Holt And Catch Fire

Tim Holt

So by theme “week” you didn’t expect five consecutive days of posts, did you?

Heh. Well… errr…ummm

Sadly Time Bulleteers, my best-laid plans were waylaid by a now-dead Toshiba laptop.  Guess those “Imminent hard drive failure” notifications weren’t just a bunch of gobbledygook after all!

Like the Wild West heroes of old, however, the Time Bullet is back in the saddle and ready to proceed with the six-gun action and tumbleweed terrors promised earlier this week.

Today we have the comic book adventures of Tim Holt, a star of the classic Western film era who appeared in such notable works as Stagecoach, The Girl and The Gambler, My Darling Clementine,  and – perhaps most famously – The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre.

Comics based upon the fictionalized adventures of Holt and other film stars (including such A-Listers as John Wayne) were the Star Wars titles of their day, and publisher Magazine Enterprises upped the ante by giving Holt a Lone Ranger-esque alter-ego known as the “Red Mask.”

Many of the Red Mask’s adventures showed the same pulpish flair as Magazine Enterprises’ premier Western star, The Ghost Rider, probably because the great Gardner Fox worked on both characters.

“The Death Wheel!” features the menace of the wonderfully named “Lady Doom” and originally appeared in Tim Holt #30 (Magazine Enterprises, June-July 1952). The art is by Frank Bolle and is thought to be scripted by Fox.

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Golden Age justice!

Coming Monday (I’m almost totally sure … ): The Crimson Rider! She’s not what you expect!

Ghost Vs. Ghoul

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It’s become a tradition around these parts to post a ghost story on All Soul’s Day, so this year I thought it appropriate to introduce a tale starring the Spectral Sheriff of the range known only as Ghost Rider.

“Spectral Sheriff.” Yeah … that was a bit of a reach.

From Ghost Rider #8 (Magazine Enterprises, August 1952), here’s “The Inn On Skull Mountain.” The art is by the Rider’s co-creator, the criminally underrated Dick Ayers.

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Golden Age justice!!!

Clan Of The Cave Girl

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Cave Girl was Magazine Enterprises’ entry in the Golden Age’s ever-popular “Jungle Girl” genre, albeit one that borrowed elements from Edgar Rice Burroughs’  Lost World novels as well as Fiction House’s iconic Sheena, Jungle Queen.

Despite the character’s lack of originality, however, Cave Girl did benefit from the talents of her co-creators: the legendary Gardner Fox and Bob Powell.

Powell, of course, was one of the field’s greatest “good girl” artists – which, to be honest, was the entire point of the genre –  while Fox could always be counted on to provide solid stories that added a twist or two to the formula.

(For example, fearsome city that provides the title for today’s tale is a reference to modern civilization rather than a lost, prehistoric land.)

From Cave Girl #11 (Magazine Enterprises, 1953), here’s “The City Of Terror” by Fox and Powell.

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A Town Called Malice

Although the Golden Age Ghost Rider delved deeply into the horror comics genre, his supernatural foes were usually no more than what would one day be termed “Scooby Doo Hoaxes.”

(The Rider himself simulated otherworldly powers through the clever use of illusions and a reliance upon his enemies’ superstitions. Unlike numerous Scooby Doo characters, however, his act was never debunked by a bunch of meddling kids …)

Fake or not, the Ghost Rider’s antagonists were frightening enough due to the skills of Dick Ayers, one of the many unsung heroes of the Golden Age.

Take, for example, “Hate Town U.S.A.” from The Ghost Rider #9 (Magazine Enterprises, Oct. 1952). If Scooby Doo ever dared to amp up its horror elements to this degree, well … let’s just say it would have been a lot more intense than those episodes that guest-starred Sonny and Cher.

The writer of the following story is uncredited, but the pencils and inks are by Dick Ayers.

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Undercover In The Night

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Before Ogden Whitney achieved cult fame as the co-creator of Herbie, the prolific artist achieved a reputation as one of the industry’s better good-girl artists.

That particular skill is in ample display in the following adventure of “Undercover Girl,” one of the typical scantily-clad heroines of the era who still managed to get the job done more proficiently – and without the aid of men, I must add – than many of their modern-age counterparts.

From Undercover Girl #5 (Magazine Enterprises, 1952), here’s “The Riddle Of The Radio Death.” The art is by Ogden Whitney.

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The above story was originally published in Manhunt #7, as Magazine Enterprises wasn’t above reprinting their own work as often as possible. As an extra bonus, here’s the cover of Undercover Girl #5, which offers a nice twist on two of Doctor Wertham’s old favorites: murder and bondage!


The Haunted Horseman

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The original Ghost Rider is one of the more memorable characters of comics’ Golden Age, probably because his creators (Editor Vince Sullivan, writer Ray Krank and artist Dick Ayers) combined two of 1949’s more popular trends – cowboys and the supernatural – with a touch of the still kicking super-hero genre and topped their masterwork off with one of the most distinctive costume designs of any era.

