New on Gone-and-Forgotten.com this morning -- It's football, oil, ballet and loads of Sanger-Harris for Spider-Man and some of his most Amazing Friends, yippie kai yay!
Click through to read more, cowpoke!
New on Gone-And-Forgotten.com: 1940s newsreel reporter Honey Blake, aka THE BLONDE BOMBER!
Created by Martin Filchock
Appears in Wham Comics #2 (December 1940)
Who is … The Buzzard?
Well, according to his introduction in the pages of Wham Comics No.2 (Dec 1940), he is “The nemisis [sic] of the underworld,” and the enemy of the “snakes, rats and vermine [sic] who prey upon … good people!” Who is the Buzzard? Someone who’s too busy fighting crime to proofread a comic script is who!
But who is behind the bespectacled crimefighter whose modest frame belies tremendous strength and athleticism? It’s actually a complicated question!
The Buzzard’s true face is never shown, and his diminutive build is owed to an hallucinatory gas -- one of several gadgets composing the Buzzard’s bizarre arsenal of justice. In reality, anyone could be this man who appears as nothing more than a four-eyed, beak-nosed scarecrow, trotting around in an almost comically loose-fitting tuxedo. An essential three-panel prologue explains that the role of the Buzzard has been adopted by others in the past, and that only three people in the world are aware of the hero’s actual name and identity!
It’s strongly implied that one of these three is “Flash,” a broad-shouldered and tow-headed college athlete who certainly seems to have the physicality for the job. Additionally, as far as the Golden Age of Comics goes, he has one of the best possible motivations to suit up against crime -- he played varsity football. Go get ‘em, tiger! It’s worth asking about his on-field performance, however, since Flash seems to be -- intentionally or not -- a stupid klutz. This is only one of the reasons that his father, the Chief of Police, discourages Flash from hanging around the police station. In addition, he’s just plain afraid that being a cop would be too dangerous for his dimwitted boy!
But it’s just as likely that the Buzzard could be -- the Mayor! After all, it’s the Mayor who explains how the Buzzard’s powers and weapons work, who hands down the equipment to the new Buzzard, and who not only claims to have invented them, but seems to be in charge of the whole arrangement. He even exhibits the feature of the hallucinatory gas, transformed himself from roly-poly to willow-thin. Even though the prologue is titled “How the Buzzard Came to Be,” the Mayor makes it clear that the vigilante is already established in the city and his tools have been previously employed…
And then there’s The Mayor’s Niece, a quick-witted and resourceful young woman who has been cleverly named “The Mayor’s Niece.” Not only is she one of the three alleged people who know The Buzzard’s identity, she’s also quick to throw the cops off the trail when they get too close to the hero!
If that weren’t enough, there are also competing clues. Hanging around the station, for instance, is an unnamed newspaper reporter whose build and hair match the unseen figure from the prologue! Likewise, Flash went jacketless through the majority of the story, but the figure who was shown in the prologue is sporting a blue jacket -- like any number of police officers might be wearing around the station!
Regardless of who happens to be portraying the gaunt-cheeked do-gooder, they’re quickly given an opportunity to show off with their fancy new weapons. In this instance, at the very least, that includes a pocket-sized ray-gun which melts concrete, a pair of vicious claw-tipped gloves, and the uncanny ability to cast a shadow in the silhouette of a laughing buzzard! These are employed to rout a crook named Killer Pocci and his mob of henchmen from their refuge in a towering building, where they’ve retreated with $100,000 in stolen ash! The Buzzard ably fights his way up stairwells and elevator shafts in a sort-of reverse Die Hard, ploughing through a dozen tough guys before obligingly kicking the chief baddie through the window on his way out. Whoever’s behind the disguise sure can fight!
With all the potential suspects gathered at the site of the shoot-out, it’s impossible to say which one wielded the identity of The Buzzard. After one appearance, it’s a mystery that may never be solved...
Created by Don Rico
Appears in Captain Battle Comics #1 (1941 - reprinted in #5)
Look! Up in the sky! Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Is it a mid-air collision?
