Saturday, January 19, 2008

MIA Blogger Bissette, Reporting for Duty, Sir:
A Brat Pack Preview...

Yep, I've been MIA a lot of late, as this break between semesters at CCS has been not a break at all, but a writing marathon. On top of the Neil Gaiman Companion labors and other, uh, things, I've also been cranking on the essay I'm writing for Rick Veitch's 2008 definitive King Hell Press edition of Brat Pack, which Rick originally published via Tundra back in 1990-91.

Back in late summer of '07, Rick asked me to consider writing a balls-to-the-wall, all-out intensive essay to accompany his reprinting of this key initial work in his King Hell Heroica universe. We met a couple of times, I took pages of notes from our conversations, and I've been researching and writing ever since. I began piecing together the various fragments and chunks in December, though there's still a ways to go... still re-reading my Dr. Wertham texts (Seduction of the Innocent, The Circle of Guilt and the fascinating turnabout The World of Fanzines) and Bart Beaty's Fredric Wertham and the Critique of Mass Culture (2005, University of Mississippi Press), so that major section is still underway.

I completely befuddled Rick this past week by sending him (prematurely) the chunk that hasn't to do with comics -- the 1980s-90s overview of the '80s teen movie stars who were the real 'brat pack,' and the post-Veitch-Brat Pack 'boy band' phenomenon (see the November 2007 Vanity Fair for an intensive article on the sordid behind-the-scenes antics of that scene's primary music mogul) -- but it's the comics that dominates this week's phase.

So, just so's you know I'm not dead, here's a chunk of just the Golden Age overview of the Brat Pack precursors. No time to clean it up -- italicize or capitalize, much less illustrate -- just the raw text for your reading pleasure. It's been fun!

____________________

The Boy Buddies and Beyond


To the uninitiated, the very premise of Brat Pack must seem ludicrous. What’s this “sidekick” trip? Why would adult superheroes need or want “sidekicks”? Why would any kid, however desperate or deluded, take up with these lunatics?

Rick Veitch didn’t pull this out of his -- cape. Comicbooks have had a peculiar but persistent love affair with superhero and vigilante sidekicks for well over half a century (plus a couple decades), and the archetype continues to resonate and populate comics to this day. It’s impossible to overstate how central to the genre this conceit has always been; indeed, given even a cursory introduction to the archetype, one can only be astonished at how succinctly Veitch managed to consolidate so many facets of the countless permutations of the ‘sidekick’ archetype into just four (well, okay, eight -- we do meet the precursors of our four heroes before their premature demise via carbomb) characters of Chippy, Kid Vicious, Luna and Wild Boy. To appreciate this accomplishment, read on.

In comicbooks, the emergence of the teenage hero and teenage sidekick has its own unique legacy.

First of all, let’s agree that the teen hero and teen sidekick isn’t as peculiarly American as comics historians love to proclaim. It could be argued that young Arthur was ostensibly Merlin’s ‘sidekick’ in many versions of Arthurian legend, though the arc of that lore was never consciously emulated in 20th Century superhero comics (the ‘sidekick’ growing up to reign o’er his mentor; still, Arthur and Merlin remained a ‘team’). In fact, the first youth-oriented comicbooks emerged from England in the 19th Century, intimately tied to the youth culture of that era. Initially growing from the publishing technology, markets and talent pools that fueled the penny dreadfuls, dime novels and pulps on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, the earliest youth comics emerged from the youth culture we’ve just discussed. As businessmen realized there was a youth market to tap, comics publishers, editors and creators were eager to squeeze their half-pennies from it, and rough-and-tumble boy adventurers and youth gangs punctuated the pages of many British comics from the pre-Hogan’s Alley launch of the American comic strip.

Young sidekicks and teenage heroes were a staple of boy’s (and girl’s) pulp entertainment of the era, an archetype quickly codified and adopted by every successive media: comic strips, radio, movies, etc. Some heroes lost their sidekicks moving from one media to another (e.g., Doc Savage lost his pulp sidekicks Long Tom, Renny and Johnny, in the move from radio and pulps to comicbooks), but most of them did not. The sidekicks were an essential ingredient to most -- even The Shadow was (very) briefly accompanied by an ill-conceived sidekick, Shadow, Jr. (Shadow Comics, December 1946).

