Books

Roy Crane's Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune

This book is more than a historically interesting sociological artifact; it's a delight.


Publisher: Fantagraphics
Contributors: Rick Norwood (Editor), Jeet Heer (Introduction)
Price: $39.99
Writer: Roy Crane
Length: 144 pages
Graphic Novel: Roy Crane's Captain Easy, Soldier of Fortune: The Complete Sunday Newspaper Strips (1933-1935)
Publication date: 2011-07

Captain Easy, square-jawed and two-fisted devil-may-care man of action, resembles Clark Kent and acts like Indiana Jones. He was created by Roy Crane in Wash Tubbs, which comics historians have pegged as the first daily adventure strip.

Its little bespectacled hero began his humorous exploits in 1924 and met Captain Easy in 1929. The captain was imprisoned in the catacombs of a castle while "revolution rages in Kandelabra". The friendly, easy-going brawler with sang-froid soon spun off into his own Sunday strip.

Here is Volume One of Roy Crane Captain Easy, a wonderfully colorful and nicely designed Sunday page from 1933-35. Crane's style is a wonderful paradox: broadly cartoony characters against nice filigrees of background illustration. The eye is lost in the pastel colors, the bold crossword puzzle layouts, the simple lines, and the breathless breezy action. The adventures never let up, and no scrape is too tight for this impossibly ingratiating and resourceful hero.

At first glance, the modern reader might assume Easy's adventures among lost Chinese cities and primitive natives aren't politically correct, as per American pop culture of the era. Although there's some truth to that, however, the closer one looks, the more ambiguous this "Easy" assumption becomes.

One story features an Ugly American making greedy trades, to Easy's disgust. Then another story has Easy doing similar things and assuming anything he finds is his to keep, and he learns differently. He's always horning in on local unfairnesses like slavery and piracy, to show that Americans don't honor multicultural values too extremely, yet native cultures are often given their due as reasonable places with their own values.

The last story of 1935 is a Ruritanian parody of European war that shows two nations manipulated by profiteers into declaring war that Easy must settle single-handedly, and it has its moments of grim moralizing as well as spoofery. The fact that the countries are invented allows this kind of criticism, and it's interesting to see this "commie" interpretation of the last Great War holding over during the rise of Nazism. The funny foreigners all speak with Cherman accents.

This book is more than a historically interesting sociological artifact; it's a delight. Four volumes are projected to gather Crane's whole run.

9

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image