Reviews: CDNP v3, WW Archives v7, WW Chronicles v3, MMW: TOS v4, Sgt. Rock Archives v4

Too many books, too little time! Here are some lightning reviews of reprint stuff:

 

Crime Does Not Pay Volume 3

By Charles Biro, Bob Wood, et al

Reprinting Crime Does Not Pay #30-33 (Nov 43-May 44)

Dark Horse, $49.99  

 

This is terrible stuff, seemingly written and drawn by none-too-bright third graders, but it has an infectiously gleeful quality to it. In fact, Howard Chaykin says it best in his Foreword: “The Crime material you hold in your hands is crude at best, sloppy at worst – but even in those instances, there’s a visceral quality of adolescent hysteria that makes these stories page turners for the most part.”

 

The only other comment I’d make is how surprising it is that the war is hardly mentioned. This gleeful nonsense lived in its own playground.

 

Wonder Woman Archives Volume 7

By William Moulton Marston, H.G. Peter, Joye Murchison, Robert Kanigher

Reprinting Sensation Comics #49-57 (Jan-Sep 46), Wonder Woman #16-17 (Mar-May 46)

DC Comics, $59.99

 

Marston’s health was failing  when these stories were published -- he would die in 1947 – so they were mostly written by Joye Murchison (Marston’s secretary, not part of his menage a trois) and Robert Kanigher (who would write the strip for the next 20 years). But it’s still typical Golden Age Wonder Woman, which is to say: Wacky to the point of dementia, with a lot of bondage that the characters seem not to mind overmuch. (In one scene, a tied-up Etta Candy says  “Untie us! This is too uncomfortable to be fun!”)

 

So it’s a giggle, but the star of the show is the Foreword by Ivan Cohen, who wrote Wonder Woman from 2003-2006 and is now involved in Green Lantern: The Animated Series. This guy had me laughing out loud so much, my wife made me read her some of the choice bits, which promptly had her laughing out loud.

 

First, Cohen goes off on a riff about the oddball names of the villains in the book, characters like Bugs Meany ("whose name suggests he really never had a chance”) and Dr. Fiendo (“imagine the neighbors after the inevitable arrest: ‘I never thought it would happen. The Fiendos were such a lovely family …‘”). Then he riffs on each of the stories found therein, which after this introduction, I found more hilarious than ever.

 

But perhaps I was swayed by the fact that Cohen hates Steve Trevor as much as I do. He never misses a chance to point out what a misogynist thug Trevor is, or to remind us how every action of this intelligence officer betrays a complete lack of intelligence.  In one story, WW and Trevor meet wealthy socialite Margo Vangergilt, who is actually a villain in disguise. “Trevor almost marries Margo,” Cohen notes dryly, “but he doesn’t really mean it.” What’s funny is that it’s true.

 

Wonder Woman Chronicles Volume Three

By William Moulton Marston, H.G. Peter

Reprinting Sensation Comics #15-18 (mar-Jun 43), Wonder Woman #4-5 (Nov. 42-Jun 43), Cavalcade Comics #2 (Spr 43)

DC Comics, $14.99

 

Don’t ask me why I’m buying these Chronicles, when I’ve already got the Archives that have already reprinted these stories. I’ll think of a good reason in a minute.

 

In the meantime, these stories from earlier in the Golden Age than the Archives reviewed above are the real Marston. Oddly, though, they’re not quite as wacky as the later stories, and even Peter’s art isn’t quite as eccentric as it would become. But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of bondage.

 

Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era Tales of Suspense Volume 4

By Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby, Don Heck, Paul Reinman, et al

Reprinting Tales of Suspense #32-48, 50-54 (Aug 62-Jun 64)

Marvel Comics, $74.99

 

This is the end of this particular reprint series, as Tales of Suspense became a superhero book in 1964, and those stories are reprinted elsewhere. Iron Man took over the cover and lead spot in issue #39 (the covers in this volume stop with #38), leaving only back-of-the-book room for the suspense stories which heretofore had been the title’s raison d’etre (hence the title). Then the Golden Avenger expanded enough to push those stories out altogether with issue #56 (and Captain America was added three issues later). This book dutifully reprints all those back-up stories until the bitter end, which – as a completist – I am very grateful for.


