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Blue Ribbon Comics
These best stories of the comic books are preceded by their issue number.
Many issues of Blue Ribbon Comics can be read free online at Comic Book +.
The Fox appeared in Blue Ribbon Comics from #4 (June 1940) through #22 (March 1942).
Origin of the Fox (1940). Writer: Joe Blair. Art: Irwin Hasen. (Title for this titleless story supplied by the Grand Comics Database.) Newspaper photographer Paul Patton creates the secret identity of The Fox, to battle the Night Riders, a group of masked men who use terror to control a West Virginia community. The Night Riders are a thinly disguised version of the Ku Klux Klan, the infamous white supremacist group. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster had previously attacked such groups in their Spy tale, "The Hooded Hordes" (Detective Comics #17, July 1938). This is another example of how influential Siegel and Shuster were on Golden Age comic books.
There are good people in town, who are opposed to the Riders, and who want to regain control of the town. They include the Sheriff, who symbolizes the rule of law. Such democratic alternatives to dictatorial control will be common in 1950's and 1960's science fiction comic books, such as Mystery in Space and Strange Adventures. Such stories show not just dictatorial villains to be condemned, but good people who are democratic role models.
This is a true origin story: it tells the full story of how Paul Patton turns himself into the Fox. We learn a little about Patton. He was formerly an athlete at Penn State, an unusually specific background for a comic book hero. Now he works for the Daily Globe newspaper in New York. The story is also the origin of the Globe's star reporter Ruth Ransom, who frequently works with Patton in the tales. Joe Blair's super-hero, Hercules, also has an athletic background.
The Fox seems to be a normal young man, and his world, while full of crooks, is not as grotesque as Batman's. It does contain serious social problems, something one rarely sees in Batman tales.
Like Spider-Man to come, the Fox works as a newspaper photographer in his secret identity. Both use their abilities to take unique snapshots of their crime fighting activities, which then appear in their papers. There is a bit of a difference in the position of such reporters as Clark Kent, and these photographer heroes. Reporters do not have to be physically present at the events about which they write. They are allowed to get facts from reputable sources and witnesses, and write up these facts as newspaper articles. By contrast, due to the technology of film, a photographer typically must be present at the taking of pictures. This presents extra challenges to these heroes, first in the taking of the snapshots, then in the delivery of them to the outside world.
News photographer heroes were well-established in prose mystery fiction by 1940, including Flashgun Casey and Kent Murdock, both by George Harmon Coxe.
Paul Patton wears a sweater with his suit and tie (opening panel of the story, page 1). Such sweaters were symbols of intellectuals, including men who worked on newspapers: see Clark Gable's reporter hero in the hit film It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934). They were usually worn by admired intellectuals, men who made a positive contribution to society. Paul Patton faces anti-intellectualism from the villains, who denounce him as a "college boy". Patton's education is a threat to their bigotry and power.
Like many heroes in the costumed crime fighter / Batman tradition, Paul Patton is a creator of high technology devices. He is shown inventing a specialized camera. The camera is part of his costume.
The Fox's actions, taking photographs while dressed as the Fox, directly parallels his work as photographer Paul Patton. The Fox and Paul Patton are closely linked in their activities, in a way that Batman and his secret identity Bruce Wayne are not.
The Great Trailer Mystery (1940). Writer: Joe Blair. Art: Irwin Hasen. Paul Patton and Ruth Ransom get in trouble with crooks when they are assigned to cover an accident to a trailer. This is a pleasant thriller plot, with lots of detail.
The Fox Goes to a Nightclub (1941). Writer: Joe Blair. Art: Irwin Hasen. The Fox solves a mystery involving the shooting of a nightclub singer, and the theft of jewels. This is a complexly plotted story. It has a pulp magazine feel, recalling the hard-boiled detective stories that appeared in pulp magazines in the 1920's and 1930's.
Paul Patton looks great in a double-breasted black tuxedo. Such formal wear was de rigueur for anyone attending a nightclub in that era.