Frantic as a cardiograph scratching out the lines, Day 282: Spirit Sunday Section, 14 July 1940
Every day this year, I will be examining the first pages of random comics. This month (for a while) I will be showing pages chosen by you, the readers. Today’s page is from the Spirit Sunday Section for 14 July 1940, which was a newspaper supplement. This page was suggested by Mike Smith, who likes old comics, apparently! Enjoy!
This is the first page of the second story in the 16-page section, and it features Lady Luck, who was created by Will Eisner, who wrote this page, and Chuck Mazoujian, who drew this (as far as I can find, that’s the way it went). Eisner, indulging in the use of pseudonyms so common back in the Golden Age, signed this “Ford Davis.” Apparently, Geoff Johns said he was going to use her in Justice League – did that ever happen?
Lady Luck is the alter ego of Brenda Banks, as we see on this first page. The title panel is really good – Eisner and Mazoujian use a newspaper to tease what the story is about, while Brenda’s shadow looks like Lady Luck, showing that they’re one and the same. The way the shadow is leaning moves our eye from the left to the right very nicely, allowing us to settle on the banner. The nine-panel grid underneath it isn’t great for moving our eye across the page, but it doesn’t require too much work, either. The comic is dated, of course – does anyone really use the word “deb” very much anymore? – but that’s okay, because even today, we ought to know what a debutante is, right? Eisner’s story is a bit tortured – the father shows the chief a picture of Brenda even though Moore has already seen her, and even though he HAS seen her, he suddenly makes the connection to Lady Luck? In Panel 5, we can assume that’s the police out looking for her, but I wonder why they aren’t using a police car? Did they not have official police cars in 1940? Brenda has easily escaped her bonds, of course, but she wants to make sure the police “rescue” her. She doesn’t know that Moore suspects her of being Lady Luck, so why she feels like she has to “change” into her outfit (in other words, put on a hat) is beyond me. If she knows how to get out of the knots, can’t she just pretend to be bound and stay where she is until the cops “rescue” her? Man.
Mazoujian’s artwork is pretty good. He knows how to place things in the panels to keep us moving the right way, as we can plainly see. The first panel (well, Panel 2, I guess) moves us from the upper left to the lower right. Why the proof of life is an obviously old photograph of Brenda is unclear, but I guess we’ll have to deal with it. Mazoujian places the three characters in Panel 3 in the lower right, and then, in Panel 4, Feeny (the dude in the background is named Feeny) is smaller and looking toward the right at the chief. In Panel 5, the car is speeding from left to right, and in Panel 6, Brenda is moving toward the window on the right. Even though she’s running the “wrong” way in Panel 7, the tree forms a nice border on the right side, and Brenda can be seen as running toward the bottom row and to the left, where our eyes need to go. She’s coming in from the right in Panel 8, of course, but our eyes still move to the right because that’s where she’s standing, and in Panel 9, Mazoujian again places the smaller character on the left and the larger character on the right. (I’m not getting into how Mazoujian draws Clarissa – it’s certainly better than Ebony White, though!) Finally, Brenda is looking off-panel to the right in Panel 10, declaring her intentions of going back out as Lady Luck. It’s a nicely designed page.
You’ll notice that, in order to disguise her identity, Brenda puts on a cloak and a hat. And people thought Clark Kent had a lame disguise! This is enough to fool the chief of police, mind you, even though Brenda and Lady Luck are both wearing the exact same green dress. Man – cops, amirite? The other thing you’ll notice is how freakishly thin Brenda is. Back in the day, of course, women were expected to be this thin, but at least Mazoujian doesn’t compensate by giving her giant boobs. Despite her unhealthy thinness, she actually looks more “normal” than a lot of female superheroes these days. Presumably when she got home, she peeled off her corset and had a Twinkie. That’s how they rolled in the 1940s!
This is a silly story (it involves making the kidnappers think they’re in a haunted house and, of course, the aforementioned idiotic cops), but it’s not badly done. Mazoujian just died last year at the age of 94 (possibly 93; I can only find the years for his birth and death), and this is the first time I’ve heard of him. Yes, I suck. This is pretty keen art, though!
Next: I don’t have any more reader requests to show (I’m kind of sad about that), so I’m going with my back-up plan for October! That’s right, it’s time for scary stuff in the month of Halloween! Well, as much as any first page can be scary. We’ll start with a callback to the very first installment of this series! Oooh – exciting! If you’ve forgotten what the first installment of this series is, be sure to find it in the archives!