Secondly, let’s acknowledge that many of the first wave of comicbook superheroes were the products of often horrific childhood trauma, real (on the part of their respective creators) and imaginary, children of the Depression one and all. As Gerard Jones details in Men of Tomorrow, the death of Jerry Siegel’s father undoubtably played a part in Superman’s origin: The infant Kal-el loses his parents and home world the moment he is rocketed to an uncertain fate, luckily landing on Earth in proximity of the benevolent Kents. But real-life trauma and loss was hardly essential to the imagining of fictional trauma: Batman is borne of a boy seeing his parents shot to death before his eyes, and he hates all crime because of that trauma (ditto Bulletman, in Nickel Comics #1, 1940). Namor (which means “Avenging Son”) the Sub-Mariner is the product of an unhappy cross-species marriage, a hybrid of his Atlantean mother Fen and her caucasian husband Commander McKenzie; when McKenzie destroys Fen’s undersea kingdom and people, the pregnant Fen deserts McKenzie to raise her son in the ruins and raises their son Namor to wage war on all mankind. The Human Torch is an android, suffering a Frankensteinian birth (which included spontaneous human combustion!) only to be exploited by gangsters and then his own creator; Captain Marvel’s alter ego Billy Batson was a homeless orphan sleeping in subways, hustling newspapers to survive. Worse yet was Captain Marvel Jr.’s origin: teenage Freddy Freeman not only watched the fascist villain Captain Nazi (whom he and his fisherman grandfather have just rescued) murder his grandpa and toss the old man’s body overboard, but the super-Nazi immediately breaks the boy’s back and leaves him to drown! Lev Gleason’s Daredevil was youngster Bart Hill, who watched both his parents cut down and endured torture via red-hot iron, leaving a boomerang brand on his chest and Bart rendered mute by his agonies (three years later, Charles Biro crafted a whole new, comparatively tame origin for the character). And so it went.

Many of the original comicbook creators were teenagers and/or just easing into their 20s themselves. It took three young cartoonists barely out of their teens -- writer Jerry Siegel (at the time 23 years old), artist Joe Shuster (also 23, though both were still teenagers when they’d created Superman), and editor/office assistant Sheldon Mayer (then just 21 years of age) -- to land Superman in Action Comics #1 (June 1938) and thereby create the entire superhero genre and springboard what has come to be called The Golden Age of comics (essentially defined as 1938-1955, which we’ll use here as our working definition of that period). Rick Veitch vividly explored his own perspective on the Superman mythos and the lives of its creators in the Heroica graphic novel Maxi-Mortal (1991-92, see that volume), imaginatively extrapolating on the reality and industry lore surrounding Siegel and Shuster and their world-famous creation. The Siegel and Shuster legend was further popularized and mythologized in Michael Chabon’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (2000, Random House), and the true story was definitively chronicled in Gerard Jones’s essential Men of Tomorrow: Geeks, Gangsters and the Birth of the Comic Book (2004, Basic Books).

One key Golden Age superhero teen surrogate wasn’t a sidekick, he was the superbeing’s alter-ego. Writer Bill Parker’s proposal to publisher Wilford “Billy” Fawcett to create a team of superheroes, each graced with a unique power derived from a mythological god, led by one Captain Thunder. Fawcett nixed the team concept as unworkable, so Parker synthesized all into the singular Captain Thunder, whose powers manifest when the first letter of each mythical hero’s name -- Solomon, Hercules, Atlas, Zeus, Achilles and Mercury -- was linked and spoken as a single anagram: “Shazam!” Parker’s decision to make Captain Thunder’s mortal alter-ego a mere lad, the newspaper boy Billy Batson, was a stroke of genius, an instantly identifiable character for every young reader aching to manifest their own super-powered inner self, the hidden self the adult world and the parameters youth stymied. Captain Thunder became Captain Marvel, debuting in Whiz Comics #1 (February 1940) in a story illustrated by Charles Clarence Beck (C.C. Beck). Captain Marvel and Billy Batson were also the first Golden Age characters to land on the silver screen, via Republic Pictures’s 1941 serial.

