Things were a little on the skeletal side in our previous installment of Friday Frights-- and this week we're just as similarly skim! But there is a difference as you'll soon discover in the tragically hilarious origin tale of "Spooks" from the July 1942 issue of Wow Comics #6. Spooks, aka Professor Oscar Willard, was a very unique, but none the less, very short-lived horror / comedy character illustrated by Mad Magazine's very own Dave Berg. Try not to scream as our doomed Halloween decor-hero fights the good fight and even receives a little divine intervention to boot! And okay, next Friday Frights I promise something with a little more meat on its funny bones! And happy birthday to my favorite scientist of skelentry, Larry Blamire!
I'm not sure how much legs a series like this would have had, a skeleton solving crimes and scaring everybody probably had a limited self life, but this is a pleasant enough tale and something I've never seen before!
I do love how matter of fact the character is, like all of this isn't that unusual, just a bit of a bother!
This could have led to a comedy detective, Sherlock Bones, the detective of the netherworld fighting the underworld.
This idea could still work, though he would need more of an outfit besides the eyeglasses and bow tie.
I'm definitely sad to see this guy only has a four-installment career, both because I think this stuff is really charming, and because I really dig Berg in this mode. The big round professor glasses on the skull is a great character design.
There are many possibilities to resurrect this character for a modern comic book audience for sure. Hell, let's put him in a leather jacket, plop his rattly bones on a stunt motorcycle, set his head on fire and-- oh wait, never mind.
I'm always surprised how good Dave Berg's art was in his early days of illustrating. I mean, I love his "Lighter Side Of" strips in Mad, but always thought the art seemed kind of stiff and flat, especially compared to something like Spooks with all the great details and wild angles.
"...the art seemed kind of stiff and flat..."
I agree completely. I mean, it fits the strip to a tee, the sign of a nimble illustrator. Also, since he was the creator of that strip, it seems reasonable to imagine it's the kind of cartooning he found most fulfilling. But, like the art, I always found the strip itself kind of tepid, sort of stiff and conservative. Especially for MAD in the seventies and eighties. I do not begrudge Dave Berg spending decades doing whatever he loved, but I love this way