the Early Fox Comics (1939-42)
In the early Golden Age years of 1939-42, one of
the leading players on the newsstands, but certainly
not in the department of high-caliber stories and interior
artwork, was Fox Features Productions. They are among
the most collectible comics of the period because of
their outlandish covers and kinetic images.
Tight-wad impresario Victor Foxs firm produced
many of the most memorable covers of the era, especially
those by Lou Fine, but also published much of the worst
interior art and least-sensible stories. These Fox
comics are, however, bursting with Golden Age energy
and thus are wonderful period pieces, particularly
those with patriotic covers.
No company benefited more than Fox from Ernie Gerbers
two-volume Photo-Journal set, when it first appeared
in the late 1980s. Fox prices have since skyrocketed,
even copies in fair to good condition.
Unless you have a lotta bucks, you wont be able
to amass a huge collection of early Fox comics. Indeed,
even good Fine covers are often out of
reach of the average collector.
This installment covers only the 1939-42 period, before
Fox left the comics industry for a couple of years
to serve in the military during World War II.
Assuming you can find a copy of each of the 14 original
Fox titles – not always an easy task – you can amass
a wonderfully representative collection in no more
than 20 issues or so.
Fox produced five anthologies similar to Action or
Detective Comics – Wonderworld Comics #1-33 (Wonder
#1-2); Mystery Men Comics #1-31; Fantastic Comics #1-23;
Weird Comics #1-20; and Science Comics #1-8. The firm
also produced another anthology that pre-dates DCs
Comic Cavalcade in its presentation of favorite super-heroes
– Big Three #1-7.
The other eight titles feature single-character themes,
many of them filled with reprints: Blue Beetle #1-11
(the original run); Green Mask #1-9 (the original run);
The Flame #1-8; Samson #1-6; Eagle #1-4; U.S. Jones
Comics #1-2; and the Rex Dexter of Mars
In the best of all possible worlds, you would want
a copy of Wonder #1, containing Will Eisners
14-page Wonderman story, commissioned by Fox as an
imitation of Superman. The legal action from DC, Foxs
former employer, limited Wonderman to a single appearance.
Today, that title is not only rare, but far too expensive
for most collectors.
Instead, zero in on an issue of Wonderworld #30-33,
featuring Flame Girl, along with the Flame and U.S.
Jones, who began in #28. You might also want an example
of #21-27, with Black Lion and Cub.
If you want examples of all the heroes who appeared
in Mystery Men, aim for #27-31, which contained not
only Flame and Green Mask (as did all 31 issues), but
also The Lynx, with Blackie the Mystery Boy and The
Wraith. The Green Masks partner, Robin knockoff
Domino the Miracle Boy, also appears.
Fantastic is the least interesting of the anthologies.
The last issue, #23 (Nov. 1941), is the only one with
all the heroes – Samson and David, The Black Fury and
Chuck (Fox was huge on kid sidekicks), the Banshee,
the Queen of Evil and the only appearance of the Gladiator.
Black Fury started in #17, the Banshee in #21 and Queen
of Evil #22, so the later the better, unless you want
one of the Fine covers.
All eight issues of Science contained Dynamo (called
Electro in #1), The Eagle and Marga the Panther Woman.
When Science became the first Fox comic to fold with
#8 (Sept. 1940), all three characters moved over to
Weird Comics with #8 and continuing through the rest
of the 20-issue run. Sorceress of Zoom appeared in
Weird Comics #1-20, Bird Man in Weird #1-4, Thor in
#1-5, a different character, Dynamite Thor, in #6-7,
the Dart and the Ace (for the Dart).
The atypical anthology title Big Three #1-6 all contain
Blue Beetle, The Flame and Samson. In #7, V-Man replaces
Blue Beetle #9-11 contain not only four Blue Beetle
stories, but also backup heroes Blackbird, the Gorilla
and Black Fury and Chuck. Dynamite Thor appeared as
a backup in #6-8. Holyoke, which published Captain
Aero and Catman, took over Blue Beetle for 19 issues
beginning with #12 – the only Fox comic that survived
in 1942 beyond issues dated Febuary of that year.
Green Mask #7 and #8 contained not only the usual
four Green Mask stories, but also backup strips The
Tumbler and The Nightbird. The Nightbird also appeared
in #9 (Feb. 1942), which was the last issue of Green
Mask until the title reappeared in 1944, after Fox
returned from the war.
The Flame contained no superhero backup strips; the
first issue contained five reprints from early Wonderworld
Comics. Likewise, Samson had no superhero backups;
the first issue contained three reprints from early
issues of Fantastic Comics.
The Eagle #2-4 all had a nifty backup strip called
The Spider Queen, plus beautiful patriotic covers.
U.S. Jones ran only two issues, with no backup costumed
heroes, and V
Comics likewise ran two issues,
also including Black Fury, The Banshee and Queen of
Evil in both issues. Get one of each, plus the Rex
Dexter one-shot if you can afford it.
In general, the late 1941 – early 1942 issues of Fox
are the best from an interior-content perspective.
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Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #7
"Hush Money, Sweet Lois – Or
Else!" Part 1
The Silver Age Lois Lane had some rather questionable
qualities. She was willing to do anything in the world
to land Superman as a husband and ethics often took
a back seat. She was devious, scheming and single-minded.
Superman, ever the 'enabler', often took delight in
her antics. Yet, when I was a little girl, I adored
Lois Lane. Perhaps it was because one of the very first
stories I ever read was "Hush Money, Sweet Lois
– Or Else" in Superman's Girlfriend Lois
The more-famous story in this issue is the opener – Part
Two of the very first Silver Age appearance of Catwoman
(begun in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #70).
