« Like its politicians and its wars, society has the teenagers it deserves. » — J. B. Priestley
Here at WOT central, we’re both massive Bob Oksner (1916-2007) fans, and it’s not generally for the writing. For a long time, his multi-faceted talent was used to great effect all over the DC Comics line, but he rarely received the acclaim he so richly deserved.
And then it was over, in this visual idiom anyway: with the following issue (LITB68), DC brought in well-traveled Henry Scarpelli to handle the covers and create the impression that Binky was just one more Archie clone. Over the subsequent four issues, a handful of (pretty good) new stories were mixed in with the reprints. Then came a change of title and a new logo. The book, now simply called Binky, was a full-on Archie ersatz, and lasted another ten issues into 1971… with one final special popping out of nowhere in the summer of ’77. For ol’ Binky, par for the course!
« Listen, Angel! If they’re out of bananas… I’ll meet you at the corner fruit stand! »
Today, let’s combine our general theme with a celebration of the birthday of one of comics’ great, yet perpetually underappreciated talents: Bob Oksner (October 14, 1916 – February 18, 2007), DC’s go-to humour and good girl art guy. Can you beat that? Didn’t think so.
Bob had a winning penchant for mixing monsters and babes, and for this, he’s earned our lifelong gratitude.
You might say Angel and the Ape exist in an awkward sort of limbo: popular enough for the back issues to be kind of pricey, but not popular enough to have been reprinted (eight issues, including their Showcase appearance, ideal for a trade paperback, hint, hint).
So what else has Mr. Oksner cooked up over the years? Keeping to our theme, here are a few highlights, but first, a handy bio:
Sometimes I stumble upon a comic with a fight-to-the-death scene in which something-or-other- with-tentacles plays the role of a lethal enemy for our hero – but upon closer inspection, in turns out that the ferocious creature is… gosh-darned cute. I mean, how can you kill anything that has adorable whiskers, or tufted eyebrows like Oscar the Grouch?
When your attackers are carrots with tentacles, and they really get on your nerves (although I think Ann is safer with them than with Dr. Maylor), I’d suggest throwing them into a nice big pot of soup, maybe… but if you please, do consider abstaining from flinging acid at them.
While we’re on that topic: things get delightfully wacky and madcap (not much) later in the story. Namely, Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin are summoned for help against the tentacled carrot-horde.
Dunc and Loo (which was called « Around the Block with Dunc & Loo » for the first three issues) was a comic written and story-boarded by John Stanley. (See our initial post about John Stanley, including more D&C covers.) The finished art for the series was provided by Bill Williams. This combination worked perfectly to provide readers with (only eight, alas) hilarious issues of teenage high-jinks and other silliness.
You can read the whole issue over at Comic Book Plus – no tentacles, I’m afraid, but some gorgeous art and zany stories. It’s well worth the detour!
Hey, octopuses like surfing, too. Or maybe this one just wanted the blonde for himself…
The Adventures of Bob Hope were published by National Periodical Publications from 1950 to 1968, for a total of 109 issues. The main stories centred around comedian Bob Hope (or his misadventures, rather); the cover stories often featured some other film-related characters. The original artist of the series was Owen Fitzgerald, with Cal Howard as the writer. Official credits aren’t really available, but these two seemed to provide much of the content for the first 60 issues. In #61, however, Mort Drucker (on main stories) and Bob Oksner (on back-ups) made their debut, and continued on their merry way until, oh, 1967 or so. In case you’re interested, Neal Adams did the last 4 covers for the series (eek).
Here’s another series that followed a pretty similar path (unsurprisingly – same publishing house, comparable years, same subject matter): The Adventures of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis (July-August 1952 – October 1957) that became The Adventures of Jerry Lewis with #41 (November 1957). The art, handled mostly by Owen Fitzgerald in the beginning, gradually landed increasingly into the more-than-capable hands of Bob Oksner, who stayed around until the end with issue #124 (June 1971). Here, also, Neal Adams stuck his nose in, this time for three issues (covers of #102 through to #104).
Beware of the man who only dreams logical dreams! That says a lot about Luthor’s personality, actually.
This legendary encounter between Mr. Mind and Luthor comes to us from “Captain Marvel Meets… Lex Luthor?!”, written by Dennis O’Neil, pencilled by Bob Oksner and inked by Tex Blaisdell. It’s part of a 100-page issue (Shazam! no. 15, November-December 1974), which I think was my first exposure to The Big Red Cheese… and I was instantly hooked, even though I’m not generally fond of cross-overs (or, generally speaking, super-heroes). These issues may not cost 60 cents anymore, but they’re still totally worth tracking down!
Mr. Mind is usually considered to be a worm, but frankly, he looks more like a caterpillar (which is more dignified, anyway). In his quest for world dominion, he hatched many a plan to topple world order, some of which I will enumerate for readers’ enjoyment so you can admire the impressive span of Mr. Mind’s machinations:
To crush North America beneath a giant glacier using a giant gyroscope that makes the Earth shift on its axis.
To make Captain Marvel his mental slave using Billy Batson.
To topple all the buildings in Captain Marvel’s home city by controlling an army of worms and termites.
To trap the United States in eternal darkness by stopping the Earth’s rotation.
To use the ten-mile-long gun “Great Big Bertha” to literally blow holes in America and Russia.
To invade Scotland from an artificial floating island of ice.
To cause a giant volcano to erupt in the middle of Britain.
So if you encounter an angry-looking (but myopic) caterpillar on your travels, please mind what you say.