Perry and Charlie
As you've probably guessed, I've been sifting through the my stack of random Sunday pages gathered over the years. I'm hoping that posting the more obscure ones will give other newspaper comic strip fans a chance to see something they've been missing.
The three Perry Mason Sundays I have are the only three examples of this strip I've ever seen. Frank Thorne was in his early twenties when he drew this feature. He was working in a stripped-down version of the Alex Raymond-influenced King Features house style. Thorne once wrote that he didn't like the strip much. Maybe that's why these Sundays, though well-drawn, lack personality.
These pages are from two different stories. The first, "The Case of the Stolen Goddess," takes place in Bagdad, where the famous attorney (in his handsome pre-Raymond Burr incarnation) is searching for weapons of mass destruction. In the second, "The Case of the Wanted Woman," Perry is in Lebanon with Miss Distraction, a Commie agent named Elena.
Here's the Sunday for 24 February 1952. Thorne goes out of his way to avoid backgrounds, with the result that (with help from a sloppy colorist), the reader might assume panels 5 and 6 take place in the same location. In fact, panel 5 is set in an upscale Bagdad restaurant, while panel 6 takes place some time later at an archaeological dig.
My next strip is from 2 March 1952, a week after the last one. In panel 7 Frank uses a nice Talking Window shot to break up the inaction.
My third and last Perry Mason dates from 27 April 1952. Perry and the Red agent are being taken for a ride by a turbaned taxi driver. We know Elena is tough from the first panel. If you can't make out the words on the pad, it's her note to Perry: "Deliberately took wrong road. A spy. You will have to shoot him." Over this Perry has self-righteously scribbled, "Nonsense."
Perry seems to be grabbing for the ignition key in panel 3, but he nonetheless allows the chauffeur to stay at the wheel as they return to Beirut. Finally Perry becomes fed up and disciplines the rotter with a quick right cross.
One thing about this strip irks me. Consider panel 4. The driver has turned the car around as Perry ordered and is back on course. How does Thorne show this? Outside the car window is a stick signpost straight from Dogpatch with a handpainted wooden sign pointing toward Beirut! Okay, Frank was still a kid, and maybe he had an overactive sense of humor. But this seems more like a public expression of contempt for the story.
Today's last offering is a true orphan: the only Charlie Chan strip I own. It's dated 16 June 1940. Charlie and a police chief rescue a girl from drowning. The third man, the lifeguard, looks like Chan's friend Kirk Barrow. However his skin is the color usually reserved for comic strip Polynesians. Maybe it's supposed to represent the lifeguard's tan. One other oddity--Charlie loses his accent in the next-to-last panel! Isn't he supposed to say something like, "Girl is hypnotized!" rather than, "Chief, this girl is..." Maybe I'm just splitting hairs.
I found myself wondering how to convert this into one-third page size without opening with the caption "And as the lifeboat races..." How about this: replace the first panel in the second row with the first panel, the rescuers running for the boat. We cut from there to the girl going under, then the rescuers jumping in after her. Not a bad solution.