Today’s installment concerns yet another Captain Atom. In a previous installment I revealed there had been a little know and lesser seen Captain Atom back in the 50′s who had appeared in a short-lived series of comics in a less than the standard format. Well there was an even lesser known (in America anyway) one from Australia written and drawn by Arthur Mather for Atlas Publications in the late 40′s. My experience with Australian comics is less than I would likebut I have noticed they seem to like their costumed adventurers to be of the regular guy two-fisted variety. But Captain Atom is a proper superhero with actual atom powers. And the art is, well, distinctive. Me, I like it, but you don’t often see an artist who’s clearly inspired by both Dick Sprang and Milton Caniff.
The stated purpose of this blog is to celebrate the nexus of comics and records, that wonderful place where two of my hobbies intersect. Songs relating to comic characters. How fun is that? But today I’m getting on my soapbox to editorialize a bit. (Don’t worry, there’s a record coming up later.)
I’ve been watching Gotham, the new Fox TV series that makes The Dark Night look like a day at the beach. It’s not just violent, it’s the kind of ultraviolence that got A Clockwork Orange an X rating. And it’s on television. At 8:00 pm. Gotham is the kind of show you’d expect to see on HBO after 11pm. But it airs during “the family hour” on a broadcast network. It’s easy to believe that Fox would sink so low, but I’m surprised at DC Comics and Warner Brothers. They should know better.
The Penguin with the least amount of blood on his face I could find.
Anyone in the comic book business knows that when violence goes too far, people get riled up and put a stop to it. Ever hear of Fredric Wertham? In Wertham’s book Seduction of the Innocent, the doctor pointed out to parents how violent comics had become and it just about killed the entire comic book industry. You can’t blame Freddy. Comics were horrifically violent at that time. Although they’re just “lines on paper,” those lines crossed the line, so to speak. Arguably, movies and TV shows have the potential to be worse since they show actual people being hurt, not just cartoon drawings.
One of Wertham’s pet peeves was the injury to the eye motif. Here’s an example:
Given how horrible that image is, why did the creators of Gotham do THE EXACT SAME THING on this week’s episode? In fact, they went even further, actually showing people being killed by having a spike shoved into their eyeballs. Is this really necessary?
If this level of explicit, disgusting violence continues on Gotham, are we headed for another crackdown? Will a new Fredric Wertham arise to try to curtail injury to the eye, being burned alive, and other graphic horrors? Will I be that person?
Classic injury to the eye motif
Also available on a totebag
It’s too much for me. I think it’s unnecessary to show so much bloodletting and torture in order to tell a compelling story. You people should be ashamed. I’m talking to you, DC Comics! If you’re putting your name on this show you’re asking for the same thing that happened in the 1950’s. Think about it.
Click the link below and listen to a more innocent, non-violent Penguin.
There I was, wasting time on Tumblr when I came across this inexplicable image. It took a while, but I finally figured out I was looking at the cover of Sir Clacky Wack and Miss Sunbeam in “The Zany Scientist”, a 1957 one shot from Magazine Enterprises. Being a decent American I knew of Little Miss Sunbeam, the mascot of Sunbeam bread and was even vaguely aware she had her own comic book series. And with a minimum amount of research (my favorite kind) I discovered the character was created by illustrator Ellen Segner for the Quality Bakers of America in 1941. But ”Sir Clacky Wack”? Apparently in public appearances Miss Sunshine had a “sidekick and chaperone” in the form of a clown played by actor Ed Alberian who also stood in for the clowns Clarabell and Bozo. I have no idea why he got top billing in this comic.
Or why he’s entirely absent from the later Little Miss Sunshine comics. Sadly Sir Clacky Wack and Miss Sunbeam in “The Zany Scientist” is currently unavailable online. But all four issues of the later series are and in these Miss Sunshine is just regular little kid with a mom and dad and some standard kid tropes friends. As well as humorous backups featuring such bread related characters as Toothy Snyder the Delivery Boy and Gus the Grocer. She had pretty standard little kid adventures and although it seemed with every issue there was more adventure oriented material. And in her final one she fought, sort of, both Wild West bad men and pirates. As far as the Grand Comic Book Database knows these stories were written and drawn by ? but as far as I’m concerned they did a bang-up job on a particularly inspiring property.
