The publisher now called Archie Comics began in 1939 as MLJ Comics. Pep, its third title, is today best known for introducing the world to Archie Andrews. However, he didn't debut until Issue 22 (Dec. 1941). Before that, and for some time afterwards, Pep was an anthology comic of which the lead feature was the Shield, America's first patriotic-themed superhero. This post is about neither of them. Rather, it's about the Comet, a superhero with the chemically-induced power to disintegrate evildoers with a glance. The creation of Jack Cole (Plastic Man), he was, like many early Golden Age capes, a brutal, take-no-prisoners guy who didn't hesitate to kill. Here, from Issue 1 (Jan. 1940), is his origin story and first adventure. Pep issues from 1 through 71 are in the public domain; scans are courtesy of ComicBookPlus.com.
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Well, wouldn't the natural digestive gases found in the intestines be forced out through their logical exit? And wouldn't this be much like squeezing a whoopee cushion, with similar attention-drawing noises? ("Did youse mugs hear that? It means Plastic Man's here!" "No, boss-- that wuz me, I had chili for lunch.")
This page is from "Plastic Man Products," in PLASTIC MAN# 17 from May 1949. Of course it's the mad genius of Jack Cole. (As an aside, if Cole had ever gone for a straightforward, quasi-realistic style, I think he would have been just as great. Look at the way he uses shadows and background objects to show it's nighttime.. good work.) Anyway, this page's panel four has two good examples of the horrified bystander. There's the woman in bed (her feet sticking out from under the covers) who looks up to see an immensely long flesh-colored THING coming in one window and out the other. A giant pink serpent? The super-penis of her feverish dreams? Who knows? And I love the way the police officer spins himself almost into a tangle at seeing Plastic Man, although his word balloon seems rational enough. Back to the concept of the Uncanny Valley again. A lot of horror comes from seeing something that is like the human body, but altered or distorted in a way that just seems wrong. Seeing a solid object like an animal or a person (even one who is a super-hero) change shape while you watch would trigger all sorts of alarm bells in the mind. Remember John Carpenter's THE THING? Imagine a person right in front of you, melting and stretching and turning into different shapes in a blink. I think someone who actually witnessed Plastic Man in action would suffer nightmares for years and maybe experience a breakdown. It would seem wrong in a way that just witnessing someone float down from the sky or walk around carrying a car overhead would seem, because it would touch that Uncanny Valley response.
By Military Comics #3 "The Death Patrol" has fallen to the back pages, appearing as the last story in the issues. This is Jack Cole's last time on the title.
In #4 Dave Berg has taken over Death Patrol. At the start of the issue he brings in Chief Chuck-a-Lug. In #5 he will bring in King Hotentot and a long time Patrol member doesn't make it back. See in under the cut!
Stay Tuned! In our next episode Hitler sends out women to seduce the boys! We also meet Boris the Borsht Eater.
(So not for dial-up)
Nobody takes death in comic books very seriously. Honestly, nobody should.
It is long comic book tradition to die--until a writer in need resurrects you. (Or the just restart the whole you storyline in a universe breaking way. No, I'm not bitter.). So long that even in the 1930s people weren't taking things seriously.
One of the first features of Military Comics was The Death Patrol. It really takes confidences in your skill you put Death in your name.
Meet Butch the safe cracker; Gramps the pickpocket; Hank the rustler; Slick the a con artist, and millionaire Del van Dyne.