Sunday, June 9, 2013

Quality Sightings! Lady Luck, Red Torpedo, the Clock and More...

Lady Luck!

Lady Luck deals the devil's game in Phantom Stranger #6 (2013). Art by Zander Cannon, Gene Ha, and Dan Davis.
Lady Luck made an unexpected appearance in The Phantom Stranger #6 (May 2013). This is strange not only because she is relatively obscure, but also because as far as anyone knows, the character is still owned by the estate of Will Eisner. The story was even written by DC's Editor in Chief, Dan DiDio. I bought the digital edition which doesn't include an indicia (by which I am confused, and maddened). Anyone out there have a copy?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Human Bomb #4 Review!

After finding themselves above Jupiter, the only survivors of their mission, Joan (ostensibly Miss America) and Michael the new Human Bomb find that the aliens are terraforming the moon. They also discover that the aliens had acquired a lost space shuttle from the 1980s.

They're overwhelmed but Joan taxes her abilities to sending a mental distress signal into space. Just then she is struck by a blaster that rips virtually through her entire chest. As she dies, she transfers all of her memories and knowledge into Michael.

From Human Bomb #4 (2013). Art by Jerry Ordway.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Miss Fury!

Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1944–1949,
IDW Publishing. 2011.
Miss Fury is not related to Quality Comics, but is from the same era. I just picked up IDW's book on the character — Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1944–1949 — and have become utterly absorbed! You will not find as complete a collection of this strip anywhere else. It is painstakingly assembled and worth every last penny.

My interest began with reading the current Masks series by Dynamite, which teams mostly non-comics superheroes. (They are publishing a Miss Fury monthly on 3 April 2013.) I discovered this marvelous hardcover which reprints a good chunk of the heroine's adventures.  Her Golden Age history has remained relatively unread by modern audiences for several reasons.

First, she was a comic strip hero—and Sundays only, at that. Modern readers would have a very hard time indeed assembling any good body of these strips. The stories continued tightly from one week to the next, so a sporadic collection would leave many gaps in the story.

Miss Fury #4 (of 8)
(Summer 1944)

Second, her comic book reprints are not in the public domain.  Like many pulp heroes she came to comic books eventually in reprints by Timely. Timely publications now belong to Marvel, so those reprint collections are not in the public domain. Further, creator June Tarpé Mills was the copyright holder, and the indicia of the Timely comic books name her as such. Other researchers have found public evidence of this, too. (I haven't seen anything that names Mills' heirs; she died in 1988.)

To date, few have documented the character's history with two notable exceptions:

Trina Robbins, the expert on women comic book creators, covered Miss Fury and Tarpé Mills in her two large histories (see below). Also, Her essay in the IDW book is about as comprehensive a summary of this character as can be assembled.

Don Markstein wrote a good comprehensive article about the hero. He must have had some collection! The late historian's site, Toonopedia, has been winking in and out. Google had the cached version, which I am reprinting for now just below.

And the authors at The Strippers Guide dug up public records about Mills.

The strip's syndicate, Bell Syndicate, was acquired by the North American Newspaper Alliance, which ended in 1980.


I read the first issue of this series and was so thoroughly disappointed that I can't touch another book with the character. The IDW Miss Fury is, essentially, Catwoman. There are no similarities to be drawn between the original character and IDW's.

I also have a problem with IDW's lack of attention to historical detail. The character was not a pulp character. Anyone using that word in relation to her is already skewed as to how they think of writing her.

Second, IDW's storyline was extremely out of character. I'd say it's not the same character at all, though she is named Marla Drake. Now, if as a publisher you really don't care about the heart of Miss Fury and merely want to cash in on a sexy Catwoman knock off, then there's nothing I can really say. The reason it upsets me is that the original "Miss Fury" is so beautifully done, layered, and with a strong feminine perspective. I was expecting better from the publisher that's done such a good job on The Shadow. 

Read Newsarama's interview with Miss Fury writer, Rob Williams

Friday, March 1, 2013

New Appearance of the Clock!

Masks is a 2013 series by Dynamite that teams together mostly heroes who got their start in mediums other than comic books. They include the Shadow, Zorro, the Green Hornet, the Green Lama, and the Spider—all of whom began on radio or in pulp books. Most of these characters were eventually developed into Golden Age comic book features as well.

Issue #3 features an unexpected cameo by the Clock (the first masked hero created for a comic book), is a flashback, not a true apperance. In the story, former District Attorney Tony Quinn recalls the Clock as a fellow D.A. who took an alternate route to fighting crime. Quinn goes on to become the Black Bat in this story (yet another pulp character).  
From Masks #3 (2013); art by Dennis Calero.
Masks departs from its pulp-only formula in order to include one comic book hero: the Black Terror, a popular public domain hero who first appeared in Exciting Comics #9 (Jan. 1941). Also on parade is Miss Fury (aka Black Fury), who ran as a Sunday newspaper feature beginning April 6, 1941.

If the Clock shows up in the flesh, you know I'll sound the alarm!

