Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Number 2089: The robot with AI and ESP

Martin Chesterton has worked for years to build a robot with artificial intelligence. It works, but not in the way he intended. “The Robot” is a story where the robot not only has AI, but the ability to read Chesterton’s thoughts: a personal mechanical genie granting an unwitting master’s wishes.

Not withstanding the ESP elements, this is a fairly well thought out story. Sometimes when ACG had stories like these they were inspired by other sources, so if it is swiped from a science fiction story by someone else I’d like to know. To me it does not have typical Richard E. Hughes elements. The script may be by someone other than editor Hughes, who eventually he took over all the writing at ACG.

Art is credited to Mike Suchorsky, based on an interview with the artist. Quoting from the Grand Comics Database: “Art credits from Suchorsky in an interview with Hames Ware and Jim Vadeboncouer, Jr. in the pages of Alter Ego #27 (August, 2003), which reprinted a page of this story.” Cover is by Ogden Whitney.

The story appeared in Adventures Into the Unknown #67 (1955).

Monday, August 14, 2017

Number 2088: A sprinkle of Stardust

Fletcher Hanks deserves his reputation as one of the most unique of the early comic book creator/artists. His stories can be...well...berserk.

In the origin tale of Stardust, for instance, Stardust’s arrival on Earth is foretold by a voice on the radio. Stardust, whose attitude toward justice is very Old Testament, is heralded by a disembodied voice like that of an angel, as if Stardust were a god. Hanks, who died years later on a park bench, presumably of alcoholism, probably had his own demons working on him. Whatever the reason, his works, almost 80 years old, are now prized as being both crazy and entertaining. His huge lettering shouts a god’s punishments for evil.

Paul Karasik’s two volumes for Fantagraphics reprinting the entire Hanks story collection,* are still available, and highly recommended.

From Fantastic Comics #1 (1939):

*“I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets” and Turn Loose the Death Rays and Kill Them All!: The Complete Works of Fletcher Hanks.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Number 2087: “Perverted little heart beating...”

Our third and last entry for our theme week, comic book women of the forties. Today we have Rulah, Goddess of the Jungle

I have written of my belief that comics with sexy women like Rulah, Sheena, and all the other revealing-costumed tree-swingers were designed to sell comics to young guys, especially servicemen. But comics were sold to anyone, so even the very young got a peek at those glamorous queens, princesses, and goddesses of the jungle. I recently found a copy of Cruisin’ With the Hound, a compilation of autobiographical comic strips by the late Spain Rodriquez, famous underground cartoonist. This panel struck me:

Rodriguez, born in 1940, was about 8 or 9 when Rulah was being published. Because they featured hot chicks, Zoot Comics and Rulah probably had a longer life than most comic books, passed around and treasured by young guys like Spain. We have further proof: the fact we are ogling Rulah seven decades after the comics were published shows Rulah may have worn a brief costume, but she had a long lifespan.

“The Harpies from Hades” is from Zoot Comics #10 (1948); the art was done by the Iger comics shop.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Number 2086: That girl is poison!

This is number two of our theme week, featuring comic book females of the forties.

We ended July with a story of a male poisoner, William Campbell, and now a tale of a female poisoner, Marquise De Brinvilliers, who allegedly poisoned her family members during the time of Louis XIV of France. As in the story, told in Real Crime Comics Vol. 5 No. 5 (1950), De Brinvilliers was arrested by a cop posing as a priest.

What isn’t shown is that the Marquise was tortured, beheaded and burned at the stake. There was also the major scandal of the Affair of the Poisons, touched off after her arrest, which led to the execution of 36 people. It is not covered in the comic book version. (You can read about it here). Our version is drawn by John Prentice. Prentice’s strong illustrative style shows even with the blobby printing of the comic book. A few years later, after the death of “Rip Kirby” artist, Alex Raymond, Prentice was given the job of continuing the comic strip. Prentice died in 1999.

I am also pleased by the poster-like effect of the cover by Prentice, which is either a re-drawing or a blow-up of a panel from the story.