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All-Negro Comics, No. 1
Monday, February 26 2007 @ 12:00 AM PST|
Contributed by: Scott Shaw!
Title: All-Negro Comics
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February, 26, 2007
Issue #1145 of 1156
Issue: No. 1
Date: June, 1947
Publisher: All-Negro Comics, Inc.
Cover Artist(s): Bill Driscoll (signed)
Black History Month may almost be over, but it’s not too late to throw the ODDBALL COMICS spotlight on America’s first-ever funnybook to be published, written and drawn entirely by African-Americans -- 1947’s ALL-NEGRO COMICS! Within its pages, you’ll meet police detective Ace Harlem, jungle hero Lion Man (and his machine-gun-toting sidekick Bubba), Sugarfoot and Snake-Oil (recapturing the “lost humor of the lovable wandering Negro minstrel”) and the fairy-like Dew Dillies! It simply doesn’t get any Odder than this one, folks!
There have been relatively few mainstream comic books published by and intended primarily for black audiences. These include Fawcett’s NEGRO ROMANCE (1950), Parents Magazine Institute’s NEGRO HEROES (1947 - 1948), the venereal disease educational LITTLE WILLIE (1949), Fitzgerald Magazines’ FAST WILLIE JACKSON (1976 – 1977) and the outstanding “Milestone” line of comics published by DC in the 1990s (including BLOOD SYNDICATE, HARDWARE, HEROES, ICON, KOBALT, SHADOW CABINET, STATIC, WISE SON: THE WHITE WOLF and XOMBI), but the one and only issue of ALL-NEGRO COMICS beats ‘em all as the very first of the “For Us,. By Us” funnybooks.
The variety of ALL-NEGRO COMICS’ features is particularly Oddball: a violent detective story followed by a fairytale for little children, then an adventure yarn about a Tarzan-like African hero and finally, a sex-comedy about two opportunistic tramps. Also, please note that the price of this 48-page comic is 15¢, which makes it somewhat ahead of its time. (The next time the 15¢ price-tag would pop up was in the late 1950s, and then for only a brief period of time at Dell.)
The career of publisher, writer and “President, All-Negro Comics, Inc.”, Orrin. C. Evans, is detailed on the inside-front-cover of this issue of ALL-NEGRO COMICS: “Former reporter and editor in the Negro newspaper field. Over a period of more than 25 years, he served with the Afro-American newspapers, the Chicago Defender, the Philadelphia Tribune, the Philadelphia Independent, the Public Journal and the American and Musician and Sportsman’s Magazine. He also has been a contributor to the Crisis, official organ of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.”
According to the OFFICIAL OVERSTREET COMIC BOOK PRICE GUIDE by Robert M. Overstreet, thirty-fifth edition (House Of Collectibles, 2005), copies of ALL-NEGRO COMICS are “Rare; seldom found in fine or mint condition; many copies have brown pages”. (“Brown pages”? Is that supposed to be funny?)
(Also, this copy of ALL-NEGRO COMICS has been personally inscribed by its cover-artist: “To my friends Bill and Faith – Fellow connoisseurs of the fine arts – this volume is respectfully inscribed -- Bill Driscoll”.)
This issue’s 15-page lead story is “Ace Harlem”, signed by John Terrell. It begins early one morning as two tough-looking African-American customers wearing zoot suits enter Pop’s Bar-B-Que Shack, “before the early morning sharp chicks and smooth studs drift in”. Their secretive behavior clearly makes Pop nervous as they start up the jukebox – which is playing “Open The Door, Richard” (a popular song of the day)-- to drown out their voices. One of them, a short punk in a bright yellow zoot suit, makes their mission clear:
JACKSON:When Pop tries to take their order, the guy in the green zoot suit -- nicknamed “Lizard” -- pulls a pistol on him while his buddy barks out:
When you lay the cold steel on him I’ll drape the chain – dig me?
JACKSON:With Pop looking away from him, the yellow-jacket-wearing hold-up man whips out his long zoot chain and strangles poor Pop to death!
Spin around Pop Don’t get frantic or YOU’RE A DEAD CAT!
