Bizarro Back Issues: The Surprisingly Non-Erotic Adventures Of Kinks Mason (1940)
Say what you will about how they're almost entirely the product of creators who had no idea what they were doing fumbling their way through figuring out a brand-new medium, but the one thing that you have to give to the comics of that first Golden Age boom: They are almost alarmingly direct. It makes sense that they would be, too --- they were, after all, following in the footsteps of a wildly successful character who was a super man named Superman. When that's what sets the tone for everything that comes after, you kind of have to expect that you're going to end up with a tenuous-at-best relationship with the concept of subtlety.
Such is the case with Fight Comics #4, a mag that promised "two fisted adventures of men of action," and delivered exactly what it said it would in every story except one: Kinks Mason, who, all things considered, actually seems pretty vanilla.
The 64-page comic --- published by a company called Fight Stories Incorporated --- hit shelves in April of 1940, and it is hands down one of the most buck wild single issues I've ever read. Just to give you an idea of what we're working with, here's a quick rundown of the other stories that appear in this issue:
- "Shark Brodie," a story about a tough and frequently shirtless sailor tricked by other tough and frequently shirtless sailors into punching a kangaroo.
- "Oran of the Jungle," about a (white) boxer who honed his skills in Africa and was then tricked by his opponent into literally punching an entire zoo.
- "Slug-Nutty Sam," a two-page humor strip about a boxer tricked into jumping out of a building.
- "Chip Collins," which told the tale of the daring pilot who led the Skull Squad being tricked by a Chinese warlord into attacking his oppressed neighbors, but who then bombs enough of the right people that everything works out okay, which is shockingly not quite as racist as you think it's going to be if you've read other Golden Age comics.
- "Rip Regan, the Power-Man," about an FBI agent with a bulletproof suit who is not tricked but does punch a lot of people.
- A text piece about how to punch that advises the children of 1940 to eat a steak for lunch every day and follow it up with ice cream as a good "muscle-building dessert," because I guess we didn't get around to inventing nutrition until the late '80s.
- "Big Red McLane, King of the Northwoods," a relatively restrained Fletcher Hanks story about a lumberjack who punches someone so efficiently that he is given $25,000.
- "Kayo Kirby," about a boxer hired to play a boxer in a movie who gets fouled during a staged boxing match and then has to box the fake boxer to regain his role as a boxer.
- "The Story of Tony Canzoneri," a biography of a real-life boxer that describes one of his early opponents as "the ghost from Panama," which sadly turns out to be a metaphor.
- "Strut Warren," about a marine in the Philippines who stumbles across an evil plot, is nearly drowned in a giant vat of wine, punches his way out of the giant wine barrel, and then rolls all the bad guys to jail in a normal sized barrel, which actually is as racist as you think it's going to be.
- "The Spy Fighter Starring Saber, The Mightiest And Most Intelligent Man in the World," a sci-fi epic that takes place in the far-off Flash Gordon future and features a) the best title ever, and b) a premise that is, of course, incredibly unrealistic and could never possibly seem real.
You may be sensing a pattern of punch-based storytelling that relies very heavily on animals that no one working for Fight Stories Inc. was quite sure how to draw, and you would not be wrong. But Kinks Mason manages to be weirder than all of them, despite involving zero instances of Sonic the Hedgehog characters being tied up or inflated like balloons.
I mean, we do get this, but c'mon.
That barely counts.
The idea here is that while they're out fishing, Kinks and his unnamed pal --- let's just go ahead and call him Fetishes --- catch a swordfish that turns out to have gold and precious jewels embedded in its scales. Please note that we pretty much have to takes Kinks' word on this, as the artist who drew this story didn't actually bother to draw any of it, settling instead for a couple of swipes of the ol' yellow highlighter and some Strong Bad-style majesty lines.
Naturally, Kinks is intrigued, and puts on a diving suit that looks like a set of pajamas and a fishbowl helmet to go investigate.
Sure enough, at the bottom of the sea, he finds an open treasure chest sitting out in the open, overflowing with gold. There's just one problem: The treasure is guarded by an army of trained swordfish, and one of them immediately spears Kinks' suit, swimming him over to the wreck of an old galleon and depositing him on the deck to meet the villain of the piece.
I'm going to go ahead and assume that you already know that we're going to be dealing with a pirate here, but if you're like me, you probably guessed that we'd have a ghost pirate in the mix, especially after we see Kinks meeting him in a room full of skeletons.
But no. This is actually one of the extremely rare instances where someone being a pirate ghost would actually make more sense.
Turns out, Sneely here is just a perfectly normal dude who drank a magic potion that will allow him to live at the bottom of the ocean for a thousand years.
And I have a lot of questions.
First, is the "living underwater" part an added benefit of the potion that lets him live for a thousand years, or is it a requirement? Like, if he goes up to shore, will he just die of old age as normal? And if not, why has he just chosen to chill out at the bottom of the ocean luring hapless kinky sailors into his lair with treasure just so he can murder them? You'd think he'd be desperate for the company, right? And, like, if he's just really into swordfish, he could probably use some of those thousand years to go get a degree in marine biology and get a job at the aquarium. Heck, he could buy an aquarium!
Kinks Mason doesn't provide a lot of answers, is what I'm getting at here.
Anyway, needless to say, Sneely wants to add Kinks to his collection of skeletons, but Kinks is not having it. He attempts to duel himself out of trouble, but Sneely's centuries of experience (and presumably the difficulty of sword-fighting at the bottom of the ocean, although it's never brought up) prove to be a little too challenging.
Just cold bashing Sneely upside the dome with a thighbone, however, proves to be pretty easy.
With Sneely suitably concussed (and possibly murdered? This whole thing with the potion really isn't clear on how well it handles head trauma), Kinks is only left with the problem of how to get past the swordfish and escape back to the surface. But he has a plan.
A very, very stupid plan.
Grabbing a piece of red cloth, Kinks starts waving it around like a matador, and --- and I remind you that all of this is happening at the bottom of the ocean --- swings it around until all the swordfish find themselves embedded in the mast.
That's... That's not how that works. That's not how any of that works.
But it does, however, give us my gift to you, dear reader:
Have fun with that one on Tumblr.