Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Number 1568: Mekano — a wonder, not a marvel

Mekano (not the X-Men villain of the seventies) was a one-shot character appearing in Wonder Comics #1. Mekano, a large robot, falls in love with a human woman, Sandra,* after doing a bash job on some Nazis. The story is drawn by Bob Oksner, who in 1964 would draw this lovestruck robot:
Robots in love would have some real problems, so maybe it’s a good thing for Sandra that Mekano didn’t appear again. Do robots have fantasies? We are assured in a caption on page three that although this story is fantasy, so once were airplanes and telephones, and that currently “great scientists are working with mechanical men.” **

From Wonder Comics #1 (1944):

*A spoiler, since it is discovered in the next-to-last panel. Sorry.

**And a fine job those great scientists did, too, as evidenced by this picture of my personal robot, Isaac. He is shown here attending to me in the fifties when I was a boy. I wish I still had Isaac, but in the early sixties I traded him for the down payment on a used car.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Number 1567: Tubby and the LIttle Men from Mars

Trust John Stanley to make a running joke out of the fifties fascination with flying saucers. Stanley made “little men” extra little so they could zip around and help Tubby without anyone spotting them. It led to an endless number of stories from Stanley’s inventive mind.

I have said before that Lulu, with the exception of her storytelling to Alvin, was usually grounded in the real world of little girls and boys. Or as real as any comic book characters can be, that is. Lulu and friends outwitted adults and each other, but unless I missed them there were no flying saucers in Lulu’s stories. Tubby had a life full of fantastic occurrences, ghosts, monsters, little men from Mars, which Tub took more-or-less for granted.

Several of the flying saucer stories are reprinted in Tubby and the Little Men from Mars, a Gold Key 64-page one-shot from 1964, from which I took my scans.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Number 1566: Commie Smasher

I like the fifties Atlas versions of their triad of superheroes, Captain America, Human Torch and Sub-Mariner. I thought the artwork was very good. John Romita’s work on Captain America stands out for me. He had been drawing comics since 1949, but when he did this issue of Captain America #78 (1954 —  the last issue until the sixties) he was a mature-in-style but young-in-age 24-year-old comic artist with the work he would be most recognized for still a decade and more in the future.

Since Cap was the patriotic hero he needed enemies of America on which to beat, and in the fifties that meant communists. At that time communist activity in the U.S. was mostly done in secret, but in the lead story the communist monster wears his hammer-and-sickle on his chest. Knowing your enemies by what they wear worked in World War II, when a swastika meant there was an enemy due for a butt-kicking. By 1954 the enemy was much more savvy than to wear his affiliation on the outside. Still, this is a comic, and symbols in comics give instant identification between good guys and bad.