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  • 09/20/18--05:00: Weird Faces of VIRGIL FINLAY





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    This is the kind of book pulp fans dream about: A team-up starring three front-rank heroes – The Spider, Operator 5 and G-8.


    Will Murray, as I’m sure you know, has already brought us two meetings between Doc Savage and The Shadow (reviewed HERE and HERE) as well as King Kong mash-ups with both Doc (HERE) and Tarzan (HERE), all from the modern-day pulp factory known as Altus Press.  And now comes The Doom Legion, bringing together the top three do-gooders of the Popular Publications universe.


    The Spider gets top billing here, and rightly so, being the most revered and reprinted of the three. Why is that? Well, he (aka Richard Wentworth) has the coolest outfit and the most eccentric personality. He also has a capable faithful Indian companion—a Sikh name Ram Singh, a fearless significant other who would (and often nearly does) lay down her life for him, and a solid ally in Police Commissioner Weston—who unofficially knows supports his crusade as a crimefighter.


    Operator 5 of the Secret Service (aka James "Jimmy" Christopher) is a bright-eyed young straight arrow, pure of heart and mind, with a reporter girlfriend who is undoubtedly a virgin (just as Richard Wentworth's paramour is undoubtedly not). He operates as a lone wolf, with occasional contact with his equally straight arrow superior, Z-7.


    G-8, the Flying Spy of WWI, is now known as Captain George Gate (G-ate, get it?), is a man in search of camaraderie. Pals Bull Martin and Nippy Weston from his old squadron are not mentioned here, and though he tries a little banter with Operator 5, the Secret Service ace seems immune to humor.


    Will Murray brings these three together and swats them with three fistfuls of trouble. 1) A meteor slams into Central Park, turning people and animals into killing machines. Heat beams shoot from the eyes of those infected, melting and killing everything in their path. 2) The Spider’s old nemesis The Dictator shows up seeking revenge, and armed with a new dastardly plan. And 3) G-8’s wartime enemy The Steel Mask returns (seemingly) from the dead determined to finish G-8 and raise any kind of hell he can.


    It takes a lot of juggling to keep all those balls in the air at once, but Will proves up to the task. The deviltry and heroics are non-stop, and all the characters ring true to their roots. Especially interesting is the dynamic between Operator 5 and The Spider. The straight arrow of the Secret Service is too anal to have truck with a notorious vigilante, and tries to shut him out of the action. But you know The Spider. He’s an irresistible force, and even an object as immovable as Operator 5 is unable to slow him down.


    The result is a riotous romp through New York City, leaving a trail of dead citizens. Most of these meet grisly ends, but this being a hero pulp epic, it’s all in good fun. You’ll want to read this, of course. And you’ll want to alert for hat tips to pulpsters, such a drive by of Steeger School (named, natch, for Harry Steeger, editor of Popular Publications, home of Dime Detectiveand the three heroes of this adventure).


    Please keep this stuff coming, Mr. Murray (as if you had to be asked)!



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    Art Scott sent this bit of news, wishing Bill Crider was still around to see it. Me too. 



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    I've had baseballmania for the past few months - not because of what's going on with my team (the Twins) or the league, but because Portland has been gearing up to bid for an expansion or relocated team. The Portland Diamond Project has not yet revealed who the moneymen are, but Atlanta Brave great Dale Murphy has signed on as an advisor, and Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and singer Ciara on board as part owners. The group hopes to announce a stadium location soon. 

    The pic above is not a Portland Diamond Project production. It was my entry into a contest to design a sign to be waved around on ESPN's College GameDay. 

    Below is the official PDP hat, which has been pretty much glued to my head since July. Yeah, it looks like a Detroit Tigers logo, but it's actually based on caps worn at various times by the old Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League.


    Anyway, I attended an event yesterday where six local designers presented ideas for team names, logos and uniforms. I present them all below. These were NOT commissioned by the Portland Diamond Project, but sponsored by a number of local businesses who are as eager as I for a team. I had high hopes of seeing some cool names and designs, but left underwhelmed. I didn't like any of them, and one in particular was merely an unfunny joke. 

    Still, my enthusiam for baseball in Portland is undimmed. I hope to have more news soon.



















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    Thanks once again to comicbookplus, via this April 1947 issue of It Really Happened (scanned by freddyfly - thanks Fred!), we now have the real (sort of) skinny on how Leonard Franklin Slye became Roy Rogers, King of the Cowboys.






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  • 09/27/18--05:00: Lone Ranger Gum Cards (1940)






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    This Forgotten detective tale appeared in the Spring 1942 issue of 4Most Comics, kindly uploaded to comicbookplus by "OtherEric."


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    Yeah, it's another Torchy adventure made possible by our friends at comicbookplus. The September 1946 issue of Modern Comics was uploaded to that site by a guy known as freddyfly. 


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    A few weeks back I posted Spillane's first Mike Hammer wannabe - Mike Lancer - from a 1942 issue of Green Hornet comics (that's HERE). We now behold the first of two Mike Danger stories, written in 1946, but unpublished until 1954, after Mickey had hit the Big Time. 

    This first tale is from Crime Detector #3, uploaded to comicbookplus by a gent known as JVJ Archive. On comicbookplus the art is credited to Sam Burlockoff, based on an interview with the artist, while  Thrillingdetective.com credits Mike Roy.  Whether it was illustrated in '46 or '54 is unclear. At any rate, unable to get Mike Danger into print, Spillane sat down and wrote I, the Jury, changing the hero's name to Hammer, and the book was published in 1947. The second Mike Danger adventure, from Crime Detector #4, will appear here soon.











