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Sunday, October 25, 2009

More Fun Comics #80 - June 1942

Comics Weekend "The Scourge of the Seven Seas" by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris.

More fun with More Fun!

After taking the last couple of issues off, Blackjack the Pirate returns to tangle with the hero of the seven seas, Aquaman!
Before we go any further...I love that cartoony, ultra-mean-looking shark there. If I was that young woman, I'd be scared, too!

Anyway, this story opens with Blackjack whiling away the hours in prison. Blackjack knows he can't jump the fence, because its electrified. So, when no one else is looking, he knocks one guard into it, zapping the poor guy into unconsciousness.

He then turns to the other guards, and says the unconscious one is held fast to the fence due to the current. If they turn it off (a-ha!) they can free him. The guards do this, and Blackjack punches them out long enough to hop the fence and escape (these guards were later transferred to Arkham Asylum).

But you have to do more than just hop the fence to escape--this jail is on an island! That doesn't stop Blackjack, who leaps into the water. The guards call in Aquaman to help out, and he shows up just in time to "save" Blackjack from a nosy shark:
...this is obviously long before Aquaman made all the creatures of the sea his finny friends.

Seeing that its all a ruse, Aquaman heads back out into the sea to find him. One guard asks who this Aquaman guy is, but luckily the prison has hired a guy to be in charge of exposition:
Now free, it only takes Blackjack a few weeks to get a job aboard a pleasure yacht--the hoity-toity owner hiring him because he looks "Picturesque--rather nautical."

Of course, it only take Blackjack a few days to convince the other crewmen to mutiny, playing upon their resentments at being so underpaid, at least in relation to the Thurston Howell-esque owner named Van and his girlfriend Phyllis.

The crewman bonk Van over the head, dumping him into the ocean. Phyllis manages to let loose a rowboat, which Van uses to keep himself from drowning. Aquaman, via the help of a finny friend, hears about this and assumes that Blackjack must be involved!

He finds Van, and drags him and the rowboat after Blackjack. Meanwhile, Blackjack is busy ransoming his remaining prisoners--except, that dirty scoundrel, he just takes the ransom money and splits! He steers the ship out to sea where, when he dumps the bodies, "Their corpses won't bob up on some shore."

But Aquaman and Van catch up and sneak aboard:
...this Golden Age Aquaman does possess one characteristic that the later version would also have: his unwillingness sometimes to bother with a plan. Rather, he just jumps into a bunch of bad guys and starts throwing punches.

Blackjack and his men dump Aquaman into the ship's hold until they can figure out what to do with him. But before they have a chance, Aquaman opens up a pressure valve, allowing ocean water to come pouring in, slowly sinking the ship!

One of Blackjack's henchmen jumps in to stop Aquaman, but of course that's what Aquaman wanted:
Ouch! That first panel makes me teeth hurt!

Having taken care of Blackjack, Aquaman shuts off the valve, keeping the ship from sinking. Knowing when they are beaten, the rest of Blackjack's men give up and help Aquaman rescue the prisoners:
...and so ends another adventure with Aquaman!

Maybe I'm reading (way) too much into it, but there's an interesting little bit of characterization that borders on social commentary in this story.

It takes Blackjack almost no time at all to convince the yacht's crew to mutiny--not because Blackjack possesses any sort of special powers, but simply because, as the story states, Blackjack is "A natural leader of men", and "the weak-willed" can be easily led to resent those who have more money, even if, like Van, they seem to be nice guys. With the Great Depression barely a few years past, I guess its only natural the idea of Class Warfare was so prevalent it could be hinted at, even in a silly comic book story.

On a separate note--don't forget that if you are a perpetrator of evil anywhere on the seven seas:


Russell said...

Here's another great example of Bonk! Bonk! On the Head, too.

Luis said...

A curious thing about Golden Age Aquaman, his gloves were yellow as has been noted before, and they were quite long, since they covered the albow as well and had a more pronounced fin-like shape than what he wore later on.

Richard said...

"I guess its only natural the idea of Class Warfare was so prevalent it could be hinted at, even in a silly comic book story."

Well, yes, but there may also be some authorial projection here. People who worked for Mort Weisinger give us a remarkably consistent portrait of a bullying, dictatorial, greedy bastard who saw himself as the natural leader of those he considered weaker than himself. Read Men of Tomorrow for some choice anecdotes. Writers don't just put themselves into their stories as the hero -- sometimes projecting yourself as the villain (deliberately or unintentionally) gives you the chance to work off a lot of negative energy.

That said, Mort's Aquaman is a bit of a gangsta too, maybe even an outright bully and thug. Even though he's wearing elbow gloves.

rob! said...


Absolutely! These More Fun stories have Aquaman getting his noggin hit almost every issue.


Yeah, these early stories have Aquaman dressed more fish-y, and over time they scaled that back.


Interesting theory! Yeah, I'm familiar with Mort's reputation, you might be onto something...