Tuesday, April 22, 2014

T is for T.N.T.

When the United States government was recruiting scientists to work on the Manhattan Project, they overlooked one of the most brilliant nuclear scientists to ever live. Not only did Treve N. Thorndyke manage to split the atom in his personal workshop (while avoiding killing himself in the process), he also managed to invent an "atom gun" that was far more surgical in its killing capacity than any other atomic weapon devised by humanity. Thankfully, Thornedyke chose to use his invention for good rather than evil, putting on a mask and cape and joining the superhero set as T.N.T.

T.N.T. made his one-and-lonly appearance in the pages of Amazing Man Comics #21. Published by Centaur with a cover date of March 1941, this series was the most successful of all the titles featuring creations from the studios run by Harry "A" Chesler, and it was a treasure trove of exciting and bizarre comic book heroes--the strangest of which being Mighty Man, who is best described as a cross between Paul Bunyan, Hercules, and Plastic Man. (I'm going to be putting a book or two together of Mighty Man's weirdest adventures at some point.)

T.N.T. is one of artist Dan Gormley's first published professional works; Chesler and his editors had a great eye for talented artists and they gave many industry giants their first paying comics gigs... including Joe Kubert, who swept up around the studio as a young boy while getting pointers from the artists as they labored over their drawingboards. By mid-1941, Gormley was a staff artist at Dell/Western, and he would eventually become one of the premiere illustrators of children's comics.

As for T.N.T., although his one appearance ends with a great set-up for future adventures--he's wanted by both the law AND the underworld--he was never heard from again. We will rectify that ever-so-slightly, as he is slated to join the Science Sleuths line-up of characters. Look for him in Issue #6 in a couple of months, where he'll be featured in an all-new roleplaying game adventure!

Monday, April 21, 2014

S is for the Sword

By 1941, it was obvious to all comics publishers that masks and capes is what the readers wanted. A flood of costumed superheroes swept onto the newsstands, and even some established characters took to wearing costumes, such as Quality's crusading crime-beat reporter Chic Carter.

In Smash Comics #24, Carter was framed for murder, so he adopted a costumed identity to clear his name. When his series moved to Quality Comics' new title Police Comics (which featured such soon-to-be legendary characters as Plastic Man) he continued to operate as the Sword.

Carter's masked mystery man phase was very short-lived, however. By Police Comics #5, Carter hung up his cape for good, making the Sword's career a total of four adventures before Carter hung up his cape and went back to his standard issue blue suit and fedora. The real-world reason was that series writer/artist Vern Henkel had no interest in superhoes. The in-world reason for Carter giving up the mask is probably found in the last panel of the story from Police Comics #3:

That smart cookie is Gay Nolan, Carter's co-worker and girlfriend. In that panel, she proved herself to be smarter than 98% of all comic book lead and supporting characters.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Marking 4/20: Chic Carter Takes Down the Marijuana Ring

Two-fisted, pistol-packing investigative reporter Chic Carter set out to protect America's youth from the Devil Weed in issue #8 of Smash Comics, originally published in 1940. Read this story carefully, take it to heart! Click on the individual pages for larger, more legible versions.

You can carry Chic's crusade for truth and justice in ROLF!: The Rollplaying Game of Big Dumb Fighters by using these pre-generated characters:

Brawn 20, Body 14 (Includes +1 Hat Bonus), Brains 5
   Traits: Honorable, Short-tempered
   Combat Maneuvers: Basic Attack, Dodge, Murderous Mitts,  Seduce, Walk and Chew Gum
   Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Fedora (Hat, +1 to Body ATT when worn). Nice Suit (Clothes). .45 Colt Automatic (Small Ranged Weapon, deals 2 points that ignore Armor).

MARY NEEL (Female)
Brawn 14, Body 12, Brains 4
   Traits: Improv Master, Left-handed
   Combat Maneuvers: Basic Attack, Disarm, Dodge, Strategic Bleeding
  Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Fashionable Dress (Clothes).

Brawn 11, Body 10, Brains 3
   Traits: Coldblooded, Improv Master
   Combat Maneuvers: Basic Attack, Dodge. Knock Out
   Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Pistol (Small Ranged Weapon, deals 2 points of damage that ignore armor) OR Tommy Gun (Large Ranged Weapon, deals 4 points of damage that ignore armor).

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Q is for Quicken

There is only one character I could find that fits the theme of this series whose name starts with "Q" -- and that would be the Queen of Evil. Using her would not only be more than just a little bit of a cheat, since her actual name is Nagana. There's also the added problem that I already wrote about her in the next material included in John Kerry vs. the Queen of Evil,

So, instead, I'm going to add another talent tree to the OGL d20 System that was introduced on this very blog, and the basics of which was published in their entirety in Madden's Boys.