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    Though Stan Lee is and will always be best remembered for breathing life into long-underwear heroes, I've always thought his finest hour was his scripting for Sgt. Nick Fury and his Howlers. Good as those superheroes are, there's something inherently silly about running around in a gaudy costume and battling costumed villains.

    Compared to that stuff, the Sgt. Fury saga is almost a slice of real life. Sure, it too is a fantasy, but it's rooted in the real world, and fueled by the wartime experience of Lee, Jack Kirby and Dick Ayers. It's filled with characters you can almost believe existed, fighting battles that don't have to be contrived just to fill panels with action.


    These stories first appeard in 1963 and '64. By the time I discovered Marvel Comics, Sgt. Fury was in his fourth issue, along with FF 19, Spider-man 7 and X-Men 2 (the first number 1s I managed to pick up were Avengers and Daredevil). So it was very cool to finally read those first three installments, and see what I missed. 

    The banter Stan puts into the mouths of the Howlers is much the same as you'll find his superhero mags of the time, but rings truer from these truer-to-life heroes. And I'm convinced Stan knew that too, and was inspired to produce his best work. 

    The first seven issues (and the thirteenth, closing this volume with a visit from Captain America) were pencilled by Jack Kirby, which I consider the highpoint of his career, too. After being spoiled by Kirby, it's a tough transition to the less-distinctive style of Dick Ayers. But the Stan Lee dialogue is a sharp as ever, sharp enough to carry the series through over a hundred missions. 


    In this volume, Fury and the gang protect the secret of D-Day, spoil the Nazis plans for an atom bomb, ruin Rommel's day, snatch a hero from under the bombing of Okinawa, prevent an invasion of England and perform other less glizty but equally heroic deeds. All in a day's work. 

    Googling around, I see that there at least five Fury volumes in the Marvel Masterworks series, but a search of WorldCat shows not a single library in the English speaking world in possession of volumes 2 through 5. What the heck is up with that? They have tons of lesser works, and are buying more every day. No way can I afford the big bucks for the hardcovers, or even the $16.99 for Kindle copies. You can do me (and yourself) a solid by asking your local library to buy them, so I mooch them from InterLibrary Loan. Thanks!


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    Operator 5, in case you missed the news, guest stars in Will Murray's new Spider novel, The Doom Legion (HERE).




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    By Command Performance (per orders from Cap'n Bob Napier), we now present the first appearance of Blackhawk, from Military Comics #1, published in August 1941. Despite some dispute, it appears likely the character was created by Will Eisner, Bob Powell and artist Charles Cuidera. Some folks also believe Eisner wrote or co-wrote the script. All I can add is that a few of the close-up panels in this tale made me think Eisner (who did the cover) couldn't resist taking a hand in the drawing. My thanks to Cimmerian32 for posting this sucker on comicbookplus.












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    This portfolio, published by Russ Cochran in 1975, featured eight plates reproduced from Frank Frazetta's original art on old Famous Funnies covers. Frazetta added the colors for the project. I have been unable to discover how many sets were sold, but - sadly - none of them were sold to me. 








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    I've read this one two or three times since its first publication in 1965, but as with most Bond novels, the images retained in my brain come from the movies. In this case, as in most, those film images have nothing to do with the book. 


    To begin with, the titular villain Scaramanga is a crass American, a far cry from the urbane Christopher Lee of the movie. In the audiobook I just finished listening to, he talks like a movie gangster from the '30s, with a touch of cowboy thrown in. And remember that annoying movie midget Nick Nack? He's nowhere to be seen. Also gone is the boxy golden gun of the film. The book's Scaramanga carries a "long-barreled" .45 - longer, no doubt, than the Peacemaker portrayed on the first edition dust jacket, but presumably shorter than Wyatt Earp's Buntline Special. 


    Whatever world-beating nonsense Scaramanga was up to in the flim, his plan here is pretty simple. Working with a consortium of American Mafia bosses and a representative of the KGB, he's smuggling Jamaican marijuana into the U.S., and trying to establish a foothold for mob/Russian-owned casinos in the Caribbean. 

    There are several nods to the Old West, including a scene where Scaramanga puts on a gun-twirling exhibition, and another where 007's girl Mary Goodnight is presumably tied to the tracks of an onrushing train.


    At the time of Fleming's death in 1964, the novel had been completed in polished first draft, but had not been fleshed out with the detail seen in the early Bond books. It is therefore shorter and thinner than the others, and didn't much impress the critics. I found it pretty interesting, though, to see the bare bones story without any attempted literary acrobatics. 


    And I found the beginning especially interesting. At the end of the previous book, You Only Live Twice, Bond was presumed KIA in Japan, and his obiturary was published in the London Times. So when he returns to London, demanding to see M, folks are understandably suspicious--and with good cause. He's been brainwashed by the Russians and sent to perform a mission on their behalf. How the story gets from there to his new mission--to kill Scaramanga--is one of those thin spots, where I wish Fleming could have provided more detail. 

    The illustrations above are from the 1965 serialization in Playboy, by Howard Mueller. Those below, from the same year, appeared in the Italian newspaper La Domenica Corriere





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    Beginning in October 1950, our man Dan appeared in fifteen straight issues of the Trojan comic book Crime Smashers. Sadly, he only appeared on the cover once - the one you're looking at now - but he makes that appearance count. Some of the stories are almost assuredly reprints of the black and white strips in Hollywood Detective, while others appear to be new. I'm pretty sure this one's a reprint. Thanks to freddyfly for uploading it to comicbookplus. Our previously posted Dan Turner comic adventures are HERE









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