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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.
ORIGIN STORY. 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.
PHOTOGRAPHER. 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.
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.
Paul Patton doesn't personally profit from the photos he takes as The Fox. He is not paid for the pictures, which he simply donates to the Daily Globe newspaper. And the photos are credited to The Fox - so Paul Patton gets no credit for them, and they do not enhance Patton's career.
NEWSPAPER. The Daily Globe is a newspaper in New York City. Its name is similar to the Daily Planet, Superman's newspaper. However, in early Superman tales his newspaper was known as the Daily Star.
Later in the 1960's, the Daily Globe will be the name of a newspaper in Marvel Comics, especially Spiderman.
The trio of Paul Patton / The Fox, reporter Ruth Ransom and their editor, recall Clark Kent / Superman, Lois Lane and editor Perry White.
CLOTHES. 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.
STORY STRUCTURE. This first story about The Fox largely establishes a template that will be followed in many Fox tales:
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.
There are dramatic landscapes showing the trailer camp (pages 3, 4). And a good view of the train tracks (top of page 2).
CLOTHES. The Fox's uniform in his first tale showed the lower part of his face, like Batman's. Later tales, starting with "The Great Trailer Mystery", have the uniform entirely encase his body, head and all. Only his hands are shown outside the uniform. This second design is an improvement over the first. The encasing quality is cool.
Paul Patton wears a terrific suit (page 1). It is double-breasted, with huge peaked lapels. The suit reflects the "film noir" era of men's dressy clothes. At the story's end, upper crust Dick van Nostrum is in a striped suit that is almost as good (page 6).
The Capture of Scarface Mike (1940). Writer: Joe Blair. Art: Irwin Hasen. The Fox tangles with gangster and bank robber Scarface Mike.
This tale has lively art throughout. This includes both cityscapes showing buildings and streets, and interiors showing rooms.
The Tenement Arson Case (Blue Ribbon Comics #7, November 1940). Writer: Joe Blair. Art: Irwin Hasen. The Fox tracks down the culprit behind burning slum buildings. This tale is unfortunately routine, after some good early art (page 1).
TEMPLATE CHANGES. This tale omits the episodes at the start and end, where Paul Patton meets with his editor. They get replaced:
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.
Shots smash a spotlight (page 2). In next issue's "The Dilemma of Slugs Morelli" (page 2), shots will smash Paul Patton's camera. In "The Camera Clue" the Fox himself smashes a light bulb, to escape from a trap (page 6).
TEMPLATE CHANGES. This tale omits the typical episodes at the start and end, where Paul Patton meets with his editor. They do not get replaced with anything.
CLOTHES. Paul Patton looks great in a double-breasted tuxedo. Such formal wear was de rigueur for anyone attending a nightclub in that era. (Paul's tuxedo is colored a dark blue. I think we are intended to see the tuxedo as black, however, rather than blue. Such blue coloring is a comic book convention designed to suggests "black".)
Later, Paul wears a dressing gown at home, also high fashion at that time. The gown is double-breasted, long, and tightly belted. He wore a different, but equally fancy dressing gown at home in his first tale "Origin of the Fox". Both dressing gowns have conspicuous lapels.
SYMBOLS. Objects with jutting diagonals or vertical lines, have a phallic quality. These are often linked to the hero, in his Paul Patton clothes:
The Dilemma of Slugs Morelli (Blue Ribbon Comics #9, February 1941). Writer: Joe Blair. Art: Irwin Hasen. Tough guy Slugs Morelli deals with hoods who threaten his boy.
SPLASH LETTERING. The splash shows the letters "F, O, X" in large-three dimensional shapes. They look like blocks. They also look as if they have been spilled, like blocks. The letters also had a 3D quality in the splash panels for "The Great Trailer Mystery" and "The Capture of Scarface Mike".
SYMBOLS. Paul Patton / The Fox is often drawn to link him with phallic symbols: