A Tribute to the of

I seem to be continuing my string of covering the somewhat obscure, but this time around it came about sort of unconventionally. Indulge me as I give you a rare glimpse into the mind of the Silver Age Sage.

One fine day the television was blaring away in the background and I noticed it was a James Bond film. Then I further realized to my surprise it was one I’d not seen before. Sean Connery in the starring role, taking on Dr. No. “Huh? How have I lived on this planet these past decades and never seen ‘Dr. No?’” Then I recalled that Showcase [#43] had a book that featured Dr. No. I traipsed over to eBay to see if one was available and there was one copy, slabbed, for a lot more than I had lying around, particularly if I wanted to remain married. Pass. Then I noticed another offering from the Showcase series, much more reasonably priced that I’d also been curious about, so I used the “Make Offer” option and scored my very own copy of Showcase #50 from May/June of 1964 titled, “I—Spy!”

Showcase, of course, is the source of many wondrous things Silver Age, whether we’re talking about the platform that launched the Silver Age with issue #4, multiple rollouts of Silver Age characters like Green Lantern or the Atom, or simply a tryout for new ideas like Hawk and Dove, Metal Men or Bat Lash and the webmaster and I have done our best to chronicle this fabulous series along the way.

Well, this issue (and the one that followed) is something of an anomaly. It contains two reprinted King Faraday stories from the Golden Age. I’m guessing they must have had some sort of production glitch, but unfortunately nearly all the players are gone, so there’s no one to ask, with the possible exception of interior inker Joe Giella, but who could expect him to remember a story he worked on when he was about 22 years old and penciler Carmine Infantino was a wizened veteran of 25? Writer Robert Kanigher has been gone a long time and I don’t know that I’d ever heard of editor Larry Nadle before.

Nadle must not have done a huge amount for DC, at least in the realms I roam. I did find a number of credits where he ghost-edited on the Bob Hope book and I did stumble across this comment from his son, Ken, at a comic book forum online which sheds a little light:

I’m one of Lawrence Nadle’s sons. Once or twice a year I try to find comics that my father wrote or edited and I knew about I…Spy but not about the Yankee Doodle character. I havent looked at anything else on your site yet but wonder if you know that my father’s brother was Martin Nadle aka Naydell aka Dell aka Nadel. He was my father’s older brother and was working at DC first. He was also the inventor of Jumble, the puzzle game, in the Daily News.

Also, you might not know that my father and the artist Bob Oksner teamed up and produced some syndicated comic strips under the pseudonom Bob Lawrence. The ones I remember my father doing either as Bob Lawrence or as Lawrence Nadle are I Love Lucy, and Nero Wolf. He also ghosted some Rudolph The Red Nosed Raindeer stips.

A little later he also mentions his father’s work with Bob Oksner and an article that might be worth finding in Alter Ego:

Check out the magazine Alter Ego (its all about comic book history). I wrote an article about my father and his two brothers and mentioned Bob in it. The issue is #72 available from twomorrows.com as a pdf for $2.95. I don’t know why they don’t mention the article in their description of the issue but it is #72 and is 8 pages long. It has drawings by, and if I remember correctly, a picture of Bob.

Back to Showcase #50: The cover is by Carmine and Murphy Anderson and I discovered it’s actually a redo of the cover from the series where the spotlighted story, “Hangman’s House!” originally appeared in the short-lived (5 issues) Danger Trail series, specifically issue #2 from September/October of 1950. The original cover was by Carmine with Joe Giella inks.

Of further interest was a note in the Grand Comics Database which revealed that according to editorial records, DC had 9 more inventory stories of the adventures of King Faraday following the 5-issue run and they ended up being used in World’s Finest issues #52 through #54 and #64 through #69.

One more bit of trivia. The first story in this edition of Showcase, “Spy Train!” is also reprinted in my invaluable copy of The Greatest 50s Stories Ever Told and for a little bit I was thinking I might have covered that tale here before, but apparently I’d thought about it but had not done so. One day I will.

King Faraday was the co-creation of Bob Kanigher and Carmine Infantino and made his debut in Danger Trail #1. As mentioned before, this story is from Danger Trail #2 and before I get too far I thought I’d mention that “I—Spy!” actually contains four new pages as an intro with the splash page containing some of Carmine’s well-known silhouettes against a background of the “I—Spy!” logo descending from larger to smaller font.

A trench-coated (but sans fedora) Faraday is meeting with some muckety-mucks, a few in uniform, about an unbelievably dangerous assignment and that once he accepts, he will be completely disavowed by his country, no matter what may come. “I—Spy” is apparently an actual position he is about to encumber.

The personnel all try to talk him out of it, but in the dramatic final page, which is a full-page close-up of King Faraday with a grim visage, he simply states that he will be I—Spy.

