We all have them, a collection of weird facts with which we beguile ourselves and embarrass loved ones. Earlier I spewed some of these bits of tid in an article I cleverly entitled “Comics of the Strange”. Of course, this makes it sound like these were comics meant only for people who are actually strange which is not the case. But then again…
Well, it has come to my attention that the vast reading public might enjoy some more of these excursions into the side alley of comics, (in other words a friend said, in exasperation, "Why don't you tell someone who cares?"). So here it is, the second installment of “Comics of the Strange Too! Even Stranger!”
(If you heard these stories, please don't give away the endings, or you will be barred from future screenings.)
Tale of the Two Palmers!
Most of the older readers, and those readers following the new, NEW, (not to be confused with the old new new) Teen Titans, know Ray Palmer the Atom, the worlds smallest Superhero. (Now there is something to brag about at parties, just how small you can get, total cocktail chatter.) Some readers may even know that Ray Palmer is named after an editor of the old SF pulp, Astounding Stories. But do you know why?
Ray Palmer was, at one time, a well known writer and editor of SF, a drum-beater for such circulation boosters as flying saucers and a kingdom beneath the earth where twisted evil beings beamed their wicked thoughts to the surface causing major disasters. (See “Ray Palmer and the Shaver Hoax” elsewhere on this blog) After several years of these stories, (some said Palmer didn't really believe the stuff, some said he did) Palmer was let go by Amazing and co-founded his own magazine, that advocate of all that is paranormal, (and downright silly), Fate. After years of publishing his magazine, and editing collections of his and others work, Ray died in 1977.
The Nucleus of the Atom
Now why name the world's smallest superhero after this now forgotten editor? Raymond A. (no one can agree what the 'A' stands for) Palmer was a hunchback who stood at a little over four feet. It was claimed that he was the victim of a terrible accident while a child, but no one can agree what that accident was. So the Atom's secret identity was something of an in-joke to comics editor Julie Schwartz and artist Gil Kane when they and writer Gardner Fox re-vamped the Golden Age Hero for the 60s.
Sabrina the Teen-Age Horror Host?
Also part of the weird was the meeting that produced one of my favorite 'what were they thinking' comics, a comic so ill-conceived it’s legendary. I'm talking about that great title from Archie Comics, "Sabrina's Chilling Adventures into Sorcery". If you can think of EC comics' "Vault of Horror" or "Tales from the Crypt" , as done by Archie, that would give you a good idea of the intent, if not the outcome, of this two issue title. Done in the usual well-scrubbed Stan Goldberg/Dan DeCarlo style, the stories cover the usual rotting corpses, spell casting, and gruesome murders all hosted by a cackling Sabrina who looks like she is holding a flashlight under her chin.
What is the most obscene thing about this title, beyond the bad idea that birthed it, is the fact that Archie would attempt to rip off the very titles that they, in the person of their publisher John Goldwater, were instrumental in killing. Goldwater was the main force behind the CCA, the Comics Code Authority of the 1950s, helping to write the list of no-nos that those seeking the code’s approval would have to abide by. Ostensibly it was a effort to save comics from themselves, push the sleazier publishers out and head off the angry parent groups stirred up by sensationalist coverage of the media and congress. Goldwater and friends used it as a cudgel aimed squarely at the best selling EC comics. Without code approval, distributors wouldn't touch you. EC soon became radioactive with distributors who in turn, dropped them. Shame John G. Goldwater is also known for claiming to have “created” Archie and his friends and somehow was able to base them on the friends of the artist who drew them. Nice trick, but I guess creating “Archie” is the exact same thing as just publishing it. Double shame.
Zombie Titles and Dead Redheads
The title was continued, dropping the Sabrina angle and Archie-style artwork completely and changing to just "Chilling Adventures into Sorcery". It lasted three more issues. They are not the easiest things to find, but are usually cheap when you do locate them. If you don't feel like having these comics sully your collection I understand, but if you do see them, thumb through just to get the feel of your jaw against the floor. Of course, they've now brought the title back, minus the Archie style as "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina". Well, someone has to be around to contact the now dead Riverdale redhead in the afterlife.
Next time, in this non-sequential series, (meaning whenever I feel like it) I'll bring who more stories from the comics of the weird.
Until next time...Bhahhahahahahahahahahah...hee, hee...ahem, yes.