Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy 92nd Birthday, Jack Kirby!

As has been widely covered on the comics blogosphere, today would have been Jack Kirby's 92nd birthday. So, in celebration, I would like to focus on one important fact about the King:

Jack Kirby spoke the otherwise unknown language of primitive man, and he translated it to us for communicative purposes!

From Devil Dinosaur 1 (1978), the most historically accurate comic ever published!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 16: What I Need to Be a Man

Because my last post has proven to be one of the more popular entries I've done, perhaps because it captures the Nazi zeitgeist that is sweeping the nation right now, I'm taking this week's punch from the same Howard Chaykin/Gil Kane story, "Flyer," from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 26 (Jan. 1992).

Kane really goes nuts with the unconventional panel layouts in this story, which can also make scanning the images a challenge.

I had some concern that this may not even be a punch (in fact, the entire story has many more great kicks than it does good punches), but I concluded that the motion lines seem more lined up with a punch than a kick, though Curt has definitely left the ground to take this shot. I would be glad to field opposing arguments in the comments.

Also, I want to take a moment to praise Steve Oliff's coloring on this story. In particular, I love the blues he uses on Batman's cape and cowl.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Remember that Time that Batman Almost Fathered the Master Race?

In doing the extensive research required to bring you the weekly Gil Kane punch, I often have to read through Gil Kane stories that are surprisingly punch-free, or, at the very least, light on the distinctive punches that I need. Nonetheless, this research often bears fruit in other ways, as when I recently re-read one of my all-time favorite Batman stories: "Flyer" from Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight 24-26 (1991-92), written by Howard Chaykin, drawn by Gil Kane.

When this story first came out, I had already been a long-time fan of Howard Chaykin's work, especially American Flagg!, which I read when it was first published, despite the fact that I was probably way too young to read it. Needless to say, I was excited to see Chaykin's take on Batman. And this is definitely a Howard Chaykin Batman comic.

"Flyer" opens with an apparently naked Bruce Wayne meditating in the Batcave, when Alfred interrupts to inform him that meditation time is over. The story takes place 18 months after Bruce first appeared as Batman, and Alfred is still treating this like a phase his employer will soon be over. Alfred asks, "Isn't it really time to put away the horned hat, the music hall suit, and get down to some serious heir making?" As we'll see, there is a nice little bit of foreshadowing in Alfred's question. Also, I like that Alfred wants to see Bruce Wayne make some babies.

Bruce blows off Alfred and heads off on patrol instead. After stopping the mugging of a husband, wife, and young son that look oddly familiar, Batman is attacked by a strange, mechanized flying man. Batman defeats him, and in a pretty stupid move, he takes the flyer to the Batcave for study. There, Batman administers sodium pentothal in order to get this guy's story.

It turns out that the flyer is Curtis Eisenmann, whose parents were an American Army officer and the daughter of a Nazi rocket scientist. Anyone who has ever read anything by Howard Chaykin will know that he's got a real thing for Nazi women, so when he introduces Brigit Eisenmann, we have a pretty good idea where this is going.

After her own father died in American custody, she continued his scientific research for the American space program, which was one of the few areas of employment available to Nazi immigrants in postwar America, and thus, there weren't a lot of "Nazis are stealing our jobs" protests at the time.

Being a Nazi and all, Brigit Eisenmann turns out to be a pretty terrible mother. She treats her son like some kind of genetic mistake, so in order to prove himself to her, he becomes a helicopter pilot for the Gotham City police department (huh?).

He has the bad luck to be on the job the night the Gotham PD goes after Batman, as seen in Batman: Year One. The swarm of bats Batman calls up cause Curt's helicopter to crash, leaving him maimed and barely alive. His mother, always ready to to make lemonade out of her worthless failure of a son, decides to use him for her latest cybernetic experiments, and she commands him to capture Batman, with the promise that once he proves himself to her, she will work to make him normal again.

At this point, with all this exposition out of the way, the story moves into batshit crazy Howard Chaykin territory. You see, Brigit Eisenmann has been watching reports of Batman on TV, and these reports have been stirring up feelings in her that she hasn't felt in years.

So, she plans to capture Batman in order to rape him and then breed the perfect Aryan human.

