Today’s post (and one which will follow) came about though a neat bit of synchronicity (which is a word which guys with two year college degrees use instead of “coincidence”). Shortly after I’d written about giant Nazi robots, I came across a blog post over at Mars Will Send No More in which the proprietor, Mr. Camp, wrote about giant Nazi robot dinosaurs (not surprising, as Mr. Camp is a huge fan of comic book dinos). A day or two later, completely by accident, I discovered a second (unrelated) Golden Age comic story involving giant Nazi robot dinosaurs. That’s what I call some serious blog fodder, but I’ve been seriously tied up with paid work for the last couple of months (I’ve recorded over two hundred chess videos over the last eight weeks) and haven’t had time for blogging.

I’m caught up now, so today’s the day. Get ready for some giant Nazi robot dinosaur action!

First, the obligatory backstory for those who aren’t familiar with Golden Age comic hero Shock Gibson. He’s not well-known today, but during the 1940’s Shock was extremely popular. A Shock Gibson adventure appeared in every single one of Speed Comics’ 44 issue run from 1939 to 1947. He then became a supporting feature in two issues of Green Hornet Fights Crime before ending his career late in 1947 (and, along the way, Shock also appeared in a single 1944 issue of All New Comics).

As with many Golden Age comic heroes, Shock’s powers were a bit fuzzily-defined, seeming to change from time to time, but they remained primarily electricity-based throughout (hence the name “Shock” Gibson). The origin of his powers should ring a bell with many comic book fans:

Speed Comics #1, 1939 - Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun

That’s right – read that page again, but replace the name “Charles Gibson” with “Barry Allen”, and you instantly recognize that DC Comics later “appropriated” (which is a word which guys with two year college degrees use instead of “stole”) the origin of the Silver Age version of the Flash straight from the pages of Harvey’s Speed Comics. (By the way, you’ll notice in today’s story that, somewhere along the way, Shock’s first name was changed to “Robert”.)

Shock’s adventures are a whale of a lot of fun to read (as are those of many of Speed Comics’ characters; I’m especially fond of “Crash, Cork, and the Baron”, as well as “Pat Parker, War Nurse”), and I’ve been slowly making my way though the back issues. I hit issue #17 and was startled to see Shock fighting Nazi dinosaurs, especially as I’d just seen a similar tale discussed by Mr. Camp in his excellent Mars Will Send No More blog just a couple of days before! Shock’s dino story comes first chronologically, so I reckoned I’d tackle it before moving on to the tale which Mr. Camp discovered in two subsequent issues of Clue Comics.

I often like to drag the subject of History kicking and screaming into this blog’s pages – after all, I am a former professional historian and the subject is still one of my main interests. This story is very interesting to me because it contains so many elements which became standard tropes of later Silver Age comic books: a hero with a scientific origin, alien invaders, and giant robots, not to mention the complete implausibility of the villains’ scheme (if you already have enough money to develop, build, repair, and maintain giant robots, why would you need to rob racetracks and upper-crust society gatherings? I was left wondering that same thing at the end of the scenario which comes with the old 1980’s TSR Marvel Superheroes roleplaying game). In fact, if you take the swastikas and references to Nazis out of this story, it could easily be from a DC comic of the late 1950’s or early 1960’s.

The fact that the story does have Nazi references is what I find most interesting about it. Although the villains are from the planet Mercury, they say they’re acting in league with Nazi Germany. The cover date (April 1942) indicates that the book most likely hit the racks in February; one would imagine that the story was written and drawn after the U.S. entered World War II. But all of the Nazi references are made almost in passing, we never see any fifth columnists (in fact, the villain John Thumb is shown in only one panel), and swastikas appear only in the splash panel. We’ll never know for sure, but I’d lay serious odds that this story was written and drawn as a straight science-fiction “alien villain” story before Pearl Harbor, and set aside for future publication — then. after the U.S. entered the war, the story was pulled out and slightly revised, adding swastikas to the splash page and Nazi references to the narrative. These references aren’t at all integral to the plot – they’re completely incidental and read as afterthoughts.

Take a look at the story and you’ll see what I mean. As always, please click on a picture to enlarge it so you can follow along (in fact, to save yourself some trouble, you should right-click on a pic and open it in a new browser tab). And, once again, thanks to the swell folks at The Digital Comic Museum for the page scans!

Speed Comics #17, 1942 - Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun

Speed Comics #17, 1942 - Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun

Speed Comics #17, 1942 - Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun

Speed Comics #17, 1942 - Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun

Speed Comics #17, 1942 - Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun

Speed Comics #17, 1942 - Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun

Speed Comics #17, 1942 - Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun

Speed Comics #17, 1942 - Steve Lopez's Big Blog o'Fun

Have fun! — Steve

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

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