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Weird Comics

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

US Comic (1940-1942). Fox Publications, Inc. Twenty issues. Artists include Louis Cazeneuve, Dan Gormley and Don Rico. Seven or eight comic strips and a two-page text story in most issues. Weird Comics ran several series, each with its own creator – but these were House Names, the actual artists and writers would change, often leading to inconsistencies in art style, character, origin stories and setting.

Issue #1 opens with Grant Farrel considering Suicide after his girlfriend, complaining of his unadventurous spirit, walks off with another man: Thor then appears, taking Grant to Valhalla where he is given the god's abilities and his magical hammer, to become Thor, God of Thunder (though the real Thor still exists separately). Apart from one Mad Scientist his adventures are fairly mundane. Next up is the Sorceress of Zoom, ruler of the city of Zoom, whose citizens are corpses she has turned into Monsters. The city travels on a cloud, often settling by a town so the sorceress can demand slaves. These stories are usually Fantasy, but there are occasional sf elements: a defiant Prince builds a plane carrying a giant propeller that cools Zoom's cloud, turning it into rain; she battles a "super Scientist" and also turns a lump of rock into a Robot. The time period is vague, but on one occasion she uses Magic to Time Travel, taking her city back to the era of King Arthur. Initially evil, she becomes more ambivalent as the series progresses – though her habit of kidnapping men she fancies does not stop (a running gag has stories often closing with the girlfriend saying how horrible the Sorceress is, and the man responding along the lines of "oh, she's not so bad"). Blast Bennett and his inept young assistant Red seek adventure in their Spaceship, doing good deeds and combating space pirates. Their adventures are not particularly interesting and the genre elements decrease as the series progresses. Scientist Dr Mortal creates "inhuman monstrosities" such as lion men, a "semi-mechanical automaton" (see Cyborgs) and ape men (see Apes as Human); he transfers old men's minds into younger bodies for cash (see Identity Transfer) and builds a mind-reading device (see Psionics). Initially the doctor's evilness fluctuated, but eventually he became consistently malign and unimaginative, repeatedly creating humanoid Monsters to perform robberies. Doctor Bob Warren travels to Haiti to study voodoo and finds himself in conflict with the evil Voodoo Man and his Zombies (in one tale a good Voodoo priest helps the doctor). Bird Man, a descendant of an ancient Indian god, can fly, bringing justice to New Mexico – including fighting giant lizards. Initially patrolling the desert, in #4 he becomes a city dweller (though still an Indian). Typhon is the captain of a super-submarine, which can reach depths Under the Sea never achieved before. He "battles with weird unnatural monsters" such as the Kraken, plus underwater tyrants including Neptune and his mermen: bizarrely, Neptune drowns. Up until #6 there's also Solar Plexus, Interplanetary Messenger – a self explanatory and unfunny two-page Humour strip.

In #5 Bird Man is replaced by the Superhero The Dart: ancient Roman Caius Martius flies (or darts) through the air, fighting that era's racketeers – they respond by kidnapping him then, using occult powers, dissolve his body into rock, to sleep for 2200 years ... whereupon, in a modern American museum, he reforms and awakens. Donning a costume, he again fights racketeers; despite his origins the adventures are usually non-genre, though a "super-cosmic bolt gun" is used against him at one point. In #6 the Thor God of Thunder strip is replaced by Dynamite Thor, who is Peter Thor, a wealthy mine owner that uses his "expert knowledge of high explosives to rid the world of organized crime". When Science Comics ceased publication four of its strips – Dynamo, Marga the Panther Woman, The Eagle and Navy Jones – migrated to Weird Comics beginning with issue #8, elbowing out Voodoo Man, Typhon and Dynamite Thor, though Navy Jones only appears in #8 and #10. In #17 Dr Mortal is replaced by the non-genre Black Rider, a crime-fighting man on a horse, and Swoop Curtis, an American pilot who joins the RAF. (see World War Two). The final issue drops Dynamo and introduces The Rapier – in fact Cyrano de Bergerac, who is given an elixir after a Parisian flowerpot falls on his head; it seems not to work and he dies, only to wake up in 1941 (see Suspended Animation) where he fights Nazis.

Never overly weird, the comic became even less so as its run progressed, with an increasing focus on fighting gangsters and Nazis. Most characters, good or evil, are unmemorable (Caius Martius may be an ancient Roman displaced to the twentieth century, but his culture shock only lasts a few panels); Bird Man, the Sorceress of Zoom and the early Dr Mortal are the most interesting – though Marga does club a man with a crocodile at one point and Typhon has its pleasingly absurd moments. [SP]


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