JACKSON:As the two thieves dash for the door, a young girl enters the restaurant. Shoved aside by the fleeing bad guys, she snags her purse on the killer’s “zoot chain”, snapping off a section of it. She turns to see Pop’s corpse slung over the counter. Holding her composure, she fishes a nickel out of her purse and makes a pay phone call to the local police department to report a hold-up. Soon, “famed Negro detective” Ace Harlem – a handsome plainclothes police detective in the vein of Chester Gould’s DICK TRACY --shows up at the scene of the crime; “He takes in everything – at a glance!” Warning everyone not to touch a single thing, Ace examines the room for clues. He takes a close look at the marks left on the strangled restaurant owner’s neck, noting the “strange marks” left by the zoot chain. Then Ace questions the girl who discovered Pop’s body; she describes the two deadly “zoot suiters” and tells him that the juke box was playing “Open The Door, Richard”. Noting this, Ace discovers a latent thumbprint on the corresponding selection button on the jukebox, then orders a policeman to call headquarters for a fingerprint expert. Then he asks the girl how the contents of her purse wound up scattered on the floor. When she explains how she briefly impeded the crooks’ escape by accidentally catching his zoot chain on her purse, Ace takes another look at Pop’s neck, puts two and two together. Sure enough, while helping her gather up her belongings, Ace Harlem finds the end-section of the zoot chain – with a key attached to it! When the police’s Fingerprint Bureau is unable to match the jukebox thumbprint with anything in their files, Ace realizes that the key is found is very likely his only real clue. Following a hunch, he drives to the herb store of a local eccentric who’s also a phony physician and self-described “man of mystery”:
He’s a cool fool Now, -- grab the money and let’s foot it!
“DOCTOR” ALI BENMeanwhile, the two killers are still on the loose:
Ah, honored indeed by the great detective – He is in much difficulty and has called upon me!
You said it – you old fakir. – Know what this is? – It’s a luck charm, -- isn’t it? Only it didn’t bring anybody any luck, -- you either, -- if you don’t tell the truth!!
“DOCTOR” ALI BEN
On my honor, I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about
You sold this to a man – who committed MURDER!
“DOCTOR” ALI BEN
I’ll talk, -- Mr. Harlem – Sold that to a boy, from Jackson’s boadin’ (sp.) house, – Yassuh!
How’re you sure it’s from Jackson’s?
“DOCTOR” ALI BEN
Gimme this $2 bill and it’s got Jackson’s number on it!
H’m – Jackson always puts his lucky number on unlucky money. – C’mon lucky charm – work for me!
NARRATIVE CAPTION:While playing cards to kill time, Jackson realizes that Lizard’s lost his lucky key-charm. But when he demands his half of their swag from the barbecue joint robbery, Lizard pulls out what’s left of his zoot chain and looks at his former partner’s scrawny throat with murder in his baleful eyes:
TWO VICIOUS YOUNG HEP-CATS, NEW TO CRIME, but confident they can get away with it, -- and, like all criminals, -- they are too smart to get caught ---- they THINK!!!
JACKSON:Before Jackson can leave, he’s garroted to death by Lizard, who muses to himself as he leaves his now-silent partner’s body draped across a table:
Lizard! Don’ look at me that-a-way – you hear me, man? Help!
Dead men tell no tales – and I can use ALL that cash!
LIZARD:Lifting the window shade to their second-story hideout, Lizard looks out to see Ace Harlem across the street from their boarding house:
Frantic fool! – Let him git outa’ the house and we’re BOTH done for! Be better workin’ by myself, anyway!
NARRATIVE CAPTION:As Lizard tries to leave, he sees Ace climbing the darkened stairway up to the hallway outside his room. Desperate, with zoot chain at the ready, Lizard hurls himself at Ace Harlem, who momentarily blinds the strangle-crazy “maniac” with his flashlight. Prepared for a second attack, Ace sidesteps Lizard’s next charge on the “rickety stairs”:
ACE HARLEM – right or wrong – regards all criminals as cowards. – In a glance he notes the drawn shade on the top floor!
NARRATIVE CAPTION:As a result of this freak accident, Lizard winds up hanging himself, his zoot chain wrapped around his throat, caught on one of the splintered floorboards! As the police show up – a little too late to do anyone any good – one of them makes a rather startling observation:
The killer’s headlong plunge carries him through the railing!!! Under the terrific impact of Lizard’s falling body – the floor gives way!
POLICEMAN:Then Ace Harlem makes an observation of his own:
Hate to see the electric chair cheated – that way!
Never saw a case solve itself so quick before, those two took care of themselves! I know it sounds like old stuff to you – but I never heard of a crime yet that ever gained anybody any good!
NARRATIVE CAPTION:(Please note that the Oddball punctuation in these verbatim dialogue-quotes are exactly as printed.)
Look for ACE HARLEM in the next issue of ALL-NEGRO COMICS Watch for ALL-NEGRO COMICS on the stands!
