Sunday, March 20, 2016

I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets by Fletcher Hanks (2007)

My next pick from the St. Denis storage shelf of delight is I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets by Fletcher Hanks, edited and with an afterword by Paul Karasik (2007).

As you may know, I love classic sci fi and adventure novels, and yet I always forget that I would also probably love their counterpart in 1930s/1940s boy and manhood, the classic comic book. Fletcher Hanks was a mysterious comic artist. He only worked for a few years in the late 1930s and early 1940s and then disappeared. When Paul Karasik found a man with the same (unusual) name, he looked him up and happened upon Hanks' elderly, estranged son.

The story of Karasik's meeting with Hanks, Jr. and the answers to some of the mysteries surrounding Hanks is illustrated by Karasik and included as an afterward to this pretty damn exciting collection of the senior Hanks' work in the comic genre. First, take a quick minute to Google image search "Fletcher Hanks" so you can see what I'm talking about. Pretty great, right? Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle is my new life coach. Stardust, The Super Wizard needs to have a movie made about him right now. They are simple and exciting characters with clear motivations (stop evil!) and a rough, colorful drawing style that works perfectly with a cheaply printed comic book. In pretty much every case, the stories start with evil being identified. Then the threat is explained in more detail (usually all of New York is going to be destroyed). Then the hero comes in to save the day, but not before quite a few people are killed or hurt. Then the evildoers are punished in the most weird ways possible (example: Fantomah catches the bad guys, she turns them all into one man (easier to punish that way), she puts the man into the Pit of Horrors, he tries to escape, a giant hand attacks him, he slips to his death, BUT a whirlwind picks him up and saves him, BUT it drops him into a cave filled with cobras, they bite him and then Fantomah whisks him out of the cave, then she suspends him in mid-air, then a different giant hand comes out of a rock wall and pulls him inside to rot forever). Whew. That is just one story.

Like much of popular culture from the period, you do have to put up with some pretty blatant racism and sexism. It's not great, but it's there. If you can work around that and enjoy some jaw droppingly exciting adventures (and punishments!), then this is the book for you.

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