Christopher Irving sent me a deck of strange and colorful cards. He is an historian of pop culture, especially comics, and co-author of the book “Leaping Tall Buildings: The Origins of American Comics.”
In Spring 2016 Christopher Irving launched a Kickstarter to create Four Color Trading Cards “celebrating public domain comic book characters from the 1930s through 1960s as possible.” Some of these are very obscure superheroes. I’d never heard of the Blue Lady or The Black Owl or Airboy. I wondered if he’d invented them, but they appear to be real.
Irving has since expanded his Four Color card collection to include new superheroes who may or may not be obscure tomorrow. Below is Dean Haspiel‘s new webcomic hero Red Hook, named for the embattled Brooklyn neighborhood.
Haspiel’s Red Hook is a fast-paced epic, drawn with verve. Best of all, you can read it for free at Webtoons.
It could be Irving’s careful curation of the deck, but I was pleasantly surprised by the diversity of mid-twentieth century superheroes. The deck has more super women and persons of color than I expected. Take the Green Turtle. The only Green Turtle I knew was a 60’s hippy bus that made regular runs from New York to San Francisco. This Green Turtle is an amazing Asian superhero.
According the to back matter the Green Turtle was drawn by Chinese-American artist Chu F. Hing. The Green Turtle fought the Japanese occupying China during World War II. When his publisher (Blazing Comics, 1944) did not permit him to make the Green Turtle Chinese, Hing cleverly skirted around the character’s origins and ethnicity (his face was always blocked or in the shadows).
Ace Harlem, below, appeared in All-Negro comics #1, 1947. He was drawn by African-American artist John Terrell. Alas, that venture folded after one issue.
War Nurse, created by Jill Elgin, 1941, was British nurse who fought Nazis. Wow! Here is another comic book I’d love to get my hands on. Meanwhile, I am tickled to pore over the amazing eye candy of Four Color Cards.
Get yours at thedrawnword.com. See more of Christopher Irving’s mind-boggling cards. He also blogs at www.christopherirving.com and is doing a New York City comics-related podcast at www.nycgraphicnovelists.com.