Nope, it’s just a massive cloud of choking black smoke! And, in the center of that cloud -- a naked man, in a domino mask, blacked up from head to toe, and flying as though he had been shot from a cannon! Fascism, beware -- here comes the avenging hero BLACKOUT, Democracy’s dingiest defender!
“AND THROUGH THE WILL OF A MILLION SOULS, BLACKOUT IS BORN!”
Working feverishly by lamplight, passionate young surgeon Dr.Basil Brusiloff struggles to save lives while Nazi airplanes riddle Belgrade with bombs. “Why?” he cries, as he collects vital medical supplies from his besieged laboratory, “What have we done to be attacked so brutally?” he demands of no one, bellowing into the empty air “...mangled women … men screaming in dying agony! WHY?”
No sooner has he posed the ghastly question than a Nazi bomber answers it, definitively in the negative, by delivering a “cargo of death” directly on the roof of the hospital. Explosions rip through the building, reducing the structure to rubble!
In his lab, however, Brusiloff discovers new life and new power. By some radical combination of chance, the racks of chemicals and medicines surrounding the young doctor are activated by the explosion, forming strange new concoctions and granting amazing abilities. Swallowed by a choking cloud of angry black smoke, Brusiloff emerges, bursting with strength, his body enveloped in an eerie new substance.
The resulting aesthetic implied to some readers that Blackout was covered in thick, shaggy fur, like a werewolf. This is, of course, absurd. Blackout was, much more reasonably, a naked man whose pores exuded oily threads of greasy black smoke. Cool.
It can’t be denied that Blackout has a knockout look. The roiling clouds of inky blackness are highly dramatic, the tri-color blue-black-green palette is pretty unique in comics, and what can you say about a man who tops that ensemble with a grass green domino mask.
Naturally, if you’re Blackout, you’ll want to wear a disguise. You wouldn’t want anyone from work to recognize you, after all, during those times when you’re a fascist-smashing smoke man. It would be terribly awkward. This is the same reason that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wear masks, in case they meet Shredder at the supermarket, or church.
Besides power and a dramatic new look, Brusiloff gains a mission. While the basis of his origin was chemical and catastrophic, something supernatural seems to speak to the strange new figure which looks back from the former young surgeon’s mirror. “What has caused this to me, I do not care! All that I know is, I feel the mighty command of a million souls who have perished from oppression in the struggle to keep democracy alive, appealing to me to carry on their ideals!”
In service of those ideals, Basil gains powers -- largely the product of the black tendrils of smoke which coil around him! He proves capable of flying by blasting out jets of smoke, can form choking and blinding cloud covers, knock planes and missiles out of the air, and even generate the force sufficient to blow brick walls to pieces.
Better yet, in twelve hours he masters these powers, and demonstrates as much by smashing the very planes which destroyed his hospital! PAYBACK.
In the remainder of his sole adventure, Blackout pursues the planes to the headquarters of the Nazis who ordered the attack. Here he uncovers a ‘forced labor factory’ (and, let’s be honest folks --- aren’t they all?) and the architect of all this misery, Heinrich Himmel (no relation). Having fomented a rebellion among the enslaved workers, Blackout demolishes the factory and many of the enemy’s weapons, leaving only tanks. For these, he provides a massive tunnel of smoke through which the escaped prisoners drive until reaching a friendly nation. This underlines the importance of infrastructure.
“WE DEMAND PEACE, BREAD AND FREEDOM!”
One interesting element of Blackout is that he’s a member of comics’ Axis-smashing fraternity of Golden Age heroes -- with a noticeable difference. Most anti-fascist superheroes of the era were first and foremost patriots. There were dozens upon dozens of flag-draped superheroes in the comics pages, and they primarily boasted bold red, white and blue palettes, adorned with eagles, stars, bars and any other unambiguous indication of their allegiance. As a handy example -- Captain Battle, in whose eponymous title Blackout debuts, combines many of these decorations and throws in an eyepatch, for clout.