You don’t have to claw my eyes out or hit me over the head with a bat (bat, get it?) to tell me that Gotham takes TV violence to a new level. All that brutality has overshadowed the exciting return of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., a thoroughly action-packed show that seems tame in comparison. Although there’s plenty of fighting in S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s done in a comic-booky way, where no blood is spurted and no one gets permanently killed (I’m talking to you, Lucy Lawless).
The season starts off with Agent Coulson as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Nick Fury is off somewhere relaxing. I’m glad to see Coulson get a promotion, but it’s sad to see Nick go. Nick Fury was a sergeant in World War Eye-Eye (in the comics, anyway) and he really earned the job as director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Once you’ve run a group like the Howling Commandos, you deserve to head up a spy agency. I’ve never heard Agent Coulson howl, not even once. You’d think Phil would give us a “Wah-hooo!” once in a while. Oh well. Nick is out and Phil is in, and that’s the way it is (for now). Still, I miss good ol’ Sgt. Fury. I hope he’s on an island somewhere under an umbrella sipping a drink with an umbrella in it. If you see him, give him my regards.
Which is my sneaky segue to this song called “Sergeant Fury.” See what I did there?
Original art by Jack Kirby, himself a World War II vet.
Click the link below and relive your memories of World War Two!
I don’t have time for a proper installment of this thing so instead of making an effort and being entirely absent I’ll just amuse myself by posting a prose story featuring my favorite robot adventurer/educator The Iron Teacher.
When I wrote about Gotham last week (just look in the archives if you missed it) I hadn’t actually seen it yet. I knew it was going to be dark. But I didn’t know just how dark. Holy brutality, Batman! This is damn dark.
In the first episode we see The Penguin without his trademark monocle and minus his gimmicked umbrella. Instead he manically beats a guy nearly to death with a baseball bat. Blood spurts, hilarity ensues. The usual ultraviolence, me droogs.
On the second episode (SPOILER ALERT) we’re treated to even more spurting blood and a close-up of a recent eye-gouging victim. This ain’t your father’s Batmobile!
It seems as if the producers of Gotham are trying to distance themselves as far as possible from the squeaky-clean 1966 Batman TV series, where the most graphic thing you saw was a POW!, BAM! or occasional WHAM! on the screen. A sock on the jaw, maybe, but no one was ever decapitated.
It shows how violent our culture is and inured to it we’ve become. It doesn’t strike me as an improvement, even if it’s more realistic. Somehow realism isn’t what I liked about Batman. Exactly the opposite, actually.
In the coming weeks we’ll see even more brutal acts of violence. SPOILER ALERT! Next episode, the young and future Catwoman claws a guy’s brains out. The next week The Penguin eats someone’s liver with a nice Chianti and some fava beans. And make sure you stay tuned to see The Riddler riddle a body with bullets. Same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.
For now, we’ll turn back the clock to a simpler more innocent time to hear some of Sun Ra’s (Al Ghul) best work in this sweet song about The Penguin.
Click the link below and remember Gotham before dark.
Unless you’ve been living in a cave (a very real possibility for some of our loyal readers) you know that Gotham made its debut last night on the so-called Fox Network. It’s so exciting to see all the elements that made Batman who he is, slowly but surely falling into place. Holy set-up, Batman!
Basically, Gotham sets the stage for the next batch of Batman movies. I get the feeling that the show was inspired at least in part by the success of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series, which likewise ties in with the Marvel film franchise. Holy synergy!
I don’t know about you, but I like my Batman the way I like my coffee… dark and gritty. On this front, Gotham delivers in spades. It’s so dark, you can hardly see what’s going on! Anybody have a flashlight?
Now usually when we shine the I.T.C.H. spotlight on Batman, we focus on the brightly lit and extra colorful 1966 TV show. But this time we’re going dark – very dark – to bring you this haunting, eerie song about Oswald Cobblepot. You may know him better by his villain name: The Penguin!
This is the Penguin when he was young, before he got so fat.
Click the link below and enter the dark world of Gotham!
