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.