Thursday, May 05, 2016

BOOK REVIEW! THE MIDNIGHT COLLECTION - PT. 1 by Jack Cole (Classic Comics Library, 2016)

One of my bigger dreams in life (but not biggest, as if that'll ever happen!) has just come true, for like outta NOWHERE the entire run of Jack "PLASTIC MAN" Cole's MIDNIGHT has been reissued in book form and boy am I one happy blogger because of it! Taken directly, and I do mean it literally given the source material, from the pages of SMASH comics (the long-lived Quality Comics title which featured, besides Midnight, other Golden Age faves like the Ray and Bozo the Robot), the entire run of this masked hero's endeavors is now available for a rabid audience who has been drooling for a book like this for quite some time but given how bad some of these reprint collections have been selling well... And you can bet that if you were one of those Saturday afternoon barbershop kids in the early-seventies who used to gobble up the 25-cent DC reissues and found the additional Golden Age reprints more enticing than the new stories to be found therein well then man, it's time to osmose your inner adolescent again and while you're at it go to the corner grocery store and pick up some orange drink and sour cream and onion potato chips in order to boost the suburban slob effect!

Quality was always good for popping out these masked avengers who romped around in stylish 1940s suits and masks, doing so usually far away from the eye of the law which usually frowns on such vigilante behavior even if they never really did much to stop it. Besides Quality's #1 masked hero the Spirit there were also the Clock, 711, the Mouthpiece and of course Midnight, the last 'un a top on the already top-notch Quality list if only because of Cole's jamming all of those crazy little twists and turns into the sagas that made PLASTIC MAN so unique and MIDNIGHT rather hotcha in itself.

If there seemed to be a bit of a professionalism to THE SPIRIT that didn't seem right and proper for a comic book story there was a looniness to MIDNIGHT that made that 'un stand out from the rest of the crimefighting mass, what with such decidedly non-Eisneresque characters as Gabby the talking monkey and the frazzled old inventor Doc Wackey who you'd never see pop up in a SPIRIT saga in a millyun years!

Not that MIDNIGHT was strictly played for the usual anti-innerlektual laughs so common in the comics realm. Like PLASTIC MAN there was a strong brutality throughout like in the one where dreaded criminal Liver-Lip McGaw forces otherwise innocent beings into his plots by showing them films of him murdering little children by holding 'em by the hair and shooting 'em through the torso! But don't let that get you down for the hands of pre-Code justice work nice and swift here too. Take that little heart-warmer where the evil orphanage owner who was starving the usually comic-book-styled scrappy boys to the brink of exhaustion decides to burn down his well-insured hovel to collect on the insurance money. However not exactly to plan the evil badski gets trapped inside the inferno and just when the kids get ready to put out the fire Midnight, not knowing that his nemesis is about to be burnt to a crisp, tells 'em not to bother because they'll be getting a whole lotta loot for a new home from the corrupt City Council who Midnight tortured with a good medieval-styled dunking so's they'd give back to the orphans the buckskins that were slyly pocketed by such fine and upstanding citizens as these!

Unlike the masked eunuchs of today (or at least the ones of the early-seventies who at times felt sorry for their prey because well, they were young, naive, good looking and usually a member of some minority) Midnight really knew how to get the job done even if the results could be rather gruesome! Reading stories like these not only warms the cockles of my heart, but make me wanna find ol' Fred Wertham's grave to do a little tinkle-sprinkle on it!

Like in PLASTIC MAN the stories also have that nice convoluted humorous edge to 'em that in some strange ways do herald the coming of MAD a good decade later. And yeah, if you (like me) had head turned 360 after reading THE GREAT COMIC BOOK HEROES (part of my Christmas 1971 comic book-related gift bonanza) then this item is sure to make you glad you spent your kid years doin' IMPORTANT things like well...reading comics 'stead of sticking your nostrils inside of some ADVANCED CALCULUS textbook like the rest of those successful types you went to school with! And hey, if you don't think that I spent a whopping $69 (!-Al Capp would be proud!) on vols. 2 through 4 then you've obviously been reading the wrong blog lo these many years!

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