You know, there are many times I say to myself, "They don't make Batman stories like this anymore," but that's mainly in nostalgic reference to Bob Haney Brave and the Bold stories or great Denny O'Neil stories where Batman clocks a bunch of thugs with a bag full of ocelots. This is the only time I've said it in reference to a story where Batman is threatened with rape.

"Mrs. Eisenmann, are you trying to seduce me?"

And, to make matters worse, Mrs. Eisenmann totally fails at the dirty talk.

Clearly she's out of practice, but to be fair, that incest shit used to knock 'em dead back in the Fatherland.

With her efforts to arouse him yielding no results, she decides to get rough.

Yes, Chaykin actually has her say, "Lie back and enjoy it."

Wait a minute! What did that next issue box say?

Oh, man.

That being said, this story does provide us with one of the great lines in Batman history:

Instead of getting down to business, however, Brigit proceeds to torture Batman in order to make him more compliant. It seems that this is her version of foreplay.

Batman's been crucified and electrified, but he still manages to come up with just the right thing to say.

Also, I love Batman's narration on this next page.

Of course Bruce Wayne likes his women a little crazy, but he draws the line at Nazis.

Curt, who feels neglected because his mother is devoting so much attention to her new beau, enters the torture chamber and decides to get all Oedipal up in this place.

Anyway, Batman proves to be more of a man than the Eisenmann family can handle, and he escapes as Curt self-destructs, taking his mother with him. Batman decides, at this point, that his caped-crusading days are no longer fun, and he goes off to compose his letter to Penthouse Forum, from which we get this story's narration.

By the way, Batman, what's you're favorite Rolling Stones song?

Really, I figured you'd be more of a Let It Bleed man.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

EC Comics and the "Improvement" Theory of Literary Criticism

One of the more common types of responses my students give to literary works falls under the category of what I like to call the "improvement" theory of literary criticism.

The improvement theory stems from a worldview that nothing, not even the timeless classics of world literature, is truly perfect, and the best way to engage with a literary work is to offer suggestions that would make the work better. Most often, such critical examination begins with the phrase, "This story would be better if..." For example, "Hamlet would be better if Hamlet just quit talking about it and killed his uncle"--this is the most common critical position on Shakespeare's classic tragedy. Or, to give an example from one particular student, which consists purely of ungrammatical but concise fragments: "Dr. Faustus: not enough drifting. FAIL!"

There are three main goals to this school of criticism--areas where even the most classic work requires some improvement:

1) Giving a story more action and/or excitement
2) Giving a story a happy ending (or, at the very least, unambiguous)
3) Making the story shorter

Readers of Virginia Woolf's modernist novel Mrs. Dalloway often find themselves responding with critiques about the title character like, "She just needs to get laid" (thus fulfilling all three goals), or "She just needs to get over herself" (a common reaction applicable to most works of literature. See also The Awakening and "The Yellow Wallpaper"). With both main characters of the novel, Clarissa Dalloway and traumatized Great War veteran Septimus Smith, a common reaction is "They just need to take a Prozac."

This latter response introduces a subcategory of the improvement school: the pharmacological theory of literary criticism, where great literature would be improved if characters only had the benefit of contemporary pharmaceuticals. An example of a thesis using the tenets of this school would read something like, "The family in Flannery O'Connor's 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find' would still be alive if only those kids were on Ritalin." (Also acceptible: the family would still be alive if Granny had been put in a nursing home where she belongs. I look forward to the inevitable future application of Death Panels to this classic short story: "If only Granny had been denied end-of-life care by a group of politicians in a government-controlled health care system, then the family in 'A Good Man Is Hard to Find' would still be alive.")

I bring all this up not only because a new academic year is about to start, but also because I believe that I've found a precedent for this school of criticism while I was reading through some old EC comics. Specifically, I came across Graham Ingels's adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado" from Crime SuspenStories 3 (1950), which makes some valuable changes to Poe's classic tale of suspense.

The first improvement the EC creators made was to the title:

I especially welcome this change because students often struggle pronouncing "Amontillado," and changing the title just eliminates that problem all together. Also, the narrator is no longer the killer Montresor, but is now the Old Witch from the "Haunt of Fear" feature.

Another improvement is the introduction of a gun. This definitely helps fulfill goal 2.

