|They just said he's a good guy, cops. Pay more attention.|
It was a year or so ago that I dedicated a streak of Truly Gone & Forgotten articles to the heroes of Clue Comics, a book which ended up being possibly my favorite superhero anthology book of the golden age. Its characters were by turns absurd and engaging, and fucking weird, and I still don't know what Twilight was supposed to be, because "werewolf" is just too coincidental. I think he was a sexy capybara, myself.
Anyway, I got around to reading Rural Home's Blue Circle line, a companion of sorts to its Red Circle title. Despite having come from the same company and utilizing some of the same talent, they end up being fairly different books. For one thing, unlike its crimson cohort, Blue Circle kept something resembling a consistent lineup in five issues of its six-issue run. The last issue, strangely enough, features a cover depicting one of the line's heroes in full effect but, stamped over the image, the words "Bugsie Siegal" and a whole different lineup. Plus the interior pages were headed "Feature Comics Magazine." The contents of the sixth issue ended up in a book called Roly-Poly, from a different publisher.
|"It's a me, Mario!"|
Another difference between the two titles was that Blue Circle boasted an eponymous superhero, i.e. The Blue Circle! Head of The Blue Circle! There were a lot of blue circles in this book!
Young inventor Len Stafford somehow gets in the good graces of seven reformed criminals. It's implied that they owe him -- or, more specifically, his alter ego of The Blue Circle -- and are making good on it by participating in a seven-member secret council, also called The Blue Circle (Council). When Len puts a lightly coded message in the newspaper, the seven former crooks come running!
Blue Circle is one of those old-time comics that just work, and yet never took off. The heroic Blue Circle being aided by a group of reformed criminals, all of whom offer their criminal expertise in the name of justice when called on by their masked leader, is a nice callback to the assistant-heavy pulp heroes of the previous decade. Plus, the assorted skillsets are crafted to fit into the story in a meaningful way. When he's busting up a counterfeit ration coupon ring, The Blue Circle calls upon Greg Stern, master counterfeiter. When kicking the craps table out of a bunch of crooked casino operators, The Blue Circle makes use of former casino cheat nicknamed Fixer. Or so I assume it's a nickname, he could be the proud offspring of Janet and Rory Fixer, for all I know.
The remaining members of the council are Mike Tyler (reformed truck hijacker), ex-art thief Saunders, a guy named Chuck and one more member who never received a name, but probably would have had the series continued.
What else made The Blue Circle so good? Well, the dialogue was snappy and willing to dive into non-expositionary territory. This is kind of a rarity in golden age comics, where writers were pumping out stories by the bushel and working within a span somewhere between eight and twelve pages. The casual dialogue plays a major role in the stories because of the Blue Circle's other unique quality -- he keeps fucking up. While rifling through a suspect's mink coat, he accidentally drops a card which carries his name and his official deputization by the local police. He stands on a trap door. He gets his ass handed to him.
In superhero comics in general, there's very often a tendency to make the forefront character a renaissance crimefighter. The Blue Circle relies on the help and skills of an entire ex-criminal cadre and, when left to his own devices, occasionally fumbles the ball. It seems like a small thing but it is well intriguing, and keeps the reader on their toes. I mean, you know he'll win in the end, but the journey is half of the fun.
Blue Circle taps out after six original appearances, and then has vanished (although he might be hanging around one of the Public Domain revival titles). The one recent reappearance of the character I've heard of -- but haven't seen -- is part of a porn story packed with public domain characters in a comic called "Blowjob." That's an undignified end, but at least I bet the fuck patter is snappy.
|I'm gonna start saying this. Also, I'm gonna start undressing in public.|