By contrast, Blackout cuts a completely different figure -- a stark body of writhing black smoke. Nevermind patriotic trappings -- Blackout is barely visible as a figure, with ropey bands of impenetrable cloud giving his entire body the illusion of being wrapped in thick black fur. The only splash of color in the whole setup is Blackout’s green domino mask, which undoubtedly served the actual purpose of distinguishing the hero from any random silhouette elsewhere in the story.
Nonetheless, Blackout’s mission is overtly -- and deliberately -- antifascist, and against “the makers of war.” He is described in the text only as a “friend of the oppressed,” but the atypically literate strip drops strong hints that Blackout does have philosophical allegiances: Specifically, that he’s a Communist-leaning antifascist. If he isn’t the only such superhero in America’s Golden Age of Comics, then he’s at least unique enough to mention.
Additionally, it’s worth wondering how many other comic book heroes of the age would begin their adventure with an anti-war quote from British satirist and liberal socialist Douglas Jerrold. “War is but murder in uniform (1909)” are the words which greet the young readers of Blackout’s adventure in two-fisted Captain Battle Comics, a book otherwise dedicated to colorful depictions of battlefield victory and death. What a conflicting preamble! Nonetheless...
“AS I HAVE BLACKED OUT THESE ENEMIES OF LIBERTY … SO SHALL I DO TO ALL WHO’D CAUSE OPPRESSION TO REIGN…”
Blackout was the creation of Don Rico, who may be primarily known as co-creator of The Black Widow, and also of engagingly atypical features such as The Sorceress of Zoom and Flip Falcon of the Fourth Dimension. He also preceded, as co-creator, Charles Biro’s run on Lev A.Gleason’s Daredevil. He was additionally a prolific paperback writer, so when the Beatles sing that song, now you know who they’re talking about.
Blackout leaves the rescued prisoners inside the borders of a foreign, friendly nation. As they cheer freedom and celebrate their liberator, Blackout promises this wonderful new world. “The authorities here will treat you with respect,” he assures them, “And you will never again be slaves of brutal tyranny!” If that future actually came to pass, it might explain why Blackout petered out at one appearance. Who needs liberator in a world of Peace, Bread and Freedom?
Dusty Doyle, Circus Cyclone
Created by Emile C. Schumacher and Unknown Artist
Appears in Miracle Comics #1-2 (1940)
In discussing Duty Doyle, Circus Cyclone, it’s important to remember that this is not a story about a person. This is a story about a person’s unrelentingly suspicious series of convenient opportunities.
Dusty Doyle shows up at a nameless circus in the middle of nowhere, dressed in a full suit and looking for a job as an acrobat. He’s given a free ticket for watering the elephants, as the circus already has a trapeze act -- but not for long! No sooner does Dusty voice his disappointment at missing out on his dream gig than a terrible scream rings out -- the male half of the trapeze act has plummeted to his death! Well, lucky Dusty!
While the owner promptly offers Dusty the job previously held by a man who fell to his gory death right in front of Dusty’s affectless eyes, not everything immediately goes Dusty’s way. The surviving half of the trapeze act quits -- “No more chances for me!” she declares -- leaving Dusty without a partner. “Sorry son,” consoles the owner, unaware that Dusty’s mildest whims become gory plot points.
Pondering the question of where to find a partner, Dusty deliberates upon a stone bridge. To his surprise, from the river below, he hears the cries of the suicidal Elaine. He rescues her only to discover that she is jobless, despondent, and soaking wet. Over a warm fire, Elaine is convinced to become Dusty’s partner at the circus -- his suicidal, untrained partner who has nothing to live for. This ought to be good.
Elaine actually turns out to be an exceptional acrobat -- in fact, it’s sort-of implied that anybody could just walk in off the street and pick up a circus job. It’s so easy, in fact, that Dusty also has time to become a crimefighting detective -- he discovers that the owner of a rival circus has been using a mirror to reflect light into the eyes of the acrobats and is responsible for the death of Dusty’s predecessor.
There’s an argument to be made that Dusty and his unsettling proclivity of having his every wish promptly fulfilled is responsible for the previous trapeze artist’s death, of course. That death and so miuch more...
