Friday, June 27, 2008

King Cole

Friday Comic Book Day

When I started this blog, I knew I wanted at some point to do a whole Jack Cole week. I have samples of his work from most of my normal categories, except advertising. Next week, the last week before my two weeks holiday in France, I will devote to this comic genius. I will guarantee you you won't have seen most of the material.

To start things off, I have an 11 page Mr. Midnight story from Smash #75. Mr. Midnight is one of the best know of Jack Cole creations, but it is rarely seen. Recently people have discovered Cole rare stash of horror stories (some of which can be seen at the deliciously daily The Horrors Of It All, which I have added to my favorite links), but he did some great humor stories in the same period. Cole started out at Quality in the late thirties. After creating Plastic Man, he sort of lost interest or had a slow period in the mid-forties. In the late forties and early fifties, he returned with some of the best material of huis career. This included his second run on Mr. Midnight.

Mr. Midnight was created for Smash Comics when editor Everett Arnold asked Cole to do a stand-in for Will Eisner's The Spirit in case Eisner left with his creation or was called to war and had to stop drawing him. Cole asked his old pal Eisner for his permission and one of them said the best idea was to create a funny version of the masked crime-fighter (just as Cole's Dead Squad was a funny version if The Blackhawks). And so Mr. Midnight was born. This was not a normal crime-fighter. It had a talking monkey (which can be taken as a parody of the Spirit's sidekick Ebony, making the reprinting of this series even less likely), a bearded weird scientist and lots more weird stuff. After a couple of stories Jack Cole left the series to concentrate on Plastic Man. When he returned to it for a short run in the late forties, he took his earlier everything buit the kitchen sink approach even a notch further. These stories are so filled with comic artistry and gags, that is is almost impossible to read. On one page we can even see two characters through the opened mouth of a third one. Now that's a use of negative space I have never seen before or since.

So sit back and enjoy.

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