I was wrong.

Last week I said our regularly scheduled features would return this week. Last night, though, I began feeling something coming on. Don't know yet whether it's flu (there are a few weird strains going about here lately) or a bad sinus cold, but either way sustained focus and concentration don't look in the cards today. Spelling my own name right may not be in the cards today.

So in lieu of the usual brilliant insight and pithy provocation you've come to expect from PERMANENT DAMAGE (there may be a little delirium among the symptoms as well) I present a little package of comics pages to delight and entertain you. There is a Comics Cover Challenge this week, but unlike other weeks, all covers will be collected down below rather than spread throughout the column. Any covers not in that seven item collection way down there are not part of the challenge. Okay?

On the bright side, if this hits me like it has hit other people I've seen, I'll get a hell of a lot of sleep over the next few days.

Anyone going to WonderCon this weekend, have a great time. Wish I could be there. Glad I wasn't planning to be...

What Were They Thinking? Dept.:

From late '40s comics:

Old Shazam reveals his political leanings...

What every red-blooded American boy in the '40s wanted...

I think two months later the comics were twelve cents, and they ran an explanatory letter/letter of apology. When was the last time a comics company apologized to readers for raising prices? Oh, yeah... that time... What company jumped to 12¢ first? (This isn't a trivia question; I want to know.)

Oddities From The Past Dept:

Back in the 1950s, Dell Comics (which dodged the pangs of the Comics Code because, let's face it, no newsstand was going to dump the company that published Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse) lumped most of their comics under a single title, Four Color Comics. Structurally it was similar to DC's SHOWCASE, except that Four Color came out several times per month, and featured movie adaptations, cartoon characters, original creations, everything. A number of comics greats also worked there on and off, including John Buscema, destined to become the premier artist at Marvel after Jack Kirby left. Their "realistic" comics often had feature pages giving real world background for the fictional stories; the following come from two issues adapting the forgotten (I never heard of it, though I guess Henry Fonda was in it) western TV show, THE DEPUTY, and their adaptation of THE VIKINGS:

Among the other artists whose work ran in Four Color Comics were Gil Kane (inking, I believe, by Russ Heath)

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Bernie Krigstein, in his last comics work that I know of (no "extras page" here)

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And, of course, Alex Toth, on a lot more than just ZORRO.

And even the Four Color work is just a smidgen of the mostly unsuspected treasures hiding inside tons of 1950s comics.

Even more Joe Kubert Dept:

Another Crimebuster story from Kubert's mid-'50s run on the final issues of that title. Gone were the horrific villains and over the top action of the '40s – even the fearsome Iron Jaw was now a normal-jawed if shady straight man in a comedy feature buried in BOY COMICS - and Crimebuster had dropped his crimefighting duds for the clean cut collegiate look and life, though in his own strange way he continued to bust crime, in stories from Charles Biro that, while a bit corny for our era, remain masterpieces of structure and pacing:

And Now For The Comics Cover Challenge Dept:

Congratulations to Ed Love, the first to figure out the Comics Cover Challenge two weeks ago was "changing directions." Ed's got a website dedicated to Golden Age comics and characters, and if you drop over for a look you'll make him a happy man.

For those who came in late, almost every week I run a Comics Cover Challenge: the covers of seven seemingly unrelated comics (thanks to The Grand Comic Book Database for the covers) from throughout comics history are spread, usually not in any particular order, down the column. But a secret theme – it could be a word, a design element, an artist... anything, really - binds them together, and the first one to e-mail me with the correct solution can promote the website of their choice, subject to my approval. IMPORTANT NEW RULE: PLEASE INCLUDE WITH YOUR GUESS THE WEBSITE YOU'D LIKE TO PROMOTE IF YOU WIN. (You never know; I might just go on a mass linking spree one of these days, if I can ever find the Internet's answer to a water tower.) As in most weeks, there's a secret clue hidden somewhere in the column, but you might have to do some heavy lifting to find it. Good luck. (Extra clue: the answer is not "sitting," or any variation thereon.)

Available in pdf e-book form at Paper Movies and The Paper Movies Store:

Those wishing to comment should leave messages on the Permanent Damage Message Board. You can also e-mail me but the chances of a reply are next to nil these days, given my workload, though I do read all my e-mail as long as it's not trying to sell me something. IMPORTANT: Because a lot of people apparently list it in their e-address books, this account has gotten a slew of virus-laden messages lately. They're no real threat but dealing with them eats up time I don't really have, to the extent I can no longer accept unsolicited e-mail with attachments. If you want to send something via attachment (say, art samples) ask me first. If I say okay, then send. Unsolicited e-mail with attachments will be wiped from the server without being read.

IMPORTANT PUBLIC NOTICE OF COLUMN POLICY: any email received in response to a piece run in this column is considered a letter of comment available for printing in the column unless the author specifically indicates it is not intended for public consumption. Unless I check with you or the contents of your e-mail make your identity unavoidably obvious, all letters are run anonymously.

Please don't ask me how to break into the business, or who to submit work to. The answers to those questions are too mercurial for even me to keep up with.

The WHISPER NEWSLETTER is now up and running via the Yahoo groups. If you want to subscribe, click here.

I'm reviewing comics sent to me – I may not like them but certainly I'll mention them – at Steven Grant c/o Permanent Damage, 2657 Windmill Pkwy #194, Henderson NV 89074, so send 'em if you want 'em mentioned, since I can't review them unless I see them. Some people have been sending press releases and cover proofs and things like that, which I enjoy getting, but I really can't do anything with them, sorry. Full comics only, though they can be photocopies rather than the published version. Make sure you include contact information for readers who want to order your book.

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