Monday, October 5, 2015

Dan Hagen, Time Master

DC Comics' Showcase 26 from May-June 1960 has cover art by Joe Kubert

Within a half-century span, comic books can effectively operate as limited-range time machines for me.
Because I loved them so much when I was young, just reading a Silver Age story can take me back to that precise moment in that spring of 1960 when I was 5 and the world’s colors all seemed as vivid as those four in the comics, or that autumn of 1962 when I was 7 and the civilization of the planet Earth actually faced destruction, or that January of 1966 when I was 11 and one of my superheroes was, wonder of wonders, suddenly the biggest hit on television.
So reading a feature like Rip Hunter, Time Master is an ironic experience in seeing time, both real and fictional, collapse upon itself, something like one of those paintings of an infinite regression…

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Little Left for Lulu

A quarter a week left one little money for anything but superhero and science fiction comics. But you could find used comics for a nickel at some stores in central Illinois, and you could read them for free at the barber shop. And I had to admit, even as a little kid, that John Stanley's Little Lulu stories were pretty darned good. My favorites involved Witch Hazel. This one's from 1955.

Drinking with James Bond at a Sidewalk Cafe

James Bond had his first drink of the evening at Fouquet’s. It was not a solid drink. One cannot drink seriously in French cafés. Out of doors on a pavement in the sun is no place for vodka or whisky or gin. A  fine a l’eau is fairly serious, but it intoxicates without tasting very good. A quart de champagne or a champagne a l’orange is all right before luncheon, but in the evening one quart leads to another quart, and a bottle of indifferent champagne is a bad foundation for the night. Pernod is possible, but it should be drunk in company, and anyway Bond had never liked the stuff because its licorice taste reminded him of his childhood. No, in cafés you have to drink the least offensive of the musical-comedy drinks that go with them, and Bond always had the same thing, an Americano — bitter Campari, Cinzano, a large slice of lemon peel, and soda. For the soda he always stipulated Perrier, for in his opinion expensive soda water was the cheapest way to improve a poor drink.”
— Ian Fleming, From a View to a Kill

Keeping Up in the Age of Kleptocapitalism

A decade or so ago, I coined the term "kleptocapitalism" is describe the 21st century America economic scheme pushed by Bush, Cheney and their co-conspirator cronies.
More and more people seem to be waking up to the concept, if not the word. This remark of mine recently got 242 “likes” on a Robert Reich thread: "This is pure kleptocapitalism — an economic system in which thieves are permitted to become so obscenely wealthy that they can bribe their government puppets into legalizing their larceny." Of course, there’s a terrific irony in the fact that a system that values property above people should devolve into embracing the systematic theft of property, but there it is. It is in the nature of corporations to place profit above all, including law and morality, so such piracy is inevitable unless governments prevent it.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Battle of Britain, Plus Superheroes

By the dawn of the 1940s, Americans were so hot for superheroics that they even had to go to England to show the British how it’s done. England was, of course, being bombed by the Nazis at the time, so a superhero could find plenty to keep him busy there.
One such was Captain X of the RAF, a Captain Midnight-like mystery man who was really Richard “Buck” Dare, an American foreign correspondent for the “Tribune.”
In his uranium-powered experimental plastic airplane, rather sweetly named “Jenny,” he could whip along at a brisk 700 miles per hour, thwarting German superweapons like anti-metal rays and tank-boats and preventing the blocking of the English Channel and the strychnine gassing of London’s population.
Captain X appeared in Star-Spangled Comics 1-7 (Oct. 41 through April 42), penned by Gardner Fox.
Dare was retconned into being the grandfather of Ronnie Raymond, the younger half of the DC superhero Firestorm.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Discarding the Glasses and the Cheap Suits

“The truth may be that Kent existed not for the purposes of the story but for the reader. He is Superman’s opinion of the rest of us, a pointed caricature of what we, the noncriminal element, were really like. His fake identity was our real one. That’s why we loved him so. For if that wasn’t really us, if there were no Clark Kents, only lots of glasses and cheap suits which, when removed, revealed all of us in our true identities — what a hell of an improved world it would have been!”