Shoot To Thrill

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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.

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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.

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Heads, You Lose!

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Ace Periodicals published a number of fine horror tales that disprove the notion that EC was the only Pre-Code comics company that emphasized quality as well as brutality. Ace’s earlier super-hero efforts, however, were crazy as hell.

The heroes themselves were stock, square-jawed types who stood for truth, justice and The American Way. The villains were another story, though. Ace’s rogues gallery consisted of killer clowns whose blood lust made The Joker look like Bozo, radium-irradiated mummies, vampiric hypnotists and – in today’s offering – a demonic midget little person who animated wax figurines with the condemned souls of hell.

Rudy Palais – who would later leave a significant mark in comics history as a horror illustrator for Harvey –  somehow manages to reign in the insanity with his typically expert art. He would only get better as his work matured.

The untitled story originally appeared Super-Mystery Comics Vol. 5, #2 (Ace Periodicals, Oct. 1945).

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Kind of surprised Wertham never grabbed a hold of this story …

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Like many other Golden Age comic-book companies, Ace Periodicals was brought into existence by a pulp magazine publisher who noticed those upstart funny books were ringing in big profits thanks to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster’s Superman.

Ace rode the super-hero trend as long as it remained popular, but really made its mark with its post-WWII horror, sci-fi, crime and romance titles illustrated by the likes of Lou Cameron.

In fact, the creators behind such Ace titles as Web Of Mystery and Crime Must Pay The Penalty did their jobs so well that the small company found itself prominently featured in Fredric Wertham’s Seduction Of The Innocent.

The following story was published during Ace’s dalliance with the super-hero genre and features two of its more memorable characters: Lash (Originally “Flash,” but changed to avoid confusion with a certain Scarlet Speedster) Lightning and Lightning Girl.

The violence found in Ace’s earlier pulp and later horror titles is well represented, however, and artist Louis Ferstadt tiptoes into Daliesque surrealism in his depiction of the villainous Maestro’s hypnotic powers. Put together, “Die! You Must Die!” easily ranks among the more unusual long-underwear adventures of comics’ Golden Age.

The story originally appeared in Four Favorites #12 (Ace Periodicals, November 1943).

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Bucket Of Blood

Today’s story was condemned in Frederic Wertham’s Seduction Of The Innocent for an admittedly lurid scene depicting two gangsters draining blood from an unconscious woman.

The good doctor opined that outside of children’s comics, the only place to read of such atrocities was the “forbidden pages of de Sade.” I wonder what he thought of the tale’s crime-fighting heroine, the Veiled Avenger, who brandished a whip.

Despite the unsettling nature of the crime depicted, the Golden Age comic seems rather tame now compared to the violence depicted in your average Geoff Johns title, especially given the fatal brand of justice dealt to the perpetrators of said crime.

As this blog has noted time and time again, Golden Age super-hero comics generally favored clear-cut – rather than Pyrrhic – victories for the forces of law and order.

From Red Seal Comics #16 (Harry A. Chesler, April 1946), here’s “The White Death.” The art is credited to Gus Ricca.

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Call Of The Wild

Charles Biro and Bob Wood rightfully deserve credit for creating – and perfecting – the crime comics format that swept through the latter half of comics’ Golden Age. Jack Cole, however, kicked the genre into another gear altogether with his contributions to Magazine Village’s True Crime Comics title.

Of all of Cole’s crime comics, “Murder, Morphine And Me” from True Crime Comics #2 is easily the best remembered thanks to Dr. Fredric Wertham (there’s that name again) and the infamous “injured eye motif” panel. That selfsame issue, though, contained other tales that were just as outrageously brilliant.

As an example, here’s Cole’s take on the legend of Sawney Bean, a mass murderer and cannibal who led a 48-member clan that reportedly terrorized Scotland in the 1500s. Cole admittedly plays fast and loose with the “facts,” but his characteristically breakneck storytelling skills and genre-bending art that somehow balances out humor and horror creates an unforgettable story that would stand out in any era of comics.

From True Crime Comics #2 (Magazine Village, May 1947), here’s Jack Cole’s “Demons Dance On Galloway Moor.”

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Seductress Of The Innocent

Meet Corliss Archer, began life as a radio program devoted to the misadventures of a typical, All-American teenage girl not unlike Betty Cooper or Patsy Walker. Unlike the other two, however, Corliss has the unique distinction of being labeled a menace by none other than Dr. Frederic Wertham himself.

Corliss’ inclusion in the good doctor’s infamous Seduction Of The Innocent didn’t stem from the character’s involvement in radio, movies and televison, but rather a short-lived comic-book published in 1948 by Fox Feature Syndicate that Wertham cited as an example of a “headlight comic.”

Based upon the covers that adorned the book’s second and third issues, I can’t imagine where in the world Wertham got that idea …

Like many of the comics published by Victor Fox in the late 1940s, the seemingly wholesome adventures of Corliss Archer snuck in as many swimsuit or bra-and-panty shots as the story would allow. Despite the characters’ popularity in other media – a fact trumpeted on the comic’s very cover, by the way – Fox knew what his audience wanted.

In a weird coincidence, the issues that so offended Wertham were mostly written and drawn by Al Feldstein, who would later cause even greater consternation among “right-thinking people” as an editor, writer and artist for William M. Gaines’ legendary EC Comics line.

The Golden Age of Comics truly existed in a small, and very strange, world.

“The Homework Hoax” originally appeared in Meet Corliss Archer #2 (Fox Feature Syndicate, May 1948). The story is signed by “EKR,” but the Grand Comics Database guesses that Feldstein provided the script.

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Although the Corliss Archer comic only lasted three issues, the radio show ran from 1943 to 1953 and inspired a syndicated television show that existed for a single season in 1954.

Demonstrating a bit of quirkiness one wouldn’t expect from such a show, the program often featured comic-book styled art to illustrate the sit-com’s predicament of the week. Since the series has fallen into the public domain, here’s a link to an episode of Meet Corliss Archer that features a quick appearance from pro wrestler Tor Johnson of Plan 9 From Outer Space fame!

Enjoy!

Sweet Revenge

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Journey Into Fear #15 (Superior Publishers Ltd., September 1953) was one of many Pre-Code horror titles that received the (dubious?) honor of appearing in Dr. Frederic Wertham’s Seduction Of The Innocent.

A quick scan of the issue makes it apparent why the good doctor took such umbrage: vengeful zombies, heartsick ghouls and hunger-crazed werewolves practically leap off the pages with malevolent glee.

My favorite tale in that particular comic, however, concerns a monster of a less supernatural bent. After all, who is capable of greater horror than a man filled with jealousy and hatred?

Here’s “Revenge So Evil.” The story and art are not credited, although the piece looks to be the product of the Iger Studio.

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Sex & The Single Super Girl

The comics that offended “right-thinking” people in the 1940s and 1950s are tame by today’s standards, especially when compared to what major publishers offer on the stands these days.

Fox’s Phantom Lady may have been Public Enemy No. 1 to Frederic Wertham, but to be quite honest I’ll take the relatively respectful (and realistic) “headlight” art of Matt Baker and Phantom Lady’s wit, intelligence and competence over the one-dimensional, anatomically exaggerated bad girls currently offered by the “House That Siegel & Shuster Built.”

From Phantom Lady #19 (Fox Features Syndicate, August 1948), here’s “Wine, Women and Sudden Death” by Iger Studio writer and editor Ruth Roche (one of the most successful and prolific – if anonymous – female creators of the Golden Age) and Matt Baker.