Saturday, May 03, 2008

Hey! It's FREE COMIC BOOK DAY today! So unless you're like me, too broke to make the 35 mile drive south to take the chance that they'll actually be giving away something I'm interested in, then get your collective asses to your local comics shop today, and help stimulate the economy in a miniscule fashion by buyig something from your retailer. And for the love of god, don't make these conversational faux pas.

While I'm thinking about it, I did get a free comic of sorts recently from an unnameable source: a PDF of DC's Angel and the Ape #4, from sometime in 1969. It was the first time I've had the opportunity to read this particular issue since 1987, when I sold my A&A run along with about 3/4 of my original collection, which, as I've related many times before, was a mistake I regret making to this day. Angel was, I always thought, anicely done series in that 1960's Jerry Lewis/Bob Hope DC humor-in-general style way, with stories written mostly by the late Arnold Drake and drawn by the also-late Bob Oksner, with inks by the equally-as-late-and-great Wally Wood. It was just one of those comics that got thrown out there on a wing and a prayer, as DC tried to find out exactly what would sell and what wouldn't, as Marvel was nipping at their heels in sales and popularity, especially among that puzzling breed known as "the Counterculture". Of course, one look at Zap Comics or Rip Off Comics would have clued them in, daddy-o, but apparently nobody up there then was ready for that. So, what we got from all those aforementioned DC efforts was warmed over TV sitcom-style humor, funnier in, say, 1964 than five years later. Think Beatles For Sale vs. Magical Mystery Tour. Anyway, when I looked at the cover, my now-attuned-to-the-PC-Aughts senses immediately set off a warning signal...and my fears were justified when I read the cover story, which ostensibly sets out to spoof Charlie Chan films and give us a little funny adventure in Chinatown, but holy crap- the blatantly racist and stereotyped cliches just flow, sometimes in every panel of every page. See for yourself, and if you're unusually sensitive to such things, you might not want to check them out:

No cliche left unturned- Chinese laundries, Dragon ladies, "hungry a hour later", l's pronounced like r' name it. This just blew my mind. And funny thing is, it didn't make an impression on me back in the early 80s, when I first read it (I only had a couple of issues when I was a kid in the late 60's). Now, while I deplore this sort of thing in general, I am smart enough, I think, to understand that this, like classic films you see on TCM or any WWII-era comics, are a product of the times in which they were written, and I seriously doubt that there was maliciousness behind a lot of it- especially in this case. You used to see this sort of thing in TV shows and films of that decade as well, before people finally started to make an outcry and be heard about it. I don't know for 100% sure who write this; I'm pretty sure Drake wrote most of these, but the Grand Comics Database curiously doesn't list a writer credit for this story, so it could have been anyone up there at the time. Even though this lead story is this way, the other stories in the book aren't anything like this- and the art is certainly outstanding in all of it.

And I certainly don't intend to offend anyone who might happen across this post; I'm just posting it here because I was so surprised by the casually racist humor that I felt like it would be an interesting topic on an obscure subject, kind of a museum piece, if you will.

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