Also included in this issue of ALL-NEGRO COMICS are these stories, features and advertisements:
- “ALL-NEGRO COMICS – Presenting Another FIRST In Negro History”, a black-and-white, inside-front-cover introduction by the publisher and scripter of ALL-NEGRO COMICS, Orrin. C. Evans, “President, All-Negro Comics, Inc.”: “Dear Readers: This is the first issue of All-Negro Comics, jam-packed with fast action, African adventure, good clean humor and fantasy. Every brush stroke and pen line in the drawings on these pages are by Negro artists. And each drawing is an original; that is, none has been published ANYWHERE before. This publication is another milestone in the splendid history of Negro journalism. All-Negro Comics will no only give Negro artists an opportunity gainfully to use their talents, but it will glorify Negro historical achievements. Through Ace Harlem, we hope dramatically to point p the outstanding contributions of thousands of fearless, intelligent Negro police officers engaged in a constant fight against crime throughout the United States. Through Lion Man and Bubba, it is our hope to give American Negroes a reflection of their natural spirit of adventure and a finer appreciation of their African heritage. And through Sugarfoot and Snakeoil, we hope to recapture the almost lost humor of the lovable wandering Negro minstrel of the past. Finally, Dew Dillies will give all of us – young and old – an opportunity to romp through a delightful, almost fairy-like land of make-believe. And we’re proud, too, of our big educational feature – a monthly historical calendar on which the contributions of the Negro to world history will be set forth in each issue.”
- “Dew Dillies”, signed “Cooper”. – “Grownups don’t know it, but the world ‘round us is full of li’l Dew Dillies. Mostly they live ‘round lakes and ponds; only the smallest children see them – so it was not easy for us to get these scenes.” In a series of extremely charming drawings (reminiscent of the style of Marvel cartoonist Marie Severin), we’re introduced to Bubbles, a cute and naked little African-American mermaid, and Bibber, a cute and naked little African-American male angel – and both are Dew Dillies. They flirt back and forth around a water fountain, but Bibber doesn’t particularly do well underwater. Worn out, they take a nap, but Bibber’s snoring wake up Bubbles, so she decides to pick some flowers instead. Meanwhile, high above, an “old fishin’ hawk” mistakes sleeping Bubbles for a rock, and drops a clamshell toward her to break it open! Dreaming of candy, pastry and pancakes, Bibber suddenly wakes up to see the danger that Bubbles is in, so he valiantly flies to her rescue, deflecting the falling clamshell away from her. Bibber is hungry, and wants to eat the clam inside it, but Bubbles explains to him that, as Dew Dillies, they’re related to all the other creatures who live around them – “He could be your second cousin. You couldn’t eat your own second cousin, could you?” -- including a tasty-looking duck that swims by. But lurking in the depths of the water fountain is an African-American critter with a long, scaly tail – a Goolygator! Grabbing one of its webbed feet, he tries to pull the surprised duck under the surface of the fountain’s water, but Bibber bravely intervenes and saves the “li’l ducklin’”. But while Bibber goes to pick them some apples, Bubbles starts thinking that the little duck looks mighty tasty, too! Later, Bibber returns with an armload of fruit, but when Bubbles asks who’s going to cook the duck, he has to remind her that all the Dew Dillies are related, and that the duckling might be their second cousin, too. The story ends with a picnic for Bubbles, Bibber and the duck, after he explained to the little mermaid Dew Dilly, “Come on, li’l girl. I ain’t mad. They’s plenty for everybody.” A final caption informs us: “And now we leave the little Dew Dillies. You wonder what the Dew Dillies are? – Well, they’re the little people that children are talking to when you think they’re talking to themselves.” Charming stuff, eh?
- “Ezekiel’s Manhunt”, a two-page illustrated text-feature in which two young boys encounter ”Geechie” Johnson, a “bootlegger in the Hogwallow section of Soldock, Ala.”, a “huddle of shacks in the poorest section of Soldock”.
- “Lion Man”, signed “Geo. J. Evans Jr.” (not to be confused with EC cartoonist George Evans) – This Tarzan-esque adventure story begins with this foreword: “American-born, college educated, Lion Man is a young scientist, sent by the United Nations to watch over the fearsome ‘MAGIC MOUNTAIN’ of the African Gold Coast. Within its crater lies the world’s largest deposit of URANIUM – ENOUGH TO MAKE AN ATOM BOMB THAT COULD DESTROY THE WORLD. Lion Man’s job is to report on the doings of any treacherous nation that might seek to carry away any of the lethal stuff for the purpose of war. Lion Man has been warned against agents of a certain warlike nation who might try to smuggle some of the mountain’s treasure out of Africa. His scientific instruments indicate a ship has moved up a nearby river.” Exhausted by his constant vigilance, Lion Man takes a well-deserved nap, but his adopted kid named Bubba can’t resist giving the bronze-skinned hero a “Zulu hotfoot”! Recovering, Lion