Comics Guaranty, LLCNumismatic Guaranty Corporation
August 2003  
 
Version 2, Issue 7  
   
1. Collecting the Early Fox Comics (1939-42)
   
2. A Silver Age Review: Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #7
   
3. Introducing Joanna Sandmark
   
4. Eerie Excitement
   
5. Welcome to the Fold

 


UPCOMING EVENTS

Sept. 5-6
Big Apple Convention

St. Paul Church Auditorium
Columbus (9th) Ave and 60th St.
New York, NY

Sept. 20-21
Baltimore Comic-Con

Baltimore Convention Center
Baltimore, MD

Oct. 31Nov. 2
Las Vegas Comic Convention

Mandalay Bay
Las Vegas, NV


Nolan's Niche Collecting the Early Fox Comics (1939-42)
Michelle Nolan

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 Fox’s 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 Gerber’s two-volume Photo-Journal set, when it first appeared in the late 1980’s. Fox prices have since skyrocketed, even copies in “fair” to “good” condition. Unless you have a lotta bucks, you won’t 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 DC’s 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 #1-2; V… Comics #1-2; and the Rex Dexter of Mars one-shot.

In the best of all possible worlds, you would want a copy of Wonder #1, containing Will Eisner’s 14-page Wonderman story, commissioned by Fox as an imitation of Superman. The legal action from DC, Fox’s 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 Mask’s 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 Samson.

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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A Silver Age Review:
Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane #7
Joanna Sandsmark

"Hush Money, Sweet Lois – Or Else!" Part 1

Hush Money, Sweet Lois – Or Else!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 Lane #71.

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 1

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.)

Hush Money, Sweet Lois – Or Else!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 up.

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.

Hush Money, Sweet Lois – Or Else!
The little blonde is actually a Powerseller on ebay who was smart enough to slab all her high grade comics!

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 dumb luck.

Hush Money, Sweet Lois – Or Else!
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.
© 1966 DC Comics

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cgc registry

Introducing Joanna Sandsmark

Joanna Sandsmark has been a member of the CGC chat boards for a while now and has become one of our most important members. Joanna has not only constantly posted her unpretentious, insightful views on many comic-related topics and given us “Comic Cover Jigsaw Puzzles”, but she has also created the most innovative thread on the boards: “Crisis on Infinite Message Boards”. To meet and chat with Joanna and other board members, go to www.cgccomics.com and click on “Boards.”

Joanna is not only a super-nice person, but she has given CGC a wonderful two-part article for the August and September enewsletters. I hope you get as much enjoyment out of reading it as I did.

Steve Borock
Vice President/Primary Grader, CGC

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Eerie Excitement
Shawn Caffrey

One would think that writing a monthly article on any comic book that appeals to me would be an easy accomplishment. It’s not difficult, but the one small problem I constantly come across is the difficulty of choosing just one, especially when I discover something new. I tend to get excited and push my original selections aside, as demonstrated in last month’s article on Jim Steranko. So here I am, aboard an airplane returning home from this year’s Wizard World Chicago, and I feel that wave of excitement again for the second month in a row, but this time it’s quite different. Surprisingly, it wasn’t from being around comic books and talking comics with collectors and fans, it originated from a convention floor filled with talk of CGC’s new venture in certification-magazines. Although CGC has not yet begun its magazine certification, I am excited to be the first to share my personal enthusiasm for comic magazines in hopes of raising awareness of why so many people in our hobby enjoy them.

The first magazine that comes to mind, because of its importance and incredible artwork, is Warren’s Eerie #68 from September of 1975. It starts off with an amazingly painted cover by artist Ken Kelly and continues with stories drawn by artists such as Esteban Maroto, Paul Neary and Jose Ortiz. What makes Warren magazines a great read, is the black-and-white pages that give the artwork what it deserves, a chance to shine. Even with some of the Philippine artists who are less commonly known, their art is given the chance it deserves with the black-and-white print and larger-than-comic-size pages. The stories in this particular issue are no exception, ranging from Jose Ortiz’s frightening pencils and inks to Leopold Sanchez and his almost Steranko-like storytelling. But what makes this issue important, and makes it even more enjoyable, is a color story called “The Muck Monster,” written and drawn by Berni Wrightson.

