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Posts tagged ‘Sheldon Mayer’

Flash


The Flash debuted as the cover feature in the first issues of Flash Comics,  but he was only one of five new characters in that book.  His popularity lead to him getting his own comic, but as Flash Comics already existed, he wound up with the awkwardly titled All-Flash as his solo book.

Jay Garrick was a college student working on a hard water experiment.  He was not the most diligent student, he took a smoke break and unwittingly knocked some of the chemical apparatus over.  The fumes overpowered him, and he passed out, waking in a hospital bed.  Jay discovered that he had gained a speeded-up nervous system as a result of the accident, and in the first issue saves his girlfriend Joan and her father, a retired army major, from Sieur Satan and the Faultless Four.

Jay wore a red shirt with a lightning bolt on it, blue pants, and winged shoes and a winged helmet, making him look like a modern version of Mercury (or the FTD florist).

The series was written by Gardner Fox, and the stories are fairly serious and straightforward, but the art by E.E. Hibbard was critical to the success of the series, adding an almost slapstick feel to it.  There are so many panels of characters with stunned and disbelieving expressions as Flash runs around chaotically.

Aside from running quickly, the Flash can spin so fast he becomes effectively invisible.  Somehow this does not create a breeze, as he stands right next to people while spinning, and they have no idea he is there.  His speed is never clocked precisely, but in issue 9 he runs 2000 miles in 3 hours.  In issue 24 he gets captured and chained up, but rubs his chains together with such speed that the metal melts.

Joan Williams appears in every story, his girlfriend and confidant, aware of his identity from the beginning.  Neither she nor Jay really get developed much though.  We never see her father again after the first issue, and never learn anything about Jay’s life before the accident.  Jay graduates from university, and gets a job at Chemical Research Incorporated, but we never see him at work, or anyone else from the laboratory.  Joan gets a job as Defense Coordination Secretary in Flash 25, investigating gangland influence in the munitions industry, but only for that one story.

In All-Flash 5 he gets sidekicks, in a way.  Winky, Blinky and Noddy are three somewhat shady wanna-be inventors, who accidentally create things that work: a personality-switching ray in All-Flash 6’s “The Ray That Changed Men’s Souls,” and an invisibility vitamin in All-Flash 12’s “Tumble In to Trouble.”  Blinky hypnotizes himself into gaining super-strength in All-Flash 13’s “The Muscleman, the Djinn, and the Flash.”  Most of their appearances, as you may have guessed, were in the pages of All-Flash.  Unlike the Superman and Batman solo books, All-Flash tended to run full-length stories, rather than having four shorter ones, and Winky, Blinky and Noddy helped expand the stories out to their desired length.

The gambler Deuces Wilde would also become a minor supporting character in the Flash series, again appearing in All-Flash, issues 10 and 14.  Deuces Wilde is the only positive portrayal of a gambler I have come across in 1940s stories so far.

The Justice Society of America make an appearance in the first issue of All-Flash, rewarding him with his own book, as Johnny Thunder excitedly points out that he will be taking the Flash’s spot on the team.  The rule at this time was that Justice Society members had to move to honourary membership when they got their own series, but Green Lantern, Hawkman, Dr. Fate, the Sandman, the Spectre, the Atom and Hourman all rejoice at the Flash’s success.

Four of the Flash’s major villains also debut in this era.

The Monocle appears in All-Flash 1, a criminal with upper-class pretensions, he has his men steal jewels that he uses in his “garden of gems.”  He does have the wit to use a strobe light against the Flash, making it easier for his goons to see the hero, though it doesn’t help much overall.  The Monocle does not return until the 1980s.

The Shade debuts in Flash Comics 33’s “The Man Who Commanded the Night.”  He wears all black, with a top hat and black glasses, though in this story he has long white hair.  He had created a machine that spreads darkness throughout the city, a blackness that absorbs all light, but arms his men with special guns that shoot a reflective dust so they can see.

Rag Doll is a circus contortionist who turns to crime in Flash Comics 36, “The Tale of the Treasure Hunt.”  As with the Shade, there is no hint of the character development that would come later, these are just simple, straightforward bad guys.

The Thinker makes two appearances in the era, and even has his true name, Clifford DeVoe, revealed at the end of his first story, All-Flash 12’s “Tumble in to Trouble.”  In this story he has spent ten years working out crimes in elaborate detail, accounting for all possible scenarios, at least until the Flash shows up and messes up his schemes.

He returns in All-Flash 14’s “The Man Who Unleashed the Past,” which is easily my favourite story from this era.  It opens with Winky, Blinky and Noddy at the offices of DC Comics, discovering that All-Flash 14 has not been finished, and taking over the writing and drawing of the series.  The Thinker cons them into believing they have created a machine that pulls creatures from the past into the present, but that’s inconsequential compared to characters escaping situation by breaking panel boundaries, Winky,Blinky and Noddy asking Gardner Fox and  E.E. Hibbard for help in catching the Thinker, and editor Sheldon Mayer freaking out over where the story is going.  Doiby Dickles almost helps them fight the bad guys until Green Lantern pops in points out that they are in the wrong comic.

