Sunday, February 08, 2015

Silver Age Sunday : The Owl - revisited !

Like usual it has been a while since my last post but there are worse topics that could stay a while on the top of my blog than Sal Buscema. Being just recently titled " Germany´s ultimate blogging super hero " I think it´s time to start the month of February on a high note by talking a bit more about Dell´s scourge of evil, the Prince of Avengers : The Owl.

Just two posts past ( which means almost three weeks ago ) I wrote about Bildschriftenverlag´s DIE EULE in my post about some german comic covers I came across while doing my research for various posts.

As many bloggers out there can attest - or maybe I´m the only one to whom this happens and I´m totally delusional here - one of the many perks of writing a blog is that you come across things you would never have discovered otherwise. Some of them are just throw away things or weird facts but sometimes one thing leads to another and so on. If you read this blog you might get the impression that I´m an astonishingly knowledgeable comic historian who is adept in all fields of comic genres.

But to tell the truth it´s mostly made up as I go along and the product rather of meticulous - or not so meticulous like in this instance - research based on the work of others than borne by my own absolute knowledge. I have always been more of a fox person than a hedgehog guy, which for all you youngsters out there who are not familiar with this concept means that instead of knowing a lot about one thing ( this category being called hedgehogs ) I know a little about many things ( which in conclusion would be the so called foxes ) so I have to rely on experts for a lot of subjects.

Although you might say that there is one thing I know a lot about which is comics. Can you be a fox AND a hedgehog ? Maybe some people just fall into one category while other people have traits of both. It could be that you are a fox until you get a real interest in one of the things you know and you start knowing more and more things until you become a hedgehog - at least in that department. Leonardo Da Vinci was one exception since he knew virtually everything that was to know about anything in his time.

But I think the sheer amount of available knowledge out there Today is just too big for one single person to process and not all of it is important.

There is always the discussion if it is better to be a fox in life than a hedgehog and while it may be true that the man who knows a lot about one things works for the man who knows a little about everything there is also the fact that we prefer experts to dabblers. In any case that´s not the topic of this post. I just wanted to say that a lot of the things you might learn by reading this blog are things I had to learn myself first.


Now with that as a short prologue you might not be surprised that my continued interest in THE OWL was nurtured by blogger extraordinaire Terry Hooper - Scharf who is not only one of the great professors of Silver Age comics but also a very generous chap who sent me a copy of the THE OWL - MASTER OF THE NIGHT comic album from Black Tower Comics.

Most of my european readers will be familiar with the term comic album but for my other readers the size is 8.26 x 11.69 inches which is Din A 4 standard. It´s 80 pages in black and white and it reprints a 7 page story from CRACKAJACK FUNNIES 29 ( published November 1940 ), a 5 page story - I guess - is from CRACKAJACK FUNNIES 32 ( February 1941 ) since it is the first appearance of Owl Girl, a 9 page story from CRACKAJACK FUNNIES 43 ( from January 1942, the last issue of that title ) as well as the first issue of The Owl´s own title from 1967 and his last appearance in issue 22 of THE OCCULT FILES OF DOCTOR SPEKTOR published 1976.

This compilation by Black Tower Comics is one of the few books I have no qualms about shamelessly pimping not only because it´s one of the few free comics I get but also because I would not have been able to read the stories contained here otherwise. Or at least not at that cheap. Maybe I could find the issues of The Owl´s own title either as a german version or the original Gold Key comics but they would be much too expensive for me. The same goes for any issues of CRACKAJACK FUNNIES. Now Dark Horse Comics have reprinted all issues of THE OCCULT FILES OF DOCTOR SPEKTOR in four hardcover volumes but at a whopping price of 50 bucks each ( around 35 EUROS at amazon ) that´s just out of my price range.

Now I was familiar with the THE OCCULT FILES OF DOCTOR SPEKTOR series because some of the stories appeared in GRUSEL - COMICS.

In Germany horror comics have always been very popular - some may say even more popular than super hero comics - and one testament to that is the longevity of the most famous one, GESPENSTER GESCHICHTEN.

There were of course the single issues, the Sammelbände which collected a few issues and which is where I read most of my stories, Taschenbücher which were pocket books and many extra albums and special editions like this one with stories from german comic book icon Hansrudl Wäscher.

Now the stories in GESPENSTER GESCHICHTEN were not always the best written or best drawn but thanks to being available at virtually every comic outlet there was back then - you could even get issues at the stationary store in Neckarweihingen - they were read by everybody.

Back then there were no special comic shops so if you needed something to read during the bus / train ride or to bribe your kids to be quiet this was a cheap way to do it. And before you start complaining there was nothing too gory inside these pages, even I knew that as a little kid. And part of the reason why it sold so well were the beautiful rendered covers.

