The Mouthpiece

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These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number.

They were edited by Ed Cronin.


The Mouthpiece

The Mouthpiece is another masked crime fighter without super-powers, in the tradition of Batman.

The Alien Smuggling Racket (1941). Writer: Fred Guardineer. Art: Fred Guardineer. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) Bill Perkins, newly elected District Attorney, secretly dons a mask to become crime fighter, The Mouthpiece. He goes after a racket involving the smuggling of desperate European refugees into the US. The plot involving this smuggling, is less interesting than the character of the Mouthpiece, in this opening tale.

The Mouthpiece's costume is unusual. He always wears a very dressy double-breasted blue suit with a white dress shirt, and has a small black mask around his eyes. Otherwise, he varies the tie he wears from story to story. When he wishes to switch back to his DA identity, he just takes off his mask, but leaves on his same clothes: suit, shirt, tie and hat. No one seems to notice that the DA is wearing the same suits and ties as the Mouthpiece. This character's clothes are thus doubly unusual for a comic book hero: 1) They vary from story to story; 2) They are shared by the character and by his secret identity. This is an unusual paradigm.

Bill Perkins is not a nerd, unlike the secret identities of many heroes. Instead, he is a glamorously dressed figure.

The Mouthpiece's blue suit, white dress shirt and black tie echo the uniforms of the police in the story. An image of the hero standing next to a giant, broad-shouldered cop, both men in similar clothes, is especially impressive. Guardineer specialized in such images of stylized men. The two men are doubling for each other, in related clothes, one in a uniform, one in a suit. They seem to derive tremendous energy from this. Perkins has his hand on the officer's shoulder. They remind one of the identically dressed naval heroes of Guardineer's Anchors Aweigh.

The Hogan Brothers (1941). Writer: Fred Guardineer. Art: Fred Guardineer. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) Crooks take over a farmhouse, and throw a woman down a well. The trap here echoes the plight of the refugees in the previous tale, who also faced drowning by the bad guys. The cylindrical well scenes show Guardineer's interest in geometric patterns in his work. The storytelling here is much better than the previous tale.

This story shows that the Mouthpiece has a laboratory in his house. It is modestly sized, not giant like the Batcave. The Mouthpiece never seems to develop any technological gimmicks in his stories. Other than his mask, he is a conventional detective.

This story has a rural setting, like the farmhouse in the OK next tale, "The Escape of Fatso Dowd" (#3, October 1941).

The Mouthpiece strips off his suit and shirt, to swim bare-chested in the well. But he keeps his mask on. It gives him an unusual appearance. Once again, this is somewhat atypical of costumed crime fighters, who usually always stuck to their complete costume.

There is a policeman with sergeant's chevrons.

The Flash Photo Fixers (1941). Writer: Fred Guardineer. Art: Fred Guardineer. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) Honest boxer young Willard is defeated by Dumb Dan through a crooked scheme. The scheme involves technology. Guardineer's characters are often menaced by sinister technological devices employed by the bad guys.

Guardineer has a field day, both with his portraits of the boxers, and with a water tower and the urban cityscape of roofs around it.

There are some good clothes. The referee is in all white, with a black bow tie. It is an impressive uniform. Later, Willard will wear a sweater whose shoulders and neck are outlined in black, giving a double V emphasis to his body. The bodies of Guardineer characters are often outlined in dynamically geometric fashion. The referee and Willard look both clean cut and powerful.

The Madness of Professor Snook (#5, December 1941). Writer: Fred Guardineer. Art: Fred Guardineer. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) A mad scientist traps motorists by a bridge, then hauls them off to his sinister mansion for experiments. This story is a straight out reworking of the silent horror film, The Monster (1925), directed by Roland West. There is even a diagram of a chute, recalling West's later film, The Bat (1926). In the same issue, the villain of the 711 story wears bat ears, and is called the Black Bat, just like the super-criminal the Bat in West's film. So something was in the air.

This story is not especially impressive. Best moment: a remarkably stylized car (p1) all formed out of complex curves.

Grud, Fifth Columnist (#6, January 1942). Writer: ? Art: Fred Guardineer. (Title for this titleless story supplied by Grand Comics Database.) Crooks sell secrets to foreign bidders. Best feature of this otherwise mild tale: seascapes showing a buoy. The buoy is pyramidal, and leads to many interesting Guardineer geometric compositions. The splash, showing the Mouthpiece looming over a cityscape, also is creative.