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Film Art: An Introduction
David Bordwell, Kristin Thompson
You Shall Die by Your Own Evil Creation! - Fletcher Hanks, Paul Karasik Fletcher Hanks has been called many things but I don't think "a good guy" has ever been one of them. He was an abusive father and husband and abandoned his wife and child, even stealing his son's piggy bank, and never was heard from again. He only wrote comic books from 1939-1941 and little else is known about him other than that he froze to death in 1976 on a park bench in New York City. His own son wasn't even aware that his father had made comic books until fairly recently.

So if you're looking for an author that can provide you with respectable morals Fletcher Hanks is not your man. If, however, you need help naming your next MMORPG character, Hanks' comics may be a fantastic source of inspiration; with comic characters with such names as "Yank Wilson", "Big Red McLane, King of the Northwoods", "Space Smith", "Fantomah, Mystery Woman of the Jungle", "Whirlwind Carter of the Interplanetary Secret Service", or my personal favorite "The Super Wizard Stardust". The next Guild Wars 2 or World of Warcraft character I create may just take some inspiration from ole' Fletcher Hanks.

And, if you couldn't tell by aforementioned names, the comics of Fletcher Hanks were extremely cheesy and high in camp. The plots were simple, repetitive, and unoriginal. "So why should I read Fletcher Hanks?" you ask? "I don't play MMORPGs, so what's the appeal?" you wonder? Well, you see, Fletcher Hanks is widely regarded to be one of the first true auteurs of comics. That is, he not only wrote his own stories, but illustrated, lettered, inked them etc. as well, unlike many of his contemporaries, like Will Eisner, who worked on a single aspect of a comic.

The question of course is whether or not these comics were any good. They were. Yes they followed standard plotlines and featured hero-saves-the-day endings, but there's more there than that. Fletcher Hanks undoubtedly had quite the imagination. His mind conjured up grotesque creatures, strange super powers, and odd scenarios. Better yet, his illustrations fully realized what his writing imagined. The colors are so vibrant and flawlessly paletted that they almost contrast the grotesqueness. The style is weird; when I first picked this book up without knowing anything about it its style seemed like it was from the Golden Age of comics but with a certain amount of modern oddities added in. Fletcher Hanks' work can certainly not be confused with any others, which is impressive for a time when many comic illustrations looked identical to others (with obvious exceptions like Eisner, Cole, Banks, Briefer, Gould, et al). In the wake of Superman and Action Comics many comic books became very formulaic, not only in story and character, but in format and style as well. Fletcher Hanks somewhat defies these conventions. His plots are generic, yes, but his scenarios and worlds are unique. His characters are archetypes but their appearance and powers are their own. His style is as pulp as the next comic book of the era but with an added personal touch and completely original artwork. The format of his works are tame by today's standards but when compared to other comics of the day his panel layouts are quite convention-breaking. Not to mention Hanks' character Fantomah is considered to be the first superhero-heroine of comics books, predating Wonder Woman by nearly a year, though taking some obvious inspiration from the already existing non-superpowered Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

When we go back and read the old Superman comics, Dick Tracy comics, and Disney comics, we mostly enjoy them only for their silliness; we've seen the evolution of Superman and we've read the better Superman comics. Dick Tracy belongs to a genre that has only grown since then. Disney characters seem to only get better with every new movie they release. So sure, we can laugh at the dated plots and whatnot of Fletcher Hanks' comics, but they also contain a uniqueness and weirdness that has never been built upon. A charm that remains untapped. Fletcher Hanks himself is a mystery, but so are his characters, they've never existed beyond those few years in the Golden Age, they've never topped themselves. Whereas the market craved more caped crusaders, more hard-boiled detectives, more lovable company mascots, the market never demanded more Fletcher Hanks or more weirdness and uniqueness, and so we never got more. Which is why going back and reading these comics still seems fresh and interesting, despite their age which shows in some of the less important areas.

It's a worthwhile read not only for the historical value, but for the quality and joy of the work as well.