Category Archives: comic book heroes

The Golden Age

I am certainly no expert on the Golden Age of Comics. I was, in fact, born the year that the Golden Age ended. I am a child of the Silver Age (1956 to the early 1970s) and those were the comics I grew up with. But I admit to a fascination with the initial creation of the characters I love, including Batman, Superman, the Flash, Captain America, the Phantom, Steve Canyon, Wonder Woman and numerous others who were first put on the comic book pages in the Golden Age. And being subject to comic book prices that zoomed upward from a dollar an issue, I was bedazzled by the ten cent price on old comics.

Comic books owe their creation to the popular newspaper comic strips from the Depression era and WWII wartime. Originally, comic strips were gathered and printed on cheap paper. Dick Tracy, Prince Valiant, Terry and the Pirates, Flash Gordon, and other adventure strips would lead to the war comics and hero-centered comics that would morph into superhero comics.

Some of the artwork in Golden Age comics leaves a lot to be desired. Especially original, straight to comic book publications that were produced fast and furiously by publishers who would open one week, produce three issues. and go out of business three weeks later. But in the mad scramble, some truly great artists formed the start of their illustrious careers, Will Eisner, Hal Foster, Milt Caniff, and Bill Elder learned to master their craft in the newspaper strips, and all later created comic books and graphic novels. True geniuses like Jack “King” Kirby and Bob Kane and Jack Davis grew directly from comic book studio madhouses into comic-book-artist immortality.

As with most things that have a Golden Age, the truth was that later comic book eras were superior in most ways. But this Golden Age was the foundational age for an American art-form that I truly love. So, flaws and warts are overlooked. And some of these old ten cent books on super-cheap paper are worth huge amounts of money if you still have a rare one in mint condition. Ah, there’s the rub for a manic old collector guy like me.

Most of the Golden Age comic book images used for this post were borrowed from the ComicsintheGoldenAge Twitter page @ComicsintheGA. If you love old comics like I do, you should definitely check it out.

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The Return of Muck Man

Since I have so far miraculously survived the 2020 pandemic, I have nothing better to do then to relate the whiff-a-typical story of the world’s smelliest superhero as he makes his semi-triumphant return to the public eye… like a horrific mud-ball to the face.

If you recall the newspaper accounts of mild-mannered reporter Dark Bent, or even if you don’t, we recall that Muck Man was put into a community-imposed exile until such time as he would actually take a bath with soap and water. Being unable to find soap and water that was even willing to get within a quarter mile of him, MM started with sand baths in Death Valley until he was finally able to sand-blast away the outer hard crust of his personal odor.

You need to remember too at this point that MM’s super power is olfactory based. He alone among heroes had a personal stench so powerful that criminals would swoon into a coma at the mere mention of his name.

But after significant sand-baths, and once that horrific outer layer was gone, the water spirits were unable to determine who MM really was, and so allowed him to bathe in Lake Michigan where the water’s own funkiness managed to partly hide MM’s rancid smell. His super-scent finally hidden in the folds of Lake Michigan’s highly-polluted, almost water-like contents, MM’s country-encompassing foulness no longer was detectable to MM’s arch-nemesis.

The Monkey King, Dumbold J. Trumpaloo.

Meanwhile the nefarious villain known as the absolute pinnacle of oleaginous corruption, the Monkey King, had hidden his swamp-monstery monsterness in the swamps of Washington D. C. where they were barely discernible in the midst of swamp gas and elephant ideas. His plan to take over the USA was going swimmingly. The Pachyderm Party was uniformly aligned behind him ready to blanket the countryside with toxic elephant poo. And, believing that if they could hold onto power long enough for elephant poo to fossilize into stone, they planned to dominate everything forever.

So, in secret, in his newly smell-reduced Muck Lair, Muck Man began planning the greatest stink-assault ever launched.

“But wait just a second, Dad!” cried Muck Lad. “You will be defeated again if you don’t come to the realization that your super-power and his super-villain’s power are really the same power. You can’t fight stink with stink.”

“Well, then, how do you defeat a super-evil super-villain with super-stink power coming out of his mouth directly from his very good brain?”

“Well…” said Muck Woman (who insists she is Muck Woman, NOT Muck Girl, even though she’s MM’s daughter) “You don’t fight fire with fire… you have to use water. So, get almost-squeaky-clean Uncle Joe B. to hold a convention before his about how the next president should help the country come out of the pandemic with fewer additional deaths and help the economy to recover by taxing the people who can afford to fix the problems, and let the American public compare it to the Monkey King’s elephant-poo festival. That way the villain can practically defeat himself.”

