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Hoist the mainsail and scuttle the jib (and punch people) – Don Winslow of the Navy #52

July 14, 2014


One of the ad infinitum comic strip heroes of old to have faded into oblivion, Don Winslow of the Navy had more than his share of time to ride the high seas of four color stardom. How many characters had movie serials adapted from their adventures? (Okay, a lot, but still.) How many had the Big Red Cheese, the World’s Mightiest Mortal himself, Captain Marvel, introduce him to readers in the first issue of his self-titled series of all new adventures? Not many. But Don Winslow did.

Don Winslow was developed in the 1930s by Navy veteran Frank V. Martinek an explicit Navy-sanctioned propaganda/recruitment tool, and his adventures remained popular until his run petered out in the 1950s. Along the way, Lieutenant Winslow, USN had some fine times in the world’s oceans, tracking spies, fighting saboteurs and generally socking the living hell out of evildoers wherever they may have been found. The 1947 issue before us today is as solid an example of that as any other that can be found, and indeed, it’s a decent little trove of general Golden Age nostalgia. The artwork (by an unknown artist) is especially noteworthy and at times superb, overcoming the all too frequent printing problems of the day, which bled colors over lines so as to make the end product a jumbled LSD mess.

The first Winslow tale has him on loan to the Coast Guard, where he’s on the case of ghost on a ship — shades of any Scooby-Doo episode here. When a greedy first mate tries to convince his captain to keep all of a buried treasure trove instead of reporting it to the authorities, a scuffle ensues, which sends said first mate into the drink. He apparently dies, though he returns as a briny Jacob Marley:


The captain, terrified and overwrought, kills himself by plunging to the icy depths. Then Winslow is on the scene, and he discovers — after the ghost punches him overboard (everybody goes into the drink in this one) — that a phosphorous leak is what’s given the first mate his ghostly glow — and now Winslow too is covered with it. What ensues is some gloriously absurd fisticuffs action, reminiscent of that first Molten Man appearance in Amazing Spider-Man (you know, the one with the black cover that’s nigh impossible to find in nice shape):


Good in any decade.

What would a Golden Age comic be without loads of bells and whistles, including this Don Winslow crossword puzzle? Hop to it, you rowdy sea dogs!:


And no Golden Age comic would be complete without sub-feature filler material. Even better, racist sub-feature filler material. Here’s a large-lipped native — who’d make Li’l Eight Ball beam with caricatured pride — about to cook poor Jetsam Joe in a pot:


The second Winslow story has our hero with comrades at an elegant affair in the Middle East or the Sub-Continent or Africa or wherever. Suffice it to say, Navy men in their dress unis (Col. Jessep’s favorite) have to bear their White Man’s Burden and pound the hell out of surly, impertinent, woman-slapping turban wearers:


Like the glow in the dark fight above, this panel is good in any decade:


U S A! U S A!

Here’s your solution to the crossword — you know, if you’re too slow-witted to complete it sans crutch:


And there you have it: Don Winslow, the sailor, the myth, the legend. A forgotten hero of the Golden Age, preserved in fading newsprint ensconced in mylar.

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