6 Old-Timey Comics Straight Out of a (Bad) Acid Trip
It's amazing how all of the comic book icons have been around for half a century or more. But why did Batman (1939) and Superman (1938) endure when all of the other comic book characters from that era were forgotten? Well, it's partly because those other characters were absolutely freaking insane. Behold the dark madness of ...
The Eye is undeniable evidence that comic book artists began doing acid long before they started admitting to it in the '60s. As the name suggests, the Eye is a sometimes giant crime-fighting disembodied eye with magical powers that gets off on hovering behind criminals and silently watching them without their knowledge. (Actually, if you guessed all that from just the name, you're probably a psychopath.)
A full half of each issue was the Eye watching people go to the bathroom.
There's never any attempt to explain where it came from, how it got its powers or what happened to the rest of its body -- the Eye simply is, and should you anger it, it won't hesitate to squash you like a bug and scatter your limbs across the bottom of the ocean.
We question the efficacy of lecturing criminals when all they're thinking is "HOLY SHIT IT'S A GODDAMNED FLOATING EYE."
The phrase "Cruel and unusual punishment" wasn't meant to be a suggestion.
This is less "clean comic book fun," more "Old Testament horror." The only reason we know the Eye isn't God himself is that God clearly doesn't exist in the universe this comic takes place in. Instead of giving their "superhero" a weakness or flaw to make it relatable, the Eye's creators decided to go in the exact opposite direction and bestowed it with unlimited powers, including the frightening ability to penetrate men's minds.
"His third person speech annoying!"
Not only that, but it can also influence the minds of innocent people, apparently. Upon finding out that its sidekick, barrister Jack Barrister, was having problems with his wife, the Eye somehow persuades her to take him back.
"Keen Detective Funnies: The Most Inaccurately Named Magazine in America!"
But don't worry, the Eye is a friend to all men who believe in justice -- the only thing it asks in return is your complete obedience.
The Eye was such a big hit, it seems, that soon other publishers rushed to cash in on the disembodied body part superhero craze. Another example is the Big Hand, an equally bizarre floating arm who communicates exclusively through cards written in blood.
"Meet me in the men's room. -TBH"
We're pretty sure reading this counts as a war crime.
The Boy Heroes were at best government-sanctioned child soldiers, at worst a pack of cold-blooded miniature mercenaries. At an age when most of us were noticing the opposite sex, the only thing the Boy Heroes had "noticed" were Nazi machine guns slamming bullets through their comrades' skulls.
We like to think "Duck You" was an edit by the censors.
When the friendly World War II soldiers who kindly let the Boy Heroes in on their suicide mission are killed in front of them, the children barely even flinch. A second later, the matter is forgotten as the kids push the corpses aside and pick up their dropped guns to join the fighting.
"Meh, they knew what they were signing up for."
But these boys could give it as well as they could take it -- despite their whimsical costumes and jokey personalities, the horrors of war had clearly hardened their very souls and turned them into merciless killers. They took no prisoners:
"Dibs on all ears and eyeballs!"
And they didn't mince words about it:
"Um, I mean, those Japanese people. Now let's kill them."
Seriously, these kids had more kills than birthdays:
"I meant let's pull a prank on him, but this works, too."
Even other children weren't spared by the Boy Heroes: In one mission, one of the kids managed to infiltrate the Hitler Youth by convincing everyone he was actually a high-ranking Nazi official.
It wasn't a huge stretch.
When his captured friends were seconds from being executed, the young double agent pulled a switcheroo and replaced them with some German kids -- one of whom happened to be the son of one of the officers.
This shit makes Watchmen look like Little Lulu.
The Boy Heroes suffered physical horrors, saw their friends die before their eyes and personally killed many German and Japanese soldiers. When they returned from battle, their superiors were appalled that such an oversight could happen and shipped them back home to the U.S. to get immediate psychiatric treatment.
Just kidding! They rewarded them with ice cream and trips to the movies, then sent them back to the battlefield.
Next Ish: The Boys make a new friend, Krazy Kony!
Yankee Doodle Jones
At first glance, Yankee Doodle Jones appears to be just another Captain America type hero. He looks like an Aryan wet dream, dresses in an American flag outfit that'd send any country singer into a jealous rage and is pumped full of a steroid that gives him "the strength of an army." Also, he answers directly to the highest authority in the country. And we don't mean the president:
Uncle Sam, who is unelected and holds no position of authority in the U.S. Constitution.
Even Yankee's origin seems "inspired" by Captain America's: They are both the product of a secret government project led by a scientist who is killed by Nazis immediately after producing the first of what should have been many super soldiers (which is actually the plot of half the comics published in 1941). The difference is that Yankee Doodle Jones wasn't so much recruited for the project as stitched together from the still-living bodies of handicapped World War I veterans. He's basically a walking war memorial.
On the first panel of the first story, we meet three crippled men:
Thank goodness for that sign -- the blacked out glasses and cane were real subtle.
One is blind, one has no arms or face and one is just a bald guy with crutches, and apparently they all got together beforehand and rehearsed that speech that they all shout in unison. Exactly one panel later, they are all dead.
Soon, the cobbled-together abomination produced from the union of their corpses awakes, having inexplicably achieved sentience (and blond hair).
"Afterward, you'll pick one of three available dicks."
When a bunch of Nazis jump out of nowhere and murder the 20th century Dr. Frankenstein, Yankee Doodle Jones adopts the scientist's son as his teenage sidekick, Dandy, and the two go off to fight for truth, justice and the right to dissect hobos in deranged experiments.