Finally, we have the messy problem of the conclusion to Poe's story. In the original, Montresor--the narrator who seeks revenge on an insult from Fortunato--walls up his victim in some catacombs used as a wine cellar, and then he reveals that he is telling the story 50 years after the fact, thus confessing that he got away with murder a half-century ago. This is not a very tidy conclusion, and students are often appalled that justice could so easily be circumvented.

"Blood Red Wine" fixes this problem in typical EC fashion: the bullet shot earlier in the story struck a cask of wine, causing a chain reaction that leads to a wine flood. The murderer finds himself trapped in the cellar, giving the story a satisfying ironic twist that is lacking from Poe's original work. Also, note how the wine bubbles in the form of a skull--just so you can be 100% certain that the killer died.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 15

Vigilante totally punches this dude off a crashing plane in Vigilante 13 (Dec. 1984), written by Marv Wolfman. Next, Vigilante jumps off the plane, waits for the guy to pop the chute, shoots him, and then steals the chute while letting the dead body fall to the ground. That is some cold shit right there.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Dr. K Reviews...Asterios Polyp!

Back in my undergraduate days, I had a professor in an upper-level English class who frequently used the term "dichotomy" in his discussions of the conflicts at the heart of various works of literature. This excited me because the concept was easy to grasp intellectually, while seeming to be universally applicable. I picked up on this term quickly, and I managed to plug it into most of my undergrad lit papers with considerable success, as in "The Dichotomy of Masculine and Feminine in Henry James's 'The Figure in the Carpet'" or "The Reason/Emotion Dichotomy in Shakespeare's Sonnets." This binary view served me well throughout those years because it was an easy system through which I could generate lit papers, and I imagine most English majors come up with similar systems. They are easy, efficient, and neat, and they make life a lot easier.

I bring this up because I was reminded of that undergrad epiphany while reading David Mazzucchelli's Asterios Polyp.
The title character is an academic who applies such a binary view not only to his area of study--architecture--but also to his entire life. Everything fits neatly and rigidly into an either or system: architectural design is either linear or plastic, his students either can't draw or can't think, art is either factual or fictional, etc. He uses this system especially to show off his intellectualism in fields outside of his primary area of study, like literature and music, and, most of the time, his intellectual pronouncements make him the center of attention at parties and other public gatherings. Aside from being full of shit, he so rigidly adheres to this system that he allows for little disagreement without ridiculing his opponents, and he is a total failure when it comes to human connections. He's an insufferable asshole, to say the least.

There may be, however, a genetic basis for Asterios's rigid binarism. He is the only surviving member of a set of identical twins--his brother Ignazio died in uetero. However, Ignazio's presence is felt throughout this graphic novel, as he serves as the story's narrator and he frequently appears in Asterios's dreams. Asterios seems to feel Ignazio's presence as an inherent part of his own dual nature.

At first, Asterios comes across as the kind of character, typical of Chris Ware or Dan Clowes, for whom the reader finds difficulty generating sympathy. During his academic career and his marriage to the sculptor Hana, he is such a pompous, insufferable jerk that it's easy to see why he ultimately finds himself alone. However, Mazzucchelli makes a wise choice in his narrative structure. The story opens with Asterios at his lowest point: his apartment is a mess, dishes pile up in the sink, overdraft and past due notices overflow on his desk, and Asterios is lying in bed watching homemade sex tapes. Suddenly, lightning strikes his apartment building and fire breaks out. Asterios quickly grabs shoes, a lighter, a watch, and a Swiss army knife. Everything else he owns goes up in flames.

From this point on, the narrative shifts between flashbacks to Asterios's past, narrated by his dead twin brother, and his life after the fire, as he gets on a bus and tries to start a new life at an unknown destination. So, we get to see his descent into isolation parallel with his recovery (and in case we didn't figure that out, his reahbilitation takes place in a town called "Apogee"). Time shifts in the narrative are cued primarily by changes in the color scheme: blue, purple, and red indicate flashbacks (red is the color primarily associated with Hana), while the more contemporary events and dream sequences appear in yellow and purple (interestingly, no black ink is used in the book).

