Sunday, November 17, 2013

365 Comics...321: Police Action #3 (1975)

For Atlas/Seaboard, comic historians have coined the phrase "the third-issue switch" since almost every third issue of Atlas' titles saw a drastic shift in tone, or even complete about-face of character or setting.  As well, by the third issue nearly every series would see a new creative team aboard, with Gary Friedrich coming in an writing almost every title.  Meanwhile editor Jeff Rovin left the publisher after butting heads with the Goodmans far too many times, leaving the already troubled editorial production in the hands of one man, Larry Lieber (yes, Stan Lee's brother).  Publisher Martin Goodman wanted changes to almost every title to make them even more like Marvel books, rather than finding their own distinguishing brand, while son Chip Goodman notoriously had very little business or publishing acumen.  Whether it was vendetta-driven or just a misguided commercial directive, either way it the Goodman's directions decimated the line.

Police Action comics was one of the titles that Friedrich took over the writing duties of.  It featured two equally measured stories of tough-acting policemen, "Sam Lomax, N.Y.P.D" and "Luke Malone, Manhunter".  Both of these were capitalizing on the no-holds-barred police officering and revenge-based crime films appearing on both the big and small screens in the 1970s.  Lomax AND Malone are both unholstering .357 Magnums, taking inspiration from Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson, as well as Mannix, Beretta and the like.

I'm sure this series started off more direly serious but Friedrich came in and seemingly turned the genre on its head.  The Lomax, NYPD feature seems more like a satire, going so completely over the top that it's only a step removed from The Naked Gun.  One could easily take this script verbatim and turn it into a Black Dynamite-styled spoof of 70's cop dramas.  Luke Malone, Manhunter is equally corny, featuring tremendous leaps in logic (as was the way of many detective dramas)... coincidences, happenstances or right-leading instincts that find a favourable end for the P.I.

Friedrich so obviously knew he was toying with already well-worn conventions at this point, and works both "Magnum Force" and "Death Wish" into the scripts with a bold letters wink.  It's hilarious cornball material that really highlights the absurdity of the 70's right-leaning view on street crime.  And I absolutely could not stop laughing at the third panel of Lomax, hotdog free-hanging from his mouth, staring at a couple of bank robbers and thinking "Looks like I should have ordered... One Hot Dog With Murder Please!" then in the next pane taking the hotdog out of his mouth, shooting one criminal in the back shouting (cheeks full of street meat) "Freeze!... Police Officer!"
Ah, comedy!

No comments: