Comic book showcase: ?????

Happy Holidays everyone!

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Since it is the week before Christmas, and since we plan on taking Christmas week off from the blog, I thought it would be nice to talk about one of the most powerful superheroes in all of comic books.

He’s big, he’s red, he knows if you’ve been naughty or nice, and he’s listed as one of the most powerful mutants in the entire X-Men franchise…it’s SANTA CLAUS!

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Origin and Career

Unlike most of the characters we talk about on this blog, this guy has had a long and illustrious career, and he didn’t even start off in comic books.

If you want to learn about the history of Santa, there are a couple of things you have to understand.  For starters, many people use the names “Santa Claus”, “St. Nick”, “Kris Kringle”, and “Father Christmas” interchangeably.

All those names are actually talking about different people throughout history.

The Santa Claus that we know was made popular in the 1930’s as a figure who was used to sell Coca Cola.  This was where we get the idea of a jolly man dressed in red with a big white beard and a red nose.
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But that image was based off of an earlier drawing by famed political cartoonist Thomas Nast for Harper’s Weekly in 1881, who drew an incredibly popular illustration of the famous poem “A Night Before Christmas”.

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This is where we get the idea of Santa with his reindeer and his fascination with giving out toys.

But THAT image was taken from old European Dutch traditions about a jolly old man named “Sinterklaas”, a jolly old man who travels around on Christmas dressed in red and giving out candy to good little boys and girls.

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This is where we get the idea of Santa and his elves, since this version of Santa was accompanied by two beings called “Zwarte Piet” who help Santa hand out candy to the children.

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It’s worth mentioning that this version of Santa has his origins with the Norse god Wotan, who would ride around on his eight legged horse Sleipnir around this time of year.

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It’s also worth mentioning that “Santa” and “Father Christmas” are actually two different people because Father Christmas looks like this.

Image result for father christmas a christmas carol

He’s still a pre Christian figure, just a bit different from the tradition of Santa.

But the real origin of Santa comes from the early Christian St. Nicholas.

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St. Nicholas was originally Nicholas, a 4th century Christian bishop of Myra in what is now known as Turkey.

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In the Eastern Orthodox tradition he is the patron saint of children, the falsely accused, repentant thieves, barrel makers, and a whole bunch of cities and nations that are too numerous to count.  He’s a pretty popular saint.

The legend goes that the bishop had a friend who had the bad luck of only having daughters.  Back then, the family of the bride was required to provide a payment to the family of the groom called a dowry as a sign of good faith and friendship.

Unfortunately, if the bride couldn’t provide a dowry the bride couldn’t be married, and the life of an unmarried woman back then was a very difficult one.

When Nicholas heard this he decided to do something about it and late one night he baked a bunch of gold coins into a loaf of bread, climbed up to the chimney of his friend’s house, and threw the loaf down the chimney.

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and that is where we get the origin of Santa sending presents via chimney.

So what happened?

Oh, Santa Claus is still around, giving gifts and spreading good cheer.

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In fact, he has been so good at it that during WW2, Adolf Hitler had Santa captured in an effort to strike at the morale of America.

Thankfully, Roosevelt had Captain America and Nick Fury of the Howling Commandos rescue Santa.

It was later revealed that Santa is actually the most powerful mutant/superhero ever created.  His abilities are widely varied from longevity, to super speed, to the ability to manipulate his size in order to fit down a chimney of any size.

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Santa has appeared in several adventures with famous Marvel and DC superheroes,

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Image result for santa marvel universe

but it’s worth mentioning that he hasn’t always been a source of good cheer over the years.

Image result for santa marvel universe

Image result for santa marvel universe

Probably the best example of this was when he sold his entire gift making operation to Hydra because he was fed up with all the anger and lack of faith, although it did give us this.

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Despite all the misadventures and silly stories, Santa has remained a force for good in comic books and the world in general  His friendliness, kindness, and generosity have inspired people to live better lives and to be kind to each other during the Christmas season,

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something that is sorely needed in times like these.

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Merry Christmas everyone, and see you all next year.

