Thursday, January 24, 2013

The allure of vintage comics

In my popsicle days, my idea of heaven was to hunker down with a comic book in the latest "fort"/"tent" I had constructed out of who knows what. Classics Illustrated, Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, The Flash, The Phantom …. anything I cold get my hands on, or my allowance would permit.
Action! Mystery! Thrills!: Comic Book Covers of the Golden Age revisits an anything-goes era when comics cost ten cents and the iron fist of the Comics Code Authority had yet to descend. Geared mostly to boys (with clubhouses, secret identities, airplanes, female fantasy objects [Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, anyone?], and many skimpily clad maidens in distress), these prized objects were replete with heroes in colorful, skin-tight costumes displaying outstanding musculature as they battle evil; assorted ghouls and lurid sic fi monsters; preening, fiendish mad scientists; menacing Asians and Nazis being vanquished … well, you get the picture!

Here are Dick Tracy, The Shadow, Superman, The Green Hornet, Wonder Woman, Captains Marvel and America, and the original incarnation of Batman (in Detective Comics)—as well as a parade of also-rans, such as Electro, Shock Gibson the Human Dynamo, Wonder Man, The Shield, The Flame, The Lightning, Power Nelson: the Futureman, Duke O'Dowd, Blue Blaze, The Red Raven, The Blue Beetle, Hydroman, Amazing Man, Captains Battle and Midnight, The Skyman, The Daredevil, Silver Streak (and his sidekick Whiz), Kaanga the Jungle Lord, Bulletman and Bulletgirl, Doll Man, Cat Man, The Fighting Yank, The Green Lama, and Magno the Magnetic Man. Oh, and there are a few Little Lulus and Disney/Warner Brothers cartoon comics thrown in too.
I've assembled a few images from the book for your delectation, but trust me … these covers have to be seen to be believed!! Each spread is annotated in the notes.


I did get a laugh out of a Retronaut feature on "rubbish superpowers." Here are a few samples.
Finally, pulchritude and puissance unite in this collection of covers from "Thrilling" and "Exciting" Comics.
Here are two cool DVDs for DC Comics lovers: DC Comics Super Heroes: The Filmation Adventures, with a gaggle of costumed crusaders presented in animated cartoon form, and the fascinating Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics, virtually a history of comics in general.

14 comments:

  1. Good grief! What did The Stylist do to his enemies? A gel wrap? A bicolored Apache?

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    1. Speaking of mullets, "Richard Dragon"??? That NAME is somewhat of a mullet itself!!!

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  2. WILHELM THADDEUS FINKJanuary 24, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Haha, well played Anonymous:) As a little Wilhelm, I wasted countless hours with Superman. Love looking at these old covers. As a side-note, I love your expression "popsicle days." It's much more accurate than "salad days!"

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    1. I always wondered about that phrase, attributed to Shakespeare's Cleopatra ("When I was green in judgement/ Cold in blood.") But where did Shakespeare get it? And when is youth cold-blooded?
      I had quite a collection of DC comics once, which I tied together with a string. Bad move; my mother gave them to the recycling collector!
      Is that Batman I see below?

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  3. Wilhelm - did you say wasted? Time spent with any member of the DC comic family is certainly not time wasted. Now those Marvel folks are another story...

    Thoroughly enjoyed that retro Batman cover

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    1. WILHELM THADDEUS FINKJanuary 24, 2013 at 6:22 PM

      Haha, true! I love me some DC comics. I'm glad to see someone else agrees that Marvel is but a knockoff:)

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  4. Cleopatra was referring to her Caesar salad days.

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  5. I love DC ... I could never really get into Marvel either, although I did spend some time with Spidey and that Black superhero they had. Don't get me started with what my Mom threw out ...

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    1. JP : Was that "Black superhero" the legendary Luke Cage, Hero for Hire... aka Power Man ? Some of my favorite titles included (from Marvel) Daredevil; Nick Fury, Agent of Shield; The Amazing Spiderman. On the DC ledger there was Batman, a limited run of The Shadow, and then from left field (Bongo Comics) Akbar and Jeff's Guide to Life. And everything from Lynda Barry, the Funk Queen forever.

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    2. JP : Was that "Black superhero" the legendary Luke Cage, Hero for Hire... aka Power Man ? Some of my favorite titles included (from Marvel) Daredevil; Nick Fury, Agent of Shield; The Amazing Spiderman. On the DC ledger there was Batman, a limited run of The Shadow, and then from left field (Bongo Comics) Akbar and Jeff's Guide to Life. And everything from Lynda Barry, the Funk Queen forever.

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  6. Love Retronaut, my favorite comic book cover is the one of the girl and the shark.

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  7. Tarzan comics are not mentioned. A favorite of my Dad and me. And I learned a lot from Classic Comics. I don't think I would have understood Silas Marner without the comic version.

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