More Golden Age Revivals

Incidentally, I have been reading Dynamite's The Shadow and enjoy it quite a lot. Matt Wagner just began his Year One mini-series, too. This company is doing a lot of things that should excite Golden Age aficionados.

Another series is Project Superpowers, which I recently read. This was Dynamite's first megassembly of Golden Age characters. It brought together dozens of major public domain heroes in a classic superhero yarn. I enjoyed geeking out on this series but as with every Alex Ross project, I had many reservations about its execution. There are two volumes available in three trade paperbacks, plus several spinoff series including Black Terror, Masquerade, and Death-Defying [Dare]’Devil. Many of these heroes had previously been reimagined by Alan Moore in his Terra Obscura series.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Human Bomb #2-3 Review!

Human Bomb #2 (Mar. 2013) Human Bomb #3 (Apr. 2013)

The adventure in this series began immediately and has escalated with every issue. Jerry Ordway shows no signs of slowing down in his artistic ability; this is some of his best work. And in addition to the new Miss America (introduced in issue #1), issue #3 features a new Neon! This Neon somewhat resembles the reinvented one from the previous Freedom Fighters series, a purely glowing man with teleportation powers.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Quality Comics History Unearthed!

This is one of those magical diamond dream posts, for me anyways. In a blog post by Ken Quattro at the Comics Detective, the author went further into the Will Eisner archives at the Ohio State University's Cartoon Research Library. This is where Bob Andelman found gems used in his biography of Will Eisner, A Spirited Life.

I never even considered that there might be more letters in their archive, but Quattro found a treasure trove of correspondence that gives us a transparent look at the relationships between Busy Arnold, Will Eisner, and Jerry Iger.

One thing these letters clear up is which comics Eisner was contracted to produce for Quality, namely Military Comics, and Uncle Sam Quarterly. (Eisner and Iger seem to have split the duties for producing Hit and National.) I had guessed that about Uncle Sam. If you read the earliest issues, it's a classic Eisner show of experimentation. These issues are greatly overlooked when people speak of Eisner as a format-buster. Long before The Spirit really hit its stride, this book was doing some surprising things.

It also removes some doubt about the artists on some of the features, especially those coming from Iger. Iger's material almost always had pen names on the bylines, and some of these artists are difficult to identify. (But I am doing that currently, I'll be blogging my index and findings as soon as I feel justified.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Quality: The First Statement of Ownership

Another minute thing that was not available when I was writing the Quality Companion, was their first Statement of Ownership filing, now availble from the DCM in Feature Funnies #4 (Jan. 1938).

The statement, which was required by law to run in periodicals, cites Edward Cronin as Editor and Ann L. Horgan as Business Manager, a name that has heretofore not popped up. I'm not sure whether she worked for Busy Arnold or one of the other partners.

The five entities listed as owners coincide with those listed in sources of record (including Jim Steranko's History of the Comics) were:
  • Comic Favorites, Inc. According to Steranko, this was the name of the parent corporation. It was represented by:
    • Frank J. Murphy (treasurer of the McNaught Syndicate; I discovered this proof here,  Smallwood, James M. and Steven K. Grager, eds. Will Rogers' Daily Telegrams.  Oklahoma State University Press, Stillwater, Oklahoma. 1978.)
    • Frank J. Markey, affiliated with McNaught and also ran his own small syndicate.
    • Henry P. Martin, Jr., (representing the Des Moines Rigister & Tribune), and
    • Everett M. Arnold.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Rarest Quality Comics Collectible?

Whoa, I'm reviewing all the non-super-hero stuff by Quality now and doing a fair amount of art spotting too. I just came across this solicitation in "Archie O'Toole" from Smash Comics #8 (Mar. 1940) which tells kids to send in for a free coloring map to Archie's kingdom, Pyromania!

Howdy, Friends..... I want to thank you all for following me and my adventures... and to show my appreciation, I'm going to give away free, a map of Pyromania which you can color yourself. Just write me c/o Smash Comics, Gurley Building,Stamford, Conn., — with five cents to cover the mailing and handling...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

George Edward Brenner (28 Sept. 1908–13 Sept. 1952)

Comic books' first masked hero, the Clock,
from Funny Picture Stories #2
(Dec. 1936, Comics Magazine Co.)
At some point, I became obsessed with unearthing more details about George Brenner. How could it be that the creator of the first masked comic book hero (the Clock), would go so undocumented? The obvious answer is that the man passed away at a very early age—in 1952 at the age of 42, to be precise. This was decades before anybody cared about his work which, if we're honest, was otherwise forgettable.

In interviews with Brenner's contemporaries, Jim Amash elicited lots of anectodal insight about the man during his time at Quality Comics. All of this is documented in the Quality Companion. But after he left (or purportedly was fired from) Quality in 1949, his story goes pretty dark. Only one mention, in a place I couldn't retrace, led me to believe that he moved to Dell/Western after that, and that he suffered an early death. noted the year of his death as 1952.