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Sunday, November 01, 2009

More Fun Comics #81 - July 1942

Comics Weekend "Champ of the Waves" by Mort Weisinger and Paul Norris.

More fun with More Fun!

Aquaman gets a rare mention on the cover this time (would it have killed DC to give Aquaman one frigging More Fun cover?). Inside, he's actually not taking on Blackjack the pirate for once:

Aquaman's finny friend does indeed lead to him to what the trouble is:
The young woman, Dotty, wakes up and assumes that it was her friend George who saved her. Aquaman, gracefully, doesn't give George away.

Dotty then brags about George to another guy, named Mr. Humber (who, with his Brylcreemed hair and pencil-thin mustache, looks like your classic 1940s gangster). Humber challenges George to race against him in the "big swimming marathon" that's taking place in a few days. Dotty is all for it, and George--his lie now ever-expanding--goes along.

Humber and Dotty depart, and Aquaman takes George aside and asks him what's going on. George reveals his feelings for Dotty, and his shame that he "can't swim a stroke." Aquaman generously offers to teach George how to swim.

But it won't be that simple--we learn that the mob has money on this race(!), and they're betting on Humber (See? I told you he was crooked!). Thinking that George is a better swimmer then he lets on, the mob plans to get George out of the race.

Aquaman helps George learn how to swim, but they run out of time before the sem-finals take place. Aquaman then actually helps George cheat, by...um, well...
...comics were different then.

George wins the semi-finals, and Aquaman tells him that the training must continue in earnest, since he won't help George cheat again.

That night, the mob tries to bribe George to throw the race, but he refuses. So they do the next logical thing: they hit him over the head, throw him in a trunk, and dump him into the ocean!

Luckily, Aquaman's finny friends again are on the case:
Aquaman saves George, and together they hatch a plan. Aquaman thinks that if George doesn't show up until the last minute before the race, the mob will get sloppy and try to rub him out again.

The mob, being predictable, does just that, by sending one of their gang into the water to shoot George from below:
...Aquaman, seeker of adventure, first-class wingman.

I love how resourceful and hard-working the mob is here, for very little gain. I mean, rigging a swimming race? I guess the FBI's crackdown really forced the mob to find other sources of revenue outside of gambling, prostitution, protection, etc., so they were forced to try and rig relatively mundane events like this.

Of course, they didn't count on that hero of the seven seas, Aquaman!

This was artist and Aquaman co-creator Paul Norris' last work on the strip and the character--he would not draw his co-creation again for another forty-five years.

Not having seen any (save one) of these original Aquaman stories drawn by Norris until recently, I never had a full appreciation of how good his work was, how distinctive.

These Golden Age Aquaman stories are way better than I ever would have expected, and I have to think part of the reason Aquaman lasted through the 1950s, even after almost every other comic book superhero disappeared, was because of Paul Norris giving the character such a solid start.


Josh Hill said...

I wish I could get my hands on these comics. My birthday was yesterday and my wife bought me the Aquaman Archives Vol. 1, so at least I have those I can read!

Aaron said...

Josh, that is an Awesome collection you've just gotten. the artwork looks absolutely gorgeous. Enjoy and happy birthday!

Josh Hill said...

Thanks! and yes, the book is beautiful! Ramona Fradon did all the art but for one story by another talented artist, Nick Cardy!

Doug Slack said...

I love that opening splash page.