Comics : Jeddak #3

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This story is part of a Lookback Series: From The Beginning

This review was first published on: 4 Jan 2017.

Background...

We stay on the cusp of the Marvel Age with the fanzine Jeddak in an issue dated November 1963. According to Nick Caputo in his The Early Days of Fandom: Jeddak, the fanzine was begun by 14 year old Paul Moslander who was “captivated by the recent Marvel line of heroes with their fresh outlook and dynamic energy.” Nick points out that Paul had a letter published in Amazing Spider-Man #4, September 1963, “complete with an ‘Editor of Jeddak’ title.” (I didn’t mention this in my ASM #4 review. Don’t ask me why.) He also tells us that Paul’s dad Ralph Moslander contributed artwork to his son’s zine, possibly including the cover to this issue. The title, Jeddak, comes from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars” novels. It is Barsoomian for tribal leader, king/queen, emperor. Jeddak focused mostly on the Marvel Comics Group and ran for seven issues.

This issue, #III (Paul used Roman numerals for his issues), features Spidey on the cover and the contents page but doesn’t single him out for any special notice in its articles. Still, let’s take a look and see what we think of it.

In Detail...

"The Marvel Comics Groups"
Jeddak #3
Nov 1963 : SM Article
Summary: Spider-Man on Cover
Editor:  Paul Moslander
Cover Art:  Ralph Moslander
Article Writer:  Paul Moslander
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Review

The Cover: The Marvel Magnificos is a pre-Contents page piece, honoring the second anniversary of the first issue of the Fantastic Four. “Symbolizing the phenomenal success of Marvel are two of its finest creations, the Fantastic Four and the Spider-Man – true magnificos in the greatest sense of the word!” What makes it all work? “The glamor, color, life, rip-roaring no-holds-barred (Though censored) action, vividly human notes of tragidy [sic], pathos, and seriousness, lacings of almost inhuman notes of comedy, and somehow quite human fantasy are the keynotes of Marvel. The action is on a grand scale somewhat reminiscent of old-time s-f space opera of the Edward E. Smith school; yet, the characters manage to still be true to human form.” About the only thing that bugs Paul is the “monumental ego of the company” but he adds that, “The comment of a boxing pro that Cassius Clay has brought a lot of color and life back to his field with his ‘I am the greatest!’ vocal philosophy might be extended to Marvel.” A bit of a tortured sentence but the meaning is there.

As mentioned, Spidey is on the Contents page. (So is the Human Torch.) Notes and Notices follows, including this tip: “The prayers of fandom have been answered! Or some of them, at least. The real, authentic, and gen-u-ine original Captain America will make his re-debut in Avengers 4!!” In Jeditorial: Fantastic Four 21, Paul praises the tale of the FF’s battle with the Hate-Monger, saying, “It showed, for one thing, how baseless and mad prejudice is. It also showed the corrupting influence of ‘master race’ advocates, religious bigots, and the others whose creed is that all men were not created equal, and whose megalomania approaches the fanatical…The Marvel Comics Group, one of the major comic-magazine publishers in the county, leader of the New Golden or Marvel Age, has taken a direct and pointed stand in support of the America ideal of equality and has underlined the sad fact that not everyone claiming to be a citizen will accept this fundamental principle of our Constitution. This takes not only the courage of one’s convictions, but an evidently supra-normal supply of patriotism – which is more than flag-saluting and cheering during wartime, but a belief and support of a country’s ideals. For this, Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, and the entire staff of Marvel deserve hearty praise.” Not bad for a 14 year old in 1963.

In Jeditoral Comments, the letters page, Flo Steinberg, “Corresponding Secretary for Stan Lee, Marvel Comics Group,” writes to says “Stan Lee asked me to write to thank you for your latest issue of Jeddak, which he enjoyed immensely. The articles were well-written and interestingly done…”

After the Wanted – For Sale or Trade page (Batman Annual #1 for 35 cents!), the cover story appears. In The Marvel Comics Groups, Paul compares the Fantastic Four, X-Men, Avengers and Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos. There is no mention of Spidey in spite of his appearance with the FF on the cover but there are some comments worthy of mention. Of Reed Richards, Paul writes, “He is a genius – yet not an ‘arm chair’ hero, but quite capable of active participation in Four adventures. He uses his brain which does not possess the ‘Wisdom of Solomon’, or is an infallible super-computer, but which is a human think-box working on a human scale. Reed Richards also adds a dignity to the super-hero professor, much as Rip Kirby did to the comic-strip detective racket.” I have never seen Reed compared to Rip Kirby before and I think it is a valid comparison that goes beyond the gray hair at the temples and the pipe each clamped in their teeth. Of Johnny Storm, Paul writes that “The Human Torch gives us a true teen-age hero with all the cock brashness of adolescence, and none of the synthetic air of Snapper Carr.” Snapper is the JLA teen “mascot” who goes around snapping his fingers. Just imagine reading comics back when the best teen representative was Snapper Carr and you can see how revolutionary the Human Torch must have felt. But for all of his interesting observations, Paul makes a few wrong turns. In his X-Men survey, he says, “The Angel is another unique character, somewhat analogous to Hawkman, but a distinct entity in himself in the way Lee and Kirby handle him. Warren Worthington III, notwithstanding his name, will probably be the first of the X-Men to graduate to his own feature, such is his inherent potential.” There are moments when I’m not sure just what Paul is saying as in this comment about the Wasp in the Avengers section: “Her size is a semi-exclusive quality, compounded by thoroughly individual sensitivity and intuition.” And occasionally the fact that this was all written over 50 years ago slams you in the face such as this comment on Gabe Jones in the Sgt. Fury section: “He is either a Negro or Hamite, being one of the first, if not the first, of a dark-skinned race to figure as a serious character in a major comic-magazine.” Paul concludes his Howling Commandoes section (and the entire article) with “Amidst all this, a magazine where plain, ordinary humans are given the glory gained by those others is an oasis – if there can be an oasis in a lush garden.” In other words, he likes these new Marvel comics. Likes them a lot.

