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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Adventure Comics # 41, August, 1939

SANDMAN continues with another atmospheric tale but the most fun in this issue is found in the cool splash logos for many of the strips.

FANTASTIC FACTS is yet another of the RIPLEY'S style pages, this one by George Papp who will spend as much time in ADVENTURE over the years as any other artist if not more so. He will become the longest lasting artist on GREEN ARROW as well as doing quite a few SUPERBOY strips.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Adventure Comics # 40, July, 1939

Flessel returns to the covers of ADVENTURE with the readers' very first view of THE SANDMAN in this seminal issue of the series.
THE SANDMAN undoubtedly came about in much the way THE BATMAN did a couple of months earlier. On the one hand it was a seeming response to the success of SUPERMAN but on the other it kept its feet securely in the pulp arena. The importance of the strip in this particular venue is that it opened up the floodgates for more masked and super-powered heroes soon to come.
 Reprinted here is that first SANDMAN story only not from this issue. The scans weren't as good as the 1971 reprint that ran in the back of JUSICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA so we're running the story from there. A side-by-side comparison shows no changes whatsoever were made by the Comics Code and the only differences from the original are in the coloring...and that's mostly on the backgrounds. Yes, that orange suit--as seen on the cover--really was the original color!
The plot is credited to Gardner Fox. Fox had already appeared a number of times in ADVENTURE anonymously as writers rarely received credit in those days. The public perception seemed to be that a cartoonist sat down to a blank page and literally wrote, drew, inked and lettered each page himself. In actuality, many of the superstar newspaper strip cartoonists farmed it all out once they became famous, preferring the golf course to the drawing board. In this particular case, Fox revealed that the artist had, in fact, scripted from his plot. Gardner Fox would continue in comic books for the next 35 years or so becoming one of the most prolific and important artists in the medium.
 Bert Christman is the artist, signing as the pseudonymous "Larry Dean." Christman had been the artist on the influential SCORCHY SMITH newspaper strip earlier in the decade, following John Terry and Noel Sickles. He was an early volunteer as war loomed and was later killed in action in 1942.

There you have it the first SANDMAN story. Or is it? The prevailing info seems to indicate that it was the first written and drawn but that another SANDMAN story by the same team (see splash panel below) appeared on the stands weeks earlier in DC's one-shot (that became a two-shot) NEW YORK WORLD'S FAIR COMICS, an anthology combining stories of most of the company's most popular characters to that point. 

The character would continue to appear in this incarnation for a few years and be included in the legendary JUSTICE SOCIETY OF AMERICA, the first "superhero group." The later costumed superhero version, along with sidekick Sandy, would have a long and popular run with the majority of their adventures done by the team of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Revived in the sixties and then in an all-new version in the seventies, writer Neil Gaiman would cleverly tie-in and tie-up the mythos and go a whole different direction in the creation of his award-winnning SANDMAN series of the nineties.

 Sheldon Moldoff would become well-known for the obvious use of photo-refernce in his HAWKMAN and BLACK PIRATE strips. Clearly he had perfected same in his various sports and movie-related one-pagers in the DC titles.
Eclipsed by SANDMAN were a couple of other new strips, done up in the 3 color format. SOCKO STRONG by Joseph Sulman (signing it as "Koppy") was a JOE PALOOKA ripoff so obvious that it was even ripping off that strip's most famous ghost artist, Al Capp, for its style.

 BULLDOG MARTIN appears here and then resurfaces in MORE FUN COMICS.

Little by little over the next few months, changes would start taking place. Big changes. Adventurous changes!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Adventure Comics # 39, June, 1939

Above, SUPERMAN now gets the text ad treatment.

 Have you noticed how many of these ADVENTURE strips feature characters named Steve?

New logos and new features still kept coming. BATTER UP! above is by Paul Gustavson. Although little remembered today outside of true Golden Age buffs, he would go on to be one of the most prolific and memorable of the Golden Age superhero artists, known particularly for Timely's ANGEL.

The panel below proves that while occasional nudity and rampant violence and blood were apparently not an issue, Editor Sullivan was not about to cross the profanity line.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Adventure Comics # 38, May, 1939

 Maybe it's only because I know that something cool is about to happen in two issues/days but it continues to seem as though this title is simply coasting at this point. Some of the art looks sloppy and features come and go such as ADVENTURE EVENTS which made its debut two issues back, then went AWOL last issue, only to return again now.

 Keep in mind that despotic madmen with dreams of ruling the world weren't just fiction in 1939. In fact, they were practically a dime a dozen. Some even looked at President Roosevelt as one when he ran for an unprecedented third and later fourth term!
 Again, The Batman gets singles out for special promotion. The strip on this page was by the talented Chares Biro who would soon go one to be one of the main men behind the Lev Gleason comics company which published DAREDEVIL and CRIME DOES NOT PAY.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Adventure Comics # 37, April, 1939

 John Richard Flanagan's pulpy covers continue as the book itself seems to me to be coasting, waiting for...something. The serials have largely become repetitive and violent, the humor strips more and more obviously just filler. Longtime gag strip GOOFO THE GREAT appears for the final time in this issue.

BARRY O'NEIL continues to be the flagship serial now that FEDERAL MEN has been notably dulled down. GCD even credits this period to the Shuster "Shop" rather than Shuster.

 As far as RUSTY & HIS PALS, Bob Kane's life was about to get a bit busier, also, as witness this unprecedented text ad at the top of this Fred Schwab humor page. The Batman was only a month away in DETECTIVE COMICS.
 Seriously. Tell me that's not Flash Gordon.
 Seriously. Tell me that's not Flash Gordon, also!

 DC expands its line again with the debuts of MOVIE COMICS and ALL-AMERICAN COMICS. Note that both are advertised as "All in Color" whilst ADVENTURE continues to have a goodly amount of black and white and two color pages. At this early stage, ALL-AMERICAN is an example of the newspaper strip reprint titles mixed with some original features. MUTT & JEFF would be almost inexplicably published by DC in various titles including their own for nearly two decades! Sheldon Mayer's SCRIBBLY would become a cult favorite, HOP HARRIGAN would be popular on radio, in serials as well as in comics and RED, WHITE & BLUE was yet another feature created by the spread-too-thin Jerry Siegel.