THE COMICS CAVALCADE ARCHIVES VOL. 1 (DC, 2005; Hardcover)
Collects Comics Cavalcade #1-3 (cover dates Winter- Summer, 1943)
Writers: William Marston, Ted Udall, John M. Jenks, Ed Wheelan, Bill Finger, Gardner Fox, John L. Brummer, Bud Fisher, Sol Dess, Evelyn Gaines, John B. Wentworth, and M.C. Gaines
Artists: Harry G. Peter, Howard Purcell, John M. Jenks, Ed Wheelan, Sheldon Moldoff, Lou Ferstadt, Irwin Hasen, John Chester Kozlak, Frank Harry, Frank Godwin, Bud Fisher, Al Smith, Joe Gallagher, Everett Hibbard, Hal Sharp, Stan Aschmeier, and Harry Tschida
The novelty of Golden Age comics has completely worn off for me. A decade ago I oohed and aahed at every single old comic based on the sheer obscurity and the expense of obtaining the original comics alone. After reading tons of Golden Age comics I can be a bit more objective. I still take historical significance into consideration when reading them, but some of these stories are just plain awful. Primitive writing and art cementing the notion that comic books were the ghetto for artists who couldn't land a newspaper strip went.
This title was a quarterly 96 page anthology title (100 if you count covers as pages), all for 15 cents. Regular comics were 68 pages (including covers) for 10 cents at the time, so this wasn't as great a value as it appears on the surface. There are a greater variety of characters and concepts here, so that was part of the draw for the kiddies back then. Whenever I read old comics I think of once-beautiful neighborhoods in Detroit, and how many of the kids who lived there and bought these comics off of the stands are either dead or in an old folks home while many of the neighborhoods look like bombed out warzones. A 10 year old in 1943 would be 82 today.
|Just look at the awful, lazy gradient shading on the red in the first panel. Shudder.|
The draw of this book for me was Wonder Woman. I love how every single story results in her being tied up. It's hysterical, especially when you consider children were scooping this stuff up. There was a sizable adult audience for comics in this era, especially for Wonder Woman, whose sales went into the toilet once they got rid of the kinkier aspects of the character some time later. Her endless crusade against fifth columnists and Nazis is great fun. Still, I have to wonder what children at the time thought of this, or how it got past parents.
The original Green Lantern completely sucks, a totally cheesy and lame concept. Fans were atwitter when DC ret-conned the original Green Lantern as a homosexual. The only people who should be pissed about this are the gay community, as making a character this lame gay is a disservice to the gay community. If I were gay I would be pissed that DC picked such a sucky character to give to us. I would settle for no less than Golden Age Sandman, and not the lame Simon and Kirby version, either. Golden Age Flash is equally lame. While historically significant, I don't care for the early incarnation (Earth 1) of these guys.
The most fascinating stuff here besides Wonder Woman are the ancillary characters. The Black Pirate (with art by the godlike Sheldon Moldoff) is way cool, kind of a Prince Valiant of the high seas type affair. Wildcat is another awesome character. Ted Grant, heavyweight boxing champion of the world, moonlights as a crimefighter in a cat costume. His costume is disturbingly similar to my childhood superhero creation, Catman, although mine was a real cat man, not a dude in a costume. His arch enemy was Dogman, possibly my finest villain creation. Yes, there are a myriad reasons that I did not go into comics as a career. The King is another fun concept, basically a Batman retread (wealthy man doing good with his fists) with dated even for the era aesthetics. Sargon The Sorcerer is another neat one, this one done in the mold of Mandrake The Magician.
The worst stuff is the kiddie “funny” gag strips (Mutt & Jeff, etc.). Abysmal stuff there. The Ghost Patrol is lame. M.C. Gaines writes an unremarkable historic one-shot strip about the Minute Men. Gaines would of course go on to form Educational Comics, which would rebrand itself as Entertaining Comics. Once he died and his son William took over in the late '40s they came to be known by another name: EC Comics, which is like calling an ATM an ATM machine.
This was a very uneven read, and if I ever get around to revisiting this book I will skip over 70% of the material in it.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 3 out of 5.
The OCD zone- I love DC Archives, even though...
Linework and Color restoration: The linework restoration looks good at times and is murky at others, but it is serviceable. The color palette is kinda sorta accurate. The blues on Wonder Woman's shorts are lighter than the original comics that I have seen scans of online. DC's cheesy airbrush gradient blends ruin the effect of reading old comics. It looks garish. Since this is DC, this is the only time they will bother with remastering this material. Marvel would use another format to defray the costs of restoration if superior sources or techniques arose.
Paper stock: Beautiful matte, off-white coated stock. DC has made a horrible about-face with their Archives paper stock in recent years, reverting to an awful glossy stock.
Binding: Smythe sewn binding, lays flat. This book will outlast me.
Hardback cover notes: I love the faux-leather texture of the casewrap. There is a foil stamping on it, which is nice. DC has done away with those in recent years. The dustjackets of Archives have been known to change color when exposed not just to sunlight, but air itself. Something in the metallic ink or whatnot. Weird. I own my books, they do not own me, so screw it.