Calling 2-R

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The above is not a complete list of Calling 2-R stories. Rather, it consists of my picks of the best tales in the magazines, the ones I enjoyed reading, and recommend to others.

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


Calling 2-R

Calling 2-R was a science fiction series, set in contemporary America. It centered on a home for "unwanted boys", a whole town called Boyville created by an elderly, wealthy scientist inventor. The place is full of scientific inventions, that are available nowhere else.

Calling 2-R ran in Target Comics, from #1 (Vol. 1 #1) (February 1940), through #15 (Vol. 2 #3) (May 1941).

The Redemption of Speck (1940). Writer: Alonzo Vincent. Art: Alonzo Vincent. Title for this titleless story supplied by the Grand Comics Database. The origin of Boyville, and the characters the Skipper and the Captain.

The real life institution Boys Town was famous in this era, having been the subject of the hit film, Boys Town (1938). Spencer Tracy won the Oscar for starring in this as Father Flanagan, the founder and head of Boys Town. The fictitious Boyville in the Calling 2-R tales is clearly based on this. Both describe homes for boys that are so large that they have the size of small towns. But there are three major differences:

1) The real life Boys Town was in part a reformatory for young juvenile delinquents. Boyville is a place for "unwanted boys". These seem to be orphaned or abandoned boys - it is not clear which.

2) The Skipper, the founder of Boyville, is not a priest, although he is a wise man of high moral character. Today, if religion were removed from a fictional version of a real life religious institution, it would be denounced as an evil atheistic plot to remove religion from public life. One suspects the motives in 1940 were the exact opposite. Religion was regarded as too serious to be treated in a comic book adventure story, and its presence would have been condemned by religious leaders as being in bad taste.

3) Boyville is a highly science fictional place, and it is run on complex futuristic and quasi-police lines. Its way of life bears almost no resemblance to anything in the America of 1940.

The Reformation of Pretty Boy (1940). Writer: Alonzo Vincent. Art: Alonzo Vincent. Title for this titleless story supplied by the Grand Comics Database. The gangster Big Shot plants a young criminal, Pretty Boy, undercover in Boyville, to spy out its technological secrets. This three part story sets out in a systematic fashion the life, inventions and attitudes of Boyville. It shows a great profusion of imagination, and careful logical thinking in creating a systematic universe. The early Calling 2-R tales are among the high points of science fiction in Golden Age comics.

Target Comics would soon see the debut of Basil Wolverton's The Spacehawk, another key sf series of the Golden Age. The magazine was much more oriented to science fiction than were most comic books of the 1940's. The middle section of the Pretty Boy saga will include at trip into outer space near Earth, anticipating the full-fledged space travel around the Solar System of the Spacehawk.

Vincent includes a number of overhead vistas, showing the futuristic buildings of Boyville. These include roads between the buildings, which are arranged in giant landscapes. These great panoramas anticipate the science fictional vistas of future towns created by Sid Greene for 1950's comic books like Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures. Greene would soon be working on Target Comics, and was likely to have seen Vincent's work there.

The GCD says that Vincent did his own color work - something that comic artists did not regularly do. The color harmonies are rich and fascinating, with a riot of different colors applied to the various geometric forms that make up the science fictional buildings. The buildings seem influenced by Art Deco, something that was common in futuristic architecture in comic books.

Vincent also has some spectacular interiors, showing advanced technology inside the buildings of Boyville. He also includes some good cityscapes of contemporary New York City.

Tour of Boyville (1940). Writer: Alonzo Vincent. Art: Alonzo Vincent. Title for this titleless story supplied by the Grand Comics Database. Pretty Boy enters the training program for Rangers in Boyville, taking on the new name M-4. This story is a direct continuation of "The Reformation of Pretty Boy" in the last three issues. The GCD could easily have regarded this as Part 4 of the same story.

The Radio Ray (1941). Writer: Alonzo Vincent. Art: Alonzo Vincent. Title for this titleless story supplied by the Grand Comics Database. The Skipper comes up with new defensive devices to protect the United States, as Boyville mobilizes for World War II. There is something touching and idealistic about the Skipper's insistence on creating inventions that can only be used for defense, not offense or attacks on other countries. The ideas relate to the earlier "General Z". This story was part of an issue of Target Comics, in which all the characters were explicitly mobilized to defend their Uncle Sam.

This story has some excellent art, including a good splash panel. This shows the exterior of the main hall, with four Cosmoplanes added at strategic positions to make a creative composition. We also see the Great Hall of Boyville, and other big pictures of interiors.