On the opposing page is a Reproduction: Fantastic Four 1, the cover recreated by Paul’s father Ralph Moslander. On the back of the reproduction is a brief recap of FF #1 and its impact on the comics scene. Under the “Principal characters and specialties” section, Paul lists the Invisible Girl as “invisibility at will; femininity” and the Thing as “inhuman strength and endurance; a nasty disposition.”

Richard Weingroff, who contributed articles to our previous FTB entry Hero #2 (Spring 1963), gives us the longest piece in this issue with Do We Need the Comics Code? Conclusion? No, we don’t. The argument essentially boils down to three points: each comic company has established a niche and won’t want to risk its profits by reverting to Code-prohibited plotlines (My favorite line from the article: “[Harvey Comics] large readership is made up of younger kids, and we may safely question their acceptance of Li’l Dot as a nudist.”), under the code, the heroes aren’t heroic enough and the villains not villainous enough, and “the violence that most comics might incorporate into their stories should not be objectionable by modern standards.” Agree with these points or not, it is interesting to see this viewpoint expressed just eight years after the adoption of the code. Unfortunately, Richard backs off at the end, saying that “the Code is NOT killing comics” and that ingenious editors like Julius Schwartz, Murray Boltinoff, and Stan Lee find ways to deal with the restrictions. Instead, he worries that “rising expenses could spell a sudden death for the companies.” Because, you know, they recently had to up the cost of a comic from ten cents to twelve cents.

Bill Gregory’s article “If Not, Why Not?” follows. The title implies that Bill will rebut Richard but, instead, it is a one page amen to Richard’s conclusion, creating a sort of unnecessary anti-Code dogpile. Best line from the article: “It should be pointed out to someone that the female form is an excellently constructed one, to be appreciated as much, if not more, as bulging bicepts [sic] and X-ray vision.”

The next section is The Comic Mirror #3, a sort of fanzine within a fanzine. The cover page is adorned with illustrations of the Golden Age and Marvel Age Human Torches and the first feature is Margaret Gemignani’s The Tale of the Torch, a two page history of the original Human Torch. It seems a bit spotty today but there was no easy access to this information anywhere else in 1963. If you were interested in the Torch and had no Golden Age books, Margaret was one of the few people out there telling you about him. Paul follows up with The Torch Rekindled, a short history of Johnny Storm that compares and contrasts him to the original. In mentioning the solo series that Johnny receives in Strange Tales, Paul says, “This was not quite the meteoric rise of the original, who had his own 64-page magazine within a year of his birth, however the Marvel Age is not the Golden Age, and has its own novas [sic] as well as stars. The particularly outstanding nova of the lot is Spider-Man.” Thought I’d quote that for all the Spidey fans reading this.

Under the Sabre by Victor Baron is a one page appreciation of the Hulk while Under the Knife by John McGeehan lauds pulp novelist Maurice B. Gardner, author of “Bantan God-Like Islander” and the other Bantan books of which I’d never heard and started to think were invented by John McGeehan but that, it turns out, actually exist. John perhaps offers two hints as to why Maurice Gardner is generally forgotten when he says, “Though the book is filled with clichés, repetition, and almost everything else English teachers abhor, it is still an excellent, exciting, and entertaining piece with everything that goes into the making of a very enjoyable novel,” and “It has been stated by various persons that the islander [Bantan] is a direct copy of Tarzan, and is to be considered a ‘poor man’s version’ or [sic] same.” Sadly, Mr. Gardner died in 1977 so the offer at the end of this article that “All but ‘This Man,’ ‘Son of the Wilderness,’ and ‘Bantan and the Island Goddess’ are available in autographed form for $3.00 from Maurice Gardner himself, 90 Cobb Avenue, Portland, Maine” is no longer valid.

Victor Baron returns to wrap up the issue with The Nemesis of Evil: Chapter III, his bit of fan fiction. According to the Summary, “Wilhelm von der Magyar, Hungarian baron and political prisoner of the Hungarian People’s Republic, died in an attempt to escape from his prison camp. In dying, the potassium released by dead cells into his blood activated a regenerative chemical that rebuilt his body so that when he woke nine days later, he possessed the strength of many men, sight into the infra-red, keener senses and mind, and the power of regeneration that regrow damaged cells within split seconds of their injury.” I think we can leave it there, don’t you?

In General...

Like Hero #2, Jeddak #3 offers a rare glimpse into the fan reaction to Marvel Comics in its infancy but it doesn’t do it quite so well. Or maybe it doesn’t have enough Spider-Man in it to suit me. I like the look at the Comics Code when the Code was less than a decade old. I like Flo Steinberg’s terse message from Stan. I even like the oddness of Maurice Gardner plugging his forgotten pulpy novels through John McGeehan. And I love Paul’s support of Stan and Jack attacking prejudice. But the Torch and Hulk articles don’t contribute much and the Wilhelm von der Magyar story fragment (he fights Peace Man, a Soviet superman, gets obliterated, regenerates, finds himself a captive…continued next issue!) is a sad wrap-up to the issue.

Overall Rating...

Four webs.

Again, you don’t need to own it. Just know that it exists and it’s kinda cool.

Footnote...

Back to 1967, with only two fanzines to go! The Forbush Gazette #1 is next.