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The Appeal of Empty Rhetoric – Daredevil Battles Hitler, July 1941

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About a month ago on a day off from work, I spent part of the afternoon watching the 1935 Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will. As a historian and film fan the movie is practically required viewing; Leni Riefenstahl’s cinematography (in the use of moving cameras, multiple views, and aerial shots) was groundbreaking and, in the case of the opening “flying through the clouds” sequence, breathtaking.

But for all of its visual beauty and pioneering technique, one can’t forget that Triumph of the Will was a propaganda film commissioned (and directly influenced) by Joseph Goebbels as a visual record of the events surrounding the 1934 Nuremburg rally, which was officially titled the Nazi Party Congress. And since the film was a Nazi propaganda movie, I don’t suppose I need to tell you who the star of the show was. In fact, the majority of the “Hitler giving a speech” footage you’ve seen in numerous documentaries down through the years is taken directly from Triumph of the Will; this is unsurprising when one considers that the film is in public domain (so no royalties have to be paid for the use of the material). What surprises the modern viewer when one watches the complete and unedited film is that Hitler manages to speak an awful lot, yet say absolutely nothing of any real substance. More

Post-war hysteria (Part 2) – Atomic War #1, November 1952

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Here’s an interesting little exercise for you: think back to your childhood and try to remember the age at which you first realized with absolute certainty that there were things in this world from which your parents couldn’t keep you safe.

For many people of my generation (the baby boomers) it was the moment when you first understood the potential for dying in a nuclear blast. More

Post-war hysteria (Part 1) – Atomic War #1, November 1952

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No popular entertainment medium exists in a perfect vacuum; like water dripping from a stalactite in a cavern, outside influences often leach in to color and inform it. A medium can be influenced by the sudden popularity of another medium or genre (nothing speaks as loudly as money, and success breeds countless imitators). Current socio-political events also hold great sway over pop culture, be it overtly (such as the popularity of military-themed movies in wartime), or subtly (exemplified by “one man against a system” movies and TV shows in the post-Vietnam 1970’s). More

Happy Easter!

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A few questions regarding intent – Sparkling Stars #6, November 1944

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Any (and every) work by a writer or artist is open to interpretation. Novels, paintings, movies, short stories, even comic books, are subjected to scrutiny and (if the work is of merit or is at least sufficiently oblique) debate as to what the creator meant by producing it. Countless legions of educators and critics have made a living doing little more than asking the question “Why?” (Because, as we all know, those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, critique.) More

Here, take a hit – of justice! – Exciting Comics #9, May 1941

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America seems always to have had this weird, convoluted, conflicted, love-hate relationship with drugs, which seems to be odder now than ever before; we tell our youth that drugs are “bad”, yet allow multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies to run advertising campaigns around the clock on television for drugs with happy-sounding made up names (which all seem to end with the letter “a”). It’s small wonder that people can become so confused when drugs are concerned. The whole situation seems like a batch of Effluvia to me. More

Happy Veterans Day, 2014!

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To all those who’ve served America with distinction, Happy Veterans Day!

Speed Comics #38, July 1945

The cover (attributed to Bob Powell) is from Speed Comics #38, dated July 1945. (Courtesy of The Digital Comic Museum)

Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2014, Steven A. Lopez. All rights resverved.

The Ghost of Flanders – Hit Comics #18, December 1941

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Saying that patriotic-themed characters were a staple of the Golden Age is more than a slight understatement; there was a veritable army of such characters appearing in comic books from the late 1930’s through the war years. Some of them still make appearances in today’s comics; Captain America, The Shield, and Uncle Sam are among these lasting characters. A few (like Pat Patriot) deserve to be far better remembered than they are today. Quite a few of them, however, lapsed into well-deserved obscurity. Today’s comic book feature falls squarely into the latter category. More

It’s Alive! – Prize Comics #7, December 1940

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Hundreds of comic books writers and artists of the Golden Age toiled in obscurity (sometimes well-deserved), as it was not the common practice of the time to credit what today we call “the creative team”. But we’re occasionally fortunate enough to know exactly who produced a particular story or series even if he or she worked under a nom de plume. One of the best-remembered comic book talents of the 1940’s was the great Dick Briefer (who we’ve met before in this blog) who was himself responsible for the creation (or, perhaps, “adaptation” would be more appropriate) of a character based on a literary classic, and in the process was responsible for one of the most fondly remembered comic book characters of the period. But before we take a closer look at that character’s debut in a 1940 issue of Prize Comics, a little bit of backstory would seem to be in order. More