Having always been a fat kid I probably shouldn’t have any tolerance for wholesome super student athletes along the lines of dime novel hero Frank Merriwell. But that having been said I must confess I have a grudging tolerance for Dick Cole, perhaps because he started life as a “Wonder Boy”, one of those “raised by a scientist to achieve the peak of human development” types. But he then upended all expectations by instead of fighting crime in a homemade costume he became a military cadet. He started out battling mad scientists and punching dinosaurs but was quickly shorn of his super strength and dealt with the usual assortment of jealous rivals, crooked gamblers and spy rings. He has a fairly long run in Target Comics and appeared in three issues of his own title.
One of the interesting to the verge of oddball thing about Novelty Press were the little “messages” they frequently but at the bottom of their pages that didn’t seem to be directed so much as the kid reader as the adult buying the comic. As I’ve said before, Novelty Press titles seemed to be carefully designed to not offend Grandparents and and Great Aunts.
First up is a Dick Cole adventure drawn by Jim Wilcox in the awkward, blocky style the series was known for.
I’ve on the record for liking the adventures of street level supernatural crimefighter Sergeant Spook but honestly, the art was usually so-so at best. But not here; Al McWilliams delivers some really handsome, well laid out pages, though I do have to wonder how exactly orphan boy Jerry (no last name) got invited to go on an Egyptian archeological dig. For the record in the series the afterworld was known as “Ghost Town” and in his early adventures the Sarge would regularly visit to get help from the various spirits. He did it less frequently after his psychic sidekick Jerry was introduced but the concept is referenced in this outing.
Edison Bell was originally a classic comic book boy inventor, meaning he creating robots, vehicles and the like, but that clearly was too much for the Grandmas so he became a “real world” boy inventor. Meaning he did little science projects and/or experiments to get out of scrapes and the stories would end with tutorials for the kids on how they could do the same at home. But in this “adventure” he doesn’t even do that; here he heroically puts on a Halloween costume.
Now that we’re just days away from the season premier of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the excitement is building fast, let’s take a look at (and a listen to) a little Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos. Not only was Nick Fury an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. but he is (was?) the commander of the whole secret organization! But this didn’t happen over night. Nick worked his way up through the ranks, starting as a mere howling commando back in World War Two. (Hey, you’d be howling too if you were still on active duty 69 years after the war ended.) In fact, Colonel Fury looks younger now than he did back then! (Shh… maybe he’s an LMD.) But time paradoxes aside, it’s good to see Nick’s spy agency on weekly TV.
Now if you were paying attention during Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and didn’t bolt for the exits as soon as the credits started to roll, you got a glimpse of that man you love to hate, Baron Strucker! Yep, that Nazi turned Hydra bad guy managed to sneak into the movie at the last moment. He’s up to no good, I’ll wager.
The Baron, aka Wolfgang von Strucker, dates way back to SFAHHC #5, and continued to make Fury’s life miserable for several decades/issues. Not to mention being a thorn in the side of Captain Savage. Before long, he’ll turn up on the big screen or the small screen (spoiler!) I have no doubt.
So while you enjoy this cover gallery of the Baron you can hum along with the haunting strains of the Howling Commandos theme music.
OK, here’s an odd one, Okay Adventure Annuala British hardcover featuring a hodgepodge of boys own adventure prose stories and a very odd grouping of Golden Age American comic book reprints in color and black and white. By which I mean there are stories which are, for no apparent reason, in black and white and color. They clearly didn’t stint when it came to the cover.
And the end papers sure were pretty as well.
First up is an Invisible Justice story from Quality’s Smash Comics.
There was a couple of Golden Age heroes named The Voice, but the one who appeared in Quality Comics Feature Comics is undoubtedly the strangest. Secretly a 150 year old man calling himself Mr. Elixir who survived a 150 years of being shipwrecked on a desert island thanks to a steady diet of herbs which gave him long life, vitality and super strength. It seems to me that all of that would make him a unique character but maybe all those years on the island made him a little weird because he decides he also needs to use ventriloquism to fight crime.
And a page of Mickey Finn just because I like the strip so much.
So, as you can see, most of the American reprints which from Quality Comics, but that doesn’t explain this Dennis the Menace comic book story being here. It’s especially odd since the UK has its own Dennis the Menace who first appeared in the pages of The Beano in 1951.
And finally here’s a reprint of “The King of Blackhawk Island” from Quality’s Blackhawk#76.