"I'm already pieces, technically!"
Here's the thing, though: Dandy gets the exact same powers as Yankee Doodle from injecting himself with the last remnants of the "invincibility injection" -- meaning they could have used it on any able-bodied person and the result would have been the same. There's no reason why they had to kill three men, chop their corpses to pieces and sew them back together into one man, other than because they could.
What's perhaps even more disturbing is that the first issue has a death toll of at least five people in seven pages (not counting the three veterans) -- all of whom probably ended up in a freezer, waiting to be used as spare parts in a future adventure.
"Try not to punch him near the kidneys, though."
"The Boy Streak." This is about to get uncomfortable, isn't it?
Silver Streak is like the Flash, if the Flash didn't give a shit and was a child-molesting pervert. Now, we know that gratuitous accusations of pedophilia get thrown at superheroes and their sidekicks all the time, and we're probably guilty of having done that in the past, but this ... this is really something else.
It all starts when our hero, Silver Streak, meets a poor boy on the street and takes him to his apartment with the promise of injecting his "secret fluid" into him.
This panel makes our job completely redundant.
After stripping down (seriously) and receiving the fluid injection, the boy gains all the powers of the Silver Streak and becomes his sidekick, Mercury (inexplicably renamed "Meteor" two issues later, simply because no one cared enough to keep track of that sort of thing). It's also explained that Silver Streak's pet falcon, Whiz, got superpowers using the same method, but we'd rather not dwell too much on that.
Anyway, Silver Streak and Mercury/Meteor/whatever soon go off to fight the Third Reich in their own, shall we say, very special way.
Decades later, a traumatized Mercury would resurface as Chris Hansen.
OK, at some point they just flat out stopped fighting Nazis and began openly flirting with each other in the sky as they let deadly bombs fall on American soil. They're not even making the minimum effort to hide it. The homoerotic repartee they're trading makes Batman and Robin sound like rowdy truckers.
We'll just go ahead and get ready for the FBI raid now.
Somehow, the writer of this comic must have known the Internet would exist, because there's literally no reason for this panel to be in this comic other than for comedy websites in the future to make fun of it. The expression, the wording, the emphasis on pleasure -- this much inappropriateness could only exist by design.
Also, even when Silver Streak wasn't busy breaking statutory laws, he seemed less concerned with helping win the war and more with just trolling enemy soldiers by branding them with his special "V" mark.
Pictured: Eisenhower-era teabagging.
Boy King and the Giant
The origin story for Boy King is one of those classic, timeless tales: When the Nazis invade the idyllic and culturally stagnant European nation of Swisslakia, the dying king tells his young son David to go and dig up the giant robot Nostradamus built for just such an occasion. Yep, that Nostradamus, who was apparently a genius robotician in addition to a bullshit artist.
"The robot is powered by intentional vagueness and apocryphal quotes."
Becoming Swisslakia's official new king, David uncovers the robot and immediately uses it to crush the Nazi army. As in horribly squash their bodies to death.
... which, actually, seems like a fairly reasonable use for it. The problem is that the more he uses the giant, the more pleasure the Boy King seems to derive from commanding it to kill people in increasingly contrived ways. That kid had issues. Observe as his expression changes from anger to sadistic glee:
"... but more slowly this time. Yeah. Yeah, that's it."
The Boy King had two equally important objectives: keep his people safe and sate his bloodlust. He figured the U.S. could help him do both those things, so he got the giant to drag the remaining Swisslakians across the ocean, officially dissolving the very nation he swore to defend as soon as they reached American shores. You see, despite having never been there before, David was desperately in love with the United States ... and so was the giant, in a far more literal sense.
What followed was 15 pages of the wrongest wrongness ever put to paper.
Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle is often credited as the first comic book superheroine, debuting in early 1940 and predating Wonder Woman by almost two years. Whoever decided she counted as one, however, has an extremely loose definition of what superheroing entails -- for starters, as far as we know superheroes aren't meant to be mind-numbingly terrifying.
What's so scary about her? We wish you hadn't asked. At first, Fantomah appears to be just another completely normal voluptuous blonde woman flying around the jungle.
You'd barely notice her.
But here's the catch: In order to use her superpowers, Fantomah must undergo a transformation that starts with her becoming a faceless monstrosity, a grotesque mockery of humanity whose very shape threatens us with oblivion ...
... and doesn't end until she has become a human-shaped representation of death itself.
There's just no good context for witnessing a gender-reassigned Skeletor.
Fantomah only changes into her ghostly form when she's about to unleash a supernatural punishment on someone, usually greedy hunters or businessmen who dare to mess with her jungle. Some of them are lucky.
Like the ones who are merely torn apart by gorillas.
Others, not so much. Her worst torture is the sadistic "pit of horrors" in the "unfound world," the most bizarre sequence of events ever printed in a comic book. It starts when she grabs several men who were enslaving jungle natives and merges them together into one man, then drops him in a pit filled with strange creatures. The man/men tries to make a run for it, but ...
And now we know what Ralph Bakshi read as a kid.
... um, inexplicable stuff happens, and then ...
Yeah. So never go anywhere near a jungle, kids, is the lesson here.
Sleep well tonight.
Philip "Pip" Ury wants to write cartoons and comic books. Follow him on Facebook or drop him an email at ZananVI@hotmail.com.
For more comics that make us uncomfortable, check out The 5 Most Unintentionally Offensive Comic Book Characters and The 6 Creepiest Comic Book Characters of All Time.
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