Standard Comics

Standard Comics, 1940

1940 was an excellent year for Standard Comics, with Leon Cohen’s work on Pale Hangman and Danger Man receiving whatever critical praise was available to comics at the time and publisher Al Schwarzbaum’s pioneering sponsorship programs like the decoder ring and post card coupon tie ins bringing in good revenues.

1940 also marked the launch of Standard’s second title, Crimebusters! with comics newcomer and recent Harvard grad, Eddy Collins. Under Collins’ editorial eye, Crimebusters had an easy, almost subversive, humor to it that audiences found enjoyable and the future publishers of both Mad and the National Lampoon would cite as an influence on their work.

Notable issues of Crimebusters! included #40 (publisher Schwarzbaum insisted on maintaining on starting the comic on #40 to “reassure the public that they were getting a tested and established product”), for the first appearance of “Buster” and the fundamental redesign of Coyote Jones and #41 for its iconic ‘Galvanized Gumshoe fights Robot Lincoln’ Presidents Day cover.

At the same time, More Thrills blossomed under Cohen’s editorship, bolstering its iconic Danger Man and Pale Hangman stories with new characters like Miss Mongoose and Duke Fyodor of Moldova.

More Thrills #45
December, 1939. The Christmas Issue!

Have yourself a Very Dangerous Christmas
When Santa crashes and one of the reindeer breaks a leg, Danger Man rides in and takes its place to save Christmas. Purists note that this story’s splash page features the first ever gathering of Standard’s first super group in a Christmas picture containing Santa, Danger Man, Commander Banzai, Coyote Jones, the Galvanized Gumshoes, the Missing Link, the Crimson Mask, the Gee Whiz Kids, including Emily Brontosaurus and even the three dogs who would later be retroactively canonized as Danger Dog, Coyote Coyote & Ito.

The Golem
Commander Banzai is on his way to Jerusalem to spend Christmas with some Near Eastern friends when he’s ambushed by Thugees and forced to take refuge with a kindly Jewish family whose only wish for Christmas is to, “finally have a land that we can call our own.”

The True Meaning of X-M(AS)
The Galvanized Gumshoe investigates a series of petty thefts at Montgomery Ward only to discover that it’s the store santa stealing gifts for the local orphans.

Silent Night
Using only the lyrics of the song from which this story takes its name, this Pale Hangman story is considered one of the finest of his early years and was acknowledged by Sergio Carbonni as the inspiration for his 1974 spaghetti western of the same name.

A Crimson Carol
An English Naval Admiral has three meetings with the Crimson Mask throughout his life, culminating in his letting him go on Christmas Eve.

An Abominable Christmas
The Missing Link meets the Abominable Snowman in this heartwarming horror tale illustrated by -—— -——.

The Gee Whiz Kids meet Santa
The Gee Whiz Kids think that they’ve caught Santa, but it actually turns out to be
Ukulele Ike promoting his new holiday album.

More Thrills #44
November, 1939. The Decoder Ring Issue!

Temple… of the Celestial Claw!
Commander Banzai uses his “oriental boxing” and “study of the inscrutable” to defeat the scimitar wielding celestial monks and stop them from summoning ‘The Cobra Goddess.’

Orientals… in the Old West!
The Pale Hangman avenges the death of a fellow railroad man by burning a coolie town to the ground.

Pirates… on Snake Island!
The Crimson Mask uncovers a thieving Snake Cult right in his secret home port! Their coded message? “Do not allow the foreigners to influence your thought.”

Into the mines… of the Jap slavers!
The Missing Link breaks up a Jap child slavery ring in exotic Borneo.

Break the Code
The Galvanized Gumshoe asks for your help to break the Celestial Claw’s code.

An Eye on the Claw
The Eye sees the Celestial Claw’s influence on his city. And he doesn’t like it.

The Gee Whiz Kids meet the Mummy
While on a special trip to see the traveling Egyptian exhibit at their local museum, the kids encounter a real life mummy! Who turns out to be Boris Karloff, spokesperson for Beechers Chewing Tobacco, just preparing for his exciting role in “Tower of London,” coming soon to a theater near you!

More Thrills #43
October, 1939.

Can he control the beast?
Evolutionary biologist Charles Hobbe remembers his life as he recovers from having been ‘the Missing Link.’

Dead Mans Curve
After performing at a county show, ‘Danger Man’ is challenged to a motorcycle race by ‘Rueben Autrey’ and his gang, The Fifth Street Rollers that ends in a chain fight at the edge of a cliff!

An Eye for Justice
Coyote Jones solves a murder without realizing that The Eye helped him do it, earning the lifelong friendship of the victim’s son, Seamus McGowan, along the way.

On the trail of The Celestial Claw
First appearance of the questionable-fact-spouting mystic, ‘Commander Banzai.’

Justice Delayed
The Phantom Gravedigger rescues a Japanese gardener from being murdered by his wealthy employer, only to discover that the gardener had been blackmailing his employer on behalf of a shadowy organization for months prior.

