Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Big Shot Comics was a kitchen sink anthology series that ran for over nine years by Columbia Comics in the 1940s, utilizing reprinted newspaper strips from the McNaught Sydicate as well as original material.  This issue introduced the superhero Skyman from writer Gardner Fox and artist Ogden Whitney.  In the introductory story we never learn who Skyman is, but it appears that he doesn't have any superpowers.  What he does have is great athletic ability, a penchant for inventing marvelous weapons, superb piloting skills, and a heck of a lot of cash.  Because every costumed hero needs a nifty costume, Skyman has shiny high black boots, tight white pants with a super high curved waistline, a blue belt with a gold buckle, a tight long-sleeved red shirt with golden cuffs, a big circular "propeller" symbol mid-chest, a long flowing blue cape with a blue cowl shaped like an airman's helmet, and rectangular goggles through which Skyman's eyes cannot be seen.  I think that qualifies as a nifty costume.  To go with the nifty costume, Columbia included some nifty hype; the cover of Big Shot Comics #1 proclaimed "The outstanding comic character of the year, THE SKYMAN!"   To add to the hype, the cover depicts Skyman swinging from the sky, stasimatic in hand, as he swoops down toward a speeding car to rescue a kidnapped Dixie Dugan while Joe Palooka watches in amazement!

So in his introductory story, Skyman zaps a saboteur flying a nearby plane.  He recovers evidence of detailed plots designed to get America into the war.  Following a radio signal from the saboteur, he arrives at the hideout of Dawes, a flunky for the head of the sabotage ring -- the evil Red Signet.  He then zaps Dawes and a pretty girl who happened to be there with his stasimatic.  (For those not in the know, the stasimatic is a gun invented by Skyman that does not kill -- it just stops the flow of blood.*)  (BTW, Skyman has a great way of delivering the neer-do-wells he captures to the authorities.  He ties them up, puts a parachute on them, and drops them from his plane while flying over a military base.)  Returning to the hideout after tossing Dawes out of the plane, Skyman discovers that the girl had regained consciousness and has fled, thus proving to him that the girl was part of the sabotage plot.  Hopping into his trusty plane, Skyman searches the roads until he spots the girl in her convertible.  He follows the girl's car with his plane.  She never suspects a thing.  The girl leads him to the Red Signet.  Skyman zaps them, ties them up, and tosses them from his plane to the military authorities.  The end.

Alas for Columbia Comics, Skyman just was not very popular among readers.  He soon faded from the top spot in the comic book and then slowly faded from sight to make way for other characters.

Also in this issue:

  • Ham Fisher's Joe Palooka mistakenly believes he has married a woman.  He heads off to find some work and earn some money but neglects to tell anyone he is leaving.  To make thing interesting he also loses his eyesight.  I sure hope all this is resolved in issue #2.
  • Radio broadcaster Tony Trent dons a grotesque mask to become "The Face," and breaks up a racket that is stealing relief funds.  (The cads!)
  • The popular newspaper strip character Dixie Dugan is featured in three humorous one page episodes
  • Good Deed Dottie finds unique ways to do a good deed each day
  • Tom Kerry, the two-fisted District Attorney, goes against The Weasel and his gang of fur thieves
  • Marvelo, the Monarch of Magicians, could be a cousin to Zatara [both magicians were created by Fred Gardineer], with a little bit of Mandrake and Dr. Strange tossed in.  Coming to America with his flunky assistant Lothar Zee, Marvelo immediately has a run-in with gangster "Big Shot" Bonnet.  Luckily, all Marvelo needs to do is say the magic word --no, not "please" or "thank you," but "KALORA" -- and all sorts of magicky things happen
  • H. J. Tuthill's The Bungle Family pops up with a two-page newspaper reprint
  • Also fresh from the newspaper comics pages is Charlie Chan (more the movie character than the original book character) solving the murder of Norda Noll
  • Jibby Jones had been around for five years before appearing in this issue.  He was a lad who delighted in finding ways around his father's rules
  • Ogden Whitney's Rocky Ryan, a free-lance adventurer made his debut in this issue.  In this story, Rocky arrives at a British fort in northern India only to discover that "Bhanghi Si's On the Warpath"
  • Spy-Master (a.k.a. Jeff Cardiff) turned out to be an evolving character.  Two issues later, the character becomes Spy Chief; a dozen issues after that, he dons a costume to become the mysterious Cloak.  In Big shot Comics #1, Spy-Master must find and stop a detonator ray

That's a lot of stories to pack into one ten cent comic book, and I haven't mentioned some of the other features.


* Normal rules of science (and its consequences) don't seem to have any effect in Skyman's special little universe.

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