Okay, maybe that one looks a bit scary. But horror comics are very popular in Germany and you can ask anybody from my generation, they know the last words of EVERY story in GESPENSTER GESCHICHTEN " Seltsam ? Aber so steht es geschrieben . . . " by heart ( Strange ? But so it is written ). It has become a well known saying. The phrase was coined by Hajo F Breuer, translator on thousands of Condor Marvel Comics and author of uncounted thoughtful essays about super heroes who sadly passed away in 2014.

It kind of stings me that I just found out about this because as always it wasn´t on the german news. I mean GESPENSTER GESCHICHTEN is one of the most successful comic series in Germany and Hajo F Breuer wrote the hugely successful Rhen Dark series and was a big part of Condor Comics success in the 80s. But that is the german news for you : unless you are a theater intendant who is only known to an elite but rich group or a director of obscure movies or the network your passing is not mentioned.

But let´s not get into a rant here. Coming back to GRUSEL - COMICS, they published stories from THE OCCULT FILES OF DOCTOR SPEKTOR and one of the reasons why I still remember them is that they were part of the better drawn material in those pages. Sadly only six issues of GRUSEL - COMICS were published and not all contained material from that series.

There was however GÄNSEHAUT ( Goosebumps ) also by Condor Verlag and issue six had the story with The Owl. I guess that´s another comic I´ll have to look for on my next visit to the comic shop. For some strange reason Condor never used the beautifully painted covers from Gold Key.

Here´s the cover to GÄNSEHAUT issue six which is less breathtaking but you never know why the publisher decided not to use the original covers.

Now that we are finally back to The Owl, one of the reasons why I wanted to do another post on him is that after reading my post about the german comic covers again I got the feeling that I handled him much too quickly.

( Batman and The Owl picture courtesy of MonicaMunster on DeviantArt )

Which was mainly because I had just found these two covers and thought that was all to it. Yes, I wrote that he appeared in other comics but I didn´t find much material on the GRAND COMICS DATABASE - which was mainly because I didn´t know where to look - or any other websites. But like I said my interest was piqued and since then I have found some stuff which I want to add to my initial entry. He´s not as obscure as I thought :


The Owl is one of the few original characters published by Dell. His first appearance was in CRACKAJACK FUNNIES 25 which came out in July of 1940 but he wasn´t featured on the cover of that title until much later.

Police detective Nick Terry became The Owl so that he could more freely protect his home city Yorktown from criminals. Not having superpowers, he instead relied on his fighting skills and a number of gimmicks, such as his flying “ Owlmobile ”, a cape that functions as a hang glider, and a hand - held “ black light ” gun that casts a beam of darkness. His girlfriend, newspaper reporter Belle Wayne, found out his secret and became his sidekick, Owl Girl who debuted in issue 32 ( February 1941 ).

At some point after World War II, The Owl ( along with dozens of other heroes ) was trapped in the Urn of Pandora by the misguided Fighting Yank. Decades later, the Urn was shattered and the heroes freed, many of whom were transformed by the experience. The Owl now had the power of flight and the power to emanate a field of black light from his body. He returned to Yorktown and found that it was now being watched over by a ruthless new Owl Girl who was the granddaughter of the original.

After CRACKAJACK FUNNIES ended, the duo appeared in Dell’s POPULAR COMICS, from issue 72 ( published in February 1942 ) to 85 ( published in March 1943 ) and here they never appeared on the covers at all. They were taken over by other super heroes like MARTAN THE MARVEL MAN

PROFESSOR SUPERMIND AND SON ( sounds like a Grant Morrison book )

or other popular heroes like Milton Caniff´s TERRY AND THE PIRATES.

In the 1960s, Gold Key Comics revived The Owl and Owl Girl, inspired by the success of the Batman TV series which was in part due to the lovely Yvonne Craig who portrayed the very buxom Batgirl on the hit show.

Batgirl became so popular she made her debut in DETECTIVE COMICS 359.

And I think it´s a safe bet that without the ravishing Yvonne Craig the comicdom at large would have one less comic babe. Va - va - va - voom !

Now just a quick break for the DEJA VUE section since the cover above was redone on BATMAN : GOTHAM KNIGHTS 43 by the great Brian Bolland

and BIRDS OF PREY 98 by the no less impressive Jerry Ordway.

Which brings us back to The Owl because - believe it or not - the villains he and Owl Girl go up against in the first issue is the Birds of Prey Gang.

The two issues of Gold Key’s THE OWL - in which the duo was shown in campy, self - parodying stories - came out in April 1967 and April 1968.

The Owl Girl in the revival was a different one from the 1940s version, and in the partnership she handled most of the physical combat.

