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CSBG Archive

Into the back issue box #31

We’re setting the Way Back Machine for this week’s entry.  Can the comics that Greg Hatcher loves so much stand up to the scrutiny????

Of course, it wouldn’t be nice of me to leave out what I’m doing with these posts!

Ragman #4 (“The Dream Killers”) by Bob Kanigher and “The Redondo Studio,” with a back-up story with art by Joe Kubert.  Published by DC, February-March 1977.

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Does anyone ever claim that the famous Superman holding Supergirl cover is an homage to this?  No?  Man, Joe Kubert was always getting the shaft.

I always thought that using “studios” for the art was a relatively modern sensation, but here we have a comic from 1977 doing it.  I assume the Redondo Studio had something to do with Joe Kubert.  Can anyone help explain the situation?

We begin with some purple prose, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing: “Jeanne Wilson’s face shone like a spring morning … Her eyes glowed … Her laugh was music!  Then — the contents of a little white envelope lifted her to the clouds … and toppled her into suffocating quicksand!“  We see Jeanne receive said envelope from a mysterious gloved hand, and then she dies.  Three “hyenas in human form” decide to dump her body into the river because if the cops spot her it will “raise heat” for them.  As they stand on the bridge, they see Ragman, who swoops down and dispatches them with ease.  But not without more purple prose: “The blazing eyes of Ragman cloud with sorrow … as he kneels over the inert form of the dead young girl … He moves the long hair out of the sightless eyes …”  He says that she overdosed on stuff that’s flooding the city, and unless the dealers are stopped, anyone could be next!!!!!!!!

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There’s a whole heck of a lot that’s silly about the first three pages of this comic (what’s the drug that kills Jeanne, who are the three hoods who are so scared about the death of one anonymous addict, why does this particular death spur Ragman into action?) but at least it sets up the issue – Ragman is some mysterious avenger who is going after drug dealers.  Fine.  On the next page Ragman is standing in the morgue, apparently by invitation, because the cops don’t seem to mind, and the coroner tells the cop that he did an autopsy on a 12-year-old, and the cop says the drugs are coming into the city somehow, but they “can’t get a handle on it!”  Ragman slips away to a “darkened junk shop” and enters, revealing his ”civilian” identity of Rory Regan, “buyer of broken dreams and junk of which life is made!”  Kanigher never saw an exclamation point he didn’t like, apparently!!!!

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The next morning a woman named Bette and a young black kid named Teddy wake Rory up with the reminder that they’re taking some of the kids from the orphanage to ”Floating Funland.”  Bette’s though balloon before she enters the shop is: “Poor Teddy … not able to see … or to talk!  He’s a brave youngster!”  I mention this because I’m going to keep track of how many times a character reminds us that Teddy can’t see or talk.  It’s rather humorous.  When next we see our hero, he’s taking the ferry to Floating Funland, an amusement park built on an island in the harbor.  Rory tells Bette that he knew they’d make it, and Bette tells him it’s only because they woke him, and it would have been a terrible disappointment to Teddy, because he “can’t see or speak … but he heard you promise …”  That’s twice in four panels that we’re reminded of Teddy’s issues.  They arrive at the park and meet Mr. Seriph, who built it.  He gives the kids silver coins and tells them to enjoy themselves.  I’m sorry, but maybe I’ve read too many comic books, but a person named “Seriph” just sounds sinister, despite the angelic connotations of the name.  The minute I saw that dude I didn’t trust him.

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           “Their smiles … and their sweet, sweet addiction to my drugs!!!!!”

The kids ride the roller coaster, circle the park in submarines, and have a grand time.  While they’re on the submarines, Bette asks Rory: “See how Teddy touches the glass?”  Rory responds (say it with me): “Yeah, Bette!  Not being able to see … or speak … he uses his other senses as a supplement!  He can feel the water outside!”  When the exit the sub and head to the food court, Rory says to Bette, “Funny, Bette … How much Teddy enjoys all this!  Even though he can’t see or speak!”  That’s four times in three pages, and twice in three panels.  Gee, I wonder if Teddy can see or speak?

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Pop Quiz: What are Teddy’s disabilities?  Cite your sources.  Also: is it just me, or does he look really creepy in that last panel?

