Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Timely War!

Timely Comics sure lived up its name. The stories and yarns contained in Marvel Firsts: WWII Super Heroes are of the moment, if that moment is the late 30's and early 40's. Marvel (or Timely if you will) bursts onto the comics scene quite literally with Marvel Comcs #1 featuring a demonic looking rendition of the Human Torch. Included in that momentous debut was also the Sub-Mariner and lesser lights like The Angel, Ka-zar, Masked Rider and others. With these and other creations from the Loyd Jacquet studio which had such talents as Carl Burgos and Bill Everett,  With titles like Daring and Mystic Martin Goodman found a toehold in the burgeoning comic book market which had exploded when a certain gentleman from Krypton landed on Earth. Superheroes were the order of the day, but masked vigilantes with a decidedly pulp flavor. The aforementioned Angel was a spin on The Saint despite the bright blue costume, The Fiery Mask battled zombies in his lurid origin story, and Breeze Barton found a lost land hidden between dimensions.

The creativity was strong in many of these stories, but sometimes the craftsmanship was wanting. Primitive is one way to describe the artwork on strips like Blue Blaze and The Falcon, but fascinatingly incompetent might cover the work on The Patriot. The latter is a strip so lame in its presentation that it's no wonder anyone might imagine they could do comics. Alongside these efforts were truly stylistic offerings such as Flexo, the Fin, and Blazing Skull. The war is central to the stories here and heroes like The Destroyer, the Defender, and most famously Joe Simon and Jack Kirby's Captain America are products of that war. This volume is a raucous collection of stories which showcase heroes with simple moral codes and villains who are easy to spot due to the rank racism which infused itself in pop culture of the time. Young Allies even takes that unfortunate aspect and uses it to give us arguably Marvel 's most regrettable character, Whitewash Jones. But I'm a guy who reads stuff in its context, or tries to, and seen as historical documents of a kind, these fast-paced yarns are not only diverting but enlightening. Seeing how we were can help us all to be better.

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