Saturday, November 7, 2009

"Magno the Magnetic Man," from Super-Mystery Comics 2, 1940

'Tis food for thought, how quickly a man's life can change.

One day, a fellow might find himself in a hospital bed, beneath crisp, unfamiliar sheets, a acid-measuring device embedded in his great toe.

The next day, this same person might find himself sitting in a dimly-lit, remote motel room, out on a lonesome highway, as dusk tinges the sky with the shades of night.

In said room, with its faint but pervasive smells of ammonia and mildew, many nights and many lives have passed. Moments of joy have been experienced here; eons of sadness and desolation have set the scene most often.

In was in such a place--Lex's Econo-Tel, out on Highway 32A, that I found myself, last night. It was not my room. It had been rented by Dorrie.

Illumed by a single reading light, the room had an ancient gloom. The sighs and roars of passing cars and trucks could be heard--intrusions of the outside world.

Within the room, a small drama unfolded. "I've only been hurting you, Mace," Dorrie said, her voice faint. "I've tried to please you, but all I've done is to hurt you."

I'd been released from the hospital the day before, and was given hope by Dr. Doynter that I could be on the mend. The trick: it was imperative that I avoid unnecessary fats, sweets, and all rich foods.

You'll recall a dressing-down Dr. Doynter gave Dorrie, in my previous post. The doctor is a no-nonsense man--you can tell this by the scent of his after-shave. His is not a grab-bag of forced jollity, or idle chitter-chat about sport teams, the weather, or the latest "pop" fads.

He realized that my dietary needs were not being met. They were, in fact, being subverted by every creamy, fudgy, tangy, chewy delight that issues forth from Dorrie's kitchen.

True, I was getting some green, leafy vegetables, some sensible starches and "carbos" and good proteins. But there was a great deal of Ranch dressing, croutons, Baco-Bitz and cheese cubes added to the mix.

Dorrie is quite sensitive about her culinary arts. She took Dr. Doynter's wake-up call as a total repudiation of her self-worth. Thus, she announced to me that she wanted a "trial separation" from our marriage.

She rented a room at Lex's for one week. She told me that, after one week, if I felt I could do without her in my life, that she would leave.

This is, of course, poppycock. I need Dorrie like a blind man needs a cane. She makes a positive difference in my life. Her way of showing friendship and love is to make delicious things.

I tried to tell her that, perhaps, she might be offering too much of a good thing. I honestly wished to follow the doctor's orders. I didn't want the gout to worsen. I'd not adjusted well to this preview of affliction. It lessened my life.

For example, my once-daily visits to The Pantheon were now dwindled to one a week. With great discomfort, I would hobble, using an umbrella or croquet mallet for an ersatz cane, and select a handful of precious panelological gems from a random box. The trip back to the house would almost seem to do me in. And I'd usually find, to my disgust, that I'd grabbed some filler comics--things I was not entirely in the mood to peruse.

Why, I asked myself, did I hang onto such uninteresting titles as Here's Howie and Big Town? I suppose it is nigh-impossible for me to cruelly discard a vintage comic magazine, no matter how dull its contents. These zircon stones were no substitute for the true gems in my gatherum.

I hit the jackpot this morning with the second issue of Super-Mystery Comics, from 1940. I traded a three-foot stack of assorted war, romance and racing-car comic magazines to obtain this trail-blazing gem, back in 1974. Seeing it again, especially in the frame of reference of the emotional and physical strain that has plagued me, was tantamount to running into a beloved old friend, after having not seen them for decades.

But I digress. Dorrie was having a terrible time of it at the Econo-Tel. In all the other rooms were visitors from out-of-town--all of them trombone players, here for a "sliphorn shindig"--the 33rd Annual Tri-State Trombone Rally.

Day and night, trombonists of all skill levels played scales, in every key known to music, or repeated sliding, sloppy "riffs" from their song-bag of Dixieland "toe tappers."

