Saturday, March 14, 2020

The Rat Race

"Oh rats!", said the anti-Atlas oddballs. Yep, it's another riveting tale from the May 1952 issue of Mystery Tales #2, (see the previous post as well.) And some of you proud precoders probably don't even need to look at the signature in the splash panel to know the late great Bill Everett when you see it!

And thanks to the Atlas Tales site for the first page scan of this story, it's unfortunately missing from my tattered old copy. --K


Glowworm said...

Just how bored was this guy to conduct such a sadistic experiment just for the sake of seeing how long a rat could truly suffer? Not to mention he seemed to be bent on conducting this experiment for half a year.
I love the artwork on the clever rat. I love the close up of his face on the fifth panel of the second page. I also love the fifth panel of the third page with the drowning rat below the smart one heading for the cheese.The final panel of the last page with the rat watching the doctor through the glass is my favorite though. I love the the doctor is now the experiment.

Bill the Butcher said...

So that's what would have happened to J Jonah Jameson if he hadn't become a tyrannical newspaper proprietor obsessed with Spiderman: he'd be a tyrannical "scientist" obsessed with tormenting rats. I don't even like rats, they're far too much like people for me, and I was cheering the rats all through this. Go rats go!

Mr. Cavin said...

What is going on with the first page (say, thanks Atlas Tales!)? At first I thought they'd found a specimen of this issue that had accidentally dropped the yellow pass from the process color scheme, leaving a bunch of naked magenta (instead of red) and rendering all he browns into purples. I've seen three-pass pages before. But then I noticed there are plenty instances of yellow here. Sure, it's fading; but it's still there. And yet the page is still abnormally magenta and purple. I mean, every other page of this story is profoundly brown. So what the heck?

I kinda like the look, actually. It's pretty rare to see so much pink in a precode story.

But the art is pretty great, after all. I love the last panel of every single page (especially four, which strikes me as a modern indie animation look), the super duper pink splash (he looks like he's stuck in a rat-infested saltwater taffy machine), and that nifty warped and wavering reflection in the first panel of page three. That's not a decision a lot of illustrators would have made, and I'm impressed.

Todd said...

I kept thinking there was some noble goal to all the experimentation, but no—this guy is just a sicko using science as an excuse. I wish the ending were a little less open, but it is something of a delight seeing the rat continually outwit this doofus.

バーンズ エリック said...

That last panel of page 2 kinda looks like the work of V FOR VENDETTA artist David Lloyd to me and it suddenly struck me there is kinda a kinship between his style and Bill Everett's style. Apparently alternative comic book creator Daniel Clowes used to constantly get Bernie Krigstein comparisons without being overly familiar with his work, so I'm willing to allow the similarities to be more in my eyes than anything else, though. That being said Lloyd has produced some effective horror from time to time himself. And Everett, of course, was a master across genres.

Mr. Karswell said...

>I mean, every other page of this story is profoundly brown. So what the heck?

As mentioned at the very end of the post, the first page came from the Atlas Tales site, the rest of the page scans came from my own copy which is unfortunately missing the first page.

Glad everyone's enjoying these Atlas posts! :) said...

In the second panel on page four there's a window.
If he couldn't fit through, he could scratch the bricks next to it out through the grout.
This smart scientist died in vain.
Now the world will never profit off of all the knowledge he's gained torturing rats!
Nice telling of this absurd story.
I love the colour too.
I love the brown and pink coloured Atlas tales.
I'm not sure if they use brown and pink but I've seen a lot of nice unexpected choices in Atlas tales.
E.C. comics were coloured nicely but there is a predictability to them because I've known them longer.
THere's a colour scheme rather than all the clashing comic book colours that populate most other comics... of the day at least.
I think I would've tried to see if the rat could be a good pet.
That might've been a good direction for the story to take.
He uses the rat as his killer servant where he goes to the university and has the rat sneak in at night and kill any other doctor that disagrees with his findings that somehow came out of torturing rats for six months.
Oh バーンズ エリック ,
I read an interview where Dave Sim insults Dan Clowes work as a clone of Bernie Kreigstein, like as if Clowes wasn't doing anything original.
I don't think his work looks like Kreigstein.
I think his work looks more like Joe Sinnot if I was to take a stab at who I think he most closely resembles in the 50s horror books.