In Apogee, Asterios meets Stiffly Major, a local mechanic looking for an assistant. Despite having no mechanical experience, Asterios gets the job, and he quickly goes to the library to study up on auto repair. Stiffly also provides Asterios with a room at the home he shares with his wife, Ursula, and their son. Ursula, a devoted spiritualist and earth-mother figure, presents perhaps the greatest challenge to Asterios's cynical, binary world view: she organizes his room based on his astrological sign, which, for some reason, means that the table needs to be upside down and a chair is turned on its side. In his previous life, the Majors--and the entire population of Apogee, for that matter--would be targets of Asterios's caustic wit and ridicule, if he noticed them at all. In his new life, however, he accepts their odd, mismatched, chaotic life. If the narrative had been structured in such a way that it built toward that acceptance, the reader might have more difficulty caring about Asterios's arc. With the parallel narratives, we seem to be reading about two Asterios's, which feed into the theme of duality that drives this work.

I'm not sure, though, what to do with the final scene of the book. It may ironically endorse Asterios's earlier cynical world view that he has abandoned. If that is the case, then Mazzucchelli steers back into Clowes and Ware's territory. It requires more thought, but I would like to be able to recuperate this ending into my overall positive feeling about the book.

I'm also not entirely prepared to call this the great graphic novel that other reviewers have called it. It's certainly very good, and formally innovative (in fact, I need to spend more time thinking about the formal elements of the work, as there is much more going on there than I've indicated in this review). But as a story, it seems more in line with works by Updike, Roth, Cheever, and others that explored the life-changing epiphanies of white, male, suburban intellectuals in the 60s and 70s. That's not necessarily a criticism of the work itself, because it is absolutely worthy of praise, but it just may not be the transcendent work of literature that many hope it to be.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 14: Bring the T.H.U.N.D.E.R.!

No-Man punches out some Commie, from T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents 16 (Oct. 1967), inks by Jack Abel, writer unknown.

I have to admit, this isn't a very dynamic Gil Kane punch, though it does showcase his use of the shot/reverse shot technique when drawing action scenes. I chose this image in honor of DC's recent announcement that they've acquired the rights to T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents after some problems that caused DC to pull the plug on a new series a few years ago.

I may be one of about five fans who are actually interested in this development, having enjoyed the issues of T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents I had when I was a kid (though I am sick of typing all those goddam periods. I'm done with that for the rest of this post.).

However, I do wish that DC wasn't integrating the THUNDER Agents into the DC Universe. I understand why they're doing it, as I understand why they've done it with Milestone and the Red Circle characters. Still, what made the THUNDER Agents unique, and what makes their original stories still hold up today despite their Cold War milieu, was the fact that, for these heroes, the powers had extraordinary limitations and consequences. There was an added depth to these characters because of this: Lightning's life was shortened every time he used his speed suit, Dynamo could only use his power belt for 30 minutes without overloading his physiology, and No-Man progressively lost his humanity when his consciousness was transferred into his android bodies. But this depth is only relevant if these are the only heroes in their world. Incorporating them into a pre-existing superhero universe removes their uniqueness--if these same powers can be gained through safer and less limiting means, then why would someone choose these particular methods? I mean, in a world with a bunch of other speedsters, why would it be necessary for Lightning to put on a suit that made him age faster/

I will be curious to see how DC does incorporate these characters into their universe, so I'm not writing this project off before I even see it. I'm especially curious to see if they go ahead and publish the issues of the revival that were written by Marc Andreyko years ago (if I remember correctly, there were at least two issues solicited before the plug was pulled). It would also be nice if DC finished publishing the archives for this series and its spin-offs, or, even better, if they published more affordable editions.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Flash Facts

I was recently digging through the comic collection, looking for the Green Lantern story with the first appearance of the Black Hand, hoping for a Gil Kane punch that would nicely tie into Blackest Night. Unfortunately, like a lot of early Green Lantern stories, it features absolutely no punching, the opponents choosing to shoot rays and crap at each other until one of them loses (on the plus side, it also does not feature Elongated Man tearing the heart out of Hawkman, so at least there's that).

However, that search did give me the chance to re-read one of my favorite comics, The Flash 229, another 100-Page Super Spectacular from which this blog takes its name. The Green Lantern story is reprinted here, along with stories of the Golden Age Flash, Johnny Quick, Silver Age Flash, and Kid Flash. In addition, the feature story contains an Earth-2 crossover, which was often a highlight of The Flash series.

