Tuesday, December 06, 2016


Super Comics was the 1960’s imprint of outsider comics publisher Israel Waldman, who’d previously worked in the 1950’s under the I.W. Comics banner (see our review of TOP DETECTIVE #9 in the October 10, 2016 BTC post). Waldman re-packaged previously published comics which he had printing plates for, but not necessarily rights to, and sold them at grocery and discount stores. He would come up with new names for the magazines and create new covers. While this practice was perhaps shady, it was probably not difficult to get away with it in the pre-internet age when everything was not documented the way it is today. However, as with the low-budget TV stations that aired z-grade 1930’s independent films in the early 1950’s and thus, by copying them to 16mm, saved them from permanent decay and loss, Waldman wound up getting a lot of interesting and little-known comics in a number of genres back into circulation, and with his non-traditional sales methods, probably getting them into hands of readers who would have never seen or even heard of the originals. 

The comics also lacked any visible sign of month or year, or in the books I’ve seen, any “masthead” with publishing info. As Don Markstein’s Toonopedia explains, “The vagueness of dates is a result of Waldman's publishing strategy. By not dating them, he was declining to set a time when they'd go off sale, thus (he reasoned) ensuring their perpetual salability. He also bypassed traditional distributors, and sold them non-returnably to retailers at a steep discount. Prices printed on the covers were generally ignored. In some areas, they were sold in bags of three (like Gold Key comics were in the 1970s); and in others, they were treated like used magazines and retailed at half-price.” Thus, I.W./Super Comics was using a business strategy not unlike a budget record label, or a film distributor like Astor Pictures, or a film entrepreneur like Jerry Warren. Waldman re-entered the comics world in the 1970’s with Skywald Publications, and thus had a nearly 20-year run (that we know of....who knows what under-the-radar activities he might have also been involved with) on the periphery of the industry, but moving a lot of product....like Crown or Alshire Records!

As I learn more about the I.W./Super Comics operation, dig out the old ones from my disorganized collection, and find more low-cost “reading” copies, I’m quite impressed with the raw appeal of the magazines. Waldman understood (as did Jerry Warren) the value of a good title and a good cover, and how it can act as a lens through which one would then view the product. Whether it be western, science fiction, war, crime, or spy, the product had a primal appeal, pushing the right buttons in the dime-clutching audience (either adolescents or adolescents-at-heart)....and more importantly, as these were budget-priced items, the VALUE-oriented, dime-clutching audience

Take this issue of DANGER, for instance----great title, of course, and look at that exciting scene on the cover. Unfortunately, no such scene is found in the comic (it’s certainly NOT in the story listed on the cover, "Beautiful But Deadly", but it does mirror what’s suggested by the title, so it works well as a cover). Who cares? Anyone sucked in by that cover would LOVE the comic’s content, as I do.

This issue is all Cold War spy espionage. In fact, ALL the content here comes from a 1950 comic called SPY CASES #26, published by Marvel-related Hercules Publications (see pic of that cover). Only the ads and the cover of DANGER are new. 1950 was the height of the Cold War, and that period produced some of the greatest over-the-top Red Scare films such as MY SON JOHN and THE WHIP HAND. With the revival of the Cold War in 1960’s spy films, 1964 was the perfect time to issue a comic book full of vintage spies-against-the-Soviets stories.

And ALL the stories in this magazine deliver the goods, like a lean, terse B-movie from Lippert or Allied Artists. "Smashing the Iron Curtain" is one of those classic plots where some agent is dropped by air into the woods in some communist country and manages to get some political prisoner or captured westerner out of a maximum security prison. "The Traitor" has a clever plot where an intelligence agent has amnesia and blackout spells.....or does he? "Beautiful But Deadly" is not what you’d think....it’s actually about how a girl who sunbathes on an urban roof communicates secret codes to the Russians by the positions of her arms and legs and where she is located on the roof, which corresponds to a map of Europe!!!! The relatively short "Trapped by the Reds" returns with the “dropped into a communist country” plot but heads in the different direction. Of course, we are also given a two-page filler short story, "Dangerous Delivery", which has an office boy in the intelligence agency who is used to transport important papers because....no one would ever believe they’d use such a lowly employee for anything important, and thus no one would pay any attention to him, and the real spies known to the enemy can be used as decoys!

Every story is full of double agents and triple agents, people communicating in codes, heroic locals working under deep cover for the underground, evil commissars and Russian military and intelligence officers, and their various lackeys in the occupied countries. The fear of being caught behind enemy lines and being executed or tortured at any time is captured well. Ads include THREE pages of different toy soldiers...and also mini-binoculars (in case you want to check out sunbathing ladies on a neighboring roof and do your public service by seeing if they are spelling out codes for the Russians with their body contortions).

If you enjoy the bread-and-butter unpretentious Cold War Espionage thrills you might get in a Republic Pictures B-movie....or later in a NICK CARTER, KILLMASTER quickie novel, then DANGER #15 is right up your alley....an alley that might well lead to a nest of spies! 

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