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A comic which will live in infamy – National Comics #18, December 1941

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Earlier this week the United States observed the 74th anniversary of the Japanese attack on the U.S. naval and air base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. And, as happens each December 7th, people take to social media and Internet blogs to post pictures of the cover of December 1941’s National Comics #18, mentioning that the book depicts a German attack on Pearl Harbor. It’s one of those great “Believe It or Not” style factoids that frequently get passed around on the Internet, but there’s a problem with this one: the comic does not depict a German attack on Pearl Harbor. I don’t know whether it’s a case of people repeating as gospel something they’ve heard elsewhere or a case of modern-day readers who struggle with the highly compressed (by today’s standards) style of writing employed by 1940’s comics, but even the Golden Age website Comic Book Plus mentions the “German attack” on Pearl.

Either way, the assertion is dead wrong. But the real story is actually far better and even more ironic… More

The War Wheel! – Blackhawk Comics #56, September 1952

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Comics featuring aviators were hugely popular during the Golden Age, and of these four color airmen Blackhawk ruled the proverbial roost; his appearances in Military Comics and, later, in Modern Comics were among the best selling comics of the era. In late 1944 Blackhawk was given his own title by Quality Comics (replacing Uncle Sam Quarterly) and his adventures appeared in both Modern Comics and his own book until late 1950 when Modern ceased publication. More

I see dead people (Part 1) – More Fun Comics #52, February 1940

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The Golden Age of Comics was a very creative time; the new comic book medium had few “rules” and the writers and artists were making up the conventions as they went. The result was an odd and colorful assortment of characters, quite a few of which are still with us in comics published today. Of course, not everyone who picks up a pencil is a creative genius, and a fair bit of idea swiping occurred in the 1940’s. Occasionally while reading a period comic you’ll come across a character who seems familiar – and I’m being generous here; what I’m saying is that some character ideas were simply stolen from a competitor’s comic.

The “spirit of vengeance” was once such character idea which made the rounds through the 1940’s. 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

Announcing a NEW Hideouts & Hoodlums RPG supplement, plus H&H stats for Hawkman

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I’m pretty excited to announce the release of a new supplement for the Hideouts & Hoodlums tabletop roleplaying game, especially because I had a moderately influential hand in writing it. The new book, Captains, Magicians, and Incredible Men, Part 2: Harvey-Timely completes the two-volume set of Hideouts & Hoodlums character stats and write-ups for various Golden Age comic superheroes. Equipped with both booklets, an Editor (H&H’s term for “Gamemaster”) can add literally scores of actual 1940’s comic characters to his or her H&H campaign, including more than a few characters who are still active in comics today. More

Batman’s humble beginning – Detective Comics #27, May 1939

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Superman’s June 1938 debut in Action Comics #1 was a lot of cliché things: it was a bolt from the blue, it burst like a bombshell, it took the publishing world by storm. Listen, seriously – it was big. It was the first comic superhero story and invented a genre that still defines most of the comics industry three-quarters of a century later. And it’s an OK tale in its own right: not great, but readable. That’s why it’s frequently reprinted in facsimile editions (I own a couple of them).

But what about Batman’s debut nearly a year later, in the May 1939 issue of Detective Comics? I’ll bet you’ve never seen that one reprinted outside of an expensive hardbound Archive edition geared toward collectors; in fact, I’d bet you’ve never seen that story at all. Batman’s first adventure isn’t often reprinted and I’m about to commit heresy (and risk a trip to the pillory) by suggesting the reason why it’s seldom seen. More

Sorry, kids, but your folks have to go

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I’m always hearing people saying these are tough times in which to be a child. Honestly, though, every generation says this same thing; people were saying it when I was a kid decades ago. It’s tough to be a kid, period, no matter what era you live in – I’m not disputing that. But I will propose the notion that the late 1930’s and early 1940’s were a tough time to be a parent, for one simple reason.