And so, according to mild-mannered reporter Dark Bent, that’s what Muck Man did to defeat the super-villain again. This time without generating a super-stench. And hopefully that will lead to a less-smelly world.

“But…” complained Muck Man, I was left holding on to the the world’s largest weaponized super-fart. And it exploded in my pants. Now, I have to live with consequences.”

” At least we can take comfort in the fact that Mickey is somehow still alive. And a cleaner world is better for all of us.” proclaimed Muck Woman.

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The Golden Age

I am certainly no expert on the Golden Age of Comics. I was, in fact, born the year that the Golden Age ended. I am a child of the Silver Age (1956 to the early 1970s) and those were the comics I grew up with. But I admit to a fascination with the initial creation of the characters I love, including Batman, Superman, the Flash, Captain America, the Phantom, Steve Canyon, Wonder Woman and numerous others who were first put on the comic book pages in the Golden Age. And being subject to comic book prices that zoomed upward from a dollar an issue, I was bedazzled by the ten cent price on old comics.

Comic books owe their creation to the popular newspaper comic strips from the Depression era and WWII wartime. Originally, comic strips were gathered and printed on cheap paper. Dick Tracy, Prince Valiant, Terry and the Pirates, Flash Gordon, and other adventure strips would lead to the war comics and hero-centered comics that would morph into superhero comics.

Some of the artwork in Golden Age comics leaves a lot to be desired. Especially original, straight to comic book publications that were produced fast and furiously by publishers who would open one week, produce three issues. and go out of business three weeks later. But in the mad scramble, some truly great artists formed the start of their illustrious careers, Will Eisner, Hal Foster, Milt Caniff, and Bill Elder learned to master their craft in the newspaper strips, and all later created comic books and graphic novels. True geniuses like Jack “King” Kirby and Bob Kane and Jack Davis grew directly from comic book studio madhouses into comic-book-artist immortality.

As with most things that have a Golden Age, the truth was that later comic book eras were superior in most ways. But this Golden Age was the foundational age for an American art-form that I truly love. So, flaws and warts are overlooked. And some of these old ten cent books on super-cheap paper are worth huge amounts of money if you still have a rare one in mint condition. Ah, there’s the rub for a manic old collector guy like me.

Most of the Golden Age comic book images used for this post were borrowed from the ComicsintheGoldenAge Twitter page @ComicsintheGA. If you love old comics like I do, you should definitely check it out.

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Happy Birthday, Carl Barks

Carl Barks was born on March 27th, 1901. So, today is his 121st birthday. If you have no idea who I’m even talking about, then you were never a kid and a comic book fan in the 1960s. Carl Barks is both Uncle Scrooge’s father and Donald Duck’s stepfather.

Carl is a personal art hero of mine. I grew to adulthood on the adventures of his plucky ducks doing duck adventures in Duckburg. I have written about my devotion to Carl in this blog before. In fact, here is the link; https://catchafallingstarbook.net/2014/09/27/carl-barks-master-of-the-duck-comic/

That’s essentially true. A large part of my character as a junior high school English teacher was based on what I learned about mentoring from Scrooge McDuck and about teaching important facts from Gyro Gearloose.

Carl was not immune to criticism. Cartoonists get blow-back, a fact of life. But he overcame it with a wry sense of humor and interesting views of how you pursue goals in life. He had a firm sense of fair-play and justice. You could get actual morals to the stories in a Carl Barks’ duck cartoon.

The characters were not perfect. They all had glaring flaws, the heroes right along with the villains. Of course, the villains never learned to change their ways, while the heroes often learned to improve themselves by working on the weaknesses, and it wasn’t all about becoming a gazillionaire (a term I think Barks may have invented).

I even learned a good deal about adventure story-telling from Carl Barks’ comic books about Duck people doing ducky stuff that was really about people doing people-y stuff in the real world. Yes, people in the world around me are very Carl Barks’ ducky.

So, happy birthday, Carl. 121 years young. And he’s only been gone from our world since August of 2000. He still talks to me and teaches me through his Duck comics.

