Friday, March 26, 2010

Beginnings of the Sidekicks - A'S'HGACB:SH*

*This is part of a semi-regular series in this blog "A 'Slight' History of Golden Age Comic Books: Super Heroes". To catch up on the other posts, click the label in the right hand column or at the bottom of this post.

I honestly don't intend to post every story from the Golden Age of Comic Book Super Heroes, but in the year of 1938 we are still at a very disparate time from our own, and the contrast of these first stories and the world we know today is as broad as it could be. And therefor, very exciting and interesting.

It's July of 1938 now, and in the 2 years since the debut of The Clock in 1936, there have been only 2 more super heroes introduced into comic books. Superman and Zatara both premiered in Action Comics #1 in June and issue #2 brings us their sophomore efforts.

Zatara, while for all intents and purposes was a straight rip-off of Mandrake the Magician, he DID offer a more fantastical approach. Zatara could actually perform magic as opposed to Mandrakes use of hypnotic illusions. He kind of outmatched his foes though, as they are all common every day thugs with tricks up their sleeves, at least as far as 1938 is concerned.

With this broadness of atmosphere also comes more broadness of character. Mandrakes right arm man Lothar, may have been a big strong olive skinned ethnic type, but he was also depicted as Mandrakes friend, not just a servant. He was depicted as a man of royal blood, with regal breeding, manners and education. Zatara's Tong on the other hand, was just a big mook.

As you read this story, please take the characterization of Tong as it was intended. Tong is powerful. Tong is loyal. Tong is moral and just. Tong is also a pretty 2 dimensional stereotype. It was a different time, the world was a bigger place and America was more innocent in 1938. We should take it for what it was and know it for what it is.

The story itself is pretty well told and the characters more fleshed out. Zatara has his trademark moustache now. And Tong? Well. I like him. Stereotyped in speech and appearance as he may have been, he was also one of the good guys. He fought the good fight for all the right reasons. Not such a bad thing after all.
See y'all tomorrow!

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