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Golden Age Showcase: Betty Bates, Lady at Law.

Full disclosure, this is going to be a short article.  That being said, I think today’s comic book heroine is awesome enough on her own and doesn’t need a whole lot of space to show how awesome she is.

Today we’re going to talk about a female heroine who SHOULD have been one of the great female heroes to come out of the 1940’s: Betty Bates, Lady at Law.

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Origin and career

Betty Bates first appeared in Quality Comics’ Hit Comics #4 in October of 1940.

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She was a backup character created by artist and writer Bob Powell,

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whose other credits include characters such as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

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Betty Bates was an interesting character, especially for the 1940’s.  While the era has been criticized for its rampant sexism and misogyny it is the era that gave us classic female super heroines such as Wonder Woman,

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Lady Satan,

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and an early Black Widow.

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With all these super powered ladies flying around it seems difficult for someone as plain as Betty Bates to stand out, but she manages to do that in grand style.

For starters, Betty Bates was a District Attorney, a profession that was almost exclusively reserved for male characters.

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She was almost unnaturally honest, refusing to take bribes and to be coerced into letting criminals go free.

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She was also a capable and talented detective, determined to get to the truth.  She never had a secret identity or costume, never had any colorful gadgets, and while she only fought gangsters and thugs with colorful names, when it came time to throw down and defend herself…

Image result for betty bates, lady at law

Image result for betty bates, lady at law

Image result for betty bates, lady at law

she could handle herself in a fight.

So what happened?

Her series was published by a company called Quality Comics, a company whose most famous creation was this guy.

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Quality Comics sold off most of its characters in the 1950’s to DC Comics but the company had been suffering for a while.  Betty Bates was lost in the shuffle and after a ten year run her title was cancelled.

Despite her unglamorous end, Betty actually has a pretty impressive legacy.

She outlasted many of her more traditional male superhero counterparts and would continue to have a comfortable position as a back up character in the Hit Comics line for over ten years.  In fact, she still holds the honor of being the longest running non super powered, non main character heroine in comic book history.  Plus, there is only one comic book lawyer who has lasted longer than she has.

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Anyone want to try to explain why we’re not talking about her instead of Wonder Woman as a female comic book icon?

Sadly, she has remained forgotten for most of history and hasn’t been revived or brought back in any modern issues.

Which is a crying shame if you ask me.

How could she be brought back?

Unlike many of the Golden Age heroes we talk about on this blog that might have trouble fitting into a modern setting, Betty’s problems are actually quite the opposite.

There are a seemingly endless number of law procedural shows on television today.

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and Betty Bates could fit into any one of them

Also, we are now living in an age where leading ladies are gaining an increasingly large portion of the spotlight in popular culture.

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and I think Betty could fit right in.

The difficulty rests in finding a leading lady.  Personally, I nominate Haley Atwell.

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But that’s just me.

Golden Age Showcase: The Face

You know who everyone loves?  Batman.

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You know what one of his greatest lines is?

“Criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot”.

I love that line because it sums up Batman perfectly.  So much of his character is about instilling fear and dread into his opponents and it’s an integral part of the costume, especially the mask.

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This is part of what made Batman so popular and as we all know, popularity breeds imitators.

Today we’re going to talk about one of Batman’s earliest, and least successful, imitators simply known as…The Face.

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Hold on to your seats ladies and gentlemen.

Origin and Career

The Face was one of the hallmark creations of a little known comic book publisher called Columbia Comics.

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The company was formed in 1940 through a partnership between a newspaper company called the McNaught Newspaper Syndicate and a man named Vin Sullivan.

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Interesting fact: Vin Sullivan was the man who bought the rights of a little known character named Superman from Siegel and Shuster for a company called National Allied Publications, although you know them better as DC comics.

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Anyway, Columbia’s biggest seller was an anthology comic called Big Shot Comics and the Face was in the very first issue published in May of 1940.

Comic Book Cover For Big Shot Comics #1 - Version 1

He was created by an artist named Mart Bailey.

As for backstory, the Face was the superhero identity of humble radio station announcer Troy Trent who decided to fight crime just because he could.

