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New York’s Gay Night Life

One of the many books that I’ve borrowed from my local libraries is The Simon & Kirby Superheroes hardcover. Published in late 2010 by Titan, it’s a hefty, oversized, and handsomely printed behemoth, weighing at least 5 pounds, that collects over 450 pages of Simon & Kirby’s superhero lesser known comics from smaller publishers. Check the book out if you’re a Simon and Kirby fan or have a liking for D list characters. Their earliest work here is a trio of tales recounting the incredibly short lived adventures of the Black Owl. Black Owl who was secretly society playboy Doug Danville was a riff on Batman, only with a blue and red costume topped off with a yellow crested hood and a less than impressive villain menacingly named “the Whistler”. Right, not so menacing – the villain and the costume! Then there’s love interest Terry Dane, seen below. Doug thinks she’s playing hard to get by being a private detective. Alas, this was just an example of the female character being intrigued by the seductiveness of a the heroic, idealized man.

Here in “The Return of the Whistler” from Prize Comics #8 (1941) Terry has been hired by the owner of the luxury yacht SS Camelot and has just confronted Doug, disguised as a Swedish sailor, who’s out to protect her because he’s certain she’s really just a damsel in distress and may fall prey to the Whistler again, who does show up again. Hey, what more do you need to know? It’s a supercompressed story even at 9 pages!

Art by Jack Kirby

Now why write about this one panel from from a Golden Age comic about an obscure character? It’s the word “gay”. Simon almost certainly used it to mean happy and festive, not, you know, gay “gay”. All the same, I’d like to think that given all the queer goings on in Harlem that weren’t a big secret at the time that Joe Simon meant gay like Judy Garland fans.

March 7, 2015
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