But because I never read issue #70 as a kid, that story
was more confusing than interesting to me at the time.
No, my heart belonged to the cover story. I'd like
to guide you through it now, in this Silver Age Review.
"Hush Money, Sweet Lois – Or Else!" Part
The story opens with a wonderful Kurt Schaffenberger
full-page splash. Lois is walking down into some sort
of basement room and a robed, hooded man stands ominously
below. "What is this? Your phone call said you
had an important piece of mail for me!" she says.
"I sure have... blackmail! Just watch this movie
and you'll see why you'll be only too glad to pay me
anything I ask!" he responds. (What could be in
that movie?? I remember having nightmares about that
hooded man. He looked like Death, and that alone made
turning the page a must. But first, I had to ask Mom
what 'blackmail' meant. Comics are so educational!
This story was the first time I'd ever run into that
word, and I soon learned all about it.)
The story picks up with Lois at the Daily Planet,
surreptitiously talking to the blackmailer on the phone.
She goes to the bank and withdraws her life savings
– $1,200! ("Hey Mom – is $1,200 a lot of money?" Considering
that I bought this comic in 1966 for 12¢, Mom's
answer was a resounding 'yes!' Again, more learning.)
Knowing that $1,200 was a small fortune, it horrified
me to see Lois tossing it by the side of the road,
according to her blackmailer's instructions.
Lois is so broke that she has to bring in a sandwich
instead of having lunch with Clark Kent and Perry White.
(Oh, the horror! Not a sandwich! To what depths must
she sink because of this blackmailer?)
We soon find out, as his demand for $500 forces Lois
to pawn her beloved Superman Souvenirs. Now, if you
know anything about Lois, you know that it would take
something drastic to make her give up the remembrances
of the man she is obsessed with, so at this point we
know that she probably killed someone...maybe a nun...a
12-year old nun – and she put her in the woodchipper
or something. We're talking horrible crime here, because
Lois is obviously willing to do anything to cover it
Lucy Lane sees what her sister is doing and approaches
Clark Kent about it, postulating that perhaps Lois
is being blackmailed. (Smart cookie – that was her
first and only theory. Clark went right along, too!)
He decides to look into it.
The next day, Lois gets another note; this one is
asking for $250 (at least the number is steadily declining)
and for her to meet him at the waterfront. Lois borrows
her vacation pay from Perry (and is really snippy about
it, too). Perry doesn’t get angry; he gets her
the money. I'm thinking he suspects that 12 year old
nun in the woodchipper thing.
|The little blonde is actually a Powerseller on
ebay who was smart enough to slab all her high
To Lois' shock, Superman is there to meet her! He
tells her that Clark and he tricked her because they
both suspect she's being blackmailed (the worst kept
secret in Metropolis at this point) but Lois won't
spill the beans. She sends him on his way with a 'choke'
(I love those 'choke' and 'sob' notations in comics.
Makes me grin in a goofy manner every single time I
see them. Not that I enjoy Lois' pain – perish the
thought! – it's just so wonderfully melodramatic.)
Lois thinks, "I shudder to think what would happen
if he ever learned the truth!" Superman is undeterred,
and decides to do a little snooping.
He heads to Pittsdale, Lois' home town, to see if
she has buried any deep dark secrets there. (I'm not
certain why he's convinced it would be something from
her distant past. It's possible he's just really nosy
and felt this would be a good excuse to do a 'True
Hollywood Story' number on Lois). Clark interviews
Lois' teacher (apparently, she only had one), who
still has one of Lois' AAAA papers on display (4 A's,
and a bunch of stars. That Lois was good!). He learns
that she used to drive the bankmobile (a toy car with
a gigantic cart full of money, for the uninformed)
and nary a cent went missing.
I need to pause for a moment here to contemplate the
bankmobile (not to be confused with the Batmobile).
What on earth is that school thinking?? They put
a giant pile of cash from a fund drive into a large
open cart (heaven forbid there should be a strong
breeze) and let a kid in a toy car drive it around
town? That's a tempting target even in a world without
super-villains! But we all know that there are costumed
criminals around every corner in the DC Universe,
so there must be thousands of untold tragic bankmobile
tales that have yet to see the light (it even has
floating dollar signs for those height-challenged
villains like Mouse Man!)! Lois was downright lucky
that while she was scooting a small fortune openly
around town that not a single bill blew away, or
was snatched by a passerby, or was spied by a super-villain.
It think it shows less about honesty than about pure
|Clark is jealous because he didn't think of this
romantic gift himself.
While talking to the Pittsdale Police Chief, Clark
learns there hasn't been a serious crime in 30 years. "30
years ago? That's about the time Lois was born!" (If
you're ever in a trivia contest and asked Lois' age,
now you know.) Clark uses his X-Ray vision and sees
a fingerprint card for Lois. Oh horrors! What crime
did she commit?
Conveniently, the Police Chief mentions that they've
'cooked up' a big surprise for Lois in honor of all
her crime reporting – an honorary police badge and
a bronzed set of her fingerprints. (Wow! Bronzed fingerprints!
That's such a wonderful gift. No story manipulation
here – everyone longs for a set of bronzed fingerprints,
so naturally, Lois would dream of owning that prize
as well. I have my fingerprints in pewter – couldn't
afford the full bronzing. Some day...!) Lois's mom
snatched them from her when she slept. (Okay, that's
a little creepy.)
Clark may not have found anything yet, but that doesn't
mean he's going to stop trying! Check out next month's
issue for the stunning conclusion to the Silver Age
Review of "Hush Money, Sweet Lois – Or Else!" from
Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #71.
Some parts of this article are copyrighted.
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