Catching saboteurs with the Boyville Brigadiers – Feature Comics #46, July 1941

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Not all of the adventures of “patriotic” comic book characters during the Golden Age were as heavy-handed as those of The Flag and Usa (previously considered in The Big Blog o’Fun); in fact, several showcased the virtues of the democratic ideal and tried by their example to encourage young readers to follow suit. One such feature was “Rusty Ryan and the Boyville Brigadiers” which, ironically, appeared in the same title as Usa; the first official “Boyville Brigadiers” story ran in the same Feature Comics issue (#46) as the fifth of Usa’s seven appearances.

 

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Usa, The Spirit of Old Glory – Feature Comics, Mar.-Sep. 1941

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Happy Independence Day, fellow Yanks! In keeping with the spirit of the day, The Big Blog o’Fun is presenting an overview of another Golden Age heroine with a patriotic theme: Usa, the Spirit of Old Glory. Don’t feel badly if you’ve never heard of her. Usa was obscure even while her adventures were still being published; these days she’s totally forgotten. More

The Deacon character sheet for the Hideouts & Hoodlums roleplaying game

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Obscure? Here at The Big Blog o’Fun we love obscurity! (And by “we” I mean “me” because this is essentially a one man show. Get yer own soapbox on a different corner, kid.). In the previous two blog posts we’ve all been enjoying the adventures of an obscure, somewhat goofy, 1940’s character named The Deacon who made his four color home in the pages of Cat-Man Comics. It was only natural that I’d want to stat out The Deacon for use as a character in the Hideouts & Hoodlums roleplaying game, itself something of an obscurity (and very undeservedly so, as it puts a whole new twist on old school RPGs. Instead of yet another elf/dwarf/magic fantasy retro-clone, H&H explores a whole different, completely unique concept: what if The World’s First Roleplaying Game Which I’m Not Allowed To Legally Mention By Name had been based on Golden Age comic books instead of the Tolkeinesque fantasy genre?). More

Blitzkrieg crime wave! – Cat-Man Comics #5, December 1941

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In the previous post to The Big Blog o’Fun we met a Holyoke “mystery man” character known as The Deacon. In that post I mentioned that I’d seen The Deacon described on another web page as being similar to Batman but “with religious overtones”, and I went on to question that assertion. In the week subsequent to my post that web page has been edited and the phrase has been deleted. Interesting… More

Twin fists of parochial fighting fury! – Cat-Man Comics #1, May 1941

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As I was doing some online research the other day I came across an entry for a Golden Age comic character called The Deacon. The page’s writer described the series as being similar to Batman but with “religious overtones”. I instantly perked up. Would The Deacon be a crimefighter in priestly vestments flinging crosses like batarangs? Would he be a mysterious hooded cassocked figure climbing the sides of buildings using a rosary for his grapnel and rope? The possibilities were staggering! I just had to check it out! More

Memorial Day 2014

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While you’re enjoying your holiday weekend, please pause a moment and say a silent “Thank You” to the many thousands who aren’t here to swim, play, and barbecue, because they sacrificed it all — for you.

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Valkyrie and the Airmaidens – Air Fighters Comics Vol. 2 #2, November 1943

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When comic book aviator Airboy celebrated his first birthday, artist Fred Kida gave him a wonderful gift: a gorgeous red-hot cleavage-baring Nazi dominatrix named Valkyrie, a character who totally put the lie to the notion of the “innocence” of Golden Age comics.

