I hate ferrets. While your cats secretly hate you, ferrets openly hate you and will try to tear your face off to boot. Why anyone would keep these loathsome vicious creatures as pets is completely beyond my ability to comprehend. Ferrets hate everything. Back in the day I had a girlfriend who lived across the way from a couple who kept a pair of ferrets, and you could hear those beasts (the ferrets, not the couple) screaming at each other at all hours of the day and night – ferrets even hate each other.

So when I discovered a Golden Age comics hero named The Ferret a couple of months ago, I was compelled to check the story out immediately. A hero named “The Ferret”? Really??!!??

Centaur Publications was an interesting little comic book company back in the late 1930′s and early 1940′s. Their books never had the wide distribution (or, consequently, sales) that many other comic publishers enjoyed; if a Centaur magazine made it past eight issues, it was a cause for celebration. So Centaur tended to take more chances (probably out of sheer desperation) than did other publishers, which resulted in some entertaining comics. Centaur’s staff was more than willing to throw close to anything up on the wall to see what would stick, so they published all kinds of stories: westerns, funnies, mysteries, war comics, and some really off-beat superhero stuff.

The Ferret wasn’t the goofiest idea Centaur’s staff ever threw out there for public consumption (that distinction would belong to The Eye), but it was close. Start with a Green Hornet-like racket buster, give him powers similar to Superman’s, throw a cape around his neck, and you have a winner, right? Sure! Except when you give the guy a mask that reminds you of the old toupeé joke: “Is that a rug on your head or did a small animal crawl up there and die?” Seriously.

It’s a shame too, because the story is entertaining as all get out. Racketeers are forcing milk companies to pay protection or risk getting their shipments hijacked and destroyed which, of course, has a very adverse effect on children who need the milk. The Ferret swings into action and cleans house (literally so at one point in the tale). The splash panel shows The Ferret using a door to smash a bunch of mooks, and on page three he tears apart a car with his bare hands (a trope which players of the Hideouts & Hoodlums roleplaying game should love!). Despite some occasionally clunky writing and a couple of plot holes which you could drive a (milk) truck through, the story is nearly all non-stop action and it even has the familiar “ironic” ending (all that’s missing is the wink from the hero to the reader). It’s all good fun…

Except for that damned stupid mask.

In the end the mask made little difference. This was The Ferret’s first and only appearance, being as Man of War Comics ended its run with issue #2. It was one of the last comics Centaur ever published; the company was done in by the combination of poor distribution and wartime paper rationing. Too bad; with a costume tweak, The Ferret might have really been something.

Here’s The Ferret’s sole adventure, with scans courtesy of The Digital Comic Museum:

Man of War Comics #2, January 1942

Man of War Comics #2, January 1942

Man of War Comics #2, January 1942

Man of War Comics #2, January 1942

Man of War Comics #2, January 1942

Man of War Comics #2, January 1942

Man of War Comics #2, January 1942

Man of War Comics #2, January 1942

Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2012, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.

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