Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Perfect Crime 12 / Cal Massey

I kind of glassed over Cal Massey a couple of posts back for the Teen-Age Romances post, and I’m trying to get some older material up, so here's an old scan and post that leads with one of Massey’s stories and gives some information on him.

The Perfect Crime began in 1949 and ran for 33 issues on Cross Publications, whose only other titles were Uncle Milty (based on the comedy of Milton Berle) which ran 4 issues in 1950 and a bizarre-looking title Super Circus which ran for 5 issues in 51. The covers on this series are fantastically graphic and many are presented from odd perspectives. I'm thinking Cross might have been a magazine publisher that was dabbling in comics (I wonder if they had anything to do with that The Wrestling Scene which I scanned which is advertised in this issue) but I can't really find anything about their operation. If anybody knows anything about this publisher, let me know.


Here's the full scan of issue 12. To me, this is a classic crime cover - and very graphic:

The Perfect Crime 012 (1951-05.Cross)

The first story is "Steve Duncan and the Venus de Milo Murders" drawn by Cal Massey. Apparently, Massey went to work for Cross shortly after graduating from art school in Philadelphia and went on to become a prominent artist and role model in the Atlanta black community:

Massey on how comics affected his art

Here's the splash:


Steve Duncan must have been the recurring private dick in the first story in this title and is a bit of an interesting character. He doesn't really seem to use a gun in this caper, and he navigates a web of treachery and deceit involving the black hand with only his wits about him.

Next up is "Two and Two Make Five" about what happens to a smart con when he tries to pull the job he's been thinking about while locked up. I love the commentary on the dance number:

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If anybody recognizes the artist's sig (I think I see one on the splash page) lemme know. I still don't quite get the revelation in the last panel of this one. It sure seems like a grasping typee ending common in some of these goldenage stories.

Third up is "The Case of the Cracked Disc Jockey" certainly the most bizarre tale of the issue involving jealous rival disc jockeys, a headache-inducing transmitter, and a twice-deadly record:

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Next up "Your Money or Your Life" told from the perspective of a cabbie driver facing his first stick up followed by "A Very Honest Fellow" about a timid bank employee that's pressured into stealing by his wife that finally finds his way.

One element I find very interesting in this comic are the text pages. Instead of the usual poorly written two page text story, this title has an editorial. This issue's editorial is titled "Marble Cake and Mayhem" about waves of immigration and their influence on the creation of street gangs. The Germans and the Dutch resent the newcomer Irish who in turn come to resent the Italians. The writer uses the metaphor of the city as a black and white layer cake made up of waves of different immigrants where every block might be separated by ethnic group. And if you have trouble walking a block over you just might wanna get your pals together and start a gang. I kind of like the placement of an editorial in a comic like this.

The last story is "Robbery Can Spell Murder" where a man dies a horrible death but manages to point the finger at his killers.

Also to note in this title are the two-page anti-crime slogans that run throughout. Some of them almost seem old testament and some are quite funny. I also like some of the funky gradient coloring in some of the panels as well, I think it lends a lot of atmosphere:

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

And as far as the shock value I was expecting, although this comic has a couple violent moments, it's far less gory than it might be. A lot of the violence seems to happen off-panel and it avoids going for the some of the gruesome images it could have gone for (say a shot of the victim from the front in the last story or a panel of the DJ that falls prey to the flying record).

52 pages of goodness, I say! I spend a lot more time reading an issue like this from the golden age than thumbing through the average modern comic. Not every story idea in here is executed perfectly but I got a kick out of it.



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