alicemacher: Lisa Winklemeyer from the webcomic Penny and Aggie, c2004-2011 G. Lagacé, T Campbell (Default)
[personal profile] alicemacher posting in [community profile] scans_daily

In 1949, the relatively unknown cartoonist Harvey Kurtzman, coming off a run of his one-page gag strip Hey, Look! for Timely, shopped his work around and received his first EC assignment. No, it wasn't on one of their horror titles; those wouldn't be launched until the following year. Nor were they publishing war or satire comics yet. Rather, Kurtzman's EC debut was as illustrator of Lucky Fights It Through, a giveaway 16-page educational comic about syphilis...with a two-fisted cowboy setting, since western comics were in then.

Lucky Fights It Through is one of the rarest EC publications. It's been reprinted only once, with new colouring, in a 1977 issue of the fanzine Squa Tront, from which the following scans (adding up to about 4 1/2 of 16 pages) have been excerpted.

Rodeo cowboy Lucky Jordan discovers the villainous Handsome Hank rustling one of his steers and beats him up. In revenge, Hank has Katey, a "dance hall girl" (here used as a euphemism for another sort of profession), bump into Lucky outside a saloon and invite him upstairs for a nightcap. Lucky, ever squeaky-clean, says he'll just have a soda because he's in training for a show. But Katey drugs his soda and helps him upstairs, where he ends up spending the night. (If this were written today, readers could be forgiven for assuming thus far this was a PSA on date rape, albeit a gender-inverted one.)

The rash goes away in a couple of weeks, so Lucky assumes that's the end of it. He meets Saddle Sal, another rodeo performer, and they begin dating. Then one night, Lucky asks Sal to a barbecue, where they hear a cowboy sing an ominous and plot-convenient song.

A 78-rpm recording of this song, by co-writer Tom Glazer and chorus, was distributed with this comic, according to David Hadju, The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America, 195. You can hear this ditty here; thanks to [personal profile] thanekos for the link.

Lucky sees a doctor, who tells him he likely does have syphilis, and takes a blood sample to confirm it.

Historical note: Penicillin had been found effective against infections such as syphillis in 1943, so that would've been the treatment Lucky received, via injection. It's still the preferred therapy in most cases today.

(Hey, Lucky. Before talking to Sal, you might've reflected that you (I'm assuming) don't actually remember clearly what happened that night with Katey, that you started feeling woozy and foggy after you had that drink. That non-alcoholic drink. And therefore you might've wanted to explain to Sal that what happened next wasn't your fault.)

Broken-hearted, Lucky feels there's little reason to stick around town, other than his checkups. Then he receives a welcome distraction when the local cattle association hires him to investigate a rustling operation. Thus it is that Sal, on tour with the rodeo in her own attempt to get over Lucky, receives by anonymous mail evidence that her cattle has been rustled. She shows it to Handsome Hank who, recognizing his own cattle rebranding mark, decides she knows too much and attempts to do her in by feeding her horse locoweed just before her next performance. Sure enough, the horse tosses her off, seriously injuring her.

Later, having figured out Lucky (who's now cured) has been on his trail, Hank tries to snipe him in the mountains, but misses. Lucky lassos him, but Hank slips out and in the process coveniently falls to his death. Then Lucky pays a hospital visit...

The doctor assures Sal that Lucky's infection is gone and suggests that, since they have the same blood type, she accept a tranfusion from him. Sal agrees.

Heh. I like the doc's "ahem" there as he comes up with a euphemism for "you two can boink all you want now."

And so our story ends as Sal dutifully gives up her rodeo career to do "women's work" with her healthy daughter for her healthy family. Thanks for reading, and remember: don't be an ignorant, ignorant cowboy--get that rash checked plumb pronto, y'hear?

Addendum: Kurtzman, according to The Ten-Cent Plague, later had this to say about his first EC achievement:

I did such a good job, think of all the people out there who became cured through my comic strip. I don't know whether it helped cure or helped [spread] the sickness, because it showed this guy running around with hookers. It showed how to do it.

Date: 2016-02-25 04:36 am (UTC)
thanekos: Yoshikage Kira as Kosaku Kawajiri, after the second arrow. (Default)
From: [personal profile] thanekos
There's already the one.

Date: 2016-02-25 01:57 pm (UTC)
janegray: (Default)
From: [personal profile] janegray
Nice story with likeable protagonists :)

I can't say I like that "women's work" ending, but as a 1949 story it's fair for its time.

Date: 2016-02-25 09:13 pm (UTC)
minervasolo: (Default)
From: [personal profile] minervasolo
His head in the second to last panel makes me think maybe the syphilis was more advanced than they realised; his nose has slipped!

What about Katey?

Date: 2016-02-26 12:48 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] 7dialsmystery
Is she a professional syphilis infector along with being a professional hooker? Or did Hank use her services, catch syphilis, get it cured and never mention to Katey that she's infected? That is some seriously disturbing sh*t.


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