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Science Comics

Entry updated 16 January 2023. Tagged: Comics, Publication.

US Comic (1940). Fox Publications, Inc. Eight issues. Artists include Emil Gershwin, Jack Kirby, George Tuska and Bert Whitman. Seven comic strips and a two-page text story per issue, plus an occasional one-page strip of scientific facts.

There are seven series in each issue. The Eagle is a young Scientist who discovered an anti-gravitation fluid (see Gravity): when applied to artificial wings he can fly (see Flying) and battle evil, whether it be a gang of pickpockets or a giant amoeba (from #7 he lacks wings but is caped). Another Superhero is Dynamo (called Electro in #1 but renamed from #2): after leaping between two giant electrodes – to prevent them exploding by acting as a conductor – a young scientist is imbued with the power of electricity, which includes super strength and the ability to cut through steel (see Superpowers). He also invents a mind reading device (see Telepathy) and an "atom smasher": the latter is used on a piece of copper wire, giving it an explosive power that could wipe out cities; it is promptly stolen by a conspiracy that wants to destroy America. Cosmic Carson of the interplanetary patrol usually fights Aliens – such as the piratical fang men of Jupiter, whose leader jumps into a well of acid rather than be taken alive (and is not the only Carson Villain to choose Suicide). However, after volunteering to test a Time Machine he takes his Spaceship back into the distant past (see Time Travel): on seeing the Romans about to invade Britain (whose inhabitants invoke Thor and Wotan), he defeats them (given the year of publication, a World War Two analogy is presumably intended). Not dissimilar is Perisphere Payne, interplanetary explorer: he fights slavers and frustrates attempts to conquer the universe.

A woman is taken to Africa to be infused with panther blood by a mad "physiobiologist": he dies and she become Marga the Panther Woman, teaming up with futuristic aviator Ted Grant – after she decks one of his crewmates who gets too fresh ("What a dee-vine figure, and I don't mean numerals."). The pair fight villains such as an Ethiopian who wants to free Africa from the white man's yoke (see Imperialism), albeit to rule it himself. In #2 Marga's origin story changes and we are told she was "nursed by a pack of black panthers"; Ted disappears between #4-#7 and Marga becomes a straightforward jungle girl (see Sheena, Queen of the Jungle); when not fighting tigers or swinging lions by their tail her adventures include defeating a Mad Scientist who transplants wings onto transformed animals and tries to do the same with Marga. Another series features evil scientist Dr Doom: he is regularly foiled by Wanda and Jan, who are in six stories (on each of their first three appearances they are shrunk – see Miniaturization). Dr Doom variously tries to shrink one of Jupiter's cities, become dictator of the world, send the Earth into the Sun – and destroy "the Earth's magnetic field directly above the [Grand] Canyon ... letting in a flood of low energy cosmic rays that can turn life back millions of years" (see Devolution). The seventh series concerns Navy Jones, a sailor rescued by fish people, whose king performs surgery turning him into a water breather. Jones becomes the king's adviser, having Under the Sea adventures include battling a jealous prime minister, shark-men and sea Monsters. Captain Nemo (see Jules Verne) turns up in three stories ("Long ago a Roman galley with a map of Atlantis sank here! I'm looking for it!").

Though each serial has its own author, they are House Names: the actual artists/writers vary, leading to a great deal of inconsistency in art style, character and setting. The first few covers are good, but the interior artwork is usually either poor or bad and the plots no better. Far and away the best strip is the Cosmic Carson story in #4 – in both story and, particularly, art (an early Jack Kirby work). Here Carson teams up with the female pirate Elramis to battle the rogue Saturnian trader Iako; frustratingly it ends on a cliffhanger, with a promise to be continued next issue. It is not. Though poor, the earlier Perisphere Payne art does occasionally attempt interesting perspectives and designs. Marga seems to be the first jungle woman in comics after the aforementioned Sheena. When Science Comics ceased publication The Eagle (caped version, and now with a young sidekick, Buddy), Marga, Dynamo and (for two stories only) Navy Jones jumped ship to Weird Comics (first appearing in issue #8). [SP]


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