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.

MISS FURY BY IDW PUBLISHING 

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



The following text ©Donald D. Markstein

MISS FURY

Medium: Newspaper comics
Distributed by: Bell Syndicate
First Appeared: 1941
Creator: Tarpé Mills

Miss Fury wasn't quite the first female superhero in comics — The Woman in Red and The Red Tornado both beat her into print (as did The Black Widow and Fantomah, if they count). And she wasn't the first to break into the higher profile world of newspaper comics, either (tho of the two earlier ones, Invisible Scarlet O'Neil wasn't packaged as a regular superhero, and Lady Luck was only barely a newspaper comics character).

But Miss Fury was the first created by a female cartoonist. Tarpé Mills, like Dale Messick (creator of Brenda Starr), altered her name to avoid sex discrimination. She dropped her first name, June, in favor of her gender-neutral middle name. She'd had some success in comic books as early as 1938, drawing stories for Prize Comics, Centaur Publications, Famous Funnies and others, before starting this, her most famous work. The Bell Syndicate (which handled Mutt & Jeff, the political cartoons of Rube Goldberg and other venerable toons) launched Miss Fury as a Sunday page on April 6, 1941.
Unlike the more famous of the 1940s superhero women (such as Wonder Woman, The Black Cat and especially Phantom Lady), Miss Fury wore a costume that showed very little skin. Instead of the equivalent of a bathing suit, she wore a panther skin that covered her from head to foot, with only the lower part of her face exposed. Readers looking for a little kinkiness in their action stories weren't disappointed, tho, as the feature abounded in whips, spike heels, female-on-female violence, and lingerie scenes — and besides, that panther skin fit very tightly. But the series also had enough solid characterization and storytelling to hold the interest of readers for more than a decade, far longer than most 1940s costumed crime fighters.

In everyday life, Miss Fury was Marla Drake, a wealthy socialite whose pre-Fury life was so empty, she regarded it as a major crisis when she heard another woman was planning to attend a costume ball in an outfit similar to hers. At the suggestion of her housemaid, Francine, she switched to the panther skin left to her by her uncle, which had previously been worn as a ceremonial robe by an African witch doctor. Oddly enough, it fit perfectly — very, very perfectly. But she never arrived at the party, because she got involved on the way in an adventure with an escaped murderer. Newspaper coverage of the event dubbed the mystery woman "Black Fury" (no relation). After a few weeks, she brought her superhero monicker in line with the title of the feature, and became Miss Fury.

The panther skin didn't confer any noticeable super powers on Marla, but it did conceal her identity. Apparently, tho, it contributed certain intangibles to her outlook, as Miss Fury habitually did things most bored society women would never dream of. Supporting characters included her two confidants (Francine and Cappy, doorman of the building where she occupied a penthouse) and Detective Carey, who was constantly trying to find out who Miss Fury really was, because he wasn't quite sure which side of the law she was on.

Miss Fury also had a brief career in comic books. The company now known as Marvel Comics reprinted her adventures in a series of eight comics, published between 1942 and '46. That was her only contemporary venture outside the Sunday papers, tho — no radio shows, movie serials, Big Little Books, etc.

The Miss Fury Sunday series ran until 1952 — a very respectable run, considering the brevity of most superhero newspaper strips. After it ended, Mills mostly retired from comics (tho she did dabble from time to time, and her work was seen in a romance comic book as recently as the early 1970s). Miss Fury was next heard from in 1979, when Archival Press reprinted some of her early adventures in graphic novel format, with a new painted cover by Mills. (Archival had earlier done similar editions of Basil Wolverton's Spacehawk and the work of Berni Wrightson.) In 1991, a very minor comic book publisher did a four-issue Miss Fury series whose star was supposedly the granddaughter of the original. Still later, Archival's reprint was repackaged by another small publisher, in comic book form.

As one of the earliest of the female superheroes, Miss Fury is not likely to be forgotten — even tho the majority of today's comics fans have never had an opportunity to read one of her stories.
— DDM
Miss Fury Appears in Masks and coming up in her own series at Dynamite.