But there’s nothing of real substance to comment on here. The Ditko and Kirby work is nice, albeit pretty formulaic. And there’s a Jack Davis story, which was something of a surprise. And you see a number of themes Lee was playing around with in those early days of the Marvel Universe: Shrinking people chased by insects, hypnotism, time travel, even a talking gorilla (which was actually Julie Schwartz’s schtick). This volume is nice for us OCD collectors to finish the series, but I don’t see much for a casual reader.

 

Sgt. Rock Archives Volume 4

By Robert Kanigher, Joe Kubert, et al

Reprinting Our Army at War #126-137 (Jan-Dec 63) and Showcase #45 (Jul-Aug 63)

DC Comics, $59.99

 

I loved Sgt. Fury when I was growing up, but never met another fan – everyone was always into Sgt. Rock. “It’s more realistic than Sgt. Fury,” they’d sniff. Oh, really?

 

I challenge anyone to read this book and repeat that line. Rock survives one preposterous death trap after another, usually with the aid of what I began to call “The Magic Hand Grenade.” In Rock’s hands, the humble pineapple was capable of knocking down Messerschmitts in flight, taking out tanks, blowing up pillboxes, stopping infantry charges cold – and always, always blowing up at exactly the right time, with exactly the right amount of force. (Meanwhile, the enemy’s hand grenades remain obediently silent until Rock has time to pick them up and throw them back.) In one scene, Rock is hanging out a second-story window by virtue of Bulldozer’s arm (which in itself is preposterous, no matter how much Bulldozer can bench-press), and arms and throws The Magic Hand Grenade one-handed around a corner to take out a machine-gun nest.

 

Not to mention the rest of the collection of Kanigher-isms I find so maddening, like beating me over the head with a story’s theme until I scream, or repetition to the point where he owed DC a refund, or the ridiculous names everyone is saddled with. (“Ice Cream Soldier”? “Bird Call”? “High-Boy”? It takes a long time to say “Ice Cream Soldier,” when “Jim” or “Pal” or “Buddy” would do just fine.) And who takes the time to yell “We’ve walked into a trap! Scratch dirt, chickens!” when they’re being fired on by a tank AND a machine-gun nest? Only Rock, that’s who – nobody else on Earth would take the time for such goofy expository dialogue.

 

Oh, these stories aren’t bad. They're typical Rock stories, which means they're OK, and Joe Kubert art is always welcome. But give me Sgt. Fury any time. At least with the Howlers I wasn’t expecting “realism.” 

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I picked up the TOS Masterworks #1,2,3... and enjoyed it just as much as the TTA volumes that I've found.

Your comments for the fourth volume could be replicated for the fourth volume of TTA as well... but there's something about the simpler times, the shorter, predictable/unpredictable stories in the vein of The Twilight Zone that are timeless and engaging.  I'll probably pick up the volume that you review...TOS #4...however, I'm having a terrible time even finding one with a variant cover even listed anywhere.  I'd like to score it for a low low price, and don't want to break up my variant cover library of Masterworks if I can avoid it.

Yes I was out of regularly buying comics from about 2002 - 2005, but I still find it hard to believe someone wrote Wonder Woman for 3 years relatively recently and I never heard of them!  Probably says more about how the character was faring than about my own shortcomings.  So much for being one of the Trinity!

 

Morrison makes a case in Supergods that Joye Murchison was one of the unsung creators in some way behind Wonder Woman, and you make a good case for that here, even saying her stories were better in some ways than those she wasn't apparently as heavily invoved in.  Perhaps this Chronicles Vol 7 is the first time she's been publically credited in a DC collection with working on Wonder Woman?  (Or the archive this book reprints was?)  Presumably the 40s comics didn't have proper credits on them?

Excuse me, but did you just say that Marston was in a "ménage a trios"?

Now, bondage in WW I had heard of before, but this household of three is new to me.  Where can I read more about it?

Supergods would be a start, but it's not discussed at great length.  Maybe there's a little in Men of Tomorrow?

 

Both are general comics history books worth reading for their own sakes, in any case.  And there's always Google, although there might be more under Marston than under Murchison from a quick look just now.

 

I'd say there's a whole book to be written on Marston, from the sound of things. An interesting guy.  Did you know he was invovved with the development of the Lie Detector?  Which connects to Diana's lasso of truth...