In order for a child to become a Golden Age comic hero, it was a requirement that his or her parents first had to die. More

The Origin of Blackhawk – Military Comics #1, August 1941

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Aviator comics were really big sellers during comics’ Golden Age, and for a couple of very obvious reasons. During the ghastly hell that was World War I, one group of military men lived under a chivalrous code (mostly, or at least gave the appearance of doing so): the aviators, who fought and died in flimsy canvas and wire contraptions thousands of feet in the sky. The stories of their exploits thrilled millions on the homefront. Later, in May 1927, Charles Lindbergh became the first man to successfully fly a plane solo across the Atlantic Ocean; the feat instantly made him the most famous man on earth.  More

Driving directions to the Batcave

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Google Maps now offers driving directions to the Batcave: More

GREAT “Doctor Fate” Fan Flick!

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My blogging friend The Acrobatic Flea got himself knighted; he’s now Sir Timothy of Kent. And his blog has changed names from Heropress to I’d Rather Be Killing Monsters. All of which is cool and good, except that I’ve always had a really hard time posting comments to his blog (Firefox doesn’t like his host site), and now that people who comment there are referred to as “serfs”…well, I’ll just have to compliment him here instead of there for discovering (and posting) a real gem hidden in the pile of endless dross which mankind knows as YouTube. More

When things got done

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Back when my parents were young during the 1930’s and 1940’s, things got done. If there was a problem, you solved it. If something was broken, you fixed it. You didn’t screw around and hope that it somehow fixed itself, or pointed fingers at other people to complain about how it was all their fault – you just took on the weight and you fixed it. More

Back from vacation

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I’ve returned from my vacation, which came just in the nick of time. As a writer/editor by trade, I’d reached a point at which I was really sick and tired of the writing process and very much needed a break. It was tough enough to meet my paid professional commitments; as for the “hobby” stuff, I couldn’t even think about this blog without wanting to throw up.

It’s been a hectic last two weeks. More

DC Comics reboot, old-school supers RPGing, etc.

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I’m sorry about the relative infrequency of my posts, but I’m running as hard as I can just to stay stationary lately. I never realized that writing a blog would make me so “popular” (lulz), but I’ve been asked to be a “guest blogger” on another site, contribute to two gaming companies’ “house” publications (and I haven’t had time to even reply to any of these folks yet), plus I still need to write an intro and some notes for my Steel & Glory project, and all of that’s in addition to my daily professional writing and editing responsibilities. More

DC Comics cancels pulp-based “First Wave” titles

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Bleeding Cool broke the story this morning that DC Comics’ (small) line of First Wave comics (First Wave, Doc Savage, The Spirit) has been canceled. Aside from one exception, I can’t say that I’m the least bit surprised. Although I’ve purchased every issue since the line was introduced, I have to say that the core First Wave title and Doc Savage have been nothing but abominable; The Spirit was the only satisfying title of the bunch.

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You thought I was kiddin’?

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You thought I was joking in my last post??? Check out the resemblance: More

Superman goes emo (because you don’t understand how he feels)

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I don’t know if I’ll be able to finish this post — that’s how hard I’m laughing.

Superman has a new look, “re-imagined for the modern reader” according to DC Comics: More

A bizarre Lev Gleason origin

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The first two issues of Silver Streak Comics (published at the time by Your Guide Publications, later known as Lev Gleason) didn’t contain a character named “Silver Streak”; that came later, in issue #3 (March 1940) to be precise. Silver Streak has one of the most bizarre and convoluted origins of any comic character published in any era. More

Why I Love Golden Age Comics #2

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Why do I love 1940’s comics? In part it’s because of all the fast thinkers, smooth talkers, and major operators.

Take, for instance, Cliff Cornwall. He was a special FBI agent who made his debut in Flash Comics #1 (Jan. 1940). Cliff parachutes into Alaska (which wasn’t a state back then, kids) to investigate the mysterious disappearance of dozens of aircraft. More