Monday, November 19, 2012

Comic Book Turkey II: The Further Adventures of Gale Leary

 Ah, nothing like mid-November, when everything outside has turned grey and white with frost but the December bleakness has not yet set in. I can taste the wintry majesty upon my tongue.
Actually, my tongue probably feels that way because I just had three shots of Belvedere

 You know what I need to chase away this feeling? More god-awful comic book turkeys! Let us feast once more on the adventures of Gale Leary; The Will O’ The Wisp aka the worst superheroine of all time. This turkey is best enjoyed with (Consolidated) milk. Side helpings include disappointing plot resolutions, unexplained superpowers, sexism, bad artwork, the unknown writer being a juvenile homophobic asshole, and the heroine’s hair turning blonde for no reason.
 Key Comics #2 starts off with a splash page of Gale (dressed in god knows what) fighting some mobsters who appear to be smuggling flesh-colored pajamas, which everyone knows were heavily rationed during wartime (Don’t you know your history?). This is notable as the first time we ever actually see Gale fighting crime and looking in any way like something that could reasonably be called a superhero.
 So after Gale’s last little adventure, which required her to do absolutely nothing but taunt a guy in a cell into having a heart attack after throwing a branch on the floor, Daddy Leary still thirsts for vengeance against Boss Evans. Gale decides the best thing to do for both of them would be to take a vacation to California. 
Don't go Leary family! It's nothing like the brochures!

 They arrive at the hotel, but find out that there’s no vacancy (You’d think someone who looks like FDR as much as Greg Leary does could be able to get a room during this era). Luckily for the Leary’s, a clean cut young man overhears them and offers to let them stay in his room. How convenient.
 The young man introduces himself as Jack Snave and tells them that he was just about to check out.
 Gale goes to register, it turns out that the room has already been rented out to a man named…
 Ugh. Well, hey, it was the 40s, that word probably didn’t have the meaning then that it does today, and either way it doesn’t matter, because it’s not like that character will actually appear in the story or anything….right? I wish it were so.
 There he is in the next panel. Why draw such attention to such a minor character, and if they wanted to show him entering the building, why call him by name again?
 Also, “drag him around”? Damn Gale, that’s cold.
 Anyway, Jack takes a liking to Gale and asks her and Greg to come stay at his ranch house.
 The three of them get along splendidly, we also learn that Jack lives with his father (Whom we haven’t seen yet, my wonder if that could be of any significance?). Just then some men arrive, who turn out to be the same ones who beat them to the hotel room!
 That’s right Gale, Jack doesn’t know them, but they certainly do know his father, and guess who should arrive just then? It's Jack's daddy alright, and daddy is...
 Well, who didn’t see that coming?
 The Learys instantly recognize the elder Snave as Boss Evans, and just so the writer makes sure that we get it in case we were too stupid to figure it out the first time, we’re also told that “Snave” is just “Evans” spelled backward.
 Also *sigh* more mention of Mr….you know. Come on, at least give the guy a first name! Now I’m really starting to doubt this was unintentional.
 Anyway, Gale frets and moans about how a man like Evans couldn’t possibly have a son as nice as Jack. Really? Shitty people have decent kids all the time, and besides, when you consider that it was Jack who just coincidentally was the one on hand to lend you a room, and who invited you over, why not be suspicious of him?
 Oh yeah, because you have the hots for him.
 Still, this could be an interesting plot point, after all, the splash introduction said that this story would involve some “heartbreaking” business.

 Gale then hears a truck drive up, and being the brilliant detective she is, immediately comes to the conclusion that these men loading boxes into it must be smuggling black market products (Based on what, exactly?), thus proving that Snave and Evans are one and the same, even though he’s not present while this is happening, as well as that it’s obvious from Jack’s hotel stay that the Snaves do a lot of travelling, as well as that even if Mr. F and his men are committing crimes, there’s no proof that the Snaves are involved, and if they are, that Jack is innocent.
"This is ample proof" No it's not.

