"Buzz" Balmer

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"Buzz" Balmer

"Buzz" Balmer appeared in all three issues of the short-lived Bang-Up Comics comic book. His first two stories are much better than the third.

Oh Baby! (1941). (The GCD uses the first line of this untitled story as a "title".) Art: Rick Yager. Young "Buzz" Balmer is accidentally shrunk to a tiny size, when he steps in front of the miniaturizing ray created by his scientist father Professor Balmer. Such shrinking rays were common in comic strips of the 1930's, treated seriously in the science fiction strip Brick Bradford, and more comically in Sappo. The latter is E. C. Segar's companion to the Sunday Thimble Theatre featuring Popeye. Sappo featured comic mad scientist O.G. Wotasnozzle, and his many inventions.

Professor Balmer calls his shrinking ray a "Minus-Beam". This anticipates the name zeta-beam in the Adam Strange stories.

Throughout the "Buzz" Balmer tales, ingenious uses of and variations on the Minus-Beam will be propounded. These developments are major drivers of the plot.

It is not clear if "Buzz" Balmer is a super-hero, or not. In some ways, the tales are essentially science fiction. Buzz does not have any super-powers, other than being small. And he is not the only person or object who gets small in the series. On the other hand, he is a person of unique biology, at the center of the tales: which in some ways means he is essentially a super-hero.

The tale has some delightful dialogue. Buzz is fresh, almost a wise guy, with a snappy line of patter to describe his adventures. Much of this is quite funny.

The tale concludes with a denunciation of dictators, and the wars they were causing. This will be the main subject of the next story.

ART. The tale lacks a splash panel. Instead, it opens with a regular panel that starts the story. This panel uses the three primary colors, red, yellow and blue.

Several scenes take place at night, with dramatic use of light and shadow.

A building at the airport has the multi-paned windows associated with Art Deco (page 3). Later we see that the Balmer house also has multi-paned windows (page 11).

An airport official has an "authority figure" office, with a huge space leading up to a massive desk, and a high-backed throne-like chair (last panel of page 2).

The Attack on Dictators (1942). (Title made up by me.) Buzz goes into action against the world's dictators. Delirious and brilliantly nutty tale - both politically committed, and outré in its science fiction plotting.

This tale is a direct continuation of the story in the previous issue. In some ways, the two should be regarded as a single, unified work. However, the subject matter is also quite distinct, with the previous tale showing his origin and personal life, and this second tale concentrating on Buzz's public activities in the world.

The cover of this issue says: "Buzz" Balmer Battles Dictators With "Minus-Beam".