In his second adventure, Dusty confronts abusive animal trainer Hank Wilkins about his cruel treatment of the elephants. In the fashion of the terrible contrivance of Dusty’s circus career, this short confrontation leads to terrible consequences. Dusty strikes Hank, who takes his frustration out by beating an elephant, which then stumbles into and breaks the gorilla’s cage, which frees that hairy monster who then abducts Elaine and removes her to the trapeze ledge.
Up to this point, every misfortune has given Dusty an opportunity to show off and play hero. What benefit is it to Dusty to have his partner kidnapped by a monkey? Well, it allowed him to demonstrate his skill at the gaucho bolos (cha cha cha), which he learned on the Argentinean pampas (cha cha cha)! This is the first time that we learn of any backstory for Dusty, and I’m not surprised that it involves chucking stuff at animals.
Rigging a weapon out of his jacket and some iron bolts, Dusty climbs to the opposite ledge, swings towards the ape and launches his Argentinean pampas gaucho bolos (cha cha cha!) with unerring accuracy. With the gorilla tied to the tentpole, Elaine is easily rescued, and the roustabouts are given the almost impossible task of retrieving a furious gorilla from the top of a tall pole where it’s tied at the neck with its arms free. On the other hand, Dusty posits “The roustabouts can capture the gorilla without trouble.” Who knows, it does seem like everything Dusty says comes true, so maybe it will be a simple task. Or maybe one of the roustabouts will die and Dusty can take his job, anything is possible in the consequence-intensive world of Dusty Doyle, Circus Cyclone!
Mars Mason (of the Interplanetary Mail Service)
Created by Munson Paddock
Appears in Speed Comics #7-11 (1940)
Neither rain, nor snow, nor gloom of night can stop the mail-carrier from their appointed rounds, according to the unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service. But the perils of parcel delivery among the perniciously populated planets of Earth’s solar system add a whole new Sears catalog of threats and impediments to the mix! When it absolutely has to be there overnight -- and by “there,” you mean “the embattled world of Neptune” -- call on the Interplanetary Mail Service and its top agent, Mars Mason!
The stoic Mason is the Interplanetary Mail Service’s premier officer, trusted with not only delivering mail from planet to planet in Earth’s solar system, but also defending precious cargo from alien aggression. On one occasion, while delivering a formula for a deadly explosive to the planet Mars (no relation), Mason is set upon by Jovian Needlemen and their deposed ruler Killraye, seeking the power to recover the throne. Later, while investigating an undelivered message in Earth’s stratosphere, Mason is trapped on the forest world of Greentrees and set upon by vicious Toughtails -- intent on burying him alive! He’s a key player in the terraforming of Uranus, routs a Soursnout rebellion on Venus, and on two different occasions rescues a long-tressed human beauty from alien menace.
All things being equal, it’s a lot more dangerous than the average route!
The breathless, dream-like storytelling of Mars Mason and its bold, lithographic line recalls the work of much-lauded outsider cartoonist Fletcher Hanks (“Stardust the Super-Wizard,” “Fantomah”), including the latter artist’s gory evocation of unbowdlerized fairy tales. But the strip’s strength is the bold, aggressive and almost overwhelming brushstroke with which the multitude of alien addresses and its residents are depicted.
Mad, beaked fiends wrap tangled streaks of ink-heavy limbs upon their victims. Ships descend from the skies like black darts. Deadly rays explode in black-bordered lightning bolts which terminate in clouds of broad paranthetical curves as thick as the reader’s thumbnail. To depict dramatic explosions and spirals of uncontained energy, ink-dipped panels are fractured by jagged hairline bolts of color. The result resembles the fractures of a broken pot repaired with gold.
Geometric, graphical elements compose the backgrounds of dizzying space, and the arcs of spaceships as they travel through. Sound effects are rendered in typographic elegance -- a “BANG” erupts in a hand-drawn approximation of Cooper Black on a background of urgent red, in one early panel. The palette is relentless. Contrasting colors are slotted next to one another in such a way that some panels vibrate and, on a personal note, I have never seen a comic use as much as what I choose to call “bald-ass Magenta” as this one.