The instant popularity of the character spawned Captain Marvel, Jr. (who changes from crippled newsboy Freddy Freeman to superbeing when he exclaims, “Captain Marvel!”). Captain Marvel, Jr. was introduced in the pages of Whiz Comics in 1941, featured in Master Comics (#22-133, 1942-53), and “became the first teenage superhero to receive his own magazine” and “often one of Fawcett’s five top-selling comic books during the 1940s” (Benton, Superhero Comics of the Golden Age, pg. 156), lasting 119 issues (1942-53). He was joined by the super-powered Mary Marvel (aka Mary Bromfield, Billy Batson’s long-lost sister, introduced in Captain Marvel Adventures #18, December 1942, and earning her own title in 1945, lasting 28 issues, while also appearing in Wow Comics) and a mortal tomboy sidekick of her own, “self-appointed cousin” Freckles aka Freckles Marvel. Mary Marvel’s “Shazam” was a gender-specific anagram: Selena (changed from the planned Sappho, due to that Greek poet’s Lesbos association), Hippolyta, Ariadne, Zephyrus, Aurora and Minerva. Mary’s arrival expanded the Marvel Family, which grew to include Uncle Dudley aka Uncle Marvel (not a superhero, but a lovable poseur) and three Lieutenant Marvels -- and its own title, Marvel Family (89 issues, 1945-54). Did I mention this was a popular comics series? Remember the Marvel Family, please: they play a pivotal role in all that follows.

There were other Golden Age kids who weren’t sidekicks, but primary heroes. Golden Age comics historians cite the Star Spangled Kid (alter ego of boy millionaire Sylvester Pemberton) and Stripesy (Pembleton’s ex-boxer chauffeur) as the first teen hero with an adult sidekick (in Star Spangled Comics #1-86, 1941-49), co-created by Jerry Siegel and Hal Sherman; in June 1948, Siegel’s writing successor Otto Binder added Pemberton’s sister Mary to the mix, becoming the female costumed hero Merry, “Girl of 1000 Gimmicks.” There were immediate teen hero contemporaries sans sidekicks, including The Black Marvel (Mystic Comics #5-9, 1940-41) -- not an African -American hero, but a boy transformed by a “Blackfeet” Native American tribal initiation into a costumed hero -- Wonder Boy (National Comics #1-26, 1940-42), Yankee Boy (in Yankee Comics #1-4, 1941-42, and Dynamic Comics) and Airboy (introduced in Air Fighters Comics #2, which became Airboy Comics, 1941-53). Successors included Charles Biro and Bob Wood’s Crimebuster (in Boy Comics #3-111, 1942-56) -- whose sidekick was the monkey Squeeks, who scored his own comicbook! -- and the magical resurrected-from-the-dead hero Kid Eternity whose ‘sidekick’ was his ectoplasmic mentor Mr. Keeper (debuting in Hit Comics #25, December 1942, lasting until #60, 1949, and landing his own title Kid Eternity, 18 issues, 1946-49). There was the Boy King and his Giant (Clue Comics #1-9, 1943-44), and Mort Meskin’s Golden Lad (#1-5, 1945-46) and his female sidekick Peggy Shane aka Golden Girl, among others. Copy boy Rusty Adams turned himself into “boy nemesis to gangdom” the Crash Kid, sans any powers despite his garish caped costume (Cannonball Comics #1-2, 1945). The kid heroes were popular enough to score their own parody as early as 1942, and a major tip to early comicbook fandom it was, too. In Shadow Comics#15 and 22, writer Ed Gruskin and cartoonist George Marcoux introduced ten-year-old Koppy McFad, “the boy with the most comic books in America,” who “reads ‘em, breathes ‘em, and sleeps ‘em!” Wearing his grandpa’s flannel underwear and his father’s lodge uniform and “flying” by inflating his uniform with helium, Koppy became The Supersnipe and landed his own long-lasting title (45 issues, 1942-49).

Premiere among the solo teen heroes, it must be noted, was Superboy; the adventures of Superman as a youth were launched in More Fun Comics #101 (January 1945) and continued for decades in Adventure Comics (beginning with #103, 1946) and Superboy (196 issues, 1949-73). His solo comic was a wellspring for teen heroes and pseudo-sidekicks; Superboy introduced a prototypical Supergirl (in #5) -- not his cousin, who became the classic Supergirl and was herself introduced in #80 -- and Superbaby (#8), Bizarro (#68), Beppo the Super Monkey (#76), Mon-el (#89) and others. Mon-el became the catalyst for The Legion of Super-Heroes, the 30th-Century teen superhero club introduced in the Silver Age Adventure Comics #247 -- more on that, and other Silver Age developments, later. We’ve much ground to cover first.

