Super Magician Comics Vol 4 No. 4 -- Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)
Ron Goulart's Encyclopedia of Comics has a page of information on Super-Magician Comics. According to Goulart Blackstone was the "first comic book offering the fictitious adventures of a real-life personality who wasn't a movie cowboy." He clarifies how Gibson created the comic, and also provides and interesting detail on why Street & Smith were so amenable to the series.
"Gibson had started ghosting Blackstone's magic books in the late 1920s . In 1941 he approached Street & Smith, publishers of both the Shadow pulp magazine and the comic book, and suggested a Blackstone comic. What made the deal especially appealing to S&S was the fact that Gibson guaranteed them that the magician would purchase half of each issue's print run to give away at his stage shows. The first issue (May 1941) was titled Super Magic Comics. With the second it became Super Magician. Blackstone grew younger and handsomer for his comic book appearances and also acquired a pretty assistant named Rhoda. On the covers he was frequently called the 'World's Greatest Living Magician.'"
Goulart implies that Gibson wrote all the Blackstone features, while other authors covered the backup stories. He also sheds a bit more light on the artists who worked on the comics.
"The early artwork, mediocre at best, was provided by the Jack Binder shop. Gibson later brought in some of his cronies, including James Hammon and Kemp Starrett, and the look of the feature improved greatly. Both men, along with Gibson, had been associated with the Ledger Syndicate in Philadelphia."
The layout in the "Red Dragon in Spheres of Satan!" is strangely loosely connected, as if in a dream. At first glance it seems to make sense, and then you wonder how the Komodo Dragon manages to fly when it looks like it's in repose, which leads you to wonder ask whether the Red Dragon is mounted on the Komodo, or simply flying next to it. The Komodo continues to inhabit the frames throughout the story, only occasionally acknowledged, like a fnord.

Since this is WWII, the plot concerns the Red Dragon and his sidekick uncovering a Japanese secret war weapon and vanquishing it. The characterization of the Japanese is so crude that it's mostly only interesting in terms of seeing the stereotypes that come out during war, and recognizing that we can still apply these lessons to today.

I'm not sure if the other backup story is an ongoing feature or not. "The Lady in White and the Shrinking Giant..." is oddly set in a hospital, but has little to do with the environment. A patient checks in because he believes that he is shrinking, and so is his pet turtle Algy. Eventually an unnamed nurse ("the Lady in White") solves the shrinking mystery. The art is reminiscent of Boody, although it's uncredited.

Read part 3 here.

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