In the 1970s, The Owl ( without either of the two Owl Girls ) appeared in issue 22 of Gold Key’s THE OCCULT FILES OF DOCTOR SPEKTOR series.

In a text article in that issue ( seen below ), Doctor Spektor speculates that the Owl may have been privy to some kind of secret of prolonged youth, a secret that for some reason could not be shared with Owl Girl.

In 1999, The Owl also appeared in AC Comics´ MEN OF MYSTERY COMICS 17 and 2013 Dynamite Entertainment published a 4 issue mini series starring The Owl and The Owl Girl - this version being the granddaughter of the original - as main characters ( click here for a review of issue 1 ).

And for all creators interested in the character he´s in the public domain.


Now here is Today´s link list which is rather large due to me going on many tangents. First off is this post by Tony Z over at Amazing GOLDEN AGE HEROES where you can read the The Owl story from CRACKAJACK FUNNIES 29 ( the first story in the collection from Black Tower Comics ).

THE TIME BULLET has a post about the various owl themed characters in super hero comics due to the recent COURT OF OWLS story in the Batman books which also presents an Owl story from CRACKAJACK FUNNIES 28 where The Owl reveals his identity to Belle Wayne. Our old mainstay blog DIVERSIONS OF THE GROOVY KIND represents with various posts covering the first issue of The Owl solo title , the second issue and the often mentioned issue 22 of The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor and issue 17 .

BEACH BUM COMICS also has a post about the Owl that runs the gamut from his solo book to his appearance on Doctor Spektor with many pics and for more check out issue 5 of The Occult Files of Doctor Spektor from THE CARNIVAL OF WEIRD ! , issues 6 and issue 9 from MIKE`S HOUSE OF WHACKS and issue 7 from THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF STUPID ! There´s also this gallery of black and white art by Jesse Santos the main artist on that series with many pages like issue 14, a team up with Doctor Solar.

So Today´s post was about The Owl and Doctor Spektor but I couldn´t find any clips on that. I do have a feeling we´ll return to this topics one day. 

Since I mentioned her and I have to up the babe factor a bit here´s the lovely Yvonne working on her tan in a clip from The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

And before you go through your DVD collection of the tv show this is from ONE SPY TOO MANY, a feature film version of the tv show that combined both The Alexander the Greater Affair episodes. The subplot and footage with Yvonne Craig was just shot for the film and did NOT appear on tv.

You can also see the full clip - as well as many more with Yvonne Craig on such shows like STAR TREK or MY FAVORITE MARTIAN - on this website .

Some clips have to do with the posts other I just find on YouTube and I absolutely have to post them on the blog. If you haven´t seen this one yet check out what this russian artist does with clay. Absolutely mesmerizing !

The next clips have to do with musician / song writer Paul Williams about whom I just recently saw a documentary. The younger people among my readers have probably no idea what I´m talking about but the ones from my generation know him pretty well. He wrote great songs like this one :

Somebody said that Paul Williams wrote the soundtrack to our lives and for me that´s true as among his most famous songs are Evergreen from A STAR IS BORN, Rainbow Connection from the very first MUPPET MOVIE and the opening theme for LOVE BOAT. He also wrote this song that has become a standard at weddings and part of The Grammy Hall of Fame.

But Paul Williams was not only a musician he was also an actor appearing on many tv shows and talk shows. He was even on The Muppet Show.

One of his performances I most vividly remember is him playing the villain in the PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE movie. I think I saw this in the movie theater when I was in Spain although I was a bit young for that kind of movie. What can I say ? Spanish parents are not that squeamish.

So even if I may not have known his name Paul Williams was a superstar when I was a kid. He wrote hit songs, he was constantly on television and every year he was nominated for an Oscar, a Grammy, an Emmy or some other award. And then he got involved in drugs and disappeared forever.

Or so I thought. Funny thing - Paul Williams is not dead. I first found out one night when he appeared as a guest on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson. And that is also where I heard about this brilliant documentary.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest / best of the best

Learn things.


Terry Hooper-Scharf said...

Here's one to blow your knickers off, Boychik. Martin Filchock. Who? He was the oldest working cartoonist when he died aged 100 years (1912-2012). Interesting but-? Well, the Owl from Crackerjack Funnies -July 1940 was NOT the first. Filchock created The Owl for Funny Pages #34, JANUARY 1940. One off appearance. See that mentioned anywhere? Next week I'll send you a copy of The Ultimate Centaur Collection which features the story. My name is Terry Hooper-Scharf and I am a comic geek. Good night

SUBZERO said...

Ah, just when I thought I had finally managed to write a decent post.

Well, it´s good that I´m going to bed now since my knickers ( not sure what those are, really ) are already blown off. Slipping into my pajamas anyway.

Monica Munster said...

Thanks so much for the credit you gave me in your article. I really do appreciate it.