamm’s talent for “Good Girl” art. “Fight For Survival” originally appeared in Invisible Scarlet O’Neil #2 (Harvey, February 1951).

The Grand Comics Database indicates the story and art are by Stamm and reprinted from newspaper strips.

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Death And Gremlins

October is right around the corner, which means it’s time for yours truly to plan a few Halloween-themed posts to whet fans and followers’ appetites for pre-Code thrills, chills and candied corn.

In the past I’ve left the heavy lifting to Internet all-stars like Karswell – who celebrates Halloween year-round at the excellent Horrors Of It All blog – but this time the Time Bullet will expand its focus a bit and dedicate the entire month to All Hallows Eve.

That means not one … not two … not three …. but four weeks of themed posts over the next several weeks!

My plans could change  – let’s be honest, 31 straight posts is a lot to pull off in this Tumblr-centric era  –   but for now I hope to dedicate one week to super-heroes taking on supernatural threats; one to Dick Briefer’s Frankenstein; one to Steve Ditko’s groundbreaking work on Charlton’s The Thing; one to a collection of personal pre-Code favorites; and a few bonuses in between.

We’ll see how all that works out, but as a token of my good intentions here’s a classic tale of supernatural suspense that could have easily fit into the format of Rob Serling’s Twilight Zone a decade or so later.

From Green Hornet Comics #33 (Harvey, March-April 1947), the Man In Black tells the story of “The Gremlin And The Airplane.” The story and art are courtesy of one of my favorite Golden Age creators, Bob Powell.

Note: Although Powell’s story works just as well in the 21st century as it did back in the late-40s, a filler strip at the bottom of the last page contains a racist stereotype that is not acceptable under any reasonable standards of good taste and decency. I considered editing it out, but decided we’re better served confronting such embarrassments head on rather than censoring what is unfortunately part of our culture’s history. If you disagree with this opinion and find the image too upsetting, it’s probably best to skip the final panel or simply avoid the story altogether.

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The King Of Comics

Today is the 95th anniversary of Jack Kirby’s birth.

My first experience with the King of Comics was New Gods #1, an experienced that would warp any 11-year-old’s mind. (Throw in Jim Starlin’s Warlock and Steve Englehart’s Dr. Strange and you can probably figure out why I love posting left-of-center comics like The Eye … )

I followed Kirby’s career through the never-completed Fourth World saga, OMAC, Kamandi, The Demon, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Eternals, Devil Dinosaur and his underrated mid-‘70s run on Captain America.

Heck, I even loved his Pacific Comics output and was thrilled to note the King’s touch on the early-80s classic post-apocalyptic toon, Thundarr The Barbarian.

Cheap reprint comics were plentiful back in the day as well, so I was also able to learn how Kirby revolutionized the comics industry with Stan Lee and Joe Simon.

To this day, Jack Kirby remains my favorite creator. His work simply epitomizes everything I love about the medium of comics.

To celebrate this milestone anniversary, here’s the entirety of Alarming Tales #1 (Harvey, September 1957) minus ads and text pages. Each of the stories were written and drawn by The King, and observant readers will note the introductions of several concepts that would one day fully flower in The Fourth World Saga and Kamandi.

Big Numbers

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I’ve devoted many a post to the work of writer-artist Bob Powell, a talent equal to any of the Golden Age’s better remembered creators. The following tale makes a strong case for why Powell is worthy of such praise: a one-off science-fiction fantasy that incorporates the story’s page numbers into the layout itself.

Judging by the editor’s note, Powell or whoever pulled the strings at Harvey back then hoped Atoma would graduate to an ongoing series. It was not to be, but at least we have this colorful and imaginative story to look back upon and appreciate.

“Atoma” originally appeared in Joe Palooka Comics #15 (Harvey Comics, December 1947). The art – and in all probability, the story – is by Bob Powell.

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No Ordinary Joe

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The comic-book world lost one of its greatest innovators this week. Joe Simon, the co-creator of Captain America and – heck – entire genres of comics with Jack Kirby passed away Wednesday at the age of 98.

Although many tributes have already mentioned Simon & Kirby’s most prominent creation – a certain star-spangled Avenger – Joe Simon will always hold a unique spot in my geeked-out heart for his whacked out masterpieces of the late ‘6os and early ‘70s: Brother Power The Geek and Prez.

I have to admit that both series warped my young, impressionable mind and helped me realize how comics could communicate more outré concepts than costumed musclemen beating the crap out of one another.

Simon, of course, was responsible for much more than DC oddities. Along with his famous partner, he created such landmark titles as Boy Explorers and Young Romance. Simon also founded and edited one of the more interested Mad knock-offs, Sick Magazine.

While the creation Captain America alone would enough for most writer-artists to consider themselves successful, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s accomplishments are proof positive of just how great an impact two visionaries can have on an art form.

Simon and Kirby, after all, did far more than create characters. They created the back-bone of an entire industry.

From Black Cat #6 (Harvey Comics, June-July 1947) here’s a brilliant, off-beat tale by Joe Simon starring “His Highness, The Duke Of Broadway.” The story is entitled “Fear.”

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