I'm not going to cover this comic right now, but I do want to take the opportunity to plug my favorite podcast, Tom vs. The Flash. Tom Katers devotes about 15 minutes to each issue of The Flash, with three podcasts a week, and he's about three weeks away from covering this issue, so I don't want to step on his toes by saying too much about this issue.

As I've mentioned before, I recently moved, and the new house adds about 10 minutes to an already long commute. However, that extra time in the car is mitigated by the fact that I have more time to listen to an extra episode of Tom vs. The Flash (though once I'm through every episode, I may have to start the series over or something in order to keep the commute from becoming unbearably boring).

The podcast is hilarious, and Tom makes me laugh at the consistent goofiness of this series while still respecting its Silver Age qualities. Tom also frequently comments on the domestic hell that is the Barry and Iris Allen marriage (something that is also depicted here). So now, whenever I re-read my old Flash comics, I can't help but see this relationship in this light, as these panels demonstrate:

Because of Tom vs. The Flash, I don't read this dialogue as good-natured ribbing between a happily married couple; instead, I see Iris goading Barry into having an affair by needling him for being such a slow-ass loser. I'm looking forward to hearing what Tom Katers does with this story, and if you haven't checked out Tom vs. The Flash, I'd highly recommend it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Check Out ... The Variants!

Ken Lowery, friend of the 100-Page Super Spectacular and all-around swell guy, has co-created a new web series about life in a comic shop, and the first episode--as well as subsequent episodes, posted every Wednesday--can be found here.

The episode is a lot of fun, gently satirizing the speculative mentality that surrounds comic collecting, and it does a nice job setting up the main characters. A comic shop is rife with potential for this type of workplace comedy, so I'm looking forward to following this series every week.

Also, the series is filmed at Zeus Comics in Dallas, Texas, and I am extremely jealous of this comic shop: it's huge, beautifully decorated, well-stocked, and well-lit. It's like my dream LCS.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Gil Kane Punch of the Week 13

This week's punch comes courtesy of Kevin Church, master of the verbal equivalent of the Gil Kane punch and writer of the very popular blog, BeaucoupKevin, as well as the best web comic about life in a comic book store, The Rack. Kevin also recently completed a fantastic spin-off miniseries from The Rack, featuring the character Lydia, which gave Kevin an opportunity to turn his satirical eye on the world of office politics. In addition, you can get a collection of The Rack's first year here. I made a small contribution to the collection, and I'm grateful to Kevin for helping me pad my CV.

Enough pimping for Kevin--let's get to the punching!

This one, featuring fake Bucky punching out Cap, comes from Tales of Suspense 89, written by Smilin' Stan Lee and drawn by Gregarious Gil Kane.

I especially love Cap's word balloon in this panel. Before getting to the grunt, I actually thought that Cap was talking while getting punched through the air.

This reminded me of another great punch, from Tales of Suspense 91, with Kane inked by Joe Sinnott. Kane filled in for Jack Kirby on Tales of Suspense 89-91, and this panel, where Cap scatters 6 guys with one punch, is very Kirbyesque.

Kane may have been trying to mimic Kirby's style here in order to give the art on this strip a consistent look through his fill-in, but what we also get here is a kind of transitional panel, which reveals the influence of Kirby on the Gil Kane punch. Kane worked in Simon and Kirby's studio in the 1940s, and Kirby's influence on Kane is often obvious (Kane, for example, often used something similar to Kirby Krackle for explosion and cosmic energy). Clearly, Kane's sense of dynamic action runs directly from Kirby, but Kane then made it his own with his signature punch.

Thanks to Kevin for the awesome punch!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Fletcher Hanks's Tiger Hart of Crossbone Castle on the Planet Saturn

When I was 7 years old, I had a friend named David who made his own comics. They would appear as strips in a weekly newsletter that he produced, and his dad would make copies for him at work on a copying machine, which was a bit of a novelty back then in the mid-70s.

I don't remember specific plots of David's comics (one featured Wonder Woman, while others were original creations). I always got the sense, though, that David was making up his stories as he went along, with no clear plan from the outset. In fact, he would get very mad at me if I asked any questions about the direction of these stories. Also, I do remember that the comics featured an unambiguous, clearly defined morality, with strong, violent retribution against evil-doers, which is how his stories always ultimately concluded.

