Forgotten Funnies : Short-Lived Titles of the Goldenage
FORGOTTEN FUNNIES : SHORT-LIVED TITLES OF THE GOLDENAGE
Lets start with a basic proposition: Comic collectors are basically completists at heart. However, goldenage collecting can be frustrating from an availability and monetary viewpoint for both the neophyte and experienced collector. Can’t find that last 163 issues of Detective Comics you need? Schomburg Marvel Mystery covers becoming a bit too pricey? Those wonderful Hit Comics by Lou Fine just impossible to find? Well, do I have the thing for you! The multitude of titles that could not even go the distance of ten issues before going kaput.
The late 1930s and early 1940s was full of companies attempting to carve a niche in the fast-growing comic industry. Some titles (and publishers for that matter) vanished before readers even knew they existed. This recurrent (hopefully) column will dust off the old comic box and resurrect some of these titles for your viewing and, perhaps, collecting pleasure.
Whirlwind Comics, which lasted only three issues, appears to have been the only book produced by Nita Publications. (However, this publication is, at least, editorially and artistically tied to Crash Comics. See below.) Covered dated June, July and September 1940 it contained the standard mix of costume hero, adventure and science fiction stories.
Adventure strips were typified by “Wing Bordon” (“dashing devil may-care ace of the airways”), “Lt. Jim Landis of the U.S. Coast Guard”, “Inspector Blake” (super sleuth of Scotland Yard), “Rex Royce” of the Canadian Mounted Police (“where the only law is the gun”), “Smash Dawson” (crack foreign correspondent and criminologist who fought the yellow menace of the Magic Mandarin), and “Scoop Hanlon” and “Snapper Smith” representing the inquiring newspaper reporters on the domestic front.
“Bruce Barlow Conqueror of Planets” was a science fiction strip set in the future (1980) wherein famed scientist Barlow would confront menaces to Earth whether in the center of the earth, on Venus or on Saturn (a journey he made in order to destroy the “ultra-dissolvo-ray” pointed toward Earth).
However, it is the costume hero, “The Cyclone” who was the lead feature with which this title lived and (apparently) died. (This character and title had no relationship to Cyclone Comics which also was produced in this time period.) As stated in issue one, “The Cyclone is a tornado in human form, who strikes at crime with the speed and force of a hurricane, He moves with the swiftness of the wind, always on the side of law and order.” The Cyclone was Peter Blake who was a great athelete, an expert in jiu-jitsu and circus acrobatics. In his short career, he fought crime (“whenever and wherever I find it”) and spies. Although his costume lacked a certain sophistication (As one young lady remarked in issue 2, “What funny clothes. But he’s handsome.”), the Cyclone was great fun encompassing all the qualities that make the goldenage a joy to read. He was quick with the one-liners and demonstrated reckless abandon in his adventures. The art was great action-packed, characterized by many pages with three, two and, on one occasion, full page art which was extremely rare at this time.
The covers and the Cyclone were drawn by Bert Whitman who had an early and distinguished goldenage career. He was there at the very beginning of comics. His first work, “Judge Perkins”, appeared in New Fun 1 and 2. For a short period of time in the early 1940s he produced a number of features through Whitman Associates, one of the many art shops that sprang up to meet the insatiable demand for original material from the ever-increasing number of comic publishers. His credits include “Strongman” in Crash Comics (Tem Publishing), “Dr. Mortal” in Weird Comics, “Green Hornet” covers and art and several features for Fawcett including “Masterman”. (Is it possible that “Nita” and “Tem” Publications [“Tem” is probably Frank Temerson as from “Ultem” Ullman and Temerson] are an anagram of “Bert Whitman”?)
Although short-lived the three issues of Whirlwind Comics typify the flavor, content and energy of these early comicbook titles.
Jon Berk 3/20/94
© Jon Berk 1994 and 2009, All Rights Reserved.