These musicians were unconstrained by city noise regulations--the Econo-Tel is outside our city limits. They were free to play their hearts out, around the clock.

Last night, I tried to convince Dorrie that she has the wrong idea--and that this 'round-the-clock tromboning will take a deadly toll on her sanity. "Come home, dear," I said in all sincerity. "Our house is just an empty shell without you there."

Dorrie said she would seriously consider my suggestion. All around her, sliding glissandos and horse-laugh effects filled the air.

I gave Dorrie a goodnight hug and left the room. As I walked down the long breezeway, a trombone fell from a window above. It hit the windshield of my car, and cracked the glass. Thank the stars for my insurance! This "sliphorn king" will regret his idle disposal of an instrument. Talk about your "play and pay!"

I hope Dorrie will rid herself of this implausible notion that she is a fifth wheel and come back home. Just a few more weeks of salads and broccoli and I might return to her cream-cakes and toffee bars.

And now, onto our story of note. This is another pioneering panelological epic--15 full pages of adventure, mystery and suspense. courtesy of artist-writer Harry Lucey.

"Magno" continued for several years, but was rarely as good as in its first few appearances. This tale of mystery-men in inflatable rubber suits, who imperil the world with their drill-car and hypnosis ray, will no doubt leave you haunted and of the need to look over your shoulder in fear and surprise.

To this day, the sound of a tire inflating sends a small chill down my spine... but I fear I've given too much away! Read this savory gem and see for yourself!

Harry Lucey is among the unrecognized geniuses of early panelology. He wrote and drew with a drive and fire seldom equaled by even the best of his peers. Yet Lucey did not aspire to be a cartoonist!

Lucey was a trained orthodontist, living in British Columbia during the Great Depression. He sold home-made clocks by mail to augment his meager income. Indeed, the "Lucey Time-piece" is now a sought-after collector's item. His attention to detail on his clocks--which typically depicted an event from American history--was often stunning.

How did he get into the world of panelology? For years, fellow historians and collectors pondered this mystery. Lucey died in 1953, long before men such as myself cared to learn more about the creators of the beloved comic magazines.

I stumbled upon the answer to this panelological riddle quite by accident one day in 1977. I was in upstate New York, in a secluded barn that doubled as a sort of rural thrift store. At that time, I had an almost-infallible "sixth sense" with vintage comic magazines. I could pass a place, quite at random, and get a strong feeling that, within its walls, lurked the fragile objects of my dreams.

This barn, strewn with toddler clothes and old parachutes, contained one battered steamer trunk. Within this trunk, carefully wrapped in vintage newspapers, were over 100 choice comic magazines.

One bundle was concealed 'neath a 1933 edition of The Tacoma Times. An item on its front page intrigued me. The headline read, in large bold type:


The story told of a young man who had apparently been involved in a vicious fist-fight at the Vancouver rail yards. His assailant had tossed the body of his victim, knocked cold, into an unused cold-storage car.

The train made its way to the Tacoma train yards. There,a "railroad bull," making a routine check of the incoming cars for hobos, discovered the still-breathing but bruised form of one Harold D. Lucey.

When roused, Lucey gave his profession as "orthodontist," and claimed he was the victim of a card game gone wrong.

The story made no note of Lucey's future plans. It would appear that he made his way to New York. How he became a cartoonist is anyone's guess. Perhaps his Canadian medical degrees were worthless in "the States." Perhaps Lucey had seen enough overbites and jaw defects to last him a lifetime.

He was a natural-born artist and cartoonist. The elegance of his brush-line suggests an Alex Raymond--but a Raymond of a less formal bent. One detects a surgeon's eye for detail in his meticulous yet organic illustrations.

His imagination was as vivid as any pioneer panelologist. What visions! What thrills! To this day, this "Magno" tale remains my favorite of Lucey's work. I hope you have enjoyed it, as well.

Now, if only Dorrie will come home and let bygones be bygones. In the meantime, I'll eat some spinach and carrots, and hope for the best. How I miss her sour-cream crumb cake...

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