Something I have never wondered before today: Why are there so few circus comic books? I have no answer to that but at least we have The Barker.
The Barker is a guy named Carnie Callahan, the barker for Colonel Lane's Mammoth Circus. Created by writer Joe Millard and drawn by the great Jack Cole, The Barker first appeared in National Comics #42 (May 1944). Millard and Cole soon left the series and Klaus Nordling took on the artistic duties; Nordling is also credited in some circles as the script writer but this has not been satisfactory verified. Quality Comics soon gave The Barker his own title which ran for 15 issues, dying only when the publisher folded.
Humor was the byword for both script and artwork in The Barker. A standard cast of circus performers including strong man Tiny Tim, midget Major Midge, fat lady Lena, bearded lady Peaches, human cannonball Bombo, and four-armed "human spider" Spudo help provide the humor in the series.
In this issue's first story Max, a chimpanzee with human intelligence and human habits (he likes to light up a cigar, drink champagne, and eat caviar). Alas, Max is persuaded to live a life of crime by two petty crooks. The crooks are caught but Max likes being a criminal. What can the barker do to set him straight?
Next, a cheating card shark tries to fleece the crew but Spudo gets wise and the shark is ejected. Wanting to get his revenge on the circus, he convinces a not-too-bright hillbilly that Colonel Lane is the hillbilly's father and town officials decide that they don't want such a dastard and his circus in their town. Luckily, this becomes a case of the biter bit.
While the circus is in Spruceville for the first time in years, Spudo decides to look up his old friend Grifter Grogan. Instead he finds Grogan's beautiful daughter in tears. Grogan had died drinking his own cough medicine and now a villain is about to foreclose the mortgage on Grogan's store. Spudo's attempts to help the girl bring unexpected results and Spudo learns a valuable lesson about women in the pre-Me Too era.
In the final story, the circus is plagued by a pickpocket stork.
Cute stories and great artwork make this one a winner.
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