Foremost among the Golden Age sidekicks was -- and remains, now in multiple incarnations -- Robin the Boy Wonder. Introduced in Detective Comics in April 1940 (his second appearance was in New York World’s Fair Comics #2, May 1940, which might have given him even wider exposure), Robin was a key component in National Periodicals, creator/artist Bob Kane, art assistant Jerry Robinson and writer Bill Finger’s campaign to ‘lighten up’ and legitimize the hardboiled pulp vigilantism of the original Batman. The addition of a sidekick and boy ward made Batman a more benevolent father figure, though the fact he constantly placed Robin in harm’s way as a core dynamic of their relationship was handily overlooked as a mitigating factor. Kane recalled, “I visualized that every kid would like to be a Robin... a laughing daredevil, free -- no school, no homework, living in a mansion above the Batcave, riding in the Batmobile. It appealed to the imagination of every kid in the world” (Benton, Superhero Comics of the Golden Age, 1992, pg. 70). Robinson adds, “Robin completed the basic cast, the basic appeal. He gave the kids a character they could directly relate to. A kid might imagine himself growing up to be the Batman, but in a realistic fantasy, he’d imagine himself meeting the Batman, helping him, like Robin” (Ibid.). Robin occasionally enjoyed solo stories in Detective Comics and Batman, and had a solo series in Star Spangled Comics (#65-130).

Actually, Robin wasn’t the first -- at almost precisely the same time, Carl Burgos’s Marvel Comics character The Human Torch found Toro, adopted by a traveling circus after his parents burned to death in a train accident; thereafter, the lad was inexplicably immune to flames and, more inexplicably, burst into flames he could eventually (with the Torch’s paternal guidance) control. Toro was unique among the sidekicks in that he eventually starred in his own comics (Young Allies -- more on this, below); good thing, too, since the Human Torch ditched Toro in the summer of ‘48 to take up with Sun Girl, only to have all his comics cancelled the following year.

Joe Simon and Jacob Kurtzberg, aka Jack Kirby -- one of Veitch’s greatest personal and artistic heroes, it’s essential to note -- had collaborated on the first issue of Captain Marvel Adventures for Fawcett (March 1941). Together, they created the patriotic hero Captain America and his sidekick Bucky for Martin Goldman, launching both characters together in the origin story that opened Captain America #1 (cover dated March 1941, but on newsstands December 1940). Bucky Barnes, “boy mascot of the regiment,” stumbled into Steve Rogers’ tent at an inopportune moment, catching sight of Rogers changing from his secret identity into Captain America (“You little rascal! I ought to tan your hide!... From now on we must both share this secret together... that means you’re my partner, Bucky!”). Simon named the character after a high school basketball friend, and was oft-quoted that he invented Bucky in order to give Cap “someone to talk to, so he wouldn’t be talking to himself.” Bucky proved himself an invaluable two-fisted compatriot from the start, and that first issue of Captain America innovatively invited reader to join “The Sentinels of Liberty,” a fan club that earned (with the mailing in of one dime) a shield-replica badge sporting images of Cap, Bucky and Cap’s girlfriend Betty Ross, and a membership card with the pledge the member will “uphold the principles of the Sentinels of Liberty and assist Captain America in war against spies in the U.S.A.”. Thus, a nation of sidekicks were spawned! Youngsters signed up by the thousands, flooding Goodman’s offices with reports of suspicious neighbors and family members (ominously echoed in Brat Pack via Cody turning in his parents to the Slumburg authorities), and the publisher was reportedly threatened by Nazi sympathizers.