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The Ultra-Mad Madness of Don Martin

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Born in 1931 and lasting in this crazy, mixed-up world until the year 2000, Don Martin was a mixy, crazed-up cartoonist for Mad Magazine who would come to be billed as “Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist.”    His greatest work was done during his Mad years, from 1956 (the year I was born… not a coincidence, I firmly believe) until his retirement in 1988.  (*** I was reminded by Martin’s wife that he did not retire then.  He just left Mad Magazine for places like Cracked where he was treated better.***)  And I learned a lot from him by reading his trippy toons in Mad from my childhood until my early teacher-hood.

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His style is uniquely recognizable and easily identifiable.  Nobody cartoons a Foon-man like Don Martin.

The googly eyes are always popped in surprise.  The tongue is often out and twirling.  Knees and elbows always have amazingly knobbly knobs.  Feet have an extra hinge in them that God never thought of when he had Adam on the drawing board.

And then there is the way that Martin uses sound effects.  Yes, cartoons in print don’t make literal sounds, but the incredible series of squeedonks and doinks that Martin uses create a cacophony of craziness in the mind’s ear.

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And there is a certain musicality in the rhyming of the character names he uses.  Fester Bestertester was a common foil for slapstick mayhem, and Fonebone would later stand revealed by his full name, Freenbeen I. Fonebone.

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And, of course, one of his most amazingly adventurous ne’er-do-well slapstick characters was the immeasurable Captain Klutz!

Here, there, and everywhere… on the outside he wears his underwear… it’s the incredible, insteadable, and completely not edible… Captain Klutz!

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If you cannot tell it from this tribute, I deeply love the comic genius who was Don Martin, Mad Magazine’s Maddest Artist.  Like me he was obsessed with nudists and drawing anatomy.  Like me he was not above making up words with ridiculous-sounding syllables.  And like me he was also a purple-furred gorilla in a human suit… wait!  No, he wasn’t, but he did invent Gorilla-Suit Day, where people in gorilla suits might randomly attack you as you go about your daily life, or gorillas in people suits, or… keep your eye on the banana in the following cartoon.

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So, even though I told you about Bruce Timm and Wally Wood and other toon artists long before I got around to telling you about Don Martin, that doesn’t mean I love them more.  Don Martin is wacky after my own heart, and the reason I spent so much time immersed in Mad Magazine back in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s.

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About Bruce Timm

“Today I thought I would tell you about Bruce Timm.”

“Bruce Timm?  Who the heck is he?”

“You know. That artist with that style… you know, the Batman guy.”

“You mean he played Batman?”

“No.  He designed Batman; The Animated Series.”

“Oh, that guy… the guy who draws girls really good.”

“Yes, that’s the one.”

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“He gave all the DC heroes their modern, animated look… their style and flair.  He made them angular, immediately identifiable, and powerful.”

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“Yeah, I think he not only did the Batman cartoon, all film noir and retro-cool, but the Superman series that followed it, the Justice League, and all the cartoon series and movies that went along with those.”

“But that’s not all he did, either, is it?”

“No, there’s more.  He wanted to be a comic book artist, but before he got into animation, Marvel and DC turned him down.”

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“I heard he worked at Filmation for a while.”

“Yes, he got a chance to draw and design characters for Blackstar, Flash Gordon, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra; Princess of Power, and the Lone Ranger.

“Dang!  He was busy.  But only superhero stuff?”

“In 1989 he went to work for Warner Brothers.  He worked on Tiny Toon Adventures.”

“That Spielberg/Bugs Bunny thing?  The one with Buster and Babs Bunny?”

“Yeah, that one, believe it or not.”

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“Tell me more about the girls.  I want to hear about him drawing girls.  Wonder Woman in Justice League was hot.”

“Showing you is probably better than telling you.  Be prepared to cover your eyes, though.  He liked to draw the female figure nude and semi-naked.”

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Betty and Veronica from the Archie comics.

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“I like how he draws pretty girls.”

“You would.”

“He’s the artist you wish you could be, isn’t he?”

“Pretty much.  He’s about four years younger than me.  If I had gone the comic-book artist route instead of becoming a public school teacher, our careers might’ve been parallel.”

“Except he has talent.”

“Yeah, there’s that.”

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Comic Book Heroes Who are Older Than Me

I don’t know if you know this, but I am in reality older than Spiderman. I am also older than the Fantastic Four. All of the Avengers except for Captain America are younger than me. Well, you could argue that Thor and Hercules were around longer than me. And the Sub Mariner, And the original Human Torch, the one that Ultron would eventually turn into the Vision. But I am turning 65 this year, and only the Golden Age comic-book characters are actually older than me.

Superman, from the date of his actual creation, not first publication, is turning 88 this year. Schuster and Seigal drew the first Superman strips in 1933.

