Target Comics Vol.1 #1 (Feb. 1940, Novelty Press) - Higrass Twins (4 pages, Cole story and art)
Target Comics Vol.1 #2 (March 1940, Novelty Press) - Higrass Twins (4 pages, Cole story and art)
Target Comics Vol.1 #4 (May 1940, Novelty Press) - Higrass Twins ( 3 pages, Cole story and art)
In the first four issues of Novelty Press' long-running Target Comics, Jack Cole contributed a wacky humorous filler he called THE HIGRASS TWINS. Here, we present the stories from issues 1, 2, and 4. If anyone should happen to find Cole's story from Target Comics Vol. 1 #3, please email me and I'll post it on this blog.
Cole's work on The Higrass Twins is slapdash, but also brilliant and funny. The setting and characters are drawn on the folk stereotypes of rural country people sometimes called "hillbillies." Cole's ear for dialogue is especially keen and funny here with such words as "fokes" (folks), "thut" (that), and "we-uns." In one memorable piece of dialogue, one of the twins says "Thuh nerve uv some polepussys!!" (polecats).
Jack Cole was in good company in Target Comics. These early issues of Target Comics also featured a western hero by Bill Everett, a creepy superhero by Carl Burgos, and an eclectic mix of subjects into which Cole's hillbilly stories seemed to be just another part of a patchwork quilt of concepts. Later issues of Target Comics would feature Basil Wolverton's brilliant SPACEHAWK stories.
Cole must have thought hillbillies were funny, because he used the setting in several Plastic Man stories, and drew most of the 1-pager fillers of the hillybilly-themed SLAP-HAPPY PAPPY in Quality's Crack Comics (although his friend Gil Fox created the character, and authored the first few stories).
In the sadly long-out-of-print History of Comics, Volume 2 (1972), Jim Steranko devoted an entire chapter to Jack Cole. It remains one of the most well-researched and detailed pieces on Cole. In this essay, Steranko, referring to the character of Woozy Winks, writes "Here was Cole as he felt others saw him: an unsophisticated, foot-shuffling country yokel..."
I think, in the Higrass Twins stories, Cole is traveling the same psychological territory. He invites us to chuckle at the coarse ways and ignorant misunderstandings of the backwoods bumpkins in this series, and -- a small towner hustling in the big city, himself -- he makes sure the twins win out in the end.
The first story, from Target Comics Vol. 1 #1 (Feb. 1940) centers on the infantalism of adults (something that I now know some adults find fetishistic sexual pleasure in, thanks to the Internet!). The twins are brought by competing storks (shades of George Herriman) and mature into full-grown adult men, but are duped into believing they are still infants by their hillbilly parents. One day, Pappy decides to play a grand joke on the twins and tell them they are grown up. Maw gets so mad, she then diapers and infantilizes the grey-bearded pappy!
The second Higrass Twins story, from Target Comics Vol. 1 #2 (March 1940) story plays off the idea that drinking moonshine will make you see double.
Our third Higrass Twins story (the fourth and last Cole did) is from Target Comics Vol. 1 #4 (May 1940). I was particularly excited to find this story, as it is an outstanding example of Cole's fascinating face-changing theme (see the first posting on this blog, "The Eel-Like Slipperiness of Identity"). The last two pages are filled with Cole's trademark furious windmill hand movements that miraculously result in the re-arrangement of facial features. It's funny that the twins remain twins, even when their faces are changed!