   Prerequisite: Any one Minor Power feat
   Fast Acting: You gain a +2 bonus to all initiative rolls.
   Fast Moving: You gain a +2 bonus to all Sleight of Hand checks, as well as a +2 bonus to Defense Rating if not caught flat-footed.
   Prerequisite: Fast Acting
   Fast Working: You can complete any skill that normally takes more than one round in half the time without suffering any penalties.

Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Penny Parker

Penny Parker is a child of wealth and privilege whom readers are introduced to when she rebels against her parents insistence that she honor the traditions of her social class by taking part in a debutante ball. The sixteen year-old girl gives in, but decides to show everyone up by bringing her rough-edged boxing instructor to the ball as her escort. In the process, she ends up stopping a jewel heist. Fueled by her success as a detective, and rebellious teenage impulses, Penny sets herself up in her own detective agency and starts solving crime among the upper classes.

Penny Parker and her First World Problems.

"Penny Parker" was a series aimed squarely at girl comics readers, and it is an example of strips that were more common than people assume. I find Penny particularly interesting, because she reminds me of another of my long-time favorite forgotten girl detectives--Violet Strange. Like Penny, Violet was a young woman who rebelled against her social status by solving crimes... but, unlike Penny, Violet hid her activities from her parents by operating secretly through a detective agency.

Penny appeared in issues 13 - 15 of MLJ's Blue Ribbon Comics, all published in 1941, solving mysteries and catching killers and stopping crimes at genteel parties and country clubs. Her creators remain lost to history, although some sources credit Irv Novick with the art on the series. I don't see his hand, though, and I think the attribution is based on an incorrect assumption about the signature "Irving" on the episodes.

Penny Parker will co-star with Kismet (the first Muslim superhero) in the next issue of NUELOW Games' Complete Golden Age Oddballs.

In the meantime, here's Penny ala ROLF!:

Penny Parker (Female)
Brawn 17, Body 15, Brains 8
   Traits: Nimble
   Combat Maneuvers: Basic attack, Castrate, Debate Philosophy, Dodge, Knock Out, Murderous Mitts, Strike Pose, Walk and Chew Gum
   Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Fashionable Dress (Clothes) OR Boxing Togs (Clothes, barely covers nakedness).

Thursday, April 17, 2014

O is for the Owl

The Owl is second creation of cartoonish Martin Filchock to be featured on this trip through the alphabet by way of obscure Golden Age comic book characters, with the previous one being Electric Ray.

The world gets its first look at the Owl! From Funny Pages #1 (vol. 4)
The Owl is a young librarian named Jack who uses the hi-tech  flying suit to take revenge against the crimnals who crippled his father. The suit gives him the ability to fly "faster than an airship" and to communicate with his father via radio.

Like all of Flichock's creations, there is a quirky feel of off-centeredness--while reading, one is never quite sure if the story is to be taken seriously or is a clever bit of comedy.His most successful and longest-lived Golden Age superhero strip was Cenatur's Mighty Man (lasting from issues 5 - 25 of Amazing Man) which most was an obvious comedic take on superheroes Filchock was a celebrated cartoonist and yhumorist, who continued working and publishing right up until his death in 2012, so maybe he couldn't stop kidding around even when drawing and writing superheroes.

The Owl's solitary flight will be presented in a future issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

N is for Numa

While that may be Tarzan-ese for "Lion," the Numa being referred to here is perhaps the most obscure and short-lived Golden Age of Comics character that will be touched upon in this series of posts.

Numa to the rescue. Art by A.C. Hollingsworth
Numa was a busty, scantily clad jungle girl who used her vine-swinging talents and Judo mastery to right wrongs in the Congo. In her single two-page adventure, she rescued another white jungle-dwelling girl from being sacrificed to dark gods while exposing a pair of blasphemous thieves. Her story was published under the heading "Jungle Fables" in Rulah Jungle Goddess #18 from Fox Features Syndicate. Like Numa, that was the only time a Jungle Fable appeared in any Fox title, and I don't think the editors at Fox knew the meaning of the word "fable."

We are currently planning on including Numa's adventure in the soon-to-be-released Judy of the Jungle: Warriors of the Laughing Hyena. Numa's adventure was illustrated by A.C. Hollingsworth, one of the earliest African American artists to work for mainstream comic book packagers and publishers. Hollingsworth later went onto become a civil rights activist. (NUELOW Games as previously featured his work on the Purple Tigress, another strip from Fox Features Syndicate that we included in the first issue of Complete Golden Age Oddballs. (And if we end up not including her in the Judy of the Jungle book, Numa will show up with other Oddballs in a future issue of that series.)

Just for fun, here's Numa in the ROLF! game system.

NUMA (Female)
Brawn 18, Body 18, Brains 5
Traits: Busty, Martial Artist, Nimble
Combat Maneuvers: Backflip, Murderous Mitts, Signature Move, Strike Pose
Important Stuff Worn/Wielded: Fur Bikini (Clothes, barely covers nakedness). Large Knife (Melee Weapon OR One-shot Ranged Weapon. Deals 2 points of damage.)