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12 June 2009 @ 07:06 pm
Baffled by the Purple Claw!  

There were only three issues of THE PURPLE CLAW in 1953 from obscure minor publisher Toby. It was much more a horror title than super-hero, and a shoddy one at that. I've seen much worse comics, of course. There were some so poor that it seemed like the publisher was trying to hurt your feelings by selling copies. Yet, as slack as THE PURPLE CLAW was, it had some aspects that puzzle and intrigue me after all these years. For one thing, it's the way the Claw itself hops from right hand to left and back again....

I mean, look at this page. In the first panel, we see Dr Weir's left hand but not his right (so if he is wearing the Purple Claw, it has to be on his right. In the second panel, it's on his left hand. In the third, it's on his right hand as he dope-slaps a goon. Then it's on his left. Then it's on neither hand. Finally, it's on his right hand again. What the hell, guys? Were you doing this deliberately just to mess with the readers? It happens in other stories, too.

The blurb here explains all we learn about the Purple Claw. The African tribe didn't create it, they were guarding it and passed it to Dr Weir to use righteously. It's very old, and oddly enough, everyone who sees it instantly recognizes the thing. Wherever they are, people see it and gasp and instantly say, "The Purple Claw!" The implication is that this talisman has its own reputation and folklore about it. It's frequently shining or crackling with magical energy, and it can do things like bring down a fortress, take Dr Weir into an alcoholic's dreams, point out where to go. Another funny thing is that Weir doesn't exactly control the Purple Claw as much as work with it. He talks to the darn thing, asking its help and calling on it to strike. He also prays out loud the "powers of good" and "great forces that cleanse the earth and sky." The Purple Claw isn't a gun, it's more like a holy relic.

The uncredited scripting has strong concepts but the execution is vague. Not much is explained. The art is also sketchy and seems unfinished. But part of this is the horror comics style, far from the glossy, vivid super-hero way of telling a story. This is more about mood and uneasiness than action and excitement. The Purple Claw is one of those curious little-remembered bits of comics history, worth checking out if ever you happen to see a copy. But I wouldn't spend a lot of time or money tracking down mint copies of those three 1953 issues.
terry_mccombs on June 13th, 2009 02:22 am (UTC)
I've seen worse, they sometime forgot which eye the patch went over in the old 50's tough guy private eye (no pun intended)comic Johnny Dynamite.
dr_hermes on June 13th, 2009 03:00 am (UTC)
Oh sure. There are a lot of goofs in comics, this is a particularly thorough example.

Once you start noticing goofs like this in movies, you're a lost soul. Someone puts a pencil behind her ear, it's not there when she turns around and then it's back. Wet clothing and hair are dry within a second. People holster a gun twice while someone else talks. Car tires squeal on gravel roads. (The sound of propellors on the jet in AIRPLANE! was meant to be funny, but you spot snafus like that in serious movies.)

There are active websites where people point out these things and I dunno, maybe you're happier and innocent if you don't start noticing that that guy just picked up the phone before it rang.
egm3 on June 13th, 2009 03:22 am (UTC)
My question would be why is it called the Purple CLAW?

There was a 1941 Columbia serial called THE IRON CLAW about a villian with a metal hand, so that qualifies as a claw. And back in the 60's wrestler Fritz Von Erich came up with a move called the Iron Claw (probably inspired by the same serial) where he'd palm a guy's forehead like a basketball and squeeze down on it, so that too technically could be called a claw.

But this? It's just a big silly purple glove. Plus it really clashes with that green coat. Not fashionable at all. I'd say that's CLAWS for alarm.

So if Dr Weir were to grab Ernest Hemmingway by the bicep, would that be a claw to arms?

dr_hermes on June 13th, 2009 04:16 am (UTC)
The perfect actor to have played him would be Claude Rains, no question.

Don't I know you from Usenet? Something about the way you put words through their paces seems familiar.

Some of the art makes it look like a mail gauntlet (I have been reprimanded for using "chain mail" in the past). The purple color does look awful with a green suit, but I suspect most people were too distracted by the broad white band in Weir's hair to notice. Was his motherb frightened by a giant skunk or something?

egm3 on June 13th, 2009 04:52 pm (UTC)
No, I've never been on Usenet. Yours is one of the few sites I communicate on. We may have met though. I was the bald guy wearing the stocking hat.
dr_hermes on June 13th, 2009 11:51 pm (UTC)
No, I think I'd remember that. That would be about the time my friend krazyglued a quarter to the bar to watch people break their fingernails and I was stealthily adding a few pool balls to the table which I had taken from another bar-- you know, to stir things up a little.
m_faustus on June 13th, 2009 11:24 pm (UTC)
The always impressive Karswell over at The Horror of It All has done several posts on The Purple Claw. Weird.

Here's one: http://thehorrorsofitall.blogspot.com/2008/08/death-flower.html

dr_hermes on June 13th, 2009 11:55 pm (UTC)
Great stuff, love it, it really hits the spot. Thank you. My word, all the sites you guys have suggested add up to quite an enjoyable list.

Karswell seems to have taken the time to brighten up colors and whiten the paper on his scans, which looks great. I should start doing that on old comics, instead of leaving them that sort of beige. I tried adjusting the tones on dear old Miss Rasmussen and she looks just peachy with good health.