Sunday, October 25, 2009

Inside Detective, July 1946 / Hush Hush


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So tonight I thought I'd round up this sampling of 40s detective magazines with something of a counterpoint to the other examples, a very nice title from Dell, Inside Detective. This issue was edited by my pal Dr Oldschool who always shows good taste in his approach to old paper.

The printing and photographs are nice in Inside Detective, the stories pretty well written (if predictable), and I guess these are about what you'd expect from Dell. Dell comics are good comics, and apparently Dell magazines are good magazines. Sure, there's plenty of innuendo in these seedy tales of vice, but it's of a tamer variety than the more salacious titles. There is discussion of emerging forensic science, sociological factioids given, a focus on the process of the investigation, the relation between police departments and jurisdictions, etc. The models in the photographs are not baring their braziers and descriptions of the gore are left more to the text than in the photographs. This was probably a more accepted title to let your teens read, at least little Johnny isn't reading Women in Crime...

Inside Detective v23n07 (1946-07.Dell)(c2c.Darwin-Oldschool-DREGS).cbr
Get the scan here.

Contents for tonight's issue. I'll post the whole page because I like the bit about the boys who meet in a reformatory, become war heroes, then return to crime when they get back. They serve society well in one set of circumstances(war) but don't fit in before or after. The Commissioner's comments are pretty hardcore, I don't think a police could get away with saying this these days.


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The lead story (The Hush-Hush Murder Case) regards a pair of detectives that travel upstream to the site of a murder before the news of the corpses discovery. The part where a couple turtle hunting boys find the body is pretty gross along with the descriptions of the corpse as fish food. Eeew. Somehow the picture of the perpetrators in my mind's eye doesn't quite match the model's photograph:



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One page I found particularly interesting is the story of a false imprisonment. Apparently the magazines story on a flawed conviction led to this man's release:


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I managed to track down word of his reward from the state. Here's an AP press release from the following April. The guy got 10,000 bucks for 6 years of wrongful imprisonment, doesn't sound like too much in today's economy. The poor guy turned it right over to his ma who had gone into debt fighting to get her son out of jail for so many years.

Here's a splash page with illustration, I don't know the cartoonist. Other issues of Dell's true crime mags contain all sorts of joke panels, I don't doubt that some issues might contain illustration. Maybe there is material in these magazines that would interest those with interests in the artists that worked at Dell over the years.


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Here is a sort of mixture of photograph and art, a "photodiagram", an illustrator's rendering made more real by the fusion of art with photography in order to dramatize a scene. Neat effect.


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A couple of splashes, great colors. Oldschool did a nice job on the join pages.


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I leave with an interesting column on DOPE. Many Americans consider drug usage a modern phenomenon or at least a 20th century occurence but no. Why even the good detective Holmes had to have his daily helper...



I hope you've enjoyed this little tour of 40s crime magazines. At some point in the future I'll be scanning some earlier examples. Maybe I can find some Jim Thompson in True Detective or some good Dillinger or Lindbergh Baby material. In any case, an important genre! There's a mountain of these to be scanned, hopefully there are some enthusiasts out there that will rise to the challenge of digitizing this lost genre of mags - they are a wealth of sociological data, a look a law enforcement through the ages, and artifacts of the American fear of and interest in crime.

These themed posts on early Hollywood and 40s true crime have been fun, but I'll take potpourri for $200, Alex. I'm going to mix it up here for a little bit for a few weeks and post an array of periodicals before I move on to my next themed topic (20s and 30s slicks!!!).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Women in Crime, April 1948 / Cheated Wives Make Merry Widows


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Women in Crime v03n02 (1948.Hanro) (cover upgraded) (Darwin-Slinky-MW)
Get the scan here.

That's right boys, keep it in you pants, cuz mama don't take no mess. Continuing our examination crime mags of the forties, I offer an issue of one of the more collectible true crime pubs, a title that really gets to the crux of my particular fascination with these magazines, Women in Crime. Yes, it's true. I like bad girls. Just what is a bad girl? Well I'm not sure there's an exact definition but she's definitely a counterpart to the good girl or what ebay sellers like to label as GGA (good girl art). The good girl is usually a pin-up type - a friend tells me that true good girl art is drawn so that clothes are almost an afterthought, that the figure is the thing. The goodgirl tends to be a damsel in distress, menaced by any variety of characters - the mad doctor, the African tribesman, the indian attacker, the hoodlum, the red and yellow menace, etc. Often in the pulps or comics, our hero appears in the background, ready to save the poor lass. Wouldn't you?

