Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, April 12, 2014


There are times I'm glad I was not a kid in 1936, and there are times I wish I were.  This, the first issue of The Comics Magazine, makes me hover between the two positions.  Here are stories by Seigel & Schuster, Sheldon Mayer, and Walt Kelly, along with enough jingoistic folderol to sink a battleship.

The Comics Magazine was evidently the first title in the Centaur press line of early comic books.  Six months later, the magazine introduced the first costumed superhero in comic books, George Brenner's The Clock.  The Comics Magazine had a kitchen sink editorial philosophy:  fill the magazine with everything but the kitchen sink -- one shots, text stories, articles, and serialized tales were shoved in willy-nilly.  Some of the serialized stories are only two pages long -- really too short to make a kid willing to wait a full month for the next episode, IMHO.

A word of warning.  No, not about the political incorrectness rampant through this issue -- that's a given.  This warning is about the readability of the issue:  the color justification is all off-whack, making several stories difficult to read.  Also, in at least one case, the pages are reversed, giving us the end before the beginning.   There may also be a missing page (the count doesn't add up).  Oh. well, on to the issue.

  • The first story is a two-pager featuring "Chikko Chakko," an offensively stereotypical Hispanic who has a fighting rooster.  It's supposed to be funny.  It isn't.
  • Next is a two-pager by Siegel and Shuster featuring "Dr. Mystic," the occult detective who battles the supernatural and is able to grow to tremendous heights, become transparent, and (it seems) to fly.  Summoned by his friend Zator to come to the aid of "The Seven" (some mystic group in India -- not explained), Mystic travels through the dimension, sees a naked lady with a big rack in trouble, is attacked by monsters summoned by Koth, and...and nothing.  To be continued.
  • Then we meet "Koko," an offensively drawn and mischievous jungle prince, who brags about his bravery until a tiger shows up.  Two pages and we are left hanging; this may be where the missing pages should be.  Again, this is supposed to be funny.
  • "Dickie Duck," a "funny animal" in a world of kids takes two pages to settle a bully's hash.  Sheesh, did kids 78 years ago really have no sense of humor?
  • "Skinny Shaner" is a fat kid who lives to eat, sort of a Y-chromosome precursor to Harvey Comics' Little Lotta.  'Nuf said.  Another two pages wasted.
  • "Big Sid" is a large, strong boy with a small, weak brain.  I have been reading a lot of Robert W. Howard's Sailor Steve Costigan and Breckinridge Elkins stories lately and these two pages would fit in nicely with them.
  • "Captain Bill of the Rangers" tries to track down the kidnappers of a brother and sister in this realistically drawn story by W. M. Allison.  Fur pages into the story we find we have to wait a month before we know whether Captain Bill will catch up with the kidnappers.
  • A four-page text "action detective" story, "Behind the Curtain" by Wallace Kirk is next:  "Grim Tragedy Lurked in the Shadows of the Stage Setting and the Law Rushed Detective Larry Speed to Solve the Dark Mystery That Dropped the Curtain on a Baffling Crimson Terror."  Wallace Kirk is also credited in a few early DC comics -- beyond that, I've got nothing, but we are told that Kirk will have a dog story in the next issue.
  • Tom Cooper's dim-witted "Cap'n Tripe" takes two pages go against a rotten piece of pork in the next unfunny sequence.
  • Then we're back to racial stereotypes with "Porkchops 'n' Gravy," two layabout Blacks, shufflin' their way into the piano moving business.  Sweet Jesus, they're even eating watermelon.  This two-pager would have gone over well at a Klan meeting.
  • "Lefty Peters" is a kid who draws his grandfather's lies adventures in Tom McNamara's "My Grandpa."  This tale is about a wild west bank robber whom Grandpa catches by tripping him over the "state line."  Three pages, somewhat imaginative.
  • Professor Phillip S. Pace has a page and a half article about stamp collecting; the article first appeared in part in a stamp collecting catalog.
