October 10, 2008

It (Doesn't) Stalk the Public Domain - Madame Cyanide and Mister Tricks

Number six in a series, bookmark http://tinyurl.com/ditko-stories to see them all.

This story is still under copyright, so just a few samples here.

"Madame Cyanide and Mister Tricks" is a 5-page story from Prize's BLACK MAGIC #29 [v4n5] [1954], the third and last consecutive issue of the Simon&Kirby edited horror anthology with a Ditko story (there's an odd temporal anomaly about seven years later that I write about here).

"Mister Tricks" is Nicholas Dana, a professional sceptic who exposes phony mystics and con-men. I was about to write that this was like a prototype of DC's "Doctor Thirteen" character, but I just discovered that Thirteen predated this story, in a brief run from 1951-1952. And drawn by Leonard Starr, who did some work for the S&K shop (though pre-dating Doctor Thirteen), and usually written by France Herron, who worked with Simon various times over the years. Hmm, there's definitely something to this. An unused script modified a year later and given to the new kid? Anyone familiar with Herron's writing from that era (a few of the Thirteen stories are reprinted in the recent SHOWCASE PRESENTS THE PHANTOM STRANGER v1 book) want to weigh in?

Anyway, Dana is called to investigate a woman accused of witchcraft, although of course he's having none of that nonsense. Very nice little story, Ditko's still a bit rough around the edges, with some of the figures being a bit stiff, but he really seemed to spend a lot of time on the establishing shots of the house. He'd quickly get a lot better at the fog effect, though he seems to have the Ditko smoke effect down solid already

Kind of makes you wonder what might have been. The comic book industry was in considerable turmoil in this period (leading to the establishment of the Comics Code), and BLACK MAGIC itself only lasted four more issues, so it's not too surprising that Ditko didn't get more work from S&K at the time and wound up at Charlton for the remainder of his 1954 work, while S&K launched their short-lived Mainline company at exactly the wrong time. Ditko and Kirby would cross paths a few years later, of course, but that's another story...

Most scans in this series adapted to my personal tastes from those found, and available for free download with registration, at the Golden Age Comics Download site. To buy Ditko comics and things on paper, go over here for ordering info on some wonderful creator owned material (including his latest comic, DITKO, ETC...) and over here for info on recent and upcoming publications from all publishers. And subscribe to Rob Imes' revival of DITKOMANIA, now accepting PayPal.

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