  Meanwhile, Evans sneaks into Greg’s bedroom, ready to kill, and hilarity ensues.
 No wonder this idiot’s wife has been killed. How exactly does he intend to defend himself this time? YOU DON’T HAVE THE UPPER HAND HERE GREG!
 So, it looks like Greg’s turkey goose is cooked, BUT…
 Get ready for quite possibly the single most unintentionally hilarious moment in the history of comics:
 Yes, a hardened mob boss was just reduced to screaming, crying and begging for his life…because a teenage girl just waved a leafy willow branch in his face.
 It’s not glowing, so whatever weird ambiguously supernatural power it’s supposed to possess isn’t in action, and unlike Brandois, Evans couldn’t possibly think he’s seeing a ghost, since he’s met Gale already, and even though I guess he might be afraid of getting scratched by the branch, HE STILL HAS A FREAKING GUN!
"She's waving that branch...and then she's going to wave it at me! OHMYGAWWWD"

 He tries to shoot, but he’s so scared, he misses. Now the branch is glowing, I guess you can say that whatever supernatural power it has is in action, allowing Gale either to become bulletproof or frightening Evans into not shooting accurately. Remember though, the glow of the branch is not meant to be seen in-story, but only by the readers. And even if he can see the glow, that still doesn’t make this any less ridiculous, because he was already horrified when she first pulled out the branch and it wasn’t glowing!
 Evans then does the logical thing for a man faced with the horrifying prospect of having an old willow branch waved in his face:
 DISCLAIMER: Suicide is a horrible tragedy which can affect anybody and the grief of those who have had one of their loved ones do this to themselves cannot possibly be measured, to mock it, even in a fictitious medium when it happens to a villain is a monstrously tasteless act and anyone who does such a thing will surely burn in hell for the rest of eternity and have their liver eaten by vultures in the seventh level of…
 I sincerely apologize to anyone offended by this, I really am, but goddamn, that was funnier than Johnny's suicide in The Room.
 So anyway, Jack stumbles upon the corpse of dear old dad, and Gale decides to explain everything.
"It will explain why my hair turned green, my eyes turned flesh color and I grew a red mustache"

 Suddenly, this comic seems to be taking a turn for the serious, after all, this story will be “heartbreaking” as promised by the splash. How will Jack react to learning his beloved father was a murderer and the life-long enemy of his new friends, including the girl he’s already developing feelings for? How will the comic deal with such mature themes?
 It doesn’t. You see, it turns out Boss Evans was only Jack’s foster-father. No hard feelings. All’s cool.
 That’s the worst cop-out I’ve seen since Monster-A-Go-Go.
 So anyway, now that he knows what Not!Dad and Mr. F had been up to, Jack is ready to take the mobsters on! Without the aid of you know, the story’s nominal superheroine. So yeah, this was the first time we actually got to see Gale use her whole gimmick in an actual fight, and it was only for two panels and a splash page. Part of me suspects that even the writer knew how stupid it would look if it was given more panel time, but if so, why even use the gimmick in the first place? Why not just make it a nickname or something Gale keeps for luck?
 Jack confronts the mobsters, and we’re treated to more panels featuring the illustrious Mr. F:

 You know what? I’m done trying to view this simply as unfortunate phrasing on the writer’s part, because there’s no reason at all to keep mentioning the name. Boss Evans, whose name is an actual plot point in the story, only has his name mentioned a bare minimum of times, while Mr. F’s name pops up all the time, even in scenes that he’s not in, and even though he’s a secondary villain at best, as opposed to Evans, who was nominally the big bad of the strip! 
 So all’s well that ends well for our heroes, it seems. The mobsters are dead or arrested, and Jack and Greg now have new plans. Eh?
 Will Jack and Gale marry and allow Greg to live out his remaining years at the peaceful ranch? Will Gale give up her “career” as a ‘superheroine”? What could their plans possibly be?
 None. We never see any mention at all of Jack again in the series, and next issue, the Leary family is travelling through Guatemala for some reason, where they get robbed in their hotel room by bandits (They just have the worst luck with hotel rooms, don’t they?).
 Also, yes, Greg is now obese, younger, and can walk. Gale is also blonde now (Maybe she really was wearing a wig to resemble Martha! Okay, now my creepy theory is confirmed).
 The art this time is just awful. At least the first two stories had some nice splash pages and made Gale reasonably pretty, but this time, the art looks like it was dashed off overnight and Gale looks…deranged.
"Mein father! You can walk!"