The Riverboat Pirates!
The Crimson Mask appears in his third outing. This time against the title’s eponymous villains.

The Hoodoo Men
Pianist Casey and trumpeter Gabriel duel over the life of blonde torch singer Eilleen.

More Thrills #42
September, 1939.

1. In the Clutches of Crime Southern gothic romance comes to Standard Comics when Felicity Smudge takes a shine to the ‘Scales of Justice’ after he rescues her and a friend from the clutches of the underworld.

2. Into the Pits The ‘Pale Hangman’ has a run in with corrupt oilmen that ends with one of their deaths.

3. Against the Sea Wolves The ‘Crimson Mask’ is transferred from the golden age of piracy into World War I with no explanation so he can take German u-boats in a blatant propaganda statement against current German naval aggression against the American merchant marines.

4. Danger at 10,000 Feet! Danger Man changes plans when he and his barnstormer friend hear a police radio broadcast about a bank robbery in progress from inside their plane on the way back from a performance and realize that the bank is right below them!

5. The Shadow knows In what has been consistently rated as one of fans top ten ‘Galvanized Gumshoe’ stories ever, the Robot from Planet X gets his trademark fedora and nickname in a nuanced story that explored both the dangers of both over and under media exposure.

6. The Choice Moments before ‘Coyote Jones’ can put his master plan into action and finally take down his longtime nemesis ‘The Eye,’ he is contacted directly by ‘The Eye’ himself who gives Jones a choice, catch him or save all of his friends. Jones chooses his friends and realizes that, “he’s going to need a bigger board,” if he ever wants to beat this Grand Master.

7. Dinosaur Dilemma Standard’s publishers quickly replaced their writer’s IWW polemics with the much more kid-oriented ‘Gee Whiz Gang,’ featuring those plucky kids Becky, Tom, Huck & Amos. In their debut adventure together, an intended dinosaur prank reveals an actual friendly plesiosaur that they promptly misname ‘Emily Brontosaurus’ and hide away from their town’s pesky grown ups.

More Thrills #41
August, 1939.

The second issue of Standard Comics original ‘More Thrills’ anthology featured favorites from their first issue alongside new characters, some of whom would go on to become some of their best known.

1. Crime at the Steel Mill. The writing team from the original ‘Pale Hangman’ story take a rare stab at ‘The Scale of Justice’ and bring blood to an otherwise fairly pedestrian hero vs gangsters story set in an unusual location.

2. The Ghostly Horsemen The ‘Pale Hangman’ continues his supernatural western arc in a story that has him disbelieving his own undead nature even after being shot by the Horsemen’s ghost bullets.

3. He only has one love… Danger! Reckless professional daredevil, ‘Danger Man,’ interrupts his own stunt show to foil a ticket booth robbery.

4. Tales of the Crimson Mask Fifteenth century pirate ‘The Crimson Mask’ faces off against his original foe, ‘Barbarossa.’

5. Who the people? The Robot from Planet X who would become better known as the ‘Galvanized Gumshoe’ escapes from the government facility that he’s being held in and rescues a group of people from a burning building, earning his freedom and his status as a public hero.

6. THEY fear the MOON ‘Coyote Jones’ sets aside his vendetta against ‘The Eye’ to foil a bank robbery.

7. Casey Jones In a rare social turn for comics of the era, Standard Comics illustrated the IWW anthem ‘The Ballad of Casey Jones’ about a scab railwayman who dies on the line and scabs as a harpist in heaven while the angels are on strike before being sent down to hell to shovel coal for his crimes against his fellow working men.

More Thrills #40
July, 1939.

As was the custom of the time, Standard Comics first publication was an anthology which began with an inflated issue number to reassure both potential buyers and sellers that they were looking at an established product.

Though no complete copies of this incredibly rare volume are known to currently exist, incomplete copies have allowed us to reconstruct most of its original contents.

1. The Scale of Justice. First appearance and origin of the half saurian hero ‘Scale of Justice.’
2. Robot from Space. Introduction of the robot from Planet X who would eventually become the ‘Galvanized Gumshoe.’ First comic appearance of actual German scientist ‘Werner Von Braun.’
3. Comes a Pale Hangman. First appearance of ‘The Pale Hangman’ and the original story from which he gets his name.
4. The Phantom Gravedigger A rare straight horror story from Standard that introduced the obscure occult vigilante eventually known by the same name.
5. In his quest for knowledge, he became… The Missing Link! The story of an unnamed “Evolutionary Biologist” who, while doing research in “wildest Borneo” is attacked by marauding Japanese Imperialists and forced to put his research into practice by waging a guerilla war against them as the regressed ‘Missing Link.’
6. He Fears the Sun!. Ostensibly the origin story for ‘Coyote Jones,’ this story is also the first appearance of Standard Comics’ first recurring villain, ‘The Eye.’

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