I bring this up because I was reminded of David's comics while I read the second Fletcher Hanks collection, You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation. Most of those who read these Hanks collections come away with a feeling that the creator was disturbed, even if one doesn't read editor Paul Karasik biographical material on Hanks.

However, I was struck by another similarity between Hanks's work and David's juvenalia: the sense that both were just making things up as they went along. The endings of Hanks's stories are inevitable--evil is brutally, and often fittingly, punished by the hero--and yet the stories give the impression that the specific climax did not occur to Hanks until he put his pencil to the final page. In these climactic panels to one Stardust story, Hanks just crams in a conclusion into these small final panels:

In a Space Smith story, Space tells his girlfriend, Dianna, to start pulling every lever and pressing every button on the control panel of the villain's ship--a plan which turns out to work.

Also, whatever complications might ensue during the adventure are quickly and suddenly dispatched. For example, Space Smith might suddenly face the danger of "rays" from his Martian enemies, but luckily his ship has "anti-ray" resisters (Stardust also falls victim momentarily to "anti-ray" weapons in another story). In other cases, the superheroes Stardust or Fantomah will suddenly have the perfect power to counter the enemy, despite never having manifested that power in previous stories. There is absolutely no need in Hanks's world to explain an "anti-ray" resister or an "anti-Earth" weapon--they are simply momentary obstacles or benefits toward the inevitable outcome.

I mean none of this commentary as negative criticism. Part of the fun of reading Hanks's work, beyond the unlimited number of WTF moments throughout each collection, is the deconstruction of the creative logic behind these stories.

There is, therefore, also an endless supply of blog fodder in the Fletcher Hanks collections. One story that stands out, in particular, is the single appearance of "Tiger Hart," originally published in Planet Comics 2 (Feb. 1940).

Right off the bat, I love the title box for this story: "Tiger Hart of Crossbone Castle on the Planet Saturn." My guess is that Hanks created Tiger Hart independently, as a Prince Valiant knock-off, and then when the story was bought for Planet Comics, "on the Planet Saturn" was arbitrarily added to make the story fit the book's narrow genre confines. Nothing in the story indicates the necessity of a Saturnian milieu.

This story is also different from others in this collection, in that the level of detail in each panel composition is much higher than normal. In many other stories, the reader can clearly see the point at which deadline pressures got to Hanks: backgrounds become nonexistant, characters are only visible in silhouette, and, in the most extreme cases, a panel consists simply of a starburst explosion. In Tiger Hart, however, the art and composition remain consistent throughout:

That doesn't mean, however, that the story isn't batshit crazy.

Tiger Hart is trying to recover the Great Solinoor diamond, which has been stolen from Turk the Terrible by a gang of robbers. For some reason, Turk has also kidnapped Queen Hilda in order to get the diamond back, which doesn't seem to be a well-thought-out plan. Tiger, therefore, must recover the diamond and rescue the queen, thus putting him at odds with two separate groups of enemies.

First, Tiger and his trusty horse, Zip, defeat the robbers. Then, the hero tries various methods to recover the diamond:


The latter method works (though the former does give us a hilarious out-of-context panel), and Tiger recovers the diamond, which was hidden under the mane of a horse. Tiger then goes on to rescue the queen from Turk the Terrible, only to come face-to-face with Turk's most dreaded enforcer, the Talon Man. In typical Hanks fashion, the Talon Man is introduced and dispatched in three panels:

Also, we shouldn't feel too sorry for Talon Man, as he did murder a cripple, though that particular plot point is only introduced in the above panel.

Tiger gets the queen to safety, and the story abruptly ends with these two panels, where Tiger destroys the troublesome diamond:

This conclusion again leads me to speculate on the creation and publication of this particular story. It seems as if a page is missing because Tiger still has to face the final confrontation with Turk's men. Also, the story is only 5-pages long, while the rest have no fewer than 6 pages. I would guess that Planet Comics 2 ran 5 pages short, and the editors purchased this story from Hanks to fill that space, lopping off the final page, where the story would come to at least some conclusion.

This is all, of course, speculation, but there is something about this collection--the varying degrees of artistic quality form story to story, the unconventional panel layouts, the formulaic yet off-beat plots--that invite such speculation on the creative decisions made behind the scenes. Fletcher Hanks was a unique creator working at a unique period in the history of comics, and that intersection of artist and history makes for fascinating reading.