Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Saturday, December 9, 2017

NICKEL COMICS #1 (MAY 17, 1940)

A nickel!  Wow!  For that price you can buy two copies -- one for each hand -- rather than one of those elite, just-for-the-over-privileged-1%, ten-cent comics!  (Or, alternatively since Nickel Comics was scheduled for fortnightly* publication,you can get both issues for the same thin dime.)

Every comic has to have their designated superheroes, right?  So this first issues has some origin stories.

Jim Barr's father -- an honest and fearless police sergeant -- was gunned down by gangsters, leaving his young son to vow to become a police officer like his father and fight crime.  In preparation the young lad spends his time studying "scientific criminology" and ballistics -- earning him the nickname "Bullet."  Jim then spends several years working on hid pet theory that criminal behavior is caused by a germ (or toxin); working tirelessly to develop an anti-toxin for his "crime cure."**

Finally old enough to take the police exam, Jim is humiliated to learn that he failed:  too short, too skinny, bad marksmanship --the years working in a lab had "taken their toll."  Jim does get a job as a civilian laboratory criminologist for the police department.  In his spare time,he continued to try to create his "crime cure."  He finally tests his serum on himself and is disappointed to find it did not work.  SPOILER ALERT!  But it did work!  END SPOILER ALERT!  When Jim wakes up the next morning, his body had altered!  "Overnight the serum has destroyed all the germs and toxins in Jim's body.  Thus released from the poisons which sap other men's strength, Jim's muscles and nerves develop with amazing speed.  His chest deepens, he grows taller and heavier and his body grows hard and strong as steel.  The serum had done its work."  Jim had become the most powerful man on Earth.

Realizing that this power cannot fall into the hands of criminals, Jim destroys his work.  Wearing over-sized clothes to disguise his new body, Jim returns to work.  When a killer holds the police at bay with a truckload of dynamite, Jim decides that he could do something to honor his father -- he could become a costumed crime-fighter who can strike fear into the hearts of evil-doers.  The serum had also increased his brain power, so Jim could easily make and design a bullet-shaped helmet that als served as a "gravity-regulator."    Clad in knee-high black boots, yellow jodhpurs, a black belt as wide as a sizable tire, a red short sleeve shirt  with a vee-neck front that reached just above the navel, two wide golden bracelets (one for each wrist), and his bullet helmet, Jim Barr is transferred into...BULLETMAN!  All this was done in done for Jim, in his new persona, to catch the killer who had stymied the police for hours.  Then he did even more stuff.  Phew!

But wait!  This was not the only origin story in this issue.  On Africa's Gold Coast, Bushmen attack Dr. Wilbur Dale and his wife and their twin infant sons.  A faithful servant is able to flee with one of the young boys, Bill, saving him while leaving his twin Stephen and his parents to die.  The baby is then shipped to America where his dead father's lawyer serves as his guardian.  When Bill is 22, rumors come to him about a huge white man called  living in Africa's interior called Sti-Vah.  So, off Bill goes to Africa in hopes that his brother had survived and that this is him.  In Africa, he gets a companion called Dagoo, a pygmy, and together they travel to an unexplored part of the continents where they encounter savage ape-men and gint animals (snakes and elephants and gorillas, oh my!).  At last they meet Stephen, who is now the ruler of a tribe of giant natives, only to have the village attacked by Arab slavers.   Captured by the slavers, the two now face new dangers as the legend of THE JUNGLE TWINS is born.

This issue also introduces us to Warlock the Wizard (a white "white" as in good, not white as in Caucasian...although he surely is.  This is 1940, after all.) and his wise raven Hugin.  Warlock has a golden staff topped by a clenched hand.  When Warlock shouts the word of power (it's "ABRAXAS," but don't tell anyone) the hand leaves the staff, grows to a huge size, and obeys Warlocks commands -- usually about saving innocents and smashing bad men.  The word of power also does other nifty things (basically anything the script calls for) to help save the day. This tme, Warlock faces off against Baron Garth, Lord of Evil and a black magician ("black" as in evil, not Negro, cause the Baron is also a Caucasian.  This is 1940, after all.), who has beautiful Joan Scott in his clutches.  Monsters and magic galore happen.  I also have to mention that it's cool that Hugin (the bird) is the one who tells Warlock that someone needs saving.

And all in color for a nickel!  Brought to you by the same folks who bring you Mechanix Illustrated.


* Actually, the publishers (Fawcett)said "bimonthly,"which used to mean every two months but has now been corrupted by (IMHO) yahoos who also use it to mean twice a month, so you you now hear bimonthly, you don't know if they mean once every two months or twice a month.  Yes, like the Oxford comma or double-spacing after a sentence-ending period, this is a pet peeve of mine.  Actually, the publishers said this "bimonthly" comic book would appear every other Friday.  In my book, this means fortnightly.  So not only is Fawcett's bimonthly not like your grandparents' bimonthly, t'ain't anyone's bimonthly.  Ptah!

** Yes, this is a quack theory, bordering on super-quack.  But we've seen a lot of them in our time, haven't we?

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