Kirby brought fresh energy to the mix, having lived the life of an urban tough, growing up amid a scrappy, contentious Lower East Side neighborhood. Bucky was a fighter, more masculine in design and characterization than the oddly-garbed Robin, and consistently rendered with far more vigor and panel-busting vitality than the Boy Wonder -- that was Kirby’s doing. Kirby the boy had run with a street gang and learned to fight with his fists and his wits; his ever-fertile imagination and dedication to drawing were his ticket out. His first published comics work was for a boy’s club mimeographed newsletter (“Kurtzberg’s Konceptions” for the Boys’ Brotherhood Republic newsletter, 1933-35); no surprise, then, that Kirby had a major hand in launching many ‘boy gang’ comics, starting with the first of ‘em all the Young Allies (inspired, according to Simon, by the WW1 juvenile novel The Boy Allies). Bucky and Toro joined Captain America’s Sentinels of Liberty -- Knuckles (aka Percival O’Toole), Tubby Tinkle, Jeff Sandervilt and stereotypical black youngster Whitewash Jones -- as stars of Young Allies (20 issues, 1941-46) and featured series in Marvel Mystery Comics (#75-83), Mystic Comics (#1-2, 1944) and the one-shot Amazing Comics (1944) and Complete Comics (1944). The oddest of the Young Allies guest-gang-members was Subbie, a pint-sized Sub-Mariner who appeared with the Allies in Kid Komics (#1-2, 1943) before disappearing forever, never explained. Young Allies thrived and was the primary springboard for the whole phenomenon of super kid gangs. Bucky and Toro also joined their adult mentors in the All Winners Squad (in All Winner Comics #19 and 21, 1946), over four years after Simon and Kirby had left Goodman over Captain America royalty disputes. Sans Simon and Kirby, Captain America and Bucky continued their adventures under other creative hands until 1948, when Bucky was “scripted out” of the series and Betty Ross took his place as the costumed Golden Girl until the series ended in October 1949.

Before the kid gangs proliferated (back to them in a few paragraphs), Robin and Bucky’s example ruled the roost. Boy sidekicks were the status quo, usually wearing costumes replicating that of their adult mentor but a small mask, baring head and hair, to emphasize their youth and instantly differentiate them from the grown-up heroes at a glance or in silhouette. The hero/sidekick archetype dominated the superhero comics from 1940-49, and they were indeed legion -- the name combinations alone are intoxicating! C’mon, let’s get drunk:

If you thought you couldn’t get more all-American than Captain America and Bucky, think again: Will Eisner’s studio spun the famous James Montgomery Flagg WW1 recruitment poster into Uncle Sam and Buddy (for National Comics #1-45, 1940-45, and Uncle Sam Quarterly #1-8, 1941-43); Harry ‘A’ Chesler (the original mentor/patriarch of the Joe Kubert School when Veitch and I were part of the pioneer graduating class) had Yankee Doodle Jones and Dandy (in Yankee Comics #1-4, 1941-42, Dynamic Comics and Bulls-Eye Comics). The Green Mask aka Michael Shelby (introduced in Mystery Men Comics before headlining his own comic Green Mask #1-17, 1940-46) had “The Miracle Boy” Domino; in his second phase, 1944-46, the adult Green Mask was the super alter-ego of angry pre-teen Johnny Green. The green teams proliferated: Green Lantern had Doiby Dickles (All-American Comics, June 1941), Green Arrow had Speedy (debuting together in More Fun Comics #73, November 1941, and published uninterrupted into the 1960s, also joining the Seven Soldiers of Victory in Leading Comics #1-14, 1942-45), the Green Knight had the medieval-garbed Lance Cooper (Bulls-Eye Comics #11, 1944), and the Green Turtle had Burma Boy (in Blazing Comics #1-4, 1944-45; for more info, see below). There was the Bible-inspired Samson and the slingshot-wielding David (Fantastic Comics #1-23, 1939-41, and Samson #1-6, 1940-41), The Shield and “Boy Detective” Dusty in Pep Comics and Shield-Wizard Comics (1940), “The Dynamic Duo” Magno the Magnetic Man and Davey (1940), Hydroman and Rainbow Boy (Heroic Comics #1-29, 1940-44, with Jack Walton aka Rainbow Boy earning a solo back-feature in #14-20 and #25), the Human Meteor and the orphan shoeshine boy Toby (Champion Comics #6, 1940), Phantasmo and Whizzer McGee (The Funnies #45-63, 1940-42), The Dart and Ace the Amazing Boy (Weird Comics #5-20, 1940-42), and the revamped (second) Golden Age Sandman had Sandy Hawkins, the Golden Boy (Adventure Comics, December 1941), co-created by artist Chad Grothkopf and editor Whitney Ellsworth but famously delineated for the bulk of their run by Simon and Kirby. Amazing-Man (launched in 1939) had to wait two years before his costumed companion Tommy the Amazing Kick arrived (Amazing-Man Comics #23, August 1941).