 

By the way, you may want to get the kids out of the room. More

R.I.P. Fred Kida – Sands of the South Pacific #1, January 1953

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Sometimes I have to dig around a bit to discover subject matter for this blog, but other times the material just presents itself seemingly out of nowhere. Today’s post fits the latter category perfectly, as it came about through a series of synchronous events (which is how big people like to say “random coincidences”). More

Here comes Airboy! – Air Fighters Comics #2, November 1942

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Comic books were very quick to villainize the European fascist powers prior to America’s entry into World War II. This is hardly surprising given that a great many comic writers, artists, editors, and publishers were first or second generation Jewish immigrants who retained close ties with “the old country”. But despite Japan’s furious aggression in the Pacific which cost thousands of lives (including well-publicized atrocities in China, such as the infamous “Rape of Nanking”), pre-1942 comics generally left the Japanese alone. More

How to read digital comic books on your PC

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In today’s blog post I’m fulfilling a special request made by my friends (and fellow troublemakers) Susie and Angie. They’ve asked me to post instructions for reading downloadable digital comics. It’s difficult to refuse requests from friends such as these, not just because they keep me laughing but also because they know where some of the proverbial bodies are buried (and they’ve sometimes helped to dig the holes). Ladies, just for you…

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Opium Smugglers of Venus – Space Detective Comics #1, July 1951

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Picking up where we left off in the previous post, here’s the rest of Avenger’s (and Teena’s) debut adventure from Space Detective Comics #1. There’s a lot for us to talk about just on the first page, so strap yourself in and let’s hit the spaceways! More

Rod Hathway, Space Avenger – Space Detective Comics #1, July 1951

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Part of the fun of reading Golden Age comics is that you never know what you’ll encounter next. For every crazily inept (yet oddly entertaining) series like The Duke of Darkness, there seems to be a corresponding feature of surprising quality in which either the writing or the art (or sometimes both) delights you as a reader. Often these stories aren’t anyone’s idea of all-time classics, but reading them is just plain fun.

Science-fiction comics of the Golden Age often fall into this category. More

He’s dead and loving it – K.O. Comics #1, October 1945

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Comics have never been more popular than they were during the Golden Age. Some books (such as titles featuring Captain Marvel) sold more than a million copies a month. During the war years comics were hugely popular with the troops; this drove sales even higher since tens of thousands of comics were shipped overseas to members of the armed forces.

Conversely, though, as comic sales rose the overall quality of the product diminished. Many of the more talented writers and artists were drafted into the service, More

Golden Age costume drama – Slave Girl Comics #1, February 1949

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The other day I read a quote which said that “the hardest job to do is the one you never start”. That’s exactly the wrestling match I’ve been contesting for a couple of months. I have some friends who think it would be cool if I resumed writing about roleplaying games in this blog (as I used to do back when I first started it). I’ve been involved in RPGs since the start of the hobby (the original Dungeons and Dragons had been out just over a year when I got my first copy in early 1976), and comic book/superhero games were a special interest of mine back in the 1970’s and 1980’s, so a couple of people seem to think it would be a good idea if I wrote about the early titles in that genre. I’ve been wrestling with the notion for weeks now. The problem is, of course, the nature of the Interrant; anytime somebody mentions RPGs online the whole discourse seems to degenerate into some protracted polemical girl fight over systems and mechanics, and I don’t have the time or energy for that sort of pointless crapping around. More

Map reading technique is NOT hard to learn! – Rocket Ship X, September 1951

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You say you love your GPS device? I hate the damned thing.

When I was twelve years old I was sent to nature camp for a week. This isn’t a horror story, because it wasn’t a bad experience. I didn’t get beat up, I didn’t get homesick, I didn’t find a snake in my sleeping bag, I didn’t get poison ivy, I didn’t suffer the indignity of seeing my underpants flying from the camp’s flagpole. I did almost step on a copperhead (my pal Billy threw an arm across my chest to stop me just in the nick of time) and I did discover how much I hate wolf spiders. But nature camp was an overwhelmingly positive experience.

Best of all, I fell in love. Not with one of my schoolmates (although I did go to camp with some really cute girls), but with orienteering. More

Blackhawk: Death and Resurrection (Part Three) – Military Comics #10, June 1942

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The last two posts to this blog were occasioned by the oft-repeated myth that, after his apparent death, the French airman André was reintroduced to Quality Comics’ Blackhawk series without any explanation for his reappearance. In those post, we’ve seen the stories which contained his apparent death and his (wholly explained) reappearance; now we’ll finish the trilogy with the tale that completes André’s reintroduction to the team. More

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