Wednesday, December 31, 2014

TV Tough Guys Come to Comics--Part 3

The Untouchables almost couldn't help to be cool. It was set during the 1930s and therefore involved cool cars, fedoras and Tommy guns. On top of this, it had Robert Stack playing a fictionalized version of Eliot Ness--giving Ness a moral strength and pure toughness that often threatened to make the television screen implode.

It was a well-written show as well, as most Quinn Martin-produced shows were. The stories made sense, with Ness and the other Untouchables following up leads in a logical manner.

It was also a violent show--something that brought it a lot of criticism at the time, but something that was also appropriate to the setting and the stories being told. The violence wasn't just tossed into a story to show cool gunfights and let the actors shoot Tommy guns. Well, that's partially why, but they were also a naturally inherent part of the show.

For their comic book appearances, Ness and his boys appeared in two issues of Dell's Four Color anthology book, then two issues (numbered #3 & #4) of their own book, all with art by the great Dan Spiegle. We'll be looking at a story from The Untouchables #3 (May-July 1962).

"The Escape of 'Avenger' Jory" begins with... well.. with "Avenger" Jory escaping from the federal pen. And his nickname isn't because he hangs out with Thor and Iron Man--it's because he kills anyone who crosses him. He even kills anyone who might cross him at some point in the future, such as the guy who helped arrange his escape.

The uncredited writer does a fine job of quickly introducing the various characters. Ness and his men want to find Jory before people start dying. Chicago gangster Silky Scott (who secretly ratted out Jory and got him sent to prison) knows Jory will be after him. Jory is reassembling his gang, intending to whack Silky and take over Chi-Town's bootlegging trade.

From here, the story progresses logically. A box of candy gives Ness a lead to finding Jory, but this runs into a dead end. One of Jory's men tries to whack Silky, but kills a henchman and an innocent bystander instead. Jory's gang hijacks a truck fill of illegal booze, but a badly wounded driver gives Ness a dying statement that puts the Feds back on the trails.

Ness trails the truck to an abandoned warehouse and captures one of Jory's gang. But Jory himself is setting a trap despite Ness' presence--hoping to lure Silky to his death.

In the end, Silky is killed and Jory is recaptured. This ending is a little weak, since it almost seems as if Ness deliberately allows Jory to kill Silky in order to smoke him out. I doubt this was the intention, though and otherwise the story is well-constructed and exciting. I especially enjoy Ness' concern that Jory will end up taking innocent lives if not caught quickly. Ness isn't tough on crooks just for the sake of being tough. He's tough on them because its his job to protect the innocent and, by gosh, he's going to do just that!

Two weeks ago, when I was writing about Dell's adaptations of Gunsmoke, I mentioned that I thought there was a deliberate effort to reduce the body count as compared to the TV show. With The Untouchables, the comic book body count remains high. This particular story has seven corpses to its credit, though much of the mayhem happens off screen and the good guys don't personally kill anyone.

You can read this issue online HERE.

Well, that's it for our look at the comic book version of some of TV's toughest heroes. I do regret there was never a comic book adaptation of Combat. As much as I like Paladin, Matt Dillon and Eliot Ness, Sgt. Saunders could have taken them all one and won. He was so tough his glare causes Chuck Norris to whimper in fear. But, then again, he got to carry around a Tommy gun in nearly every episode. That would increase the anyone's Toughness Level by at least 238%.

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