Man gives chase, playfully threatens the little bald-headed rascal, “I’ll stomp his conk until it rings like a bell”. During this horseplay, Lion Man stumbles upon footprints of hiking boots in the tall grass, as well as a cigarette butt – “strangers!!” Noting that their trail leads toward Magic Mountain, Lion Man runs back to his thatched laboratory, but finds Bubba is already there, fooling around with his radio equipment! Ripping the headphones off of Bubba, Lion Man uses radar to determine that “two persons near the mountain”. Smelling trouble in the air, Lion Man orders Bubba to stay behind, but while he tracks down the strangers, Bubba careless stumbles into an animal pitfall trap. The resulting noise is not only heard by Lion Man, but also by the pair of intruders, Dr. Blut Sangro (“an evil figure”) and his guide Brosser (“the beachcomber”), both Caucasians. Recognizing him, Brosser helps Bubba out of the pit while Dr. Sangro fakes friendship as he raises his hand to greet Lion Man. Distracted by the doctor, Lion Man is unprepared when Brosser holds a dagger to his unprotected ribs. Forced at knifepoint, Lion Man takes the bad guys to his jungle laboratory; on the way, Bubba dives into the brush to escape. The deadly beachcomber attempts to follow him, but Lion Man trips him and grabs Brosser with an “iron grip”. And when Dr. Brut Sangro pulls out a pistol and aims – at point-blank range – at Lion Man’s chest, the jungle hero simply picks up and hurls Brosser at him! But Dr. Sangro is tougher than he looks, and using a dirty trick, nearly blinds Lion Man, Moe Howard-style. When Lion Man finally overwhelms Dr. Sangro and Brosser, he prepares to turn them over to the United Nations officials. But “unaware that the tables have been turned”, little Bubba hauls out one of the villains’ machine guns, and in a misguided attempt to help his “boss”, Bubba opens fire, riddling Brosser’s body with bullets! “That li’l devil will be the death of me!”, gripes Lion Man. This unexpected development gives Dr. Sangro the opportunity to escape, leaving a frustrated Lion Man -- “Bubba, why don’t I feed you to the lions?” – and a determined Dr. Sangro – “Pig! Dr. Sangro never forgets” – and an end-caption that promises “the further adventures of Lion Man” in the next issue of ALL-NEGRO COMICS.
- “Your Best Bet Is ALL-NEGRO COMICS!”, a one-page house-ad.
- “Hep Chicks On Parade”, a page of gag cartoons signed by “Len”.
- “Li’l Eggie”, signed by “Terrell”, a one-page gag-strip about a henpecked African-American husband.
- “Sugarfoot”, signed by “Cravat”. – This story starts out with Sugarfoot and his buddy Snake-Oil running along a train track with a locomotive hot on their heels. Diving off of a bridge to escape it, they wind up in a lake, where a very weird-looking catfish nearly devours them. Emerging from the water, Sugarfoot and Snake-Oil approach an elderly farmer out plowing his field. Hoping to “shake him” for grits and fatback, “hongry” Sugarfoot sings a little song – “Head like a rock – legs like a frog –“ -- hoping to trade his performance for some food. The farmer leads them to his cabin, and after ordering the visitors to wash up, he takes them inside to meet his voluptuous girlfriend, the aptly-named Ample-Mae. While the “stacked” and “dumb” female cooks up a meal for them, Sugarfoot relentlessly flirts with her, laying on “a mess o’ jive”. But after they eat their fill, Sugarfoot and Snake-Oil are forced to perform for their hosts. The farmer even belts Snake-Oil with a half-eaten turkey leg -- giving the little guy a black eye, no less! – until he starts playing the banjo. Meanwhile, Sugarfoot starts dancing with Ample-Mae; in the process, he accidentally-but-repeatedly steps, stomps and even sits on the old farmer’s sore foot. In agony, the old man finally – and literally – kicks Sugarfoot and Snake-Oil out of his home. In the last panel, we catch up with the duo, trudging along the railroad tracks, unaware that another locomotive is bearing down on them. (Ah, so that’s “the almost lost humor of the lovable wandering Negro minstrel of the past”!)
- “Remember – Crime Doesn’t Pay, Kids!”, an inside-back-cover house-ad for ALL-NEGRO COMICS.
ODDBALL Factoid – One of the Oddest comic books ever prepared for the black market was never published! DC’s SOUL LOVE, a romance comic, was edited, written and drawn by Jack Kirby in the early 1970s, but the black-and-white, magazine-sized comic – similar to Kirby’s IN THE DAYS OF THE MOB and SPIRIT WORLD -- never saw print!
- “It’s New!”, a back-cover house-ad for ALL-NEGRO COMICS that depicts the comic’s cast of characters hanging around an urban newsstand (that’s apparently run by Lion Man and Bubba.)
Next Week – ODDBALL COMIC #1,163: MONDAY, MARCH 5, 2007 – Charlton’s giant-sized FANTASTIC GIANTS not only stars Konga (a British knock-off of King Kong) but also Gorgo (a British rip-off of Godzilla)! Plus, meet Hogar and the Mountain Monster, all drawn by Spider-Man’s co-creator, Steve Ditko, in his prime! And wait until you see the shocking reason why this ODDBALL cartoonist has always suppressed photos of his face!
For more from Scott Shaw!, visit his Web site at http://www.shawcartoons.com/.
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