At the beginnning of June, 2021 the Spirit will be 81 years old. Created by Will Eisner in 1940 the Spirit got an entire full-color page in more than 20 newspapers with a total circulation of more than 5 million copies nationwide. Denny Colt got his super crime-fighting powers by basically being a ghost, back from the dead to punish his killers and other criminals every Sunday until 1952.

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Sheena, Queen of the Jungle is turning 83 this year, being created in 1938 by Jerry Iger working with Will Eisner, among others. She looks pretty good for her age. But, consider this, she is based on the character Rima the Jungle Girl from William Henry Hudson’s 1904 novel Green Mansions. Rima, if she had become a comic book character too would be 117 this year.

The Shadow, too, is pretty damn old. He celebrates his 91st birthday this year if you consider his pulp fiction origin in 1930. He was also the narrator of a radio show before actually becoming a comic book hero. The old man of this essay was a billionaire who could become invisible thanks to his mind-control powers. And he also had peerless martial arts prowess. He is an obvious inspiration to Bob Kane’s Batman.

Batman and Robin, as understudies to the Shadow are virtually the same age. Batman was created in 1939 in Detective Comics, and Robin would appear for the first time before the year was out. That makes them both 82 years old this year.

The first time they appeared in their own title was in 1940, so that makes the Joker, Alfred Pennyworth, and Catwoman 81 years old.

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Alex Raymond’s imitation Buck Rodgers comic, Flash Gordon, first appeared in newspapers in 1934. That makes Flash, Dale Arden, and Dr. Zarkov all celebrate their 87th birthday this year.

The Green Hornet is 85 years old.

Wonder Woman is 80 years old.

So, even though I am old and creaky, reading comics with the older superheroes in them makes me feel like a kid again. An old, creaky kid.

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How It Should Be… According to Mickey

A 1951 Schwinn Spitfire like mine in 1963 when the world was golden.

My bicycle was red. It was red and looked just like the ones that Captain Kangaroo had in his commercials that we watched on a black-and-white TV every day before we walked or rode our bicycle to school, across town a whole long seven blocks away. After school I could ride it out a whole mile and a half to Jack’s farm with Bobby and Richard and Mark the preacher’s kid to go skinny dipping in the cold creek in Jack’s South pasture. Jack was younger than any of us except Bobby. And it was a golden age.

Spiderman comic books and Avengers comic books cost twelve cents to own, but they were forbidden. And as much as we sneaked them and passed them around until they fell apart, usually in Bobby’s hands, we never knew that Dr. Wertham had gone to Congress to make our parents believe that comic books would make us gay and violent. He was a psychiatrist who wrote a book, so even if you didn’t believe him, you had to worry about such things.

I believed in Santa Claus until 1967. And after I found out, I only despaired a tiny little bit, because I began to understand you have to grow up. And adults can lie to you, even if they don’t do it to be mean. And the world is a hard place. And the golden age ended in November of 1963 when JFK was assassinated.

In June of 1968 I rode my bicycle out to the Bingham Park woods, Once there, I took off all my clothes and put them in the bicycle basket, and then I rode up and down the walking paths through the trees with nothing between me and God but my skin. I had a serious think about how life should be. All the while I was terrified that someone might see me. I was naked and vulnerable. A mere two years before that I had been sexually assaulted and was terrified of older boys, especially when I was naked and vulnerable. But I was a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals and Bob Gibson. They were repeated World Series winners. And they beat the Yankees in the series in 1964. And more important than that, cardinals were the little red songbirds who never flew away when the winter came. You don’t give up in the face of hardship. You face the trouble. No matter how deep the snow may pile up.

And in 1969, the first man to walk on the moon showed that a Star Trek world was in reach of mankind. Star Trek was on every afternoon after school. I watched a lot of those episodes at Verner’s house on his family’s black-and-white TV. The Klingons were always bested or beaten because the crew of the Enterprise outsmarted them. You can solve the problems of the universe with science. I know this because of all the times Mr. Spock proved it to me not just by telling me so, but by showing me how you do it. And what you can achieve is greatly enhanced if you work together like Spock and Kirk and Bones… and sometimes Scotty always did.

So, what is the way it should be? What did Mickey decide while naked in the forest like a Dakota Sioux shaman on a spirit-quest?

JFK’s 104th birthday was on May 29th. Dr. Wertham has been dead for 40 years. Bob Gibson was 85 when he passed away in October of last year. Captain Kirk turned 90 in March of this year.

