Aug 12, 2011

Midnight Episode 7 (second run) – Jack Cole subverts the boxing story


Smash Comics 74 cover Jack Cole Midnight  Story this post:

“Masked Mayhem” (my title)
Story and art by Jack Cole

Smash Comics #74
(Quality Comics Group
Dec, 1947)

Left: Cover by Jack Cole



For such a seemingly mild-mannered guy, Jack Cole was pretty subversive in his creative expression. He not only pushed the form of comics into new directions, he also pushed the content of comic books in the 1940’s.

His greatest creation, PLASTIC MAN, was itself a parody of the super-hero genre that defied the story-forms conventions and moral standards. Plastic Man started out as a crook and, for his first dozen or so adventures, kept functioning as a crook – breaking the law with a jester’s playfulness while he also saved the day as Plastic Man. When you think about it, these stories turned the hero concept inside out, which may be part of the unique appeal of the series.

In his seventh MIDNIGHT story in his second run on the series, Cole subverts the classic boxing/fight story-form. The boxing movie has been a Hollywood staple for over 50 years, with films like Raging Bull, Million Dollar Baby, and most recently The Fighter.  In 1947, the year Cole wrote and drew this story,one of the big hit movies was Body and Soul, starring John Garfield (pictured left). In the film, Garfield becomes involved with fight promoters who are crooked and corrupt. Ernest Hemmingway wrote about rigged fights in his great 1927 short story, “The Killers,” which has been adapted into a movie four different times (so far).

By 1947, the story-form of the rigged fight was predictable enough that Cole could parody it in his Midnight story. No doubt, Cole was inspired by the great work E.C. Segar did in Popeye with his numerous parodies of boxing matches and fights. He starts the story with a comic reversal, showing a man with a massive, rugged fighter’s body and the sensitivity of a child…

Smash Comics 74-03 Smash Comics 74-04 Smash Comics 74-05 Smash Comics 74-06 Smash Comics 74-07 Smash Comics 74-08 Smash Comics 74-09Smash Comics 74-13 Smash Comics 74-10 Smash Comics 74-11 Smash Comics 74-12

Cole ends the story on a subversive note, with our hero, Midnight, actually holding up the crooks at gunpoint!

It is also of passing interest to note that this story is also yet another in a long series of Jack Cole stories that play with the concept of shapeshifting…. in this story, Midnight is almost interchangeable for Plastic Man in his ability to change his appearance.

Sadly, like many of the later Midnight stories, there seems to be something lacking in the energy of the story. Still, the art is terrific and the storytelling is masterful. Check out this lovely panel from page six that features a classic Jack Cole city scene:

Smash 74 Jack Cole Midnight call out 1

Vol1Midnight_01  Only $2.99
The Complete Midnight! by Jack Cole - Volume One: 1941
A handsomely designed 102- page ebook in .cbr format featuring the first 12 Midnight stories, exhaustive notes by Cole scholar Paul Tumey, and 3 BONUS Jack Cole stories!



As a way to support this blog and distribute this great work, I am offering for a limited time a nice little ebook I’ve made called The Complete Midnight by Jack Cole: Volume 1 – 1941 for $2.99. This is a great way to support this blog.


The book includes Cole’s first 12 MIDNIGHT stories, pages of notes and analysis written by me – Paul Tumey, and additional bonus material, including his wonderful single Quicksilver story from 1941. I have carefully restored the pages and put it all into an attractive unified format with archival notation and quality. I think that this is probably the best digital representation of this classic work available at this time.

Please note: Orders filled within 24 hours. Because this file is large, it is necessary for me to email you the file myself in order to avoid costly storage and data transfer charges. This keeps the price very low for you, but please be patient as I will need to check email and fill orders manually. Thanks a million for supporting this blog!

This is a great way to support this blog and get some great reading for cheap!

Aug 6, 2011

A Million Years Before Jack Cole's Playboy Comics - Dickie Dean and the Time Camera (1941)

Story presented in this post:
Dickie Dean (story, pencils, inks, and lettering by Jack Cole)
Silver Streak Comics #10 (May,1941 - Lev Gleason)

The Complete Jack Cole Dickie Dean Stories
A 73-page .cbr format eBook featuring all eight of Jack Cole’s haunting and darkly poetic Dickie Dean stories. Includes Cole's Silver Streak Covers!
ONLY $1.99 – Buy now and support Cole’s Comics!

Please note: Orders filled within 24 hours. Because this file is large, it is necessary for me to email you the file myself in order to avoid costly storage and data transfer charges. This keeps the price very low for you, but please be patient as I will need to check email and fill orders manually. Thanks a million for supporting this blog!
Long before he became Playboy’s first premiere cartoonist and comic artist, Jack Cole started out in the four-color world of comic books. Most famous for creating Plastic Man, Cole also created numerous comic book series that are all but forgotten today. One of my personal favorites is DICKIE DEAN, BOY INVENTOR, which appeared in Silver Streak Comics. DICKIE DEAN sprang from Jack Cole’s own boyhood, in which he invented various gadgets, including a way to listen in on his big sister’s romantic phone calls. As you can see in the first 3 Dickie Dean stories (published in this blog, with commentary here), Cole started the series out in his hometown of New Castle, Pennsylvania.

Here, we present Jack Cole’s final Dickie Dean story, a wild, surreal crime story in which the past overshadows the present until Dickie’s time camera invention reveals the truth.

At it’s best, Jack Cole’s early work had a poetic, winsome quality, and was as bizarre as it gets. This was never more so than in his Dickie Dean stories, which were very likely fueled by melancholy memories of his childhood, contrasted with fantasies of what it could have been. Here, Dickie has a camera that looks into the past. In the first Dickie Dean story (you can read it here), he invents a similar device that reveals past crimes. The criminal's advantage? He removed his hair by electrolysis. Was any early comic book series ever more prosaic?

Cole gets a lot of mileage from Dickie’s sidekick comic relief character in this story, Zip, who at times prefigures the creation of his finest character, Woozy Winks, Plastic Man’s sidekick.
The art in this story is rushed, but still has moments of storytelling brilliance. Look at the bottom tier on the first page and see how Cole creates a sweeping cinematic camera movement from right to left and then into the sky.

One of the hallmarks of Cole’s imagery and storytelling is his gift for putting speed on paper. This story contains an early, iconic image of a car zooming into action in the climactic last page of the story.

On page one, Cole zoomed us into the air high above the characters, and on the last page, he shoots the speeding automobile from below. We see this image time and again in Cole’s early and mid-career comic book stories. Cole was an early master of dynamic “camera angles.”

The panel in this story also includes perhaps the first image of skyscrapers framed by a big yellow full moon. Cole was also quite fond using “celestial circles” as design elements in his early work. In fact, I’ve identified this as a “Cole-ism,” and one way to spot Jack Cole’s unsigned work. For more Cole-isms, see my article here.

Cole left his beloved creation behind when he joined Quality Comics and soon created Plastic Man, a series which owes much to Dickie Dean. Apparently, the publisher saw a lot of potential in the series. Lev Gleason published numerous Dickie Dean stories in Silver Streak 11-21, and Daredevil 1, 12-41. Some of the stories were drawn the Archie comics master, Bob Montana. Here's a delightful, patriotic 2-pager, "The Defense Bond Machine," by Bob Montana that first ran in Crime Does Not Pay #22 (July, 1942 - Dickie's only appearance in this title). I think it captures the spirit of Cole creation, showing that Montana was one of the very few people who could take a Cole creation and do it justice:

All text copyright 2011 Paul Tumey
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