As the ferry is leaving that night, Rory and Bette bask in the glow of happy kids and somehow don’t mention that Teddy can’t see or speak when suddenly a kid climbs over the railing at the top of the ferry and jumps in the water.  Rory dives in after him and manages to grab him, but his puny strength is no match for “the powerful harbor riptide” that “tears them apart” and drags “the boy like flotsam floating out to sea!”  Bette consoles him later, but that night, Ragman heads back to Floating Funland, where something smells fishy!  He’s right on, naturally, as klieg lights blind him and “a cherubic smile and a cheery voice greet the Ragman’s searing stare …”  Yes, it’s Mr. Seriph, and he throws a bunch of his silver coins at our hero.  Why?  Well, they give off an electrical charge and paralyze Ragman.  Like a true Bond villain, Mr. Seriph puts Ragman into a roller coaster car instead of shooting him in the head.  Why does he do this?  “The car will leave the track at its apex … and land in the harbor!” he helpfully explains.  The car indeed flies out into the harbor, but Ragman wakes up in time to solve the entire mystery.  He spots one of the Funland submarines (through the windows of which Teddy was able to ”feel” the water) and deduces that it operates off the track, and that’s how they get the “stuff” in – they pick it up beyond the 12-mile limit and deliver it to Floating Funland.  Ragman gets out of the water and interrupts a transaction, “arms flashing like tireless steel pistons” as he “explodes like a raging inferno against the minions of greed and evil!”  He walks away from the unconscious bad guys, and the last we see of Mr. Seriph, he’s sitting in a jail cell trembling because he’s so scared of Ragman.  Ha!  Take that, drug pusher!!!!

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The second story is a silent story that looks somewhat better because Kubert did the art, but it’s not really noteworthy.  It shows three grave robbers who dig up a coffin with jewelry buried inside.  Ragman stops them, and they earn themselves an ironic death.  It’s nice to look at, but that’s about it.

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So what can we learn from this relic of the past?  Well, comic book writing has gotten better, certainly, but does Kanigher give us enough information to follow the story?  Well, sure.  It’s a perfectly fine story of a masked hero stopping a drug ring.  However, two things really weaken the story.  At no time do we find out if Ragman is super-powered in any way or if he’s just a dude in a weird costume.  Personally, I know that later his costume is powered by souls, but we don’t know if that’s the case here.  He doesn’t do anything supernatural to indicate that he’s something more than a guy in a costume, and it seems strange that, with all the purple prose in this comic, Kanigher doesn’t add something like “Ragman uses his strange grim power, given to him by the souls of the mournful dead that make up his costume, to uncover the wretched pushers who lurk in the children’s happy paradise!”  We’re left wondering.  A very minor point is that we’re not sure what drug Seriph is pushing, exactly.  Ragman calls the drugs “the dream killers” and I guess we’re supposed to assume the silver coins that Seriph gives out to the kids have something to do with it, but then what’s the deal with the electrical charge the coins emit?  The interesting thing about these two points is that they could easily be cleared up with a couple of sentences.  In a comic where we’re told four times that a minor character is blind and mute, it doesn’t seem too much to ask.

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Kanigher does a nice job with Rory, however, and gives us a good feel for the comic book.  It’s not a very good comic at all, but it does tell a story, features a weird hero with an interesting twist (Rory owns a junk store, which is kind of neat), and gives us a sense of both the hero and his alter ego.  I wanted a bit more information from Kanigher, but this would certainly be a good enough comic to entice people to come back.  Of course, as it turned out, this was the second-to-last issue of the series, but it probably deserved better.  Oh well.  Life, as they say, goes on.

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(I put this up because I love that in 1977, we can get an advertisement based on The Maltese Falcon and people – presumably kids buying this – were expected to get it.  I also like “Petula Lorry,” the “sniveling, shadowy henchwoman.”  I mean, I was 6 in 1977 and was probably who this comic was aimed at, and I didn’t know about The Maltese Falcon.  But I’m probably just an idiot.) 

20 Comments

The Redondo studio, if memory serves, was a group of Filipino artists who worked for hire mostly for DC in the 1970′s. I think that the name comes from Nestor Redondo.
Here’s a link to a catalog of Filipino comic artists:

http://www.komikero.com/museum/index.html

Tom Fitzpatrick

July 1, 2007 at 3:01 pm

There was a terrific Ragman series in 1991 drawn by Pat Broderick, I think it was co-written by Keith Giffen and someone else.
Check it out.

