Saturday, April 25, 2015

Stuntman - Split-Second Action Take Three!

The third issue of Stuntman came out and it didn't. The series was cancelled with the second issue, but a third was published (sort of) in black and white and mailed out to subscribers. That issue featured one sole Stuntman story. The original unused cover art can be seen in the ad above and in a revised form as the cover for Joe Simon's The Comic Book Makers.

"Rest Camp for Criminals" begins with the Stuntman gang of Don Daring, Sandra Sylvan and Fred Drake doing research on the old west for a possible script. They are looking particular for a story about the scar-faced outlaw Windy Hill who supposedly lived in a town called Roaring Gulch. The gang head there for more details not knowing that the near ghost town is actually a rehab for mobsters who have lost their edge and need some re-training to become functioning thugs once again. But soon enough they stumble on the truth and Stuntman (Fred Drake) must don his costume and save the day with wild fisticuffs.

This story was ultimately published in color in the thirty-ninth issue of  Harvey's Green Hornet Fights Crime.

Harvey also published another remaining Stuntman story in the thirteenth  issue of All-New Comics.

"The Diamond's Curse" begins with Fred Drake, Don Daring, and Sandra Sylvan all at a party at the home of Adele Hoppat who famously owns the "Hoppat Diamond" and is having the party to celebrate the completion of her fancy new fish pond. But villains are in the shadows and soon robbery is afoot as Stuntman dons his costume to rescue Sandra who was kidnapped by the thugs as they attempted to speed away by car. He does so, but a ferocious crash kills the hoodlums and despite that the diamond still is missing. Don Daring investigates of course and suspects Banker Burns to whom Hoppat owes a great deal of money. The fish pond becomes an item of interest and when Sandra naively catches a rare fish for dinner the diamond turns up in its stomach. But things are not what they seem still and Stuntman must still make an appearance to save the day.

A fourth issue of Stuntman must have been underway since so much artwork exists of unpublished stories. The art above appears to a cover for issue four (some sources say the second issue), but the story doesn't seem to connect any existing material.

Some of the greatest and most tantalizing Stuntman artwork was discovered in 1980 and existed for many years only in the personal collection of Joe Simon. One example is this utterly fantastic two-page spread for a story featuring "The Panda". Love to have read that one.

Here's an ad with a smidgeon more on the character. 

Likewise this story titled "The Evil Sons of M. LeBlanc" seemed exciting. Looks like some great derring-do by the whole Stuntman gang.

This artwork (in magnificent color) made the cut into the Titan reprint volume which I've been using for these reviews. Likewise is complete but largely un-inked unpublished story "Stuntman Crowns a Jungle Lord" to the African jungle to film a movie. They quickly run up against dangerous cannibals but press ahead nonetheless. The film is not successful because of Don Daring's less than convincing portrayal and the antics of Ozzie Meeker who wants the role for himself. Ultimately Stuntman must put in an appearance to fend off dangerous African animals including a leopard and a gorilla.

There is one more Stuntman tale that got published, a two-page text piece which showed up without notice or fanfare in, of all places, the ninth issue of the highly successful Joe Palooka comic. Not at all sure who the author might've been. I suspect it was not Joe Simon nor was it Jack Kirby.

And that was that.

Stuntman, for all his brief glory has long taken his place among the great creations of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby -- the only costumed hero they created for an entire decade, from 1942 (Golden Guardian) to 1953 (Captain 3-D). The lighthearted tone of the stories offers a nice reprieve from the density of many of comics great characters who are often dealing with mighty weighty things. Simon and Kirby characters smile an awful lot, showing that while they are most often dealing with danger they nonetheless enjoy the thrills and life itself. A good lesson for us all, fight the good fight, but don't forget to grin from time to time.

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  1. Isn't it strange that some of Simon & Kirby's best remembered characters didn't quite make it? Fighting American, Boys' Ranch, Stuntman - and no doubt there are others. Curious that what were considered failures at the time can so enhance their reputation. Great images, Rip.

    1. The sense I get reading about the era is that not unlike today, the quality of the material was less important than access to the marketplace. There was just not room enough on the stands for the product and a lot of it was never displayed. But then quality doesn't always match marketplace success, just ask Rob Liefeld fans.

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  2. So strange that they didnt get all the stories that were done published as back-ups. They got the one in Green Hornet. What happened?

    1. It is strange that it didn't eventually all get printed. A lot of it was unfinished in some way, so maybe they simply did not want to put another dime into it.

      It's always a bit strange what's sitting in a drawer somewhere.

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