The Summer of the Super Cop Spectacle

by BK Munn

A little bit of Summer Posting redux, now that I’ve rolled off my hammock and into Fall, all of a sudden. Holey crap, I didn’t see that coming.

Just like 2014, the 1970s were a time of police riots, systemic abuse of power, and violations of basic civil rights. In honour of our current moment, a look back at a comic by the guy who used to draw Red Sonja and dress like a wizard at comic book conventions.

Sort of had a day off today, which means some quality terrace time, catching up on my comics reading. Today I made it up to 1974 and the Red Circle Comics Group edition of The Super Cops #1, an anthology comic based on the book and classic whitesploitation buddy cop film of the same name, all slightly fictionalized accounts of the questionable “exploits” of disgraced real-life NYC cops David Greenberg and Robert Hantz, “who became known, not always fondly, as Batman and Robin,” as the New York Times’ Vincent Canby wrote in his review of the “comic-book style[d]” movie, directed by Shaft’s Gordon Parks.

The comic book tie-in is almost entirely written by Marvin Channing, a New York City high-school teacher hired by Red Circle artist/art director/packager Gray Morrow to provide scripts for the aborted action adjunct of Archie Comics, and the results, plot-wise, are uniformly pedestrian, and not just because all of the stories here are about the titular cops walking a beat. This is pretty basic shit, peppered with casual racism and horrible fascistic politics, enlivened only by the visuals: U.S. industry vets Morrow and Frank Thorne, and Spanish journeymen Vicente Alcazar and Carlos Pino provide the cleanly delineated, if mostly average, artistic contributions. Morrow contributes a killer cover, better than the actual poster used for the film, but his comics work on the lead story is disappointing with the exception of a few heavily cross-hatched and atmospheric panels; what you’d expect in a story about a couple of moustachioed doofus cops entrapping petty thieves in the Garment District. Ditto for the other two stories delineated by Pino and Alkazar (credited, tellingly, as “V. Hack”).

The real joy here is Frank Thorne’s 6-pager “2 to Get Ready and 4 to Go!,” a Marvin Channing-scripted French Connection rip-off about the two white cops forcing a Huggy Bear-style stool pigeon to engineer a drag race between a pair of Brooklyn car thieves that ends in massive private property damage and an accidental heroin bust, the best page of which manages to combine a Krazy Kat homage with a reference to Batman and Robin. The whole thing is primo lush cartooning, which, when combined with the aged ashen pulp comics colours that these ancient comics mellow into, makes for a very readable little strip that almost makes you yearn for more in the same vein.