Bolstered by Ayers’ slick art and notable contributions by such talents as Gardner Fox and Frank Frazetta, the Ghost Rider haunted the Western plains from 1949 until 1955 and the ascendancy of the Comics Code Authority.

The character, however, proved durable enough for Marvel Comics to introduce a nearly identical version of the Rider in the late ’60s with Ayers himself in tow. This iteration wasn’t as successful as its predecessor, but Marvel certainly wasn’t going to give up a catchy character name now that the company possessed the trademark.

The Ghost Rider tag, as we all know, was eventually passed on to Johnny Blaze while the Western hero was renamed the “Phantom Rider.” Sadly, this bowdlerized version of the Golden Age character is best remembered today for drugging and raping Hawkeye’s wife, Mockingbird. I’ll never forgive Steve Englehart for that brainstorm.

Anyway, here’s the original Ghost Rider in all of his Pre-Code glory. Entitled “The Beautiful Witch,” the story originally appeared in The Ghost Rider #11 (Magazine Enterprises, 1953). As is the case with every Ghost Rider story during the character’s Magazine Enterprise run, the art is credited to Dick Ayers.

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King Of The Lost Lands

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I spent a good portion of my childhood poring over the unforgettable covers Frank Frazetta created for the paperback editions of countless Robert E. Howard and Edgar Rice Burroughs classics.

(And some non-classics as well. More than once, I found the legendary artist’s illustrations to be superior to the text contained within.)

Each and every one of his paintings transported me to a world much more exciting and exotic than my own humdrum suburban existence. I often wondered how Frazetta created such scenarios and if he were as colorful an individual as I imagined.

Reading though the obituaries written after Frazetta’s death earlier this week, it became apparent he was nothing like I imagined as a star-struck preteen. Although his otherworldly paintings led me to cast Frazetta as a crazy hybrid of Vincent Van Gogh and Gandalf, it turns out he was a robust, confident man who was skilled enough at baseball to seriously consider a career with the New York Giants.

Frazetta showed an early aptitude toward art and was enrolled in the Brooklyn Academy of Fine Arts at the age of 8. By the time he was a teen, Frazetta was earning a living as a comic-book artist. He signed on as an assistant for Al Capp’s Lil’ Abner in the 1950s and by the decade Frazetta discovered the more lucrative field of movie posters and paperback cover illustrations.

The rest, I suppose, is legend.

Coupled with the fact that much of his comic-book work has long been out of print, Frazetta’s notoriety as an illustrator has led many to overlook the artist’s early accomplishments. One of his more notable contributions is Thun’da, Magazine Enterprises’ answer to Tarzan.

Thun’da was adventurer Roger Drum, who found himself stranded in a “lost world of prehistoric beasts” deep in the heart of Africa. The setting gave Frazetta – who modeled Drum after himself (!) – ample opportunity to draw dinosaurs, giant snakes and other types of strange creatures that would find greater exposure in the illustrator’s later work.

(The direction, however, must not have met publisher expectations because later stories took place in a more conventional jungle setting …)

With the aid of writer Gardner Fox, Frazetta completed the entire first issue and subsequently left the character in the Bob Powell’s more than capable hands. Frazetta severed all ties with Magazine Enterprises after Thun’da was adapted into a Columbia Pictures serial without any credit – or money – given to the character’s creator.

Legal and creative issues aside, however, Frazetta’s issue of Thun’da remains one of the better examples of the “jungle man” genre. The art alone is good enough to separate Mr. Drum from his would-be peers.

From Thun’da, King Of The Congo #1, here’s “King Of Lost Lands” by Frazetta and Fox.

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If you’re interested in reading more of Frank Frazetta’s Golden Age work, pick up a copy of Underwood Books Telling Stories: The Classic Comic Art Of Frank Frazetta. Although editor Edward Mason adopts an annoyingly patronizing attitude toward Golden Age storytelling, the high-quality reprints of Frazetta’s art are more than worth the price of admission.

Crusade For Vengeance

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Bob Powell was one of the greatest artists of comics’ golden age.

Renowned for his “good girl” art on such strips as Sheena and Cave Girl, Powell also displayed a cinematic flair on numerous crime, horror, super-hero, and romance comics. Heck, he excelled in just about any genre you could imagine.

This particular story was taken from the first issue of Magazine Enterprises’ I’m A Cop, a hard-boiled detective strip that owed more than a small debt to Jack Webb’s Dragnet. Powell’s effective use of inventive “camera angles,” coupled with the artist’s ability to convey genuine human emotion through a character’s facial expression, lifted the series above mere pastiche.

Oh yeah … there’s plenty of action as well.

From 1954, here’s “Crusade For Vengeance.”

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