Countless more popped out of the four-color pages: Tex Thomson aka Mr. America and Bob Daley aka Fat Man (Action Comics, 1941) became the Americommandos (1942), followed by The Eagle and Buddy (Science Comics, Weird Comics and The Eagle, 1940-42), The Lynx and Blacky the Mystery Boy (Mystery Men Comics #14-31, 1940-42), The Black Lion and Cub (Wonderworld Comics #21-27, 1940-41), The Black Fury and Chuck Marley (Fantastic Comics #17-23, 1941), Ed Herron and Joe Simon’s unemployed jack-of-all-trades vigilante Mr. Scarlet and Pinky (Wow Comics #1-69, 1940-48, Pinkey introduced Winter 1941), and Jack Cole gave The Silver Streak a teenage sidekick named Mickey O’Toole aka Mercury (Silver Streak Comics, June 1941 issue) aka Meteor, joined by their super-speed falcon mascot Whiz. There was The American Crusader and, uh, Mike (introduced in Thrilling Comics #21, 1941), the same title that featured Doctor Hugo Strange and, uh, Mike (yep, just “Mike” -- again -- Thrilling Comics #24-64, 1942-49), The Firebrand and Slugger Dunn (Police Comics #1-13, 1941-42), Dynamic Man and Dynamic Boy (Dynamic Comics #1-3, 8-24, 1941-48), Flag-Man and Rusty (Captain Aero Comics, April 1942), Captain Midnight and Ichabod Mudd aka Sargeant Twilight (Captian Midnight Comics, 1942-48), TNT and Dan the Dyna-Mite (Star Spangled Comics #7-23, 1942-45), The Sword and the Lance (introduced in Super-Mystery Comics #15, 1942), The Hooded Wasp and (choke) the Wasplet (Shadow Comics, July 1943), Airmale and Stampy (I am not making this up -- Prize Comics #34-43, Stampy was introduced in the December 1943 issue), Captain Wonder and Tim Mulrooney (Kid Komics #1-2, 1943), Nightmare and Sleepy (Clue Comics #1-15, 1943-44), Captain Red Blazer and Sparky (in All-New Comics #5-12, 1944-46), The Black Cobra and Kid Cobra (Dynamic Comics and Captain Flight Comics, 1944-47), Captain Wizard and Baldy Bean (Red Band Comics and Meteor Comics, both 1945),

Sometimes, one sidekick just isn’t enough. Pharmacist Bob Benton turned himself into The Black Terror and his teenage drugstore assistant Tim Roland into an identical replica of his super self, hammering the Axis as the Terror Twins (debuting in Exciting Comics #9, June 1941 and enduring -- in three titles -- until 1949). They weren’t the only ‘twins’: Yank and Doodle were genuine twin sons and sidekicks of the second Black Owl (the first signed up for the U.S. Army!), debuting as “America’s Fighting Twins” in Prize Comics #13 (August 1941) and finally learning the Black Owl was their dad (!) in the September 1944 issue; Military spy/metallurgist Niles Reed aka The Target worked with Dave and Tommy Reed, aka the Targeteers (Target Comics #11-103, 1941-49). There were plenty of goofy sidekicks, too: Paul Gustavson’s The Human Bomb had fellow human bomb Hustace Throckmorton (in Police Comics #1-58, 1941-46), the same comicbook in which Jack Cole gave Plastic Man the lumpy super-powered polka-dot wearing Woozy Winks (introduced in Police Comics, November 1942 issue and continuing into 1956 in Plastic Man), inspiring Steel Sterling (Man of Steel)’s duo Clancy and Looney (who were popular enough to score their own feature in Jackpot Comics, 1941-43) and the Flash’s annoying semi-sidekicks the Dimwits (Winky, Blinky and Noddy) had there own backup series (beginning in All-Flash #5, 1942) before they were eventually dumped from Flash’s adventures in 1947.

