Friday, March 31, 2017
Lance Hale, or It's Hard to Become a Jungle Lord [Guest Post]
By GW Thomas
Silver Streak Comics #3 (March 1940) sees the rocket arrive in Spirit-Land (what planet was that?) where the evil King Loti rules over strange beast-men. Dr. Grey (who now has a name) and Lance make their escape back to Earth along with the inevitable scientist's daughter, Myra, only to find the Spirit-men invading the planet. Cliffhanger alert! And boy, are you in for a wait! Seventy-six years later, the conclusion to this story is still MIA.
Silver Streak Comics #4 (May 1940) sees a new, unknown (and less talented) artist and an entirely different storyline as an armband-less Lance inherits an African mine from his uncle and ventures underground. A troglodyte race known as the Cave Men capture him and take him before their human queen, Aldia. She recognizes Lance because she knew his uncle, who Lance resembles. The Cave Men are about to be attacked by the Lizard Men. Lance fights on the side of the Cave Men, killing all the Lizard Men. With her enemies vanquished, Aldia demands Lance stay and be king. He escapes with a fortune in jewels, though one day he might return.
In Silver Streak Comics #6 (September 1940) Lance finally throws away his city clothes and goes to the jungle to dwell in a loin cloth. At last! It's been a long trail from super-human giant to Flash Gordon spaceman to underground adventurer to monster-fighting ghostbreaker, but now Lance Hale has arrived at his true calling... Jungle Lord! In this first adventure he acquires a kid sidekick named Jackie who befriends an elephant and takes out a band of murderous white poachers. In Silver Streak Comics #7 (January 1941), he takes a break so other heroes can kick Hitler's ass, but in Silver Streak Comics #8 (March 1941) he's back, now at only five pages instead of eight, saving the beautiful Ruth and her scientist friends from cannibals and crocodiles. Silver Streak Comics #9 (April 1941) has Lance save an aviator from a race of treetop dwelling pygmies (who speak backwards (siht ekil gnihtemos) and charging lions.
By issue #14, Lance Hale was done with his illustrious career as Jungle Lord. In his place more popular characters such as Daredevil and the Silver Streak (as well as Leslie Charteris' The Saint) filled the pages. So Lance had to remain in his jungle unobserved. Such were the wages of WWII. The adventures of Lance Hale may seem like a chaotic jumble, but when you consider the way in which comics were created in the early 1940s, things become much clearer.
Lance was a character published by Silver Streak Comics but the writing and drawing of his stories were done by sweatshops known as studios. The individual assigned to the strip probably changed at least as often as the storyline. There was little content control as long as product was made and delivered to the packager, in this case Lev Gleason. Unlike characters like Sheena or Tarzan, Lance did not have a single creator (or more often a writer and an artist) who kept an eye on development. The studios often stole ideas that were hot from movies, radio, and the newspaper comic strips. Since they were working in a medium that was beneath notice, no one really cared until the famous 1941 National Comics v. Fawcett court case. Slowly companies like DC, operating their own bullpen of writers, artists, and editors, replaced the studios. Lance Hale was long forgotten by that time.
GW Thomas has appeared in over 400 different books, magazines and ezines including The Writer, Writer's Digest, Black October Magazine and Contact. His website is gwthomas.org. He is editor of Dark Worlds magazine.