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”).
As I was writing the Airboy post which immediately precedes this one, I received word that one of Airboy’s most popular artists, Fred Kida, had passed away on April 3rd. I looked for some information about him but aside from a list of his artistic credits and the fact that he was Japanese-American there wasn’t much else out there. That’s often the case with Golden Age comic artists and writers; in those days most of them weren’t even credited, much less exposed to the proverbial harsh glare of the public spotlight as is the case today with the Internet-fueled “fanboy” mentality. The 1940’s comic book creator was most often doomed to labor in obscurity.
The day I posted the Airboy piece, reader Walt posted some insightful comments in which he also mentioned Fred Kida’s passing. The next morning someone in a Facebook Golden Age comics group posted this cover from the tail end of the era:
The cover looked vaguely familiar so I looked up the publisher and discovered it was Toby Press. I’d gone through a “Toby kick” awhile back and figured I probably had a copy in my digital collection. Going back through the files I discovered that I’d indeed previously downloaded the book and read a couple of stories from it. When I got to the end of the book, I saw a scanned index card in which an archivist had identified one of the artists as Fred Kida. After a little more research I found that Fred Kida is indeed credited as the artist on “The White Octopus”.
Fred Kida had a comics career which stretched over forty years. While reading a partial list of his credits, I realized that as a teenager I had most likely enjoyed his work as artist on Marvel’s Godzilla series and as an adult have definitely seen his work on Airboy. While I could certainly present some of his better known work for your enjoyment, I decided to go where synchronicity (or, more accurately, blind dumb luck) had taken me: to an obscure one-shot comic released by a tiny publishing company in the early 1950’s.
Sands of the South Pacific graced newsstands just once, appearing for a single issue in late 1952. As I’ve mentioned before (many times) in this blog, the superhero craze was dying off by the early Fifties and publishers had resorted to throwing anything up against a wall to see what might stick. Sands was certainly something different, as it contained an assortment of adventure stories set in exotic tropical locales; although it didn’t catch on at the time, it might have stood a better chance of reaching a wider audience had it been published a decade later, when network television schedules were liberally sprinkled with shows like Jonny Quest, Flipper, and Sea Hunt.
The writer of “The White Octopus” is unknown and that may really be for the best. The story’s pretty pedestrian and not terribly original: I’ve seen what is more or less the same tale presented in an least two other media over the years. But the artwork by a young Fred Kida is quite nicely rendered, especially the splash panel. Enjoy!
Page scans are courtesy of The Digital Comic Musuem.
POSTSCRIPT: A few days after starting work on this post, I was able to find an interesting tidbit about Fred Kida in an obituary by a business from his Greenwich, CT hometown. He was a devout Jehovah’s Witness and a Biblical scholar of some renown; his two sons are named Peter and Paul.
Have fun! — Steve
Copyright 2014, Steven A. Lopez. All rights reserved.