Hangman’s House!” is the second story and the splash page is similar both covers with a parachuting Faraday in the foreground with a castle-like structure in the background, surrounded by water. The caption reveals it’s a prison and his mission is to break into it.

The story itself, however, begins on the street in New York City, when King Faraday is alerted via a pre-determined secret signal, half of a 1900 quarter bounced onto the sidewalk, that he is wanted. He’s soon having a clandestine meeting with Jimmy West of his old paratroop unit and Jimmy explains that he is needed to help retrieve the scientist, Arnold Leroy, who is being held at Hangman’s House.

Later, at the rendezvous point, things get messy, when another car shows up along with Jimmy West and the lead starts to fly. King ultimately takes down the bad guy, but not before Jimmy was taken out permanently.

Next, Faraday is in the care of Colonel Danby, who makes certain he gets to his destination at a hidden airfield on the east coast and his ultimate destination: Hangman’s House. Prior to arrival, the top secret briefings begin and King convinces the military man that his ability to perform self-hypnosis will be a valuable aid in his mission.

Soon it was time for the night drop and Faraday leaps out into the blackness, but naturally his chute won’t open. Fortunately the emergency chute functions but still drops King into the water. He scouts out his objective, but realizes it’s going to be very tough to get into Hangman’s House.

Using some logic and playing the odds, Faraday finds his way to a nightclub, chats up the female crooner, knowing she’s the love interest of a prison guard and ignites jealousy to the point of fisticuffs, but its all part of the plan. He feigns unconsciousness and as he’d hoped, he is escorted to Hangman’s House by the guard.

After being locked up, King continues to play ‘possum‘ and soon the guard enters, hoping to relieve him of any valuables, but Faraday pounces and forces the guard to lead him to Leroy’s cell, using the turnkey’s own sidearm as a persuader.

The guard wasn’t completely cowed, though and tried a desperate ambush when giving the keys to King. A brief melee later, Faraday has found his way into the scientist’s cell and as the planners of the operation had feared, Professor Leroy is on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown. Faraday uses his hypnosis to get the good doctor to relax. As the guard begins to regain consciousness, King takes advantage of his groggy state to place post-hypnotic suggestions on him and then manages to hypnotize himself, using the half coin as a focal point, as part of the scheme.

Once the guard awakens, the post-hypnotic suggestion kicks in and he comes to the conclusion that both deeply hypnotized bodies are in fact dead. This causes the man some consternation as he’s sure he’ll be blamed for their demise. He quickly places them in body bags and drops them into the water outside the prison.

King awakens immediately upon contact with the water and uses the half coin he’d originally been summoned with to cut the bag open and then to do likewise on Professor Leroy’s. Once they reach the surface, who should be there to greet them but the jealous prison guard aboard a small boat. Faraday wastes no time in pulling the guard into the drink and commandeering the boat.

It is soon evident that the other guards on the island are alerted as the boat tears away in a hail of gunfire. Just when it looks like they’ve made good their escape they encounter a patrol boat. King again takes the initiative and rams the boat. Finally he and the Professor make it ashore where their contacts are waiting. Chalk up another successful mission to King Faraday aka I—Spy.

Apparently this character is still with us, both in animated form and as the featured hero in newer incarnations of Danger Trail, but other than having a passing familiarity with the name, it was new territory for me.

I felt sorry for the poor letterer on this assignment. This 12-page Bob Kanigher story is very copy heavy, not only in the many lengthy and detailed captions, but the dialogue as well. I’m not completely sure if letterers were also responsible for the page numbering, but this story included an interesting detail there, where they were on miniature scrolls or scrolled paper at least. There were other interesting details, too, like one caption also resembling a scroll with a large red letter beginning the text with a shadow behind it, a large “KF” at the bottom of a couple of captions, once again on a scrolled piece of paper, and small drawings at the bottom of several captions with a staircase, a hand holding a pistol and an hourglass. Talk about going above and beyond.

It was a clever enough story premise, but Kanigher’s wordy exposition was taken right out of the hardboiled gumshoe novels with first person wisecracking thrown in for good measure.

Still and all, I learned a lot about a series I knew very little about in Danger Trail. It was a nice little journey of discovery and I’m always happy to learn more and to see some little known work by one of my artistic heroes in Carmine Infantino, who left this world just three years ago this month. I still miss talking with him on the phone.

If you get the opportunity, check out this Golden/Silver age tale. I think you’ll find it’s worth the price of admission.

Be sure to tune in next time when we celebrate the 16th anniversary of the Silver Age Sage feature. Remember also to drop a note to me with any questions, comments or feedback: professor_the@hotmail.com

See you next time and…

Long live the Silver Age!

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