Friday, August 8, 2014

Wildcat from Sensation #1 by Finger and Hasen

Wildcat is one of my favorite comics of the Golden AgeWildcat had a very real setting and down to Earth story created by Bill Finger and the very physical, gritty figures drawn by Irwin HasenWildcat is a hero who takes on a masked identity for a believable reason with believable physical prowess.

From Sensation Comics #1, Jan 1942

It figures that the same creator who created this non-super-powered hero, Wildcat, was also the creator behind the other Golden Age non-super-powered cultural icon of Batman.  

Batman, created by Bob Kane and Bill Finger

Bill Finger is one of the unsung heroes of the Golden Age of comics.

Wildcat started out simple enough as Ted Grant's talent for boxing was discovered by a boxing promoter.

Ted Grant is so good that his managers want to pit him against his best pal, Heavy Weight Champion, Socker.

His managers spread false  rumors about Ted and Socker fighting over Socker's girl.

But afterward Ted's managers have other plans up their sleeves.

This is one of those rare, fun comics where the characters themselves read comics. Though it makes you wonder, if he is reading Green Lantern comics, does that mean that he will be reading Wildcat comics later? Or that, when he meets Green Lantern, will  he know his secret identity as Alan Scott from reading his comics? Is Wildcat on Earth One where the heroes like Flash read about the exploits of their Golden Age counterparts or Earth Two where the Golden Age characters originate from? These are the kind of important questions that keep nerds up at night and are the inspiration for such mega hits as Crisis On Infinite Earths.

I love the down-to-Earth environment that the story takes place in. This is not some Art Deco Metropolis or some Gothic Gotham, this is the streets of New York City or Chicago. This is Madison Square Garden. And Wildcat is not some idealistic "fighter for justice". He is a guy who has been wronged and he is taking back what they took from him using the skills he has available to him. Even the costume makes sense in that he is on the run from the law and so has to stay incognito. It's a great take on the whole superhero genre, one that Brubaker, Rucka or Bendis would appreciate with their gritty, down-to-Earth styles.
And the art is equally down-to-Earth and gritty. I love Irwin Hasen's figure work in this comic. The images really invoke images of real boxers that I've seen. There are very few awkward "comicbooky" poses here but for the most part the art is pretty inspiring. I'm sure Hasen lifted photos Heavy Weight Champion Joe Louise from the newspaper but I really appreciate that. It gives a realism and weight to the images reinforcing the idea of realism in this comic.

This story really makes me want to see the next episode. Where will it go? Will the police still be looking for him? Will the mob get a hit on him? It could be very exciting if they kept the story on the street level, though we know from our knowledge of Golden Age comics that this story eventually went campy like all the other DC strips did,

Stretch Skinner was introduced in Sensation Comics #4, April 1942 by Finger and Hasen for Wildcat's comedic sidekick.

but we can image what the strip would have been like if it didn't go silly, and we can use this as a stepping stone to aspire to greater heights the way Miller did for his Batman Year One or Brubaker/Rucka did for their Gotham Central series. I find it fascinating how the Golden Age comics came in so gritty and vital, taking their cues from the pulps as they did, and find it sad that it took the medium nearly 50 to finally actualize some of what they started way back when.

1 comment:

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