Also, the old Mandrake the Magician comics are being funny


So for all my What’s Going On In sequences there’s story comics I don’t do regular recaps of. This is because they’re in eternal reruns with no prospect of ever coming out again. I just read them for fun. One of these is Mandrake the Magician. Comics Kingdom has got three story tracks going on here. One is repeats of Fred Fredricks’s strips from the 90s. One of them is the daily stories from the 1940s. And one of them is the Sunday stories from the 40s where Mandrake keeps visiting strange lands of giants in the South Pacific. I wanted to bring up something wonderful from the daily 40s reruns.

The police chief receives a note on his own cigar band --- from the Brass Monkey! 'On Thurs., at 3:06 p.m., another strike. The Royal Scarab. Try to stop me.' Police chief: 'If we could find out who put that band on my cigar --- ' Mandrake: 'I don't think we will, chief. He's too clever.' Chief: 'The Brass Monkey has threatened to steal the Royal Scarab. What is it --- and is it valuable?' Museum Director: 'Valuable? It's the rarest antique in existence. This is the Royal Scarab, on an ancient Egyptian necklace. It's 40 centuries old. Valuable? It's pricesss.' Chief: 'Naturally. Nothing's too good for that blasted brass monkey.'
Lee Falk and Phil Davis’s Mandrake the Magician for the 13th of January, 1947. It got reprinted the 22nd of April, 2019. The Brass Monkey’s name gets changed to the Clay Camel later on, because that villain’s doing a lot of quick identity changes. Mandrake thinks that’s a clue since he knew a master of disguise named the Clay Camel that he put in jail in Brisbane. Also, I know that museums didn’t have rules for stuff in the 1940s but I really would have thought this precious 40-century-old necklace would be under glass or locked up in a drawer or something, you know? At least as hard to access as the four partially used books of Christmas-themed stamps we’ve got.

So the current story. Some crook is doing that thing where they send taunting notes to the cops about what they’re going to steal and when, and what do you know but their predictions come true. So there you see the promise: “On Thurs., at 3:06 pm, another strike. The Royal Scarab. Try to stop me.’ And when Thurs. at 3:06 pm comes and the Royal Scarab is stolen, Mandrake has to start thinking hard for clues. And where did he get?

Chief: 'Here are the Clay Camel's fingerprints. Assuming he's also the Brass Monkey --- where do we go from here?' Mandrake: 'These notes ... ' (One reads about 'another strike and take the koo ... try to stop me'. Mandrake: 'Notice something strange --- that word 'strike'?' Chief: 'What's he mean --- a 'strike'?' Mandrake: 'A bowling strike. I think he's a bowling fanatic. Which gives me an idea.'
Lee Falk and Phil Davis’s Mandrake the Magician for the 28th of January, 1947. It got reprinted the 7th of May, 2019. I am always, genuinely, delighted when a writer decides something is too “slangy” to just be left in text unprotected by quote marks. Like, right now I’m reading a book about the Civilian Conservation Corps, and it has an extended quote from the 1940s where they write about how inexperienced recruits had to be trained “on the job”. It’s so sweet to think of some Interior Department official worried that there’s just no clearer way to describe the manner of training people received but, goodness, what if a copy editor peruses this?

Welp. Yes, I suppose the Clay Camel might well be using the word “strike” because his love of bowling is impossible to put aside, even for the business of announcing his sudden surprising attacks on protected facilities. Anyway, Mandrake’s setting up, I swear, an “exhibition of mass hypnotism, as well as bowling” to catch a jewel thief whom I must assume is Crankshaft. I’ll keep you posted if something really glorious happens.

Anyway I’ve been thinking for twenty years now about the time Andy Richter said he and his wife “meant to go bowling ironically, but we ended up having actual fun”.

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