Sunday, August 25, 2013

Today in Comics History: Boom Comics are invented

Yesterday I promised you more hot volcanic action! (Didn't I?) Well, here it is...sorta.

Text story page from Dark Mansion of Forbidden Love #4 (March-April 1972), writer unknown

For those comics fans who don't remember 'em or haven't seen 'em: text pages like this were included so that the comic book publishers could mail comic book subscriptions via Second Class Mail, under US Postal Law. The Post Office generally required two pages of text pure comic book, which generally manifested as a short story or other written features. Like this one, we don't know the identity of most of the writers of such features, although at least one relatively somewhat known comic book writer by the name of Stan Lee got his start writing a text story in his first submission to Timely Comics. They were eventually replaced by letters pages, and eventually the entire Second Class mail classification went away completely.

This is a typical text page for the DC 1970s "chillers"—a supposed story of (insert scary sounds here) out-of-this-world phenomena, with a Boston journalist "predicting" the explosion of Krakatoa. (I've placed this entry on August 25 because it's the date mentioned in the first paragraph, but Krakatoa had actually been beginning its eruption several days before August 25, 1883, and fully erupted on August 27.) It sounds like the sort of ESPish story that Leonard Nimoy would have investigated on I Search of..., doesn't it?

Here's a few contemporary newspaper accounts of the 'splosion. Remember, back then, news travelled only as fast as the still-not-yet-everywhere telegraph and/or your fastest ship. A contemporary speed comics fans will be familiar with would be the delay between new issues of Gødland.

from the Brisbane [Australia] Courier (August 29, 1883)

from the Brisbane Courier (August 31, 1883)

Here's pretty extensive of-the-time Krakatoa reportage from another Australian newspaper. Notice the date is two months after the event. Ah, the intense speed at which they report world news in mainland China, then!

from the Maitland Mercury (October 25, 1883)

You might have noticed this in the lower right-hand corner of that newspaper clipping:


Say, Bully, you're saying right about now, aside from that text page, does this really have anything to do with comic books at all? And I'll have to say right back: Take a gander (tee hee) at this little-seen installment (Chapter "3B") of Don Rosa's modern classic "The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck!"! It's 1883 and Scrooge is in Dutch Java in Indonesia, shipping bulls (hey!) to make his fortune. Say, has he got a gear loose? (bwah-ha-ha-ha!)

Panels from "The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark" in Walt Disney's Uncle Scrooge (1993 Gladstone series) #318 (February 1999); script, pencils, and inks by Don Rosa, colors by Susan Daigle-Leach, letters by John Clark

When Scrooge's shipment of bulls is hijacked, Scrooge and Ratchet Gearloose set sail aboard the famed clipper Cutty Sark, whose captain is intent on proven sailing ships' superiority over those new-fangled steamships:

Ominously...the sound of distant thunder eruptions!


Scrooge and Ratchet Gearloose were never seen again. Except in comic books.

(You can read more about ""The Cowboy Captain of the Cutty Sark"" at the Duck Comics Revue blog!)

But, is it true that Samson dreamed the actual events of the volcanic eruption of Krakatoa, East of Leamington Java? Nope. 'Tis another tale too good (or too occult) to be true. Fred Fedler's 1989 book Media Hoaxes tells us (well, me, if you haven't got a copy of the book) that Samson had already seen early telegraph reports from London, and that the dates in the story are fudged. Darn it! Yet again another myth of exploding volcanos sending out psychic shock waves across the globe is thus busted. Curse you, MythBusters!

Tomorrow!: I don't have a volcano story for tomorrow.

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