The Golden Age of Comics is notorious for sudden change, bait & switch, and the ol’ shell games. And sometimes, when you’re reading those books, you have to play shell games of your own… Your Major Spoilers Retro Review of Amazing Comics #1 awaits!
AMAZING COMICS #1
Penciler: Mike Sekowsky/Bob Powell/Al Gabriele
Inker: Al Avison/Al Gabriele/Allen Bellman/Vince Alascia
Editor: Vince Fago
Publisher: Euclid Publishing Company, Inc. (Marvel Comics)
Cover Price: 10 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $4250.00
Previously in Amazing Comics: As hard as it may be to believe looking at today’s Disney-affiliated corporate megalith, Marvel Comics was once very much a fly-by-night publishing house. Martin Goodman’s modus operandi could be summarized as “get in while the gettin’ was good, knockoff what was popular, and put out as much product as possible to catch the biggest audience.” That’s not a dig, either, it’s one of the reasons that Timely/Atlas/Marvel/Euclid/Classic/Fantasy/Hercules et. al. survived through the various difficulties of the Golden Age. This issue is one of only three comics released under the Euclid Publishing indicia, seemingly as a second showcase for the Young Allies. While mostly another Jack Kirby-style boy battalion, the Young Allies also featured boy sidekicks Bucky and Toro, the partners of Goodman’s big draws, Captain American and The Human Torch.
So, my intention with this issue was to look at the long, two-chapter Young Allies adventure that headlines this issue, but my edits of the splash page here should be the first indicator of how that went wrong. Not only do the Young Allies feature regular character “Whitewash” Jones, one of the most abhorrent, retrograde minstrel show characters of all time, but this issue takes the boys overseas… to India…
…where they are fighting against Japanese spies…
Over the course of the 20-page story, it was nigh-impossible to find a page without a grotesque racist caricatures, and while that’s often par for the course in ’40s comics, this story is overwhelming. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Fortunately, this anthology also features… THE WHIZZER!
One of Marvel’s most maligned characters, mostly in part to his yellow costume and the modern slang use of “whiz” for urine, Bob Frank was a pretty blatant Flash knockoff throughout his career. Though his headgear is usually a skullcap today, this story makes it clear that it’s actually a winged helmet like Jay Garrick’s, with the addition of an eagle-head profile in the front.
In practice, it looks like he’s got a dead turkey on ‘is head.
Though the writer of this tale isn’t credited, the art is by Bob Powell of the Eisner/Iger studio, and it’s a lot of fun. His Whizzer moves in E.E. Hibbard style blurs, with red accents that aren’t usually part of his aesthetic. As our story opens, Whizzer (which, remember, in ’40s parlance means something excellent or amazing rather than… y’know) responds to a bank robbery, only to find that the whole thing is a ruse. The real crimes are being committed miles away, completely on the other side of town, and the villainous Crime Clocker is so confident in his plan that he has explained it all ahead of time.
But he didn’t count on The Whizzer’s incredible speed!
Crossing the city in seconds, he ends the jewelry store robbery with a few well-placed supersonic punches, then heads back to the other side of town to deal with the art gallery. Once again, Powell’s work is lively in its crudeness, conveying the sheer speed and power of a guy with a dead turkey on his head wearing a yellow leotard.
Playing it dumb. Whiz lets the bad guys “get away”, trailing them back to their hideout, once again on the OTHER side of the city. If the unnamed metropolis is New York City, that would imply that he covers the two-mile length of Manhattan in less than fifteen seconds, which implies a velocity in excess of 600 miles/975 kilometers per hour! That means that the crooks’ speeding sedan is a gentle 100 MPH/160 KPH jog for our hero.
The overconfident Clocker becomes the unconscious clocked as Whizzer arrives, implying that the entire story, including the car trip, took less than one minute. That’s… highly unlikely? But it makes for a jaunty ending to a tale that lacks horrible stereotypes of anyone but criminal thugs and fat people. (That’s still not ideal, but… I can deal.) In keeping with the inconsistent publishing stratagems of the era, Amazing Comics #1 ends up being the only issue, becoming Complete Comics for issue two before disappearing, and the contents are a mixed bag, earning 1 out of 5 stars overall. Every comics era has its pitfalls, but when a story is so gross that I can’t even bring myself to review it, it’s probably best to just move along.
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AMAZING COMICS #1
So, I was going to cover one of Marvel's rare, weird off-brand one-shots, featuring the Young Allies, but I just couldn't bring myself to apologize and say "It was a different era" that many times, so...
The Whizzer was pretty okay.