Mars Mason was created by Munson Paddock, a veteran illustrator who -- like Atomic Man’s Charles Voight -- came to comics in his forties, following an extensive career in magazines and newspapers. His previous original creations in this medium (“Mr.Bluff,” “Little Miss Thoughtful,” “Naughty Ned,” and others) were universally short-lived, but he nonetheless brought an uncommonly advanced sensibility and skillset to the earliest days of the Golden Age.
Originally creating pulp-style adventure material for National Allied, he made reluctant pokes at science fiction-style material in order to keep up with the drastically different post-superhero market -- under a variety of names. While the work in Mars Mason is demonstrably Paddock’s, the individual entries are attributed to only a small fraction of Paddock’s multitude of pen names -- Lyle Ford, Glen Ross, and Martin Nye.
(Paddock’s penchant for pen names has also managed to muddy the waters about his credits, to some degree. Having used his paternal grandmother’s maiden name, Cecelia Munson, as a credit earned him the accolade of later being erroneously listed among the luminaries in Trina Robbins’ essential A Century of Women Cartoonists)
Mason was armed with a “Dyna-Ray” and a “space gun.” Either was capable of producing whatever effect he intended, from flying to blasting to sending and receiving messages. He also wasn’t alone in his battle against the evil alien residents of his solar system. In his final adventure, he rescues the raven-haired “Air Queen” from the temple of the savage letter-stealing Soursnouts, although their further adventures were never delivered.
Moppo the Marionette
Created by Frank Borth
Appears in Champ Comics #25 (1943)
Except for a cantankerous attitude, there’s nothing particularly unusual about clown-like marionette Moppo at first sight. He’s not magical, he’s not a scientifically-advanced robot, he wasn’t brought to life by a child’s wish -- As advertised, Moppo is little more than a standard marionette. But when a COP is murdered by a NAZI in front of the toy shoppe window which Moppo inhabits, then Moppo comes to life!
The irascible effigy enjoys only one adventure, but he packs it full of punch. In short order, Moppo liberates himself from his strings, escapes his store, hops on a nearby tomcat pursues the killer on cat-back, cleans house on the entire crew of a Nazi U-Boat (!), and saves important American military plans from sinister Axis possession. Not bad for a Muppet!
Naturally, he performs all of these feats in his own inimitable style. Just in order to accommodate his diminutive stature and lack of firepower, Moppo doesn’t directly attack the U-Boat in question. Instead, he sabotages it here and there -- blacking out the periscope in one instance, and firing the gun on deck to attract an American patrol boat in another.
Then there’s just what we’ll call “The Moppo Way of Doing Things.”
The most grim example of which involves Moppo peeling open the eyelid of the recently-murdered cop, peering at the unresponsive orb and declaring “Hey, this fella’s DEAD!’ as he effectively desecrates the corpse. Moppo is also given to unique exclamations -- Lawzy Days, Hotchapeedy and Zoodu -- which may as well constitute a unique language.
Moppo creator Frank Borth was best known for creating socialite Dianne Grayton — a.k.a The Spider Widow, a crimefighting debutante who was romantically involved with another costumed crimefighter, The Raven. When Borth later took over the Phantom Lady feature in Police Comics, the trio would make guest appearances in each others’ titles. This eventually grew into comics’ first (and possibly only) cross-title superheroic romantic triangle of the Golden Age. Personally, I just think of them as comics’ first Throuple.
Wrapping up his adventure, Moppo returns to his toy shoppe window and collapses -- luckily reattached to his strings -- under the sign which advertises his sale price (a whopping $25.00 -- that’s $450.00 in contemporary dollars!).
“Hey kids!” shouts an unknown young passerby, a blonde boy pointing at Moppo through the glass, “Lookit Moppo,” he adds, “He looks tired. He looks like he’s been somewhere.” However short-lived his crimefighting career, it’s clear that the neighborhood children are really in tune with the moods of Moppo.