Mr. Cavin said...

"As mentioned at the very end of the post..."

Oh yeah, don't worry, I read everything. I even thanked Atlas Tales for letting you use their page. I'm glad we could see it. I'm sorry I wasn't clear about my question.

I understand that the pages look different and came from different sources. I also understand that the pinks and purples form the Atlas Tales page are probably actually supposed to be browns and reds, based on the evidence of your page scans. Your pages look normal to me, and theirs look wild! They look like the yellow pass is missing out of the color process, except there is also plenty of evidence of yellow remaining on the page (in the captions, for one thing). So then why is that? Did the Atlas Tales site change the color? Is their source copy a recolored reprint? Or is it an artifact if their scanning process (I can't see how)? Or maybe did their copy get left out in a sunbeam, and half the yellow ink just faded away from most of the panels?

The questions are basically rhetorical, a way to think about process and the object itself. I know you can't really know the answers. But it was an interesting thing (for me) to think about. said...

I've thought about colour discrepancies before between the same issue.
There are certain stories that I've seen different scans of and noticed a fair difference even though they were not reprints.
One guess is that they had good sales so used an extra printer to make an extra print run.
I don't know... maybe.
At this point horror was flying off the shelves.
The other printer would follow the colour instructions a little differently of course.

Brian Barnes said...

It's kind of interesting to think back to 52 when this issue came out -- back then, I'll bet rats were a much bigger problem (especially in the cities and farms) then they might be now with more modern extermination methods ... or maybe not, I'm not the expert on that! It's just that I think now-a-days people can have a much more sympathetic view towards the rats than they probably had in 52. The story might have read different.

Especially pushing the rat not as just smart, but as "evil" (Page 2, panel 1.)

Yea Everett! Even the dismal coloring (it's good, it fits, but it kind of renders everything muddy) can't stop Everett's massive talents. Every time the "smart" rat gets a close up he *looks* smart and cunning. Every time we see the "scientist" he looks insane, like Page 4, panel 1. And the last panel with the light yellows is beautiful.

This is the kind of work that made Atlas great.

Mr. Karswell said...

>There are certain stories that I've seen different scans of and noticed a fair difference even though they were not reprints.

Well I do spend a great deal of time cleaning up my scans so they look the absolute best they can on a computer screen: contrast boosting, removing problem spots, color correction, and what not. Original, faded hi rez scans look fine in print, but not on a webpage. Sometimes the difference is just a matter of the aged condition of the issue. I have some comic books in my collection that will unfortunately never be scanned or posted here simply because over time they are just ruined beyond repair; brittle, water damaged, stained, rat chewed, etc-- most of my collection had previous owners who did not bag and board in a collector sense like we know to do these days, and all the photoshop clean-up in the world won't help.

Mr. Cavin said...

"simply because over time they are just ruined"

This is no thinly-veiled plea to tempt you into even more work for my entertainment. I would never do that. This is just ruminating. But it's a pretty neat Tumblr idea to scan these kinds of highly degraded pages (or panels) as objects of art. I imagine, scanned and enlarged so even the surface fibers of the paper were part of the aesthetic, the images would take on the weight historical significance in the same sort of way that Bill Morrison’s beautiful "found footage" collage Decasia does. Probably find their way into other people's artwork, too.

Now I kind of wish I had my own huge collection of badly damaged, gnawed, and rotting old comics. I mean, I very well may. I haven't even glimpsed the long boxes stored at my mom's house in over fifteen years. But even if I have gotten lucky and all that stuff is perfectly ruined, it's off quarantined with her, not here with me.