But Bad girls don't need saving, at least in the physical sense. They can handle themselves, thank you very much, and can likely chump you out as well. Men are their playthings, sex is the promise, manipulation the game, and if need be the bad girl can always reach for that secreted gat or blade. The late 40s and early 50s are the heyday of the bad girl on true crime covers. It was before the market was totally over-run with photo covers (who needs to pay an artist that hefty $100 for a cover anyways?) and before the women on true crime covers would become mere victims, often bound and powerless mouth agape in terror. A certain sign of a bad girl? Why that cigarette dangling from her mouth of course. A casual and flippant transgression, I'm not sure we remember that smoking was once very taboo for women even up to this late date. If the bad girl is willing to break this taboo, well, who knows what other taboos she might cast aside? Maybe the right guy could mend her ways, or maybe you're just another sucker in a long line of suckers, lining up to be played by these women who know just want you want and what you'll do to get it. This issue's cover is another from George Gross who painted some of the all-time great bad girls for mags like Women in Crime and Smash Detective. Other magazines like Line-Up Detective, Detective World, All True Fact Crime, Crime, True Crime Detective, and True Crime Cases sported painted bad girls in this era as well. Perhaps in a time when the men came back from war and were marrying and assimilating into proper society, the bad girl held a special draw.

Since I'm talking about these covers I'm going to go ahead and post a number of them from my collection. I haven't gotten around restoring the images yet but can't let the discussion go without posting some examples. It is not unlikely that full scans of some of these issues will show up here in the future, so stay tuned if you are interested in seeing the insides as well.

All True Fact Crime Cases 1952-04


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Police Detective Cases 1949-04

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Special Detective 1951-04

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Special Detective 1952-03

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True Cases of Women in Crime 1953-01

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True Cases of Women in Crime 1954-07

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True Crime Cases 1951-11

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True Crime Detective 1948-01

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The recent and excellent Taschen book on true crime mags (there are some sample images from the book at the Taschen site here) splits the true crime mags up into decades and titles the 40s "Sex Rears Its Head". The authors argue that as the golden age of crime waned with the repeal of prohibition, the publishers tried to keep readers by taking a more salacious route. Your mother or wife might wonder what this trash you're reading is but you could always answer, "aw, it's just a detective magazine". Sure, crime was an avenue to explore prostitution, aberrant sexual behaviour, bondage fantasies,crimes of passion and adultery and often from a safe vantage point. Through the eyes of the reporter or the working detective. You could witness the crime from the safety of your reading chair, participate but judge all at the same time. Oddly enough a couple of the older comic scanners tell me that their grannies used to love reading these. Anyways, I'm not so sure that it's safe to paint in very broad strokes when talking about such a huge and varied genre. There were sooooo many titles and sooooo many issues over the years - I think I'll have to read a good number more of these from any given era before I can really
see the trends. Sure some titles are dripping with sex, but others seem to take a different approach. I daren't say wholesome but perhaps more concerned with violence or mystery or forensics than sex. And extricating sex from violence might be harder than it seems, hence the true creepiness of the some of the later directions these mags would take. But I'm rambling on again, exit stage left.

Bring on the contents and some samples from tonight's issue!


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I like to see some of our slang pop up in vintage magazines, oftentimes you can find a word very close to its origin. A quick web search shows the term jailbait originating in the early 30s, so I'd guess the term was getting into popular usage at the time. I found a Buster Keaton talkie I've never seen called Jail Bait from 1937 but it looks like the term refers to a plot to capture some criminals. The Ed Wood film from 1954 of the same name looks like it refers to a woman that will land you in jail because she is trouble, but not because she is underage. Our story here has a similar connotation - so I'm not sure when the word took on the modern usage i.e. a lolita type that will land you in jail for fooling around with a minor.


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An interior illustration from Gross, some of his illustrations in these mags are better than others. This one doesn't do anything for me.

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Two mainstays of sexploitation. Catfights and girls in prison, oh yeah.


Big thanks to Slinky for the edit work on this magazine. Mike Ward from magazineart.org and myself also did some further touch up on the cover image, thanks gents.

Next time, our last stop on our tour of 40s crime mags. Color! Dude, you're getting a Dell...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Complete Detective Cases, December 1940 / Joseph Simon Art Director


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Complete Detective Cases v02n06 (1940-12.Postal) (Dregs, P.I.)
Get the scan here.

Let's step back a couple of years tonight to the very beginning of the 40s with a look at an early issue of Complete Detective Cases, which I believe was Martin Goodman's first foray in the true crime format. Shortly after would come Amazing Detective Cases and National Detective Cases, and some of these early issue list Joe Simon as Art Director. Goodman had spent his career thus far in pulps, and the early 40s show him branching out into some fresh ground with comics, a number of joke magazines, these detective mags, and who knows what else. Always one willing to follow a trend, I wonder if there was some sort of upsurge in the popularity of these magazines at the time. He must have sold a good number, because they certainly aren't scarce on ebay or anything. The covers tend to be black and white (with red or green) at this point, and some of them like this one have a nice noir-thing going. Others leave less to the imagination and feature bound women up front and stories revolving around sex are picked for cover items.

