Sunday, April 3, 2016

Favorites :: Comic Books :: The Fine Art of Self-Defense in Five Easy Lessons Courtesy of Lee Elias' The Black Cat (1946-1958)

 "In practicing these tricks, use 
caution as you may injure your partner."

The Black Cat debuted in August, 1941, in Pocket Comics #1, one of many in a surge of costumed crime-fighters who crawled out of the woodwork to battle spies and fifth columnists and occasionally even punch Hitler himself right in the face as the United States entered World War II. Here, Linda Turner, Hollywood starlet and stunt-woman by day, first adopted her motor-cycle riding and ju-jitsu-trained alter ego when she suspected her director of being a Nazi spy.

The character was quickly shifted to Speed Comics, another anthology, featuring another rare costumed female fighter in Pat Parker, War Nurse, along with Captain Freedom and Shock Gibson.

Eventually, the character proved popular enough to garner her own book, Black Cat Comics, in 1946, where The Black Cat and Linda Turner really evolved into something unique and truly special, thanks in most part to the genius of artist Lee Elias. (Alas, the scribes on a lot of these vintage comics were never credited so I have no idea who wrote any of them.) And with a combination of daring do mixed with a peek into Hollywood life, complete with some kooky illustrated star-bios that are an absolute scream, topped off with these how-to self defense guides, these stories are priceless.

Alas, as tastes shifted, The Black Cat attempted to adjust right along with them, becoming Black Cat Western, with our starlet starring in westerns, 'natch, and then she adopted a teen side-kick when things got a bit darker and weirder in Black Cat Mysteries before the character was pushed out of her own comic altogether when it went all-out for gruesome horror with "strange tales of fear and superstition" with Black Cat Mystics until it's eventual cancellation in 1958. 

All of the aforementioned books were published by Harvey Comics and are now in the public domain, a fate which befell a lot of properties when there publishes went out of business and copyrights lapsed, making The Black Cat comics fairly easy to access on the World Wide Web, and I cannot recommend them enough. Or if you chose to wait, fear not, another crash-course from our heroine will be coming soon. Stay tuned, Boils and Ghouls! 


Samuel Wilson said...

Lee Elias is an underrated Golden Age artist and Black Cat is a beautiful book when he's on it. There was a whole art of storytelling the best artists had back then that seems mostly lost now, even if the writing supposedly is more mature.

W.B. Kelso said...

Reading up Elias, I was sad to learn that he kind of walked away from the medium after Dr. Wertham cited several pieces of his art as being too lurid for corruptible minds. I wish someone would do an omnibus treatment on some of these old titles. Alas, being in the public domain, the profitability on that means that ain't gonna happen. I've read a ton online but in a lot of those scans, the printing was done so cheap and the registration is so far off, a lot are nigh unreadable. *sigh*

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