I've not read it, but I think the Captain has referred in the past to biographical content about Marston in Les Daniels's Wonder Woman volume. H.G. Peter is also an interesting figure. According to Wikipedia he was born in 1880 and had been a newspaper cartoonist. His other comics work includes the features "Man O'Metal" from Reg'lar Fellers Heroic Comics, about a man who would undergo a brief transformation into a white-hot metal form when he came into contact with heat/fire, and the similar "Fearless Flint" from Famous Funnies, about a man who would tranform into a sparking flint form when struck by metal. (Stories starring both can be found online via Google or Google Images. Fearless Flint was cover-featured when he debuted in Famous Funnies #89.) A few early Wonder Woman stories were drawn by Frank Godwin. (Link warning; other pages in the Lambiek Comiclopedia have adult content.)

I was actually in error above (now fixed), in that Joye Murchison really was Marston's secretary. His menage consisted of himself, his wife Elizabeth and Olive Byrne.  He had two children with each, as all three lived polyamorously for many years. At one point, when Marston was unemployed, he and Olive and the kids lived with Elizabeth's parents to save money, while Elizabeth herself worked in New York.

And, yes, Marston played a minor role in the development of the lie detector, which he parlayed into some publicity in the '30s. And he had a theory about social interaction, in which men would never be happy unless they "submitted to loving authority," i.e., being tied up and dominated by women. He was not shy about this opinion, and it is in print in numerous places, including Wonder Woman dialogue.

There are several pages about Marston in Men of Tomorrow, as Figs suggests, and it's well worth reading! 

 

 

Early Wonder Woman has been hovering around the top of my must buy list for some time now, but other stuff keeps trumping it.    I really must get my hands on some.  The more weird and transgressive the better, I say!

I have always, always favored Sgt. Rock over Sgt. Fury, but I have never, ever made the claim that Rock's more "realistic." (Someone around here used to say all the time that whenever somebody speaks about making comics "realistic," more often than not they mean doing something that takes all the fun out of them.)

Once, I was visiting my grandmother and my uncle read a stack of some Sgt. Rocks I brought with me. He said he had to stop because it looked like Rock could walk through rainstorms and come out dry.

Granted I haven't read very much of either Rock's of Fury's adventures, both just within the past 2-3 years. I've enjoyed the Sgt. Rock tales more. I can't put my finger on why specifically, because it isn't anything I've spent a lot of time thinking about. I just do.

Well, think about it. 

If your main character is in a battle action, and gets shot or killed, well there goes your book!

The reality of WWII was that most vetrans that saw action made it out without being wounded, but many were killed, and many wounded.

To have a main character and his supporting cast make it through every battle without an injury...strains the credibility.

(Man, those Germans sure can't hit anything, can they?)

Which is one of the things I have enjoyed about Garth Ennis' Battlefields minis I have picked up as back issues lately. Anyone can bite it at any time, plus a good war comic if really rare these days.

Kirk G said:

Well, think about it. 

If your main character is in a battle action, and gets shot or killed, well there goes your book!

The reality of WWII was that most vetrans that saw action made it out without being wounded, but many were killed, and many wounded.

To have a main character and his supporting cast make it through every battle without an injury...strains the credibility.

(Man, those Germans sure can't hit anything, can they?)

I wrote long response from my phone that disappeared into the electronic ether ... *sigh*

Trying again ...

Kirk G said:

Well, think about it. 

If your main character is in a battle action, and gets shot or killed, well there goes your book!

The reality of WWII was that most vetrans that saw action made it out without being wounded, but many were killed, and many wounded.

To have a main character and his supporting cast make it through every battle without an injury...strains the credibility.

(Man, those Germans sure can't hit anything, can they?)

That's one thing Our Army at War featuring Sgt. Rock had over Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos; in Fury, the main character and his supporting cast made it through every battle without an injury.

What's that? Junior Juniper was killed in Sgt. Fury #4, and his death taught the Howler's the grim lesson that any day could be their last? If you say so. I never read that story (but then, I've never been big on Sgt. Fury, or Sgt. Fury) but nothing in any of the stories I have read ever showed me that Junior Juniper's death had any bearing on anything.

On the other hand, guys got killed all the time in Our Army at War. Granted, a lot of them were walk-ons, given a few pages (or just a few panels) to sketch out a bit of personality before they bought the farm, but with that, the series did, more credibly (at least to me), convey the danger those guys were in, whereas the guys in Sgt. Fury came off as adventurers, not soldiers.

Also, the mainstay cast was often at risk of bad things happening; Ice Cream Soldier was killed (although they forgot about that), Zack the bazookaman lost an arm, and several of the Combat-Happy Joes got shot or otherwise injured at one time or another, including Rock, who also has been blinded (he got better) captured, tortured and more. 

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