Contents. Not a very interesting contents layout at this point. But here we see Joe Simon, Art Director:


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I knew that Simon was involved in the layout and art for Goodman's pulps at the time (I'm thinking Marvel Stories) but was surprised to learn he was doing the layout and some illustration for these true crime publications. In scouting about for this post, I was pleased to find a couple of excellent pages on the subject at kirbymuseum.org. I shouldn't be surprised that acolytes of The King have chased this stuff down, he has some truly devoted fans.

This page introduces the subject and shows a number of pages of art. I love the last image from Joe Simon, it's very cool to see golden age artists working with washes and in some other mediums that you don't see in the comic work.

This page gets into the way the photo splashes are laid out and suggests that this work might have led Joe into some more dynamic layouts in his comic work. Indeed, the way splashes are arranged in these old photo-magazines is an art unto itself, the way photos and illustration and text are layered to make the eye move across the page is great magazine craft and I think Simon showed a real penchant for it.

The mag leads with "Love Monster," a good choice, the effect of the horned shadow is awesome. Look at how much is going on on this page, 3 photos, 2 of which blend into each other as they fade behind the text. The portrait might have been airbrushed? I've wondered looking at some of the pics in here if they are artist renditions or just touched up.


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Another nice layout that keeps the eye moving, this time with a spot illustration thrown in. Is this Kirby? I'm not very good at artist identification (and honestly haven't given much attention to early work from these two), so I'm only venturing a guess. Some of the spot illustrations are cool, but some of the illustration is awkward. Undoubtedly, though, there are some cool illustrations to be rediscovered in these magazines.


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One of the primitive illos I'm referring to. The eyes are odd on a couple of these peeps


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I like this one though


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I read this story last night and had it pegged for a fabrication. I thought it was just told too well and that some of the details were fishy (making your father-in-law live out back in a shed?!?), but indeed this is a true story of murder from 20 years earlier, I thought the execution (cough, of the story) was well done. A couple of links I found at the NYT that show the story's veracity and perhaps how the writer bent the details.

Police hold husband and father, hunt brother 1922/12/21

A second one, won't describe. no spoilers! read the mag first.

McCoy tells me he's looked up a few of these before and found them all to be true. It makes for some fun internet sleuthing. You, too, can be a detective.

I leave with another fun posed photo. I've heard that bachelor life can get a little hairy. Dating is dangerous!



Crime Never Sleeps, next time on darwin scans - a look at my absolute favorite true crime mag, Women in Crime, hot damn.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

True Crime Scans / True Crime Detective, June 1944

Americans are fascinated by crime, no doubt about it. Listen to the local newscast tease the audience with forthcoming detail of last night's murder, eyes all agleam. Today we've got America's Most Wanted, Cops, C.S.I., N.C.I.S., Law & Order, etc., etc. to feed the interest in crime, but for years true crime magazines suited this purpose and were a mainstay on magazine racks across the country. Most will point to The National Police Gazette (which I've posted about previously) as a predecessor for these magazines which began with Bernarr Macfadden's True Detective in 1924. Don't quote the amateur, but I recall reading that the mag had a readership around the 2 million mark in just a few years.

Dillinger loved to read these magazines (and appeared in the often in the heyday of crime), and when you look at the magazines of the day you see the names of all sorts of gangsters and criminals that have endured in infamy. True Detective spawned many competitors, and it really is staggering how many of these magazines there are out there. My personal attraction to these magazines is to the painted covers of the early years and into the 50s, but the. Certainly not all the stories are true, and they can range from the campy to the macabre. Getting into the 60s and 70s, these magazines start to push the envelope and can get downright creepy. Still, a lot of the "Bad Mag" sort of material is like a car crash you can't help but look at. Overall, I think these magazines have great layouts and cool magazine-craft. A scanned library would make an incredible resource for crime research not to mention a great medium in which to observe America's shifting relationship with crime.

There's so many of these mags, it's really hard to know where to start. I wish I had some scans of some material from the 20s or 30s and will probably be scanning some in the near future. For starters, though, over the next day or two I'll post four magazines from the 1940s. I'll start with the first one I ever bought.


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DOPE, Japan's Demon Ally, irresistable. I'm a big fan of anti-drug propaganda - mix it with wartime phobia of the Japanese and you get a classic cover.

Get the scan here.

Contents page, this a a pretty common layout about this time, a montage of pictures around the edge of the page, cool graphics, a sort of entrance into a seedy and dangerous world.


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You'd expect the dope article to be something about the Japanese pushing dope one the streets of California, but rather it's a splash of wartime propaganda on how the Japanese are supplying Chinese dealers to weaken the country. It doesn't look like the Chinese treated their addicts too nicely, the chap in the lower right corner is getting some rough treatment.


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The staged photos in these mags can range from the bizarre to the hilarious to the frightening, some are pretty effective, others not so much. Ladies, watch out for the guys that like to point their fingers at you, they're no good! She looks like she ain't scared one bit.


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this perp is just too funny, "stocky killer," my ass:



We'll continue our crime spree next post! Nobody move, nobody gets hurt.