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SOMEWHAT FUN COMICS #4
August, 1937 (VERY rare)

Experts argue about the historical importance of Hoverboy's first appearance in comics (following eight pulp stories and a novella). After all, it would predate Superman, Batman, the Human Torch and Namor as a "costumed super-hero" in comics, were it not for the fact there is no hovering in this story, and Hoverboy does not wear a "costume" technically, just a bucket on his head with holes in it. And far from behaving heroically, Hoverboy spends his adventure mostly beating up African Americans, though he does explain to the readers that it isn't racist to beat up black people, if they're criminals, and therefore bad people for reasons OTHER than their skin color. In fact, just to prove his egalitarian streak, Hoverboy beats up a Jew and an Irishman in a hilarious scene on page twelve, where the lights go out and Hoverboy just can't see WHO he's beating up.

 

Somewhat Fun Comics 4

There's also a jarring reference to to the 'Bonus Army' protest of five years earlier when thousands of veterans camped out in Washington D.C. demanding the bonus they had been promised for serving overseas in World War One. The protesters were broken up by Army Troops sent in by President Hoover, and tragically, men and women were killed. In the story here, Hoverboy says, "I'm Hooverboy! Handing out "Bonuses! Come and GET 'em!" Considering the attack on the Bonus Army was a national scandal, a kind of American version of "Tiananmen Square", it's hard to understand why it's used as a reference by the hero.

For a first appearance in the exciting new medium of comics, it's actually not a bad start. The art is crisp and readable, the plot is easy to follow, and the motivations of most of the characters are clear, all rare for a pre-golden age comic. Even the "Toots Spaulding" and "The Mustachioed Man" stories are pretty good.

If it weren't for the bile churning racism on every page, this is a very enjoyable first story.

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All images copyright Marcus Moore