Golden-Age Spectre's Vow
The Vintage Inkwell Academy

The Hero with a Code

Welcome back to The Vintage Ink Academy. Grab your favorite drink, circle ’round the fire and say howdy to everyone. This blog came about as a suggestion to me by a member of Comic Book Plus, the premiere site dedicated to the preservation and retention of copyright-free, platinum-age, golden-age comics, pulps and much, much more. If you don’t about them and you’re into this stuff you need to get acquainted with them but quick. Also, I want to extend huge thanks to Troy Hendricks for all his great behind the scenes work on this blog and the current renovation my company website Ingenuity Studios.

I’m your host The Ghost Man, which is a name I didn’t make up for myself, but I thought it was appropriate and it stuck. I’ll tell you the origin in a future post once I get to know you all a bit better. So, where do I begin?… Since I was a child I was captivated by Golden-Age comics having been first introduced to them in Jules Feiffer’s The Great Comic Book Heroes (1965) and Les Daniel’s Comix, A History of Comic Books in America (1971).

No, I’m not that old, I actually picked them up in NYC at my neighborhood bookstore a few years later in the closeout section. I do however remember in my neighborhood NYC buying a Thor and Spider-Man comic at a candy store on 81st Street and Columbus Ave. for 12 cents, so… Aww crap! Oh well, I guess that now brands me as old(er). In any regard, after that my brother and I ran the streets buying, reading and collecting various titles by Marvel, DC, Charlton and Atlas in the 70’s. Those days you were swept up in fantastic tales unfolding in bold, vibrant color. With captivating story-lines that resonated and artwork that enthralled you by artisans dedicated to their craft. It was truly a magical world that you were engulfed into, with a comforting, homelike feel that you couldn’t wait to return to. When my dad summarily banned them without reason from the house, it didn’t stop me. I resourcefully smuggled them in my socks or stashed them in a number of clever spots in our apartment building until he left. He just didn’t get it, I had to have these comics, they were my personal, sacrosanct tomes. They were my escape, my moral and heroic instruction guide, my cool uncle, my teacher and my pal who never let me down all-in-one.

Panel from the Phantom comic strip. The oath of Christopher Walker that set in motion his origin becoming The Phantom. "He swore an oath on the skull of his father's murderer. He was the first Phantom, and the eldest male of each succeeding generation of his family carried on!"
The oath of Christopher Walker that set
in motion his origin in becoming The Phantom

Nothing prepared me for my first experience seeing Golden-Age characters for the first time. They were uniquely different in a way that infused itself to my core. Larger than life heroes imbued with honorable and noble character, who had strict codes they lived by, ethics and morality etched in stone. They never tolerated any forms of evil or injustice (except ignorant racial stereotypes) and often made solemn vows to crush and rid the world of it. They committed their lives to their sacred missions, fighting against all odds to make the world a better place for the common man. They didn’t bargain or reason with demonic, psychopathic villains, they simply and resolutely dispatched them.

Panel excerpt from Bat-Man story, "The Chemical Syndicate" showing just how merciless The Bat-Man could be in dealing with criminal scum. The Bat-Man punches villain in face, villain falls backwards into a tank of acid. The Bat-Man says "A fitting end for his kind".
Panel excerpt from Bat-Man story, “The Chemical Syndicate” showing just how merciless The Bat-Man could be in dealing with criminal scum.

To the wide-open eyes and mind’s of the youth they were role models on paper, teaching to always stand up and fight for the underdog and challenge evil where ever you saw it. To boldly and fearlessly defend the weak and oppressed with your wits, determination and strength. The hero with a personal code of honor and moral rectitude they lived and displayed with action. This was mythic storytelling very much on par with legendary heroic tales from the ancient world.

Panel from Mr. Justice (Blue Ribbon Comics #9) "At Last I've found my destiny!... As Mr. Justice I'll fight for justice against all corruption and oppression! Wherever there are crime and criminals, you will find their enemy—Mr Justice".
Mr. Justice (Blue Ribbon Comics #9)

The hero’s code was simple, and effective guide for them to live by. Pulp hero Doc Savage’s was: Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit by it. Let me think of the right and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice. Let me take what comes with a smile, without loss of courage. Let me be considerate of my country, of my fellow citizens and my associates in everything I say and do. Let me do right to all, and wrong no man. Pulp detective Nick Carter’s was a straightforward, “Keep your mind, your body, and your conscience clean”. Inspired by both of these, I amalgamated a variation years ago that I hung at eye-level on the front entrance door to see every time I left the house each day. It was my personal code to live by and it went so:

Keep your mind, your body, and your conscience clean.
Let me strive every moment of my life to make myself better and better to the best of my ability,

Let me hold fast to my code, my honour and my moral rectitude.
Let me stay the course of the righteous and lend all my assistance to those who need it, with no regard for anything but justice.

May I take all my lessons and challenges with a smile, without bitterness nor loss of courage.
Let me humble myself to my place in the universe and transcend my limitations.

Grant me the ability to realize my weaknesses and retain the knowledge to judge the heart of evil in all things.
Let me do right to the innocent and harm no one undeservingly.

