Monday, November 20, 2017

Number 2130: Raven Hood

The Raven is a modern day Robin Hood. Modern in 1941, that is. He robs the bad guys and gives to the needy. Far from being simple there are moral issues. The Raven is the disguise of Police Detective Sergeant Danny Dartin. In cahoots with Danny in his sub rosa activities as a masked robber are his assistant, Mike, and the daughter of the Police Chief, Lola Lash. The Raven, as Danny, has sworn to uphold the law, yet he is breaking it. And robbing the rich to give to the poor is a bit complicated. For instance, to begin this episode, from Lightning Comics, Vol. 2 No. 2 (1941), the Raven drops in (literally, see above) on an upscale soiree and robs Mamma Ravel, “the biggest jewel thief in the country.” While his actions seem honorable, taking the jewels from Mamma and giving them to the poor, what about the people from whom Mamma stole the jewels? They were probably reimbursed for their losses by their insurance companies, another link in the dubious morality of the Raven’s actions.

Then the Raven goes up against another robber gang, the Green Hoods, who hijack the loot he so self-righteously stole, just perpetuating the cycle. It’s no wonder this stuff gives me a headache.

The Grand Comics Database does not guess who wrote or drew this tale.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Number 2129: Ghost of the Gorgon

John (or Johnny) Bell (né Belcastro) was a comic book artist with a short list of published work in the early 1950s. He worked mostly for Fiction House, and is probably best known for his moody artwork, like this example, “The Ghost of the Gorgon,” which appeared in issue #10 (1954) of Ghost Comics.

According to what short biographical information I am able to find on Bell/Belcastro from the Internet, he was born in 1924, served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, got his art training the way many of the best comic book artists of the post-War era got theirs, in classes conducted by Burne Hogarth. When Fiction House shut down Belcastro worked on a couple of newspaper comics, then went into commercial art in his hometown of Albany, New York. Belcastro died in his mid-eighties, in 2010. Like some other artists of the era in which he did comic books, he borrowed some techniques from the EC Comics artists.

In the story itself the Gorgon appears to be nude on top (page 6). That’s something we usually didn’t see in comic books. The hapless guy who looks upon the Gorgon is turned to stone, but it’s the eyes of the monster that do it. I am sure that before transforming into a solid object, he took a peek at other parts of her.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Number 2128: Firebrand zaps right out of the comics

There were two Golden Age characters named Firebrand: one from Quality Comics (see the link below) and one from Harry “A” Chesler. The Quality Firebrand lasted 13 issues in Police Comics, and the Chesler Firebrand made it for one issue of Yankee Comics. (There were reportedly more stories of the character in Harvey Comics later, but I have never seen them. According to the Public Domain Superheroes website, there is a question as to whether it is the same Firebrand as the one from Yankee.)

This Firebrand, from the aforementioned Yankee Comics #1 (1941). drawn by Charles Sultan, was a lineman who got zapped while working on a power line. He was taken into care by a professor who experimented and juiced him up good with electrics. All he had to do was clench and unclench his fists. And he could leave the ground by just jumping and the electricity made him airborne. Wow. He took care of the bad guys, and yet apparently no readers felt a tingle of electricity from the pages when they read about him. Or, perhaps since he appeared after the Quality Firebrand, Busy Arnold, Quality’s publisher, may have called Harry “A” and threatened to bring down some legal lightning bolts. At this late date nobody really knows, and this Firebrand is one of those one-and-done superheroes from early comic books.

Here is a tale of the Quality Firebrand from Police Comics #5, which I posted in 2013. It is included with a tale of a strange Batman, and a link to a Bad Batman. You have been warned!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Number 2127: The mad killer

Walter Graves (an appropriate surname) is a psychiatric casualty of World War II. Shortly after the war he has trouble holding a job because of anger and violence issues. Walter has headaches. His doctor says there is no organic cause he can find, but Walter should get mental health treatment. Walter refuses, and as he leaves the doctor thinks, “He is a latent paranoid — a potential killer!” Is there such a thing as a latent paranoid? I was raised by a paranoid. Despite there being levels of paranoia I observed over the years (sometimes not so paranoid, sometimes very paranoid), the condition was always there. And being paranoid doesn’t necessarily make one a potential killer. So, folks, I am cautioning you, do not get your information on mental illness from comic books.

Since this is just a five-page story, in short order Walter takes care of his career as “the Destroyer,” murdering four people he blames for his problems. At the end of the story Walter’s doctor says, “This could have been prevented if there were laws covering potential killers . . . to keep them from walking the streets . . . we never know when some madman like Graves will strike! We never know — who’s next?” Unfortunately, not so easy, as we in the real world are often reminded. So-called “madness” is not always a reason for multiple murders.

Who is Next? #5 (1952) is the name of the one-issue only crime comic book from Standard. The writer of the story is unknown, but the art is by Eisner Award winner Nick Cardy, a longtime comic book pro who did some brilliant work for DC Comics later in his career.

I showed another story of a killer from Who is Next? in 2013. Just click on the cover (which also features the Jeepers Girl, a particular obsession of this blog and Pappy.