Then, there were the gangs and teams. Simon and Kirby launched the concept with Marvel’s Young Allies, but that was just the beginning. Boy Commandos were introduced in Detective Comics (June 1942) and continued in World’s Finest Comics (#8-41) before National Periodicals published their own title (36 issues, 1942-49). Simon and Kirby also created the Newsboy Legion (Tommy, Gabby, Scraper and Bigwords), who fought crime alongside the Guardian (whose alter-ego was policeman Jim Harper) in Star Spangled Comics (#7-64, 1942-?), and the Boy Explorers for Harvey after WW2, among others. Once Lev Gleason hired Charles Biro to script Daredevil, Biro softened the character’s origin and added the Little Wise Guys (in Daredevil #13, October 1942) -- Meatball, Scarecrow, Peewee and Jocko -- to fight crime; Biro shocked readers by killing Meatball soon afterward, replacing him with a street gang refugee named Curly. The Little Wise Guys outlasted Daredevil, who was retired from his own comic in 1950, leaving the comic to the gang for another six years. Along with the Young Allies, there were many other kid-hero teams: the Young Defenders were Slim, Lefty, Whitey (later replaced by the bald lad Beanie), and tomboy Joanie aiding Captain Freedom (in Speed Comics #13-44, 1941-47); the Boy Buddies (in Special Comics #1, 1941 and Hangman Comics #2-8, 1942-43) comprised of MLJ characters Dusty the Boy Detective from the Shield and Roy the Super Boy from the Wizard (from Top-Notch Comics #1-27, 1939-42, and Shield-Wizard Comics); the separated-at-birth twins Wally and Tom Danger aka The Danger Twins joined forces with buddies Derrick, Butch and Eagle to form the Tough Kid Squad (one issue, 1942); The Four Comrades (Pudge, Tip, Buzz and Tommy introed in Startling Comics #16, August 1942, thru #36); Little Boy Blue (Tommy Rogers, son of a District Attorney) and the Blue Boys (Tubby and Toughy, in Sensation Comics #1-34, 37-82, 1942-1949); the multi-ethnic Junior Rangers (in Headline Comics #1-21, 1943-46, their debut story co-starring the twin brother crime-fighters Yank and Doodle from Prize Comics); and more. Yes, more...
______________

OK, the rest comes when you buy Rick's new edition of Brat Pack, later this year.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, trust me -- I'm already at 18,000+ words, with two major sections not yet incorporated into the main document. We'll no doubt have to whittle this down to something publishable, but time will tell. Rick asked for both barrels and gave me carte blanch, so --

Well, have a super Saturday, sidekicks and sycopaths!

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6 Comments:

Blogger HemlockMan said...

It takes me about a week to produce 18K words when I'm working on a novel.

Hope the release of the new BP does well for Mr. Veitch.

1/19/2008  
Blogger Daniel Barlow said...

Holy shit ... this preview of the essay makes it look worth buying BP a second time.

1/19/2008  
Blogger SRBissette said...

Thanks, guys! Dan, it will most certainly be worth picking up, and Bob, I'm looking forward to writing more fiction this year. My word count is solid for non-fiction, but the research (which is admittedly great fun) so slows the process... such as it is.

1/20/2008  
Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Really enjoyed the excerpt, Steve, although I would take issue with the characterization of Arthur and Merlin as mentor and sidekick. That's really a more modern interpretation. While I stick mostly to using the eleventh century Arthurian histories (Geoffrey of Monmouth and Gerald of Wales) in my own teaching, even the later materials like Malory's versions don't follow that formulation, primarily because that romanticizing of childhood is really a nineteenth century development. Although nobles initially balk at following a boy-king, once they accept him it is as king, not boy. It was different for nobles than for the rest of us, as now. It's a complicated borderline between childhood and adulthood, as Nicholas Orme might argue:

medievals faced many of the same problems that we do today. For a large part of the period under review a boy could make a will and marry at 14 and inherit property at 21, but could not swear an oath until 12. He could be ordained to certain minor orders at seven, but could not enter major orders until 17, nor become a priest until 24. But he was criminally liable anywhere from 10 to 14. A girl's will was valid at 12, she was considered of age at 14 if married, and at 16 if unmarried. There were, therefore, and as we would expect, a number of legal ages in secular and ecclesiastical society which varied from place to place and from time to time.

1/21/2008  
Blogger Lady said...

I agree with K.A. Laity about the original conception of Arthur and Merlin, but I think their relationship is constantly being re-interpreted-- certainly the Disney Sword in the Stone influenced many generations.

This whole discussion reminds me of the wonderful section near the end of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay when Chabon talks about the sidekick-as-son/hero-as-father treatment.

1/22/2008  
Blogger ~ tOkKa said...

-->> ..there's a mouthful and a 1/2 ,..

** hoo-boy i gotta lotta catchin' up to do .. >v<

1/23/2008  

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