I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planets!

Paul Karasik, Editor Fantagraphics $19.95 (122p) ISBN 978-1-56097-839-8

One of the strangest cartoonists of American comics’ Golden Age, Hanks had a short career—the 15 stories collected here were all published between 1939 and 1941—but the deranged, nightmarish vigor of his work has made it something of a cult item. Hanks created pulpy characters like Stardust the Super Wizard, “the scientific marvel whose vast knowledge of all planets has made him the most remarkable person ever known,” and the jungle heroine Fantomah, whose face becomes a snarling skull when she uses her magic powers. The artist’s manic obsessions turn up again and again: global-scale atrocities, miraculous rays and, most of all, poetically apt punishments. In a typical story, “Master-Mind” De Structo tries to suffocate America’s heads of state with an oxygen-destroying ray, so Stardust turns him into a giant head, then hurls him into a “space pocket of living death” occupied by a “headless headhunter.” Hanks’s artwork is crude and technically limited (each of his characters has exactly one, wildly caricatured, facial expression), but nearly every page has some image that sings out with deep, primal power. In an afterword, editor Paul Karasik explains how he tracked down Hanks’s son and learned a bit more about the artist’s sad life and death. (July)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2007
Release date: 06/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
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