The Golden age is long gone. There is no single set of rules that can clearly establish how it should be now. But I like those ideas of how it should be that I established for myself while naked on a Schwinn Spitfire in a forest long ago.

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Rise of the Bargain Bin Goon

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One of the biggest problems with being an action figure aficionado with raging hoarding disorder is the fact that every new dolly has it’s own personality… and sometimes its own evil agenda.  Once you own too many of these things, especially the evil ones, it is no longer possible to properly pay attention to what they are up to.

The last installment of Action Figure Comics had the hero, Captain Action (specifically Captain Carl Action) thwarting the evil Doctor Evil by taking away his evil removable brain.  (I know I use the word evil far too often in describing the evil Doctor Evil, but he is also repetitively redundant.)  I had thought this Achilles’ heel of Dr. Evil’s… er, rather, this Achilles’ brain of the evil Doctor Evil was just too convenient a solution to the problem presented by this irrepressible evil bad guy.  But as a rule I find ignorance is bliss.     I know now that I was wrong.  That was a terrible rule to follow.  As a former teacher you are supposed to know that ignorance is not bliss… it is evil.  After 31 years of fighting the War Against Ignorance in my classroom, you would think I would remember this.  I should’ve been watching Emperor Ming of Mongo more closely… or should that be closlier?  Battle scars from the War have left me unsure.

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One has to recall that Evil Emperor Ming is really just another incarnation of the evil Doctor Evil under his mask… although not one with a removable brain.  Notice that his minion, the evil Doctor Mindbender is no less evil when it comes to redundant use of the word “evil”… and he even commits the further sin of repetitively saying “no-good goody-goody”.  “Ach!  Ja!  Evil use of bad grammar makes my battle scars hurt more!” cries the former teacher driven to write this hopeless drivel.

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What’s this?  He means to destroy the new bargain bin wrestler doll… I mean, action figure that I just bought?  I had meant to keep that as a mint in box collector’s item until the lucha wrestling fans of Sin Cara are as old as I am now.  Then I will find one of them with hoarding disorder and sell it for possibly eight dollars.  I will have made a whole dollar by the time I’m 109!

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Yes, I should’ve been watching that dang evil Emperor Ming more closely!  Now he has ruined my mint-in-box action figure by taking it out of the box.  What bad thing will he do next?  Stay tuned to this goofy old blog.  You never know, I may actually continue this story if I can keep better track of what these goofy little dolls are doing.

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The Golden Age

I am certainly no expert on the Golden Age of Comics. I was, in fact, born the year that the Golden Age ended. I am a child of the Silver Age (1956 to the early 1970s) and those were the comics I grew up with. But I admit to a fascination with the initial creation of the characters I love, including Batman, Superman, the Flash, Captain America, the Phantom, Steve Canyon, Wonder Woman and numerous others who were first put on the comic book pages in the Golden Age. And being subject to comic book prices that zoomed upward from a dollar an issue, I was bedazzled by the ten cent price on old comics.

Comic books owe their creation to the popular newspaper comic strips from the Depression era and WWII wartime. Originally, comic strips were gathered and printed on cheap paper. Dick Tracy, Prince Valiant, Terry and the Pirates, Flash Gordon, and other adventure strips would lead to the war comics and hero-centered comics that would morph into superhero comics.

Some of the artwork in Golden Age comics leaves a lot to be desired. Especially original, straight to comic book publications that were produced fast and furiously by publishers who would open one week, produce three issues. and go out of business three weeks later. But in the mad scramble, some truly great artists formed the start of their illustrious careers, Will Eisner, Hal Foster, Milt Caniff, and Bill Elder learned to master their craft in the newspaper strips, and all later created comic books and graphic novels. True geniuses like Jack “King” Kirby and Bob Kane and Jack Davis grew directly from comic book studio madhouses into comic-book-artist immortality.

As with most things that have a Golden Age, the truth was that later comic book eras were superior in most ways. But this Golden Age was the foundational age for an American art-form that I truly love. So, flaws and warts are overlooked. And some of these old ten cent books on super-cheap paper are worth huge amounts of money if you still have a rare one in mint condition. Ah, there’s the rub for a manic old collector guy like me.

Most of the Golden Age comic book images used for this post were borrowed from the ComicsintheGoldenAge Twitter page @ComicsintheGA. If you love old comics like I do, you should definitely check it out.

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Filed under artists I admire, artwork, comic book heroes, comic strips