Reading those old comics instilled that ideal in me, as well as the old movies from the 20’s and 30’s that also embraced that heroic ideal. These are primal influences that attract people to that ideal, the take charge hero without compromise, sticking to their code like a train on rails. They don’t let the world change them, they stand their ground and change the world through their deeds and words. It’s these very qualities that make audiences cheer on such quintessential characters as Wesley Snipe’s ‘Blade’, Clint Eastwood’s ’Dirty Harry’ and Kurt Russell’s ’Snake Plissken’ to name a few.

Sometimes the art of that comic book age was primitive yet it was atmospheric, simple and earnestly driven. It emanates a raw, organic charm you just don’t find anywhere nowadays. Then sometimes you’d hit a gold mine, and read a Blackhawk by Reed Crandall, or Black Condor by Lou Fine or Captain Marvel Jr. by Mac Raboy and be absolutely blown away by the utterly outstanding draftsmanship without par. This took the story to a whole new level, raising the bar of the art form making the characters spring off the page. There was a solace reminiscent of being near the hearth of a fireplace, when I read these books; a heroic call to a simpler time that took hold with me. Lou Fine, Reed Crandall and Mac Raboy are my biggest influences amongst many, many more but these three are absolutely top shelf to me. Their phenomenal artistic rendering has set the bar for elevating the artistic level of comics and producing unparalleled masterpieces. I’m also a disciple student of the works of Michelangelo, J.C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell, N.C. Wyeth, William de Leftwich Dodge (whose work graces the TVIA banner above) and Norman Lindsay, so my emulation aim is exceptionally high.

Magnificent comic page of work by artist Lou Fine on The Ray from (Smash Comics #26).
Magnificent work from my prime illustrative influence Lou Fine on The Ray from (Smash Comics #26). Note the energy, fluid acrobatic motion. All executed with an anatomical technical expertise and brilliant grasp of the figure in motion.

These brilliant comic works compelled me to draw from an early age and began my long and arduous journey towards producing my own works based upon the principles and vibrancy of the core values absorbed from those pages of long ago. The first stage of my path is not over as I’ve currently been re-training myself in illustration after a protracted hiatus. From there it’s on to producing the content I define through my company Ingenuity Studios as Graphic Serials, a calculated departure from the term “comic books”. This was done to initiate a new direction in the medium, taking from it what made it the best. Some of what you see posted at Ingenuity Serials is my training work which includes lessons from the legendary Landon School of Illustrating and Cartooning. The priority for me now is to learn as much and refine my technique deriving from multiple disciplines. Ultimately attaining a level of proficiency at my craft that I can be proud of and more importantly, produce works that can interest and thrill an audience. I am the first to say I am not even close to that yet and I am my most harshest critic. The one true enemy I have is time and it is the one resource I desperately wish I had in abundance to study and practice. It’s far from easy between life’s demands and unyielding responsibilities, but these can never stand as excuses to a man who is truly driven to accomplish his goal. So I try to do as best as I can and then organize and work harder to do even better.

E.C. Segar advert for the W.L. Evans School of Cartooning and Caricature
E.C. Segar advert for the W.L. Evans School of Cartooning and Caricature

Me? I’m an analogue man trapped in a digital world, more at home with Jimmy Cagney’s rowdy, take-no-crap from anybody swagger. I kind of don’t really fit in this age, and part of me is some reincarnation from that era. I love the 1930’s cinema, especially early German silent ones to the potboiler Noirs of later years. I love pulps of all sorts especially the covers, and detective novels by my literary heroes Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Walter Mosely. Early Jazz of the 20’s and 30’s and Country Blues speaks my language, but it’s also the simple organic food, the clothes, Art Deco, the cars, the honest, no-nonsense, down-to-earth life of it all. Those days, if a guy said something out of line, you clipped him in the jaw to calibrate him and that was that. The chump walked away with his lesson or got up to get himself a tune-up but the bottom line was, boundaries were set. Sometimes the guy even admitted he had it coming and he strangely turned ‘round and respected you for it. It wasn’t just the fellas either, women had moxie and were plenty tough too. You had to be, as the life they had to endure would knock off any of the comfort dependent daisies of today. Can you imagine hauling up a huge block of ice for your icebox, the prototype refrigerator? How about persistently loading a huge pile of coal into your basement and loading the furnace at varied times throughout the day during every winter? TV? Nope none, but what you had was better. Actual social interaction with your family at dinner time and a radio that activated your imagination as you played out the adventure stories. You physically did more and went out to grab life, to involve yourself physically into the world instead of waiting for it to be delivered to your door. Back then you used your wits, determination and strength to survive and flourish and frankly, and we were all the better for it.

The point I’m getting at, is these modern times media propagates depraved, morally ambiguous anti-heroes with vacillating ethics and we are all the worse for it. Degenerates are celebrated as the new role models that youth are encouraged to emulate. A perpetual fog of grey now shadows the moral compass of right versus wrong, confusion is fostered and chaotic lunacy is in full swing. Justice lies in a shallow grave, slain by criminal leaders aided by their quisling media’s sycophantic support of outright evil. Our current reality feels like a Gotham before The Bat-Man appears, a land where corruption reigns supreme and grows like an unchallenged disease. Where evil festers and in the shadowy pitch of it’s pervading darkness, vile men do vile things. The need is great to produce true heroes again, both on the page and within the hearts and mind of the world again.

Comic panel image of young Bruce Wayne vowing to make war on crime and criminals
The heartbroken oath that set firm Bruce Wayne’s intent to wage war on criminals

See you next time...

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