Thursday, October 11, 2018

COMIC BOOK REVIEW! PEP #46, February 1944 (available via Golden Age Reprints)

I'm just about positive, unless you were one of those tight-sphinctered gal types I went to school with, that you like I spent a whole lotta your youthful goof off time reading PEP comics. Like the rest of the Archie universe PEP not only gave you that funny Archie comic on the front cover but loads of stories featuring the entire Archie gang as well as some of the other character that have popped up over the years like Li' Jinx 'n maybe even Josie for all I know. Easy enough to find on the rotating comic book stand or in piles of flea market fodder, I just can't get the image of me on a hot summer afternoon sipping on some soda while reading PEP during one of those desolate afternoons before the reruns started popping up around four o'clock.

But PEP had been around even before Archie made his buck toothed debut, and its no surprise at all that a Golden Age comic with a title like that would have been devoted to MLJ/Archie Comics' superhero stable. After all, their #1 costumed do gooder the Shield debuted in this very rag, and when the whole biz was bursting out all over these masked maulers were the reason many a suburban slob would spend the ridiculous price of a dime for 64 pages of pow! My father was a big fan of the Shield and once drew a pic of him for me which is now stuck in some book of ours...if I can dig it out I'll print it on this blog one of these days.

Managed to get hold of one of the Golden Age Reprints PEP reissues as of late, and all I gotta say is yeah, this book is exactly what I would have expected of an MLJ title from the World War II days. Judging from the cover it's not hard to see that the Shield is slowly but surely giving way to new oil gusher Archie, though judging from the innards this title is still firmly rooted in the superhero craze of the day what with appearances by not only the Shield but Captain Commando and the Hangman taking place before we get to any of the funny stuff which is nicely nestled in the back. Oh how times will change all this!

The Shield story is actually kinda creepy. It's similar to TALES OF MANHATTAN only with a safety pin which causes horrible luck whilst being passed on from a dead soldier to his widow to a conman on and on until the very same pin helps the Shield and his sidekick Dusty brings down a killer. A better than usual tale but I still can't get over that poor widow losing her life savings and not being avenged (all that is mentioned is that the pin was passed on by the swindler---I would have hoped he would have gotten his just desserts but as far as I can tell he got off Scot free!). Well, who sez comics were known for any real CONTINUITY???

Captain Commando was one of the lesser MLJ heroes or so I would guess, but the story about an old gruff but lovable Dutch ferryboat captain who is living on a Japanese controlled tropical island and pays the ultimate price by kamikaze-ing his boat "Matilda" is pretty good. Good enough that I even forgot to root for the Japanese like I always do in these stories because well...their characters seem more in touch with myself than the squeaky clean good guys!

Now the Hangman saga is what really made the price of this reprint worth it. This 'un's kinda grotesque in its own Golden Age way featuring a former optometrist who decides to go into the blackmail business after creating a machine where the last images seen by the murdered victim (captured on the retina) shows just who the killer was! This guy and his stooge sneak into morgues and plucks the eyes out of deceased gangsters, plops the eyeballs into his creation and right on the screen appears the victims last image, usually of an underworld character with a gun going off!

The rest of the mag is filled with the fun stuff, or at least stuff that's supposed to pass for fun and I guess you might be able to squeeze a few har har's outta 'em. The Archie tale is a Christmas-themed heart-string tug attempt dealing with his dwindling Christmas funds which get lower and lower after dad buys him a war bond and he gets into an automobile accident, all exacerbated by a loudmouth gal I never saw before or since appropriately named Gabby. A rather annoying character who kinda reminds me of what the short-lived "Charlotte Braun" from PEANUTS might have ended up looking like, Gabby blabs to the gang Archie's gift list which is no longer a feasible concept considering he only has ten bucks left and boy are they expecting the biggies this time! Nice li'l typically Archie-ish episode, only it's ruined by the definitely non-Bob Montana-ish work by one of the lesser MLJ artists who makes the whole thing look more like a standard back up feature rather'n the flagship force behind one of the more successful comic publishers extant!

The rest of the fun funs ain't exactly up to par and in fact make this particular Archie feature look like the Three Stooges. There were so many Li'l Abner swipes throughout the forties to keep track of and none that I've read were good, and that includes this particular story featuring a Catfish Joe is about as unfunny as you would expect something like a comic called "Catfish Joe" to be. Skip over the cutesy wootsy Chief Bugaboo story custom made for the fetus in your life as well as Marco Loco, an adventurer whom I wish stayed home so I wouldn't hafta put up with those silly puns that just don't work here like they did in Little Lulu.

Despite the lack of real belly shakers in the comedy department I gotta admit that this issue of PEP was a pretty good effort which does give you that mid-forties comic book feel without the hefty price or the decaying pages. And as is customary with Gold Age Reprints efforts this comes complete with the original ads as well including the one which appears on the back cover, a toy machine gun which is being sold under the name KRAK-A-JAP! As I said earlier, I find myself rooting for the Japanese in these World War II comics (and perhaps even REAL LIFE) because their characters are usually so nasty and vicious in a way I could only dream of being (and in some ways these guys are more honest than the phony Amerigan heroes who are so one-dimensional you'll just hope for a Death March in their future), but an ad like this just makes me wanna krak up myself---'s almost as good as one of those old comic book spoof ads you'd see in NATIONAL LAMPOON only this is real life so you know life can be satire without anyone knowing so! In all my years of flea market scouring I never came across a Krak-a-Jap...have you???

1 comment:

top_cat_james said...

"Christmas Cheers" is penciled by Harry Sahle, and his delineation of the characters is indeed ugly and unappealing. B and V are considerably less than fetching, and Archie himself is beetle-browed and looks to have a faceful of zits. Gotta love ol' Rabbit Tooth's optimism in his original plans to buy Veronica a negligee(!),though.