Saturday, September 10, 2016

ALL-NEGRO COMICS #1: Remembering Lion Man & Bubba!

I was reading old comics from the Digital Comic Museum last night. DCM is a collection of public domain comic books -- typically from the 30s, 40s, and 50s -- that have been scanned for our enjoyment and to preserve classic golden age comic books for future generations. I came across book called ALL-NEGRO COMICS #1, which turned out to be a great collection of black characters!

This comic book was published in 1947 by All-Negro Comics, a small-press company that featured comic book stories and characters created solely by African-American writers and artists:
African-American journalist Orrin Cromwell Evans was "the first black writer to cover general assignments for a mainstream white newspaper in the United States" when he joined the staff of the Philadelphia Record. Evans was a member of the NAACP and a strong proponent of racial equality. After the Record closed in 1947, Evans thought he could use the comic-book medium to further highlight "the splendid history of Negro journalism". Evans partnered with former Record editor Harry T. Saylor, Record sports editor Bill Driscoll, and two others to found the Philadelphia publishing company All-Negro Comics, Inc., with himself as president. In mid-1947, the company published one issue of All-Negro Comics, a 48-page, standard-sized comic book with a typical glossy color cover and newsprint interior. It was copyrighted July 15, 1947, with a June 1947 issue date, and its press run and distribution are unknown. Unlike other comic books of the time, it sold for 15 cents rather than 10 cents. 
Evans attempted to publish a second issue of ALL-NEGRO COMICS, but struggled to obtain the necessary newsprint, presumably being blocked by distributors and competing white-owned comic book publishers. Which is unfortunate, because I would have loved to read more stories featuring these characters!

ALL-NEGRO COMICS #1 contained stories featuring Ace Harlem, a private detective; the Little Dew Dillies, a children's story featuring a mermaid and angel; Lil' Eggie, a henpecked husband and his toxic wife; Sugarfoot & Snake Oil, a pair of traveling musicians; and Lion Man & Bubba, the feature of today's blog post!

Midway through ALL-NEGRO COMICS #1, there was a story featuring Lion Man and his adoptive son, an African orphan named Bubba. Lion Man was an American-born, college-educated scientist who'd been sent by the United Nations to watch over Magic Mountain on the African Gold Coast. Magic Mountain contained the world's largest deposit of uranium. It was enough to make an atom bomb powerful enough to destroy the planet! Why they chose to protect Magic Man with one single costumed defender is beyond me, but that's why I don't work for the United Nations!

Lion Man discovers evidence early in the story that indicated that strangers were heading towards Magic Mountain. After using his radar equipment to confirm the presence of two strangers, Lion Man races into the jungle and confronts Dr. Blut Sangro, an evil government official, and his guide, Brosser the Beachcomber!

Lion Man was nearly overcome by his enemies, but quickly saved the day -- no thanks to Bubba! Brosser didn't survive their battle. Unfortunately Dr. Sangro managed to escape with promises that he would return someday to Magic Mountain with promises to return for the uranium!

Lion Man reminds me a lot of Black Panther -- jungle warrior who spends much of his time protecting Wakanda's stockpile of Vibranium. But Lion Man's no prince -- as far as we're aware --, and he certainly doesn't have the governmental resources or riches to help him defend Magic Mountain's uranium. But he still manages to do pretty well!

Bubba is problematic. Lion Man might have adopted him, but he certainly fails to demonstrate any love or affection to his young sidekick. Granted, Bubba causes more trouble than not. Then again, a little guidance might help reverse that trend!

As noted above, I really would love to see more stories featuring Lion Man and Bubba. Why was Lion Man chosen for this mission? Does he have any other abilities? How did he connect with Bubba? Lion Man and the other All-Negro Comics characters are all public domain characters, so it's possible that someone could pick up where this one comic book story ended. Just a thought...

"Lion Man" was drawn by George J. Evans, Jr.

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