Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Hangman vs Lon Chaney Sr and Tod Browning

  Hey, do you know what time it is kids?
 That’s right; it’s time for another completely fucked up Hangman story from Archie Comics/MLJ in the 40s! OhBoyOhBoyOhBoy.
 Last time we saw the appropriately named Mr. Dickering in action, he fought a villain loosely based on the Phantom of the Opera. It sure must have gone over well with readers, because we got to see it a second time in Black Hood Comics #14 a few years later. Actually, it’s more likely that the editors were just completely lazy and idea-starved, but I like to think that someone out there was just a really big Phantom fan.
 Well, it’s not quite Phantom-related, but this impressively sadistic story is sure to find favor with fans of the Phantom’s greatest portrayer: Lon Chaney Sr; the Man of a Thousand Faces. If you’re also a fan of Chaney’s collaborations with cult director Tod Browning, you’ll love this one, as it has exactly the kindof plot they would have loved, just with a superhero thrown in.
 Here’s “The Hangman & The Snail” from Pep Comics #44. Because really, what could be more full of “pep” than adultery, attempted murder, horrible spinal injuries, gruesome torture schemes, violence against women, and fantastically twisted artwork by Bob Fujitani that looks like the result of an unholy collaboration between Jack Cole and Graham Ingels?
 HaHa! Yeah, Hangman! He sure got what he deserved! He sure was an “evil” guy! HaHa! He sure deserved to burn to death and then have his deformity taunted! I’m sure you would have shown mercy to Samson & Bella if you’d beaten him to the punch!
 Man, even Frank Castle isn’t this much of a hypocrite.
 Okay, I admit that Twisto comes off as kind of abusive and his revenge scheme is pretty sick, but damn.
"Wholesome entertainment"

 Morality aside, the plot elements that this story cribs from various Chaney/Browning films are pretty extensive, even taking some elements from Freaks (1932), which Browning made after Chaney’s death. For those of you who aren’t Chaney/Browning fans, let me present the films in question and the specific scenes:
 It’s all too specific to be a coincidence as far as I’m concerned. Still, if you’re going to swipe, swipe from the best, and when it comes to twisted melodramas about disfigurement, circuses and complex revenge scenarios, Chaney & Browning could trump the makers of modern “torture porn” flicks any day.
 On a lighter note, the Snail’s appearance doesn’t seem to be based off of any Chaney characters, or even any horror villains, but rather, it seems to be based off of Henry Brandon’s portrayal of Barnaby in the Laurel & Hardy version of Babes in Toyland (Or March of the Wooden Soldiers, as it’s called today). He doesn’t have Barnaby’s distinctive glasses or goatee, but the attire and hunched over walk is unmistakable:

 Barnaby is supposed to be the “Crooked man who walked a crooked mile and had a crooked house” of nursery rhyme fame, and The Snail certainly rivals him in that department, just check out the splash page again!
 When a comic combines Lon Chaney/Tod Browning horror films with Laurel & Hardy movies based off of children’s operettas to create a villain, you know you have something crazy!

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