Comic Book Cover For Big Shot Comics #1 - Version 1

In order to do this he decided to don a horrifying green mask with red hair, long fangs, and yellow eyes.  This disguise proved to be incredibly helpful since it struck enough fear into his enemies’ hearts that he could either get the jump on them or wrangle a confession from them quickly.

Comic Book Cover For Big Shot Comics #1 - Version 1

In his first adventure the Face helped save a group of sick orphans who were being poisoned by food supplied by a greedy businessman who was pocketing government aid money and selling sub par supplies back to the people that needed them.

Comic Book Cover For Big Shot Comics #1 - Version 1

No, I am not joking, this comic was absolutely serious.  I know that it may seem a bit much for our more developed brains to accept a story where the bad guy is just that evil and the good guy’s job is to save a bunch of orphans, but I thought it was sincere enough and just well written enough to make for a pretty good story.

Come to think of it, “pretty good” describes most of the Face’s stories.  The art work was pretty good, for Golden Age comic book standards, and while he never graduated past fighting crooks and gangsters his stories were either interesting enough or had some twist to them that made the writing a step above most of the crap that was being published at the time.

The character had a nice gimmick, with a good artist, and some good storytelling behind him.  He would wind up becoming one of Columbia Comic’s greatest heroes and I could easily see him making the leap into modern times along with more well known heroes like Batman and Superman.

So what happened?

The same thing that happened to Columbia Comics, he disappeared after they went out of business in 1949 due to declining sales.

Despite the fact that the Face was successful the sad fact of the matter was that superheroes just weren’t selling in the late 1940’s and by the early 1950’s the entire comic book industry would be on the ropes.

Sadly, the Face’s career was over.  However, a new hero who was heavily based off of him called “Mr. Face” did appear in Dynamite Comics’ Project Superpowers comic book series.

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His powers got a much needed update after being thrown into a mystic object known as the Urn of Pandora.  When he emerged he realized that people would see their worst fears come to life if they looked at his face and mask.

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Boy, this is a short section.  I wonder if there is anything I can do to add to this article?

How could he be remade?

What’s this?  A new section for long time readers in an attempt to remain fresh and interesting?  Well alright then.

In this section of the article I’m going to take a look at the character of the week and see if he/she/it could be remade and how it could be done.  Think of it like a pitch for a superhero revival only I’m not being paid for it.  Also, if anyone reading this should take a look at the article and be moved to turn it into a story of their own please feel free, I wouldn’t have put this on the internet if I didn’t want people to copy it.

Alright, so here’s what works.  The Face has a cool gimmick and costume.  Sure Batman has the whole “strike fear into criminals using the costume” deal but he also has decades of training and a bottomless bank account to help.  Our modern take on the Face would double down on the “using the mask to cause fear” idea and not rely on martial arts as much.

Maybe he could use the mask in conjunction with a fear inducing chemical like the Scarecrow,

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or maybe it could be some sort of mystic curse or ancient deity like a much more serious version of the Mask?

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What doesn’t work that much is the backstory and secret identity.  Having a superhero fight crime and have a life outside of crime may have been okay in the 1940’s but that just won’t fly here.  We need to give him a semi plausible backstory and motivation for fighting crime.

So, without further ado, here’s a short paragraph describing my idea for a revamped Face.

Tony Trent is a government scientist working on a top secret drug for the United States government.  He is a brilliant chemist working in conjunction with a psychologist named Tanya Ferguson (his love interest and helper) and they have been partnered together  in order to develop a drug for what they think is for crowd control purposes but is actually a powerful hallucinogenic drug for interrogation and discrediting enemies of America.  Tanya discovers the project’s true purpose and threatens to go to the press with the news.  Fearing reprisal the government shuts down the project and attempts to liquidate both Tony and Tanya.

The assassination attempt fails and both of them manage to flee.   The rest of the comic is the two of them trying to find the people responsible for trying to kill them and shutting the project down.  Tony is able to use the prototype fear gas, along with a plastic mask that he randomly picks up, as a weapon against anyone who would try to take them out.