Those who know the Barry Allen Flash may see some foreshadowing here of the use of editor Julius Schwartz in stories from the 60s and 70s, and there are a number of elements that would return in much later stories – alternate dimensional versions of the Flash and his friends and foes, as well as time travel, but none of it is dealt with very seriously.  Jay Garrick always has a big smile and a cheerful insouciance when fighting crime.

The Flash continues in the Late Golden Age

 

A few of the Flash’s major foes appeared in this early part of his run.  The Monocle, The Shade, Rag Doll

 

Flash:  Flash Comics 1 – 55  (Jan 40 – July 44)

All-Star Comics 1 – 2  (Summer – Fall 40)

All-Flash 1 – 15  (Summer 41 – Summer 44)

Comic Cavalcade  1 – 7  (Winter 42 – Summer 44)

Scribbly and the Red Tornado (Early Golden Age)


Scribbly‘s series gets all but taken over by the Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids for much of the rest of its run in All-American.  Despite this, it never really turned into a hero series, staying firmly in the comedic genre, and though the Red Tornado fought criminals and Nazis, she spent more time dealing with her chaos-prone family.

Throughout 1940 the series continues much as it had begin, the tribulations of young comic writer Scribbly, his crazy boss Macklin, his annoying younger brother Dinky, and the overwhelming Hunkle family.  Dinky meets his counterpart, Sisty Hunkel, in Issue 11, and its true love from the get-go for the toddlers.

After the two are believed to be kidnapped by gangsters, Ma Hunkle goes to the police in All-American 20 to demand they arrest Tubb Tarponi and his gang, but the police lack any solid evidence.  The Red Tornado then appears, in long red underwear with a pot on her head (though everyone thinks it is a man) and takes down the gang.  There is no need to spell out that this is Ma.

I think if the Red Tornado had been male this series would not have worked as well.  Despite it being all played for comedy, we see Ma beat up and strong arm her butcher, her landlord, Scribbly’s editor, and Dinky and Sisty’s teacher at school, all as the Red Tornado.  In issue 28 she roughs up an actor hired to play the Red Tornado on a radio show, only at the end discovering it was her husband in the costume.

With issue 23 the title of the series became “Scribbly and the Red Tornado”, though Tornado’s name was notably smaller.  They were of equal size in issue 25, and with 26 the Red Tornado’s billing vastly overshadowed that of Scribbly, and the stories reflected this.  Similarly, towards the end of the run, as Scribbly returned to prominence in the strip, the Red Tornado’s billing decreased to equal size in issue 57, and smaller than Scribbly’s in issues 58 and 59.

Dinky and Sisty take on the identities of the Cyclone Kids after Ma briefly succeeds at convincing everyone that the Red Tornado was a hoax, in issue 24.  With no idea of each others identities, Tornado and the Cyclone Kids go into action independently when Scribbly gets kidnapped by hoods who want information on Red Tornado,  but work together to rescue him.  In issue 27 Ma unmasks before the Kids, and reveals she has always known who they were.  Scribbly himself suspects Ma and the kids are the “Terrific Trio” in issue 46, but they use a dummy in Red Tornado’s costume to fool him.

In issue 42 Ma rescues a dog from a hood who was using it in his crimes, and names it Runt, the Mystery Dog, providing it with a cape and a mask.  Runt briefly appears again in 43, but is then allowed to live life as a normal dog.

The series reaches its apex with All-American 45, which opens with Ma complaining about the title credits and logo always being the same, and how boring that is.  She seeks out Scribbly, but it’s Sheldon Mayer himself who breaks the panel boundaries and enters to argue with Ma, and complain in turn about how he “made her famous”, and that Green Lantern and Superman have to do far more than she does, and never complain.  Mayer decides to kill himself, jumping out of the top corner panel.  Ma whines and bitches, but changes costume and emerges from the bottom panel border to catch Mayer.  Brilliant.

But after that, the series just seemed to pale.  The joke has been taken as far as it could, and now Scribbly started to take the series back.  In issue 52 Macklin gives up ownership of the paper to enter the army, and Red Tornado and the Cyclone Kids run it until Scribbly persuades Ma and the kids to also chip in, and she makes an excuse to get the Trio out of there. In issue 57 Scribbly imagines them all in the Middle Ages, and in 59, the final installment of the series in All-American, they are all shown as barnyard animals.

Scribbly appeared in three issues of Comic Cavalcade, though the first was just a reprint of his debut in All-American.  The second, in Comic Cavalcade 4, is another Red Tornado story, as she protects her brother-in-law Gus from an insurance scam.  The third, issue 7, which came out just as his All-American series ended, has Red Tornado billed, but only appearing as Ma.

In the fall of 1944 Scribbly would appear in the Big All-American one-shot, with the Hunkle family, but the Red Tornado had been left behind, and would not be a part of Scribbly’s solo book, which would run through the late golden age, but which I am not going to cover in my blog.

It would take decades before Ma Hunkle would return to the pages of DC Comics, though her next solo story would be written and drawn by Sheldon Mayer.  In the meantime, a completely different Red Tornado would debut in the Silver Age, and get his own series in the Bronze Age.

Scribbly/Red Tornado:  All-American 10 – 59 (Jan 40 – July 44)

Comic Cavalcade 1 (Winter 42),  4  (Fall 43),   7  (Summer 44)

Big All-American

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