Thursday, January 28, 2016

TRULY GONE & FORGOTTEN : HIP KNOX, THE SUPER HYPNOTIST



Golden Age comic book companies must have been tripping over their own dicks in the rush to co-opt the "Super-" prefix which had already been appended to the red-booted paterfamilias of comics' superhero genre. It was a risky proposition, with hungrily litigious National Periodical happy to slap lawsuits on anything that even twitched in a manner reminiscent of their boy in blue. I couldn't say as to whether short-lived Komos Publications ever faced some degree of that particular brand of courtroom drama, but the plucky little company -- helmed by sci-fi's own primogenitor Hugo Gernsback, as a matter-of-fact -- did risk everything by doubling down on the literal super-lative...

Within the pages of Superworld Comics resided Hip Knox, the Super-Hypnotist, possessor of a "super-brain." If there were any way to cram another "Super-" in there, I genuinely trust Komos to have found it.

"...dressed like that."
Knox enjoys one of those typically grim and ethically questionable superhero origins which populate the early days of comics. As a gruesomely injured infant on death's doorstep, Hip is experimented upon by his adoptive father Professor Knox. I knew a guy in high school named Professor, I wonder if it's the same fella.

The Professor's experiments gift Hip with the aforementioned "super-brain," granting the little shaver the power to mentally dominate any living mind through the power of his super-hypnosis (there we go, we found another super-). As an adult, Hip chooses to align himself with unidentified government agencies in order to wage a battle on crime.

Specifically, Hip wages his war against Eric Mac Fadden, a devious gangleader who actively pursues Hip as a favor to other crooks and criminals. There's typically a scene in Hip's adventures where, convinced of the super-hypnotist's demise, Mac Fadden has a pleasant, comforting sit-down with a local big-time crook to reassure the mobster in question that all planned crimes may proceed unhindered by super-hypnosis. In a lot of ways, Mac Fadden is sort of a superhero to crime.

On the other hand, he might be the actual hero of the story. Hip, as it turns out, has a bad habit of misusing his powers in practically criminal fashion. In the course of being abducted by Mac Fadden and his men, Hip desperately uses his hypnotic powers on pedestrians as the car which carries him zooms past. The result: the pedestrians freeze in their place like human statues, providing what Hip hopes will be (and which doesn't actually happen) a trail of bread crumbs leading to his eventual destination.

Deleted scene from Jesus Christ Superstar.
Later, trapped in a rocketship which is plummeting towards South America on a collision course, Hip hypnotizes a flock of "millions" of condors. Ordering them to form a living airbag in order to prevent his cataclysmic end, Hip's gimmick ends up killing the birds en masse. Who killed the condor? Hip Knox did. (It's also worth mentioning that, having landed safely amidst what I can only assume was a flurry of blood and feathers, Hip promptly hypnotizes a local tribe of "savages" -- a surprisingly African-looking tribe considering the South American locale -- into accommodating his safe return to the United States. He doesn't even say hello, he just immediately hypnotizes them into servitude. Some hero)

Mac Fadden, for his part, doesn't even seem to want to kill Knox, at first. I mean, I can sympathize, I have a feeling that the guy really grates on you after a few unwilling hypnosises. Still, when a ray beam intended to remove Hip's hypnotic powers seems to destroy the fella instead, Mac Fadden cries "Gosh, he's dead! I didn't mean to kill him!"

When Knox invariably frees himself from Mac Fadden's schemes, he neglects to incarcerate the supposed fiend and chooses instead to merely humiliate him in public. Mac Fadden has been hypnotically forced to skip and flop like a fish through public thoroughfares, stand stock still as a statue, and act as a performing seal on a Coney Island dock. Still, every issue, Mac Fadden comes back with a new scheme and even more henchmen happy to take a shot at snuffing Hip Knox.

That's the kind of sticktuitiveness one expects of the good guys. Maybe the title of the strip should have borne Mac Fadden's name.

As one final note, it's worth mentioning Hip Knox's costume, being one of the most absurd and unsalvageable affairs in comicdom. Long red underwear and what appears to be the kind of hood worn by 1950s ladies in the hair salon, deciding on the most absurd portion of it is a genuine challenge. Is it Knox's tiny, curled mustache? The open eye emblem worn just a smidge too low, in a somewhat unsettling fashion, just above his ribcage? Or is it the oblong golden belt buckle which seems to serve as a small lingam emerging from his crotch, like some sort of living Greek herm? Why does it have to be just one? Perhaps Hip Knox is merely super-ridiculous.

How will you know unless you try it?

1 comment:

Anony*Mouse said...

He was brought up by a famous.... scientist

What the fuck does that mean? Is it some sort of code? Was the writer dictating the script to a disinterested third party?

"Alright, here's what you write,

'He was brought up by a famous, uh, erm what's, I mean, oh, I don't know. Uh, what's that word, where you're like a guy, who does science and shit? Oh fuck, um is it doctor, professor? Shit! Scientist! It's scientist!'

Alright, fuck this, I'm off to the Steeplechase!"

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