Although I have absolutely nothing to back it up with, “The Redondo Studio” was probably connected to Nestor Redondo, the great artist originally from the Philippines who worked on a number of DC books in the 1970s. I think he may be primarily remembered for “Rima the Jungel Girl”. In fact, I think Joe Kubert did the covers on that book as well, with Redondo doing the interior art. That appears to be the case on the “Ragman” issue here; the interior art doesn’t look like Kubert, but it also doesn’t look line Redondo–the stuff I have from him is a lot better-looking. Best guess–”Redondo Studios” would refer to younger artists assisting and working with Nestor Redondo during that period of time, as he was producing a lot of work, and probably had a lot of assistants, just like today’s studios.

I just googled Nestor Redondo studio and a few references came up but nothing terribly authoritative.
Basically he was the hot artist from the Philippines and it looks like he had a studio where he gave work to other Filipino artists who hadn’t broke into the USA yet.

Mr. Seriph is really Dan DiDio and I claim my ten dollars.

Ragman, Ragman, does whatever a rag can!

He’s tough on crime and on stains!

Kanigher probably never wrote anything about Ragman’s costume because, IIRC, that was a later development for the character (retcon maybe?).

Originally he didn’t have any superhuman powers. He was given near maximum human abilities through a freak accident that was definitely a Kanigher origin!

And is it just me, or does Teddy look like Computo in that fourth panel?

Actually sounds like an okay comic, and the art looks really nice. The writing sounds pretty poor, but bsically of it’s time. And at least it tells one whole story that make sense. An awful lot of today’s more respected writers don’t seem to be capable of doing that.

And just to add to the whole “Redondo Studio” thing, it may be worth mentioning that Nester Redondo was only one of several extremely talented cartoonists working in the industry around that time all bearing the name Redondo (in the UK we saw a lot of work by Jesus Redondo, whose art was a little more expressionistic than Nestor’s) and all from the Philipenes. It seems reasonable to think that they may have been related, and furthermore, may have had a studio together. Just a thought.

Doug Atkinson

July 2, 2007 at 5:13 am

Yes, the supernatural aspects of the character were added when he was re-invented in his early ’90s mini-series. (One of those post-Crisis retcons that didn’t actually have any spillover effect onto the rest of continuity, unlike, say, Hawkworld.)

“Poor Teddy, pathetic wretch… doomed to a life of misery and degradation because he can’t see… or speak. Say… you don’t suppose he can hear me, do you?”

Not only did Kanigher never meet an exclamation point he didn’t like, he never found a plot point he couldn’t beat to death or a thematic idea he couldn’t overstate.

As Kanigher comics go, Ragman was not nearly the collection of those excesses that some of his other work was. I think I bought the first three or four off the stands when they came out and then gave up on it… just a little ahead of DC as it happens. But it was very pretty to look at.

I know he was a Silver Age star at DC but I have never been a big Kanigher booster. He was always a B-lister for me; Kanigher books were what I read when there was nothing else to be had. To be honest, even the books that he absolutely poured his soul into — Sgt. Rock and Enemy Ace — suffer from the same thumping repetition you are talking about here. He was clearly of the ‘tell them three times’ school of writing, which is something you got a lot when I was in school.

I wasn’t sure about the costume, as my first experience with Ragman was the Broderick mini-series, which brings it up. I didn’t recall if the “souls of the dead” thing was new or not. It’s a better idea than Rory just dressing up in a ragged costume and fighting crime, and it allows him to join groups like Shadowpact!

Hey! I bought this comic brand new off the rack when it came out. As I remember Ragman’s origin as it was initially presented, Rory absorbed the abilities of 3 or 4 down-on-their-luck characters through a lightning strike involving the rag suit. One of the “donors” was a acrobat, one a circus strongman, and I don’t remember the rest–it was 30 years ago. I still buy my comics at the same shop.

"O" the Humanatee!

July 2, 2007 at 8:48 am

Greg Geren is correct about Ragman’s (original) origin; if memory serves, the “down-on-their-luck characters” Rory absorbed his abilities from were friends of Rory’s father, from whom he inherited his junkshop.

“I always thought that using “studios” for the art was a relatively modern sensation, but here we have a comic from 1977 doing it.”

Sure, I mean whoever heard of, say, the Eisner-Iger Studio from the late 1930s and early 1940s? (Note especially the following: “As Eisner and Iger’s contract work increased, the two evolved a comic book equivalent of an assembly line. A job traveled through the shop and each employee tightened a bolt or inked a line, and at the end of the line there was a completed story.”) And there were plenty of other comic book “packaging” studios both in those early days and later on, even if I can’t recall any specific names right now.