  • Another page and a half is taken by book reviews written by Frances Hope.  Books covered are Heroes of the Shoals, stories of the Coast Guard by Allen Chaffee, Farm Yard Puppies, cute pictures and poems by Cecil Alden, One Day with Tuktu:  An Eskimo Boy by Armstrong Sperry, probably the one book reviewed worth reading, The Loyal Traitor ("There is considerable history in this story, and the beautiful English in which it is written should prove to be a fine example to all boys and girls who are not as careful as they might be of the way in which they speak"), a "girl detective" story by Helen E. Waite, Horns of Gur, a tale of a white boy captured by Indians, by Maribelle Cormack and William P. Alexander, and Nicodemus and His Gran'Pappy, one of a series about a "little black boy who lives in the south" from Inez Hogan.  These reviews would put the average kid off of reading for the rest of his or her life.
  • The centerpiece of the comic book is "Ridin' Point," a four-color two-page drawing by W. M. Allison.  The color justification here is almost good.
  • The next page tells kids how to perform the disappearing coin trick.  The inference is that "The Magic Hand" by "Presto" Merritt will be a regular column.
  • Back to the disappearing coin trick is the subscribe-to-our-comic-book trick.  You can get a subscription for yourself, a friend, a relative,,,it doesn't matter, just send us money.
  • There's also a half-page spread (with photo) of Walter Tetley (in a kilt), "one of the few really great child actors."
  • A two-page, to be continued, "true" story about the childhood of Major Frederick Lord is next.  Oh, will the gibes of childhood bullies be avenged by a life well-lived?  we can only wait.
  • Another two-page, to be continued story follows about "Skipper Ham Shanks" and his pal Poss Fash in the South Sea Islands.  Supposedly humorous, this tale has the twosome out to recover a chest full of sunken gold.
  • "Evidence Eddy" is a humorous (?) detective who is assisted by his man Watchem in a case of blackmail against Sir Throttlebottom.  Again, we leave the story for a month after two pages: Watchem has just been shot in the rear end by an arrow with a threatening note.  Will he have to keep the arrow imbedded in his butt for a full month?
  • A "funny animal" one-pager featuring Alfy Elephant is followed by a pointless one-pager featuring kids "Shocky Plus Gus," itself followed by a one-page lesson in cartooning.  then there's a crossword puzzle page and a two page article about aviation -- the first in a series -- by Captain Raymond Clark.
  • Adventurers Bill Horton and Jake Blythe head to "The Black Lagoon" of Crater Island to dive for pearls.  Unfortunately, the lagoon and the pearls are guarded by a monster octopus.  Also unfortunately, we go four pages into the story without meeting the octopus while meeting the dreaded "to be continued" notice.
  • "Stubbie" is an effete-looking boy who lives with his grandmother.  When their home is about to be foreclosed for back taxes, this plucky little girlie-boy grabs his shoeshine kit and goes out into the world, determined to earn the needed money and save their home.  Another two pages then wait until next month story.
  • Sheldon Mayer's "The Strange Adventure of Mr. Weed" introduces the time-travelling adventurer who goes a hundred years into the past.  I really wish they had given this one more than two  time he tries to pages before continuing the story.
  • Next up are two one-pagers about "Freddy Bell (He Means Well)," a kid who screws up every time he tries to do a good deed.  Better than most of the "funny" stories in this issue.
  • "Spunk Hazard" needs rent money and his manager inks a deal to net him a hundred bucks; all Spunk has to do is parachute off the Empire State Building.  Predicable, not too offensive, and taking up another two pages.
  • The link has reversed the two pages of Sheldon Mayer's continued story "J. Worthington Blimp, Esq."  As with the previous story by Mayer, this one was cut off way too early.
  • Two one-pagers about "Prof. Nertz," who can invent just about anything, follow.  Harmless and not too funny.
  • Next up:  Walt Kelly!  Sadly, there are only four panels (two-thirds of a page) of "Back to Nature with Cannonball Jones."  But those four panels are glorious.
  • The remainder of the page has a one-liner joke cartoon, "Time Waits for No Man."  Ho-hum.
  • And that's it, except for an ad for Hugo Gernsback's Science and Mechanics magazine and a back cover ad for a noiseless portable typewriter for ten cents a day.
So, the majority of this comic book is either offensive or bland, but there are a few glittering jewels here.  You pays your money -- ten cents -- and you takes your choice.  (No, you actually have to pay ten cents -- that dime could go to your daily typewriter payment -- all you have to do is click on the link.)

No comments:

Post a Comment