I really like Golden Age comic books but sometimes they make my brain spin. For instance, take 4 Most Comics#1 from the Winter of 1942. This issue is one long salute to Aryan homoeroticism in a comic book and the wink-wink, nudge-nudge content is about as subtle as being hit by a freight train as it enters a tunnel.
First, take the name of the title's hero.
Creator Bob Davis, who in a self-portrait can be seen above, named his hero Dick Cole. Okay, I guess the name could have been worse, like Penis Anuston or something. I think, though, that the hero's name pretty much sets the tone for all the many appearances of the character.
While Dick could easily be compared to the early Building-Leaping Superman of 1942, I see him as more closely being a take off on Wylie's Hugo Danner (aka Man-God aka Gladiator to you comic fans), who allegedly was also the creative template for Superman. Abandoned as an infant, Dick is adopted by a scientist who trains him to be All-American and gives him a formula that turns him into Dick Cole the Wonder Boy. Strong, fast and clever, Dick and his thuggish friend Simba spend their time fighting Nazi saboteurs and exploring homoerotic subtext.
In 4 Most #1, the extra long feature is devoted to Dick's adventures at a disinguished southern military academy. The main story concerns mind-control, a fairly erotic subject to begin with. That the method of control is applied to the ubermenches of the academy by a deformed serial-killer who is in denial about his sexual orientation and is strangely obsessed with Dick Cole makes this one interesting comic. There is also a dinosaur which Dick and Simba subdued using bondage when it went on a rampage through the city for some reason.
Reggie Mocton is a rich kid who is attending the same military academy as Dick Cole and Simba.
Reggie's obsession increases. He is undoubtedly bothered not only by his own confusion but the oblivious reactions of everyone else around him.
As Reggie becomes increasingly frustrated the readers get a little glimpse into his childhood and the circumstances leading up him murdering his physically perfect brother out of jealousy.
STANDBY FOR MIND-CONTROL!
Being a twisted genius Reggie invents a mind-control drug and uses it first on his chauffer, then random academy students before using it on Dick Cole and framing him for treason.
In between scenes of Reggie hypnotizing men into doing unsaid things while off-panel, we see what a typical day is like for Dick at Farr Academy. There are sports, studies, threat of punishment by a stern master and late-night pajama parties.
Reggie can't deal with the unrealized truth of what he is going through emotionally, so he takes steps to destroy the subjects of his obsessions.
Then things get weird.
After Dick Cole unwittingly drinks the potion, Reggie visits him in his room.
Brainwashed, Dick steals some blueprints from some plant and gets caught. In what has to be the swiftest trial ever, he is sentenced to death by firing squad for treason. While Dick is in jail, Reggie buys a dinosaur to serve as school mascot and becomes everyone's pal.
While Reggie is enjoying being BMOC, Dick's father visits him in jail, and they seem to be having a conversation that is taking place on a couple of different levels. I'd almost think this panel is revealing some unresolved Daddy issues on the part of the writer.
Simba isn't happy about Dick being executed and decides to do something about it. Again, I think this conversation has nothing to do with the actual story.
Denial isn't just a river in Egypt, fellas. And why do the characters feel the need to apologize for anything and justify their actions?
Together, Simba and Dick flee overseas. While enroute they save a ship from being destroyed by a Nazi U-Boat and return home as heroes.
Once back at the Academy, they confront Reggie, who finally snaps. For some reason, genius Reggie never considered that Dick and Simba would ever return to the Academy. Reggie escapes by throwing a liquid into the faces of the Wonder Boys and the Commandant, who show porn-faces worthy of Greg Land and his Magic Lightbox.
Reggie then goes on a rampage riding his mind-controlled Freudian dinosaur, destroying most of the campus in the process. Dick Cole and Simba strangle the long-necked dinosaur by once again applying the judicious use of bondage. Reggie is captured and things return to normal at Farr Academy.
This issue is one surreal trip and I am now fascinated by Dick Cole. If those comics were not so expensive and hard to find I'd like to read them all. Everyone points to the Golden Age Batman and Robin as the most popular examples of a homosexual theme in comics but these books could be historic in terms of portrayal of homosexuality in the arts. The subtext of the Batman's relationship with Robin never seemed too overt to me when compared to the Dick Cole or the lesbian themes in Wonder Woman, which were far more obvious. In looking at this issue it is not surprising to think that parents and Congress were beginning to become concerned over the content of comic books and their effect on children. Violence and cheesecake is one thing, but what was then considered to be deviant behavior is another. Given the era and cultural mind set of the 1940's this issue alone could have sent alarm bells ringing in the heads of parents and busy-bodies everywhere.
The "Gay = Evil" plot device is front and center throughout this issue, though it seems confusing and mixed. For every scene portraying alleged homosexuality to be immoral and destructive, there are likewise some panels that show it in a positive aspect, albiet many are tinged with self-recrimination and shame. The Predatory Homosexual was a common character in the entertainment media of the 1940's, 1950's and beyond and can be observed in pretty frank terms in such films as Saboteur and Young Man with a Horn. There was even a very self-aware homage to the concept in Raiders of the Lost Ark in the character of Nazi interrogator Major Toht. Thankfully, society is much more enlightened and mature these days and you don't see that theme much anymore.
And now, a subtle bit of 1940's comic book racism, as seen in the Farr Military Academy Code.
Tags: Dick Cole Golden Age Comics Seduction of the Innocent Subtext