And even if you’re just referring to explicitly crediting comics to studios, in the 1970s one would sometimes see inking credits for the “Crusty Bunkers,” who were Neal Adams, Dick Giordano, and various other members and hangers-on at their studio (I don’t recall whether it was yet called Continuity Studios); and for “The Tribe,” who were a group of Filipino artists who I believe were based around Tony De Zuniga. Even art – especially inking -that was credited to a single individual often included work by assistants. For example, Wally Wood employed at various times such folks as Dan Adkins and Larry Hama. Both Terry Austin and Klaus Janson were assistants to Giordano before establishing their own inking careers. Also, a great many comic strip producers, working under very demanding deadlines, employed assistants. A particularly famous case is the work Frank Frazetta did for Al Capp on “Li’l Abner.” However, Charles Schulz famously never used assistants on “Peanuts.”

For more on Filipino comics artists and their role in both the Filipino and US comics industries, see Comic Book Artist magazine, vol. 2, no. 4.

“Kanigher never saw an exclamation point he didn’t like, apparently!!!!”

Surely you know, Greg, that back then almost all comic books (at least American comic books) avoided the use of periods, because they too often didn’t show up with the poor printing and paper of the time? I think most readers of the time just ignored the exclamation points and treated them as if they were periods (though there may have been some subliminal effect). For more modern readers, of course, the exclamation points are distracting.

Not to pick on Kanigher further, but his word choice in one of the spotlighted panels is pretty silly as well. “The tattered tatterdemalion” indeed. You know he teamed up with “the dark Dark Knight”, right? Not only is a tatterdemalion tattered by definition, but the word is even contained in the larger word. Kanigher should have gone with something else, or just left the adjective off altogether.

I do like the “Tatterdemalion of Justice” description on the cover though. Has a nice ring to it.

“I always thought that using “studios” for the art was a relatively modern sensation…”

Such studios were actually in place during the Golden Age. Will Eisner was part of a studio (don’t recall if it was his or if he was working under someone else), as did many others at that time. The novel The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay even gives us a fictional peek at what studio life may have been like back then. And as I understand it, the studio concept has remained with us in various incarnations through the decades.
-r-

Aaron Kashtan

July 2, 2007 at 11:21 pm

Check this post, from Classic Comics forum regular MichikoS, for some information about the Redondo Studio and other related matters:

http://forums.comicbookresources.com/archive/index.php/t-106748.html

Or if you’re too lazy to click on the link:

According to CBA vol. 2 #4 (which I worked on, by the way), the exact composition of the Redondo Studio is unknown, but it probably consisted of Nestor Redondo’s associates or assistants.

Nestor Redondo was one of the great Filipino cartoonists. He had two brothers, Virgilio and Frank (a.k.a. Francisco), who both worked in American comics. Nestor also used “Quico Redondo” as a pseudonym, and Nestor and Frank both used “Fred Redondo” as a pen name.

Jesus Redondo is a Spanish artist, and is apparently no relation to any of the other Redondos.

I have no idea which member of the Redondo studio did that artwork from Ragman #4, but it probably wasn’t Nestor himself. It’s not nearly detailed enough.

I missed your comment, “O,” but now I read it. Yes, I know that artists used studios way back when, but I meant the fact that it was credited that way. I didn’t know about the 1970s stuff, but thanks to everyone for chiming in about it.

I also knew about the period problem and the use of exclamation points. I just like being a snarky modern reader and pointing out how exciting comics back then were!!!!!

For my money, overall, I would endorse most publications by DC and Marvel in the seveneties as “must-haves”, when the story was lacking the art gave new depth. Some titles nowadays, the writing has to be soo much better, to hopefully rise the anime styly art to superhero status. Next I would endorse about 75% of the eighties stuff from the two biggies.

Nestor Redondo is one of the most underrated artists in mainstream comics. Ragman isn’t up to his Swamp Thing standards, but still fantastic. Let it be known that Kubert not only did covers, and this back up (which is a master class in storytelling and certainly noteworthy in my book), but he also pitched in laying out pages and re-inking panels to his liking. I own a page that underwent such treatment.

Don’t be blinded by the corniness. In 1977 this is about as cutting edge as a super hero comic could get. No matter how goofy the stories, Ragman’s existence is warranted by the haunting covers alone.

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