 At least we get to see Gale using the branch to actually fight villains now, making it canon that the branch has superpowers and that people can see the glow (Still not enough reasons for Evans to kill himself). And at least some use is made of the Will O’ The Wisp theme, with her “darting around at night” and appearing to people on horseback and confusing them.
 The fourth story began with the Learys in Panama, and Gale being an idiot:
 She then trips over a snake while taking shelter from a storm and conks her head on a rock. Hurr Hurr. Stoopid wimminzes.
 We then get some good 'ol 1940s fan service in a two panel sequence which is clearly not drawn by whoever drew the rest of this story, as it’s too good, particularly the first panel.
 She then gets menaced by the same big snake she tripped on. An unconscious girl menaced by a big throbbing snake while liquid splashes all over her? Paging Dr. Wertham, paging Dr. Wertham…
 Gale wakes up in time to defend herself by throwing a rock at the snake:
"It was a really big rock"

 She later gets attacked by some natives, but fools them by making them think she’s a sun goddess by activating her branch’s power. Interestingly enough, several of them are smart enough not to be fooled, but she escapes anyway.
Even the "savages" can't believe this crap.

 Gale then learns a valuable lesson:
'It's not like I'm supposed to be a superhero or anything"

 Hurr Hurr. Stoopid wimminzes. Oh, and Greg is skinny and old again.
 The next story is just a retread of the previous one, except here she encounters a deformed madman in the jungle named Crazy Ben.
 At first it looks like Ben is going to try and rape or kill her, but instead, he takes her in his cabin, and gives her a beautiful bracelet and a drink.
 The drink knocks her out. Ben then removes the bracelet as if she had taken it from him (He was the one who gave it to her in the first place), and quietly deposits her on the highway, where she is safely picked up by the cops and taken home. The End.
 That’s the single most pointless story I’ve ever read.
 And thus ended the career of Gale Leary, The Will O’ The Wisp. This was the last issue of Key Comics ever published, and Gale has never lighted up the nights again.
 Forget Fletcher Hanks. Forget Rob Liefeld. Forget The Mighty Crusaders. Forget Mort Weisinger’s Superman titles. Forget about all of the infamously eccentric/weird/amateurish “bad” comics you’ve ever heard about and may even have read. None can compare to Gale Leary the Will o-the whateverfuckitigiveup.
 When it comes to bad movies, there are a lot of people that think that seeing a few Ed Wood or early Roger Corman (Before he got good) films makes them an expert on the subject, without having suffered through truly painful stuff like the oeuvres of Jerry Warren, Chester Novell Turner, Coleman Francis or these two assholes. In comics, fans are the same way. They think that reading some old Jimmy Olsen issues (Or looking at scans on makes them experts on bad comics, but it doesn’t. Gale Leary is the equivalent of those truly bad, but lesser known filmmakers. You’re really reaching into the cesspool with this series, and it really isn’t worth the bragging points. And don’t think I’m being a snob (Is it possible to be a snob when it comes to kitsch?), I’ve also considered myself an expert on comics good and bad from the Golden Age, and reading this series has made me completely re-evaluate my entire outlook.
 So if you really want to put your tolerance for terribleness to the test, go to your favorite website for downloading/reading public domain comics, and give Gale Leary a try, but be wary my friends, this turkey gobbles.

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