The story is about a scientist, determined to create artificial life, yet overlooking the most important element of life itself, being alive. The lab creation is conscious, but lies on the table in an unresponsive state, not wanting to be brought to life. Amidst the scientist’s frustration from his failure, he becomes completely enveloped with rage and destroys his creation by dumping the body in a vat of acid. Over time, he decides to dump the remainders of his failed creation, and the liquid life slips down a mountainside into a graveyard where it adheres to a corpse in one of the gravesites. Thus, the body comes back to life, as a twisted, skeletal zombie-like life form that makes its way back to its creator, not to harm him, but only to show what happens when you toy with life. In the end, the scientist goes mad, driven by the return of his creation, and leaves behind a life confused as to its own existence, alone atop a mountain for eternity. The story itself is not a frightening tale, for it teaches a lesson as to how valuable life is. And Wrightson tells the story with ease; his line work flowing through each panel smoothly – bringing the story to life. Now as to its importance, Wrightson had always had a childhood fascination with a particular Universal Studios property by the name of Frankenstein, which led to his creation of the “Muck Monster.” Upon reading the story, anyone will feel a sense of familiarity, for the monster itself is the precursor for Wrightson’s depiction of his most famous work to date, his illustrations in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

In the end, stories like this inspired me to collect magazines and I hope that others in our hobby will also see that comic magazines contain some of the best examples of illustrative artwork and stories.

Make sure to check us out at www.cgccomics.com for more information and updates on magazine certification.

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Phil's Corner Welcome to the Fold
Phil Kaltenbach

Having discussed my introduction to one of my favorite comics, Mystery in Space, last month, I thought I would devote this month's column to a less-happy aspect of my growing enthusiasm for this title during my formative years. I picked up only occasional issues for a couple of years – including the terrific Issue #70 (Sept. 1961), featuring "Vengeance of the Dust Devil," wherein I first learned about static electricity – but by the end of the summer of 1962 I was buying every issue off the stands. In just about every one, the artwork by Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson made a strong impression on me, plus many contained an outstanding back-up story by Anderson alone. By the end of eighth grade in May, 1963, enticed by the excellence of #85 and by the subscription offer inside (two years for $1.60, including postage), I was ready to take the plunge. How wonderful that every month or two the latest issue of my favorite comic would show up in my mailbox!

A couple of unpleasant surprises lurked just ahead. First, when I purchased #86 in June (anticipating correctly that my subscription would not begin until the following issue), I found, to my dismay, that John Giunta had replaced Anderson as inker. I didn't much care for his work, and apparently the editors at DC felt the same way, since Sid Greene took over in the very next issue. Then came the announcement by Adam Strange that, beginning with the next issue, he would share Mystery in Space with Hawkman, a character I didn't really like; although Murphy Anderson would remedy that in the coming months. I mainly worried, though, that the presence of another character would diminish the attention given to Adam Strange, who had served as the feature character in the title ever since #53. This fear turned out to be somewhat accurate. Although it wasn't until #92, when Jack Schiff replaced Julius Schwartz as editor, would I discover how truly awful things could get. I will elaborate on this in a future column.

Even worse news awaited me when #87 arrived in the mail, folded sharply in half and wrapped in a plain brown wrapper. My postman must have thought someone in the house was receiving pornography! I guess I hadn't given much thought to how my comics would be sent, but I'm sure I assumed they would arrive flat and looking sharp. Besides the horrible crease, my comic had considerable wear on both the top and bottom edges. I felt especially cheated because, unlike Marvel comics, DC books were very easy to find in several locations close to my house. In addition, of course, I was locked into receiving my books like this for two whole years, a fact that exacerbated the frustration and heartbreak that lay ahead.

I did enjoy one bright moment when #90 arrived, and it, coupled with #91, made me hope, even believe, that better days lay ahead. They didn't, but I have long considered Mystery in Space #90 my favorite comic book of all time. Next month we'll take a close look at this remarkable comic.

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