Miss Fury Reading Chronology

A second volume of reprints has been published that starts from the beginning! Prior to this, reading "Miss Fury" from the beginning, was a challenge. The books by IDW also list the publication dates of the Sunday strips. Note: Each issue of Timely's Miss Fury reprinted a half-year's worth of strips.
  • Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1941–1944, IDW Publishing. 2013. Reprints in color from the beginning, strips #1-350 (Apr. 1941–Apr. 1944)
  • Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1944–1949, IDW Publishing. 2011. Reprints in color from the beginning, strips #351-end (April 1944–Aug. 1949)
  • Miss Fury, Pure Imagination. 2007. Starts from the beginning, reprinting Timely issues #1–3 … ORMiss Fury, Archival Press, 1979. Reprints Timely #1OR—Miss Fury #1 (Winter 1942–43), Timely. 
  • Miss Fury #2 (Summer 1943), Timely. Continue from above.
  • Miss Fury #3 (Winter 1943–44), Timely. Continued from above.
  • Miss Fury #4 (Summer 1944), Timely. Continued from above.
  • Miss Fury #5 (Fall 1944), Timely. Continued from above.
  • Miss Fury #6 (Winter 1944–45), Timely. Continued from above.
  • Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1944–1949, IDW Publishing. 2011. Reprints in color strips #159-351 (April 1944–Aug. 1949). This is exactly where Miss Fury #7 begins as well.
  • ...the end of her story has not been reprinted...

Miss Fury in Comics

  • "Miss Fury," 6 April 1941–7 Sept. 1947 [#1–326] Jan. 194923 Dec. 1952 [#327–4??], Bell Syndicate. Sunday newspaper comic strip.
  • Miss Fury, 8 issues (Timely, Winter 1942/43–Winter 1945/46). Reprints of the newspaper strip.
  • Miss Fury, 4 issues (Adventure Comics [Malibu], Aug. 1991–Jan. 1992). New stories starring Marlene Hale (the last name of Marla's love interest, Gary Hale). Set in Malibu's "Protectors" universe, which was collapsed in favor of their more successful Ultraverse. 
  • Miss Fury, 2 issues (ACG Classix, 2000). Reprints the Timely comics. 
  • Masks, 8 issues (Dynamite, 2012-13). A team-up involving all pulp era heroes.
  • Mars Attacks Popeye, one-shot (IDW Publishing, Jan. 2013). Interior features only Popeye, but the issue is published with a Miss Fury variant cover.
  • Miss Fury, 11 issues (Dynamite, 2013-14).
  • Miss Fury Digital, 4 episodes (Dynamite, 2013)
  • Noir, 5 issues (Dynamite, 2014). Starring Miss Fury, the Shadow, and the Black Sparrow.
  • Swords of Sorrow, 6-issue limited series (2015). A team-up of female characters.
  • Swords of Sorrow: Miss Fury / Lady Rawhide Special, one-shot (2015)
  • Masks 2, 8 issues (Dynamite, 2015). A team-up of all pulp era heroes.
  • Miss Fury v.2 (Dynamite, 2016)
Hardcover (left) and softcover editions of Archival Press reprints (1979).

Miss Fury in Books and Collections

  • Miss Fury, Archival Press, 1979. This book was printed in hard- and softcover editions with new art commissioned by Tarpé Mills. Content is the same: black-and-white reprints beginning with the first. 
    • Hardcover edition came with a slipcover and was signed and numbered by Mills. Cover art is a new drawing by Mills. 
    • Softcover cover art is a new painting by Mills.   
  • Miss Fury, Pure Imagination. 2007. Reprinting Timely issues #1–3
  • Miss Fury: Sensational Sundays 1944–1949, IDW Publishing. 2011. Brief history, and reprints of strips #159-351 (April 1944–Aug. 1949). 

General Interest

5 comments:

  1. First off, Mike, I'd like to thank you for calling the IDW collection of Miss Fury strips to my attention. It's GORGEOUS. Great art, engaging story. Has quickly -- in less than a week -- made me a huge Tarpe Mills fan. (By the way, SHE was apparently -- from the two photos of her included, which are the only two I have been able to come across via an Internet search -- GORGEOUS herself, but that's beside the point....) In case you're not aware of them, two comic book features that she did before Miss Fury are available in virtual archive collections via the Digital Comic Museum (http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/): Mann of India (http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/index.php?dlid=19729) and the Purple Zombie(http://digitalcomicmuseum.com/index.php?dlid=19728). I've only read part of Mann of India, at this point, and find it quite good.

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  2. It doesn't take one long, after digging into this book, to fall in love with the original character. I advise you to stay away from the new comic book! I've been meaning to blog my impressions, and they're all bad.

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  3. I didn't pick that up. Frankly, although I'm loving Masks, Dynamite's efforts to revive these old pulpish characters, especially where they "modernize" them, has left me cold. I guess my instincts were right on this one....

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  4. Dynamite also included Miss Fury in a six-issue mini-series called "Swords of Sorrow" written by Gail Simone, featuring various female characters Dynamite currently licenses. As part of that, she was also in a related one-issue team-up with Lady Rawhide (https://www.dynamite.com/htmlfiles/viewProduct.html?PRO=C72513023926601011).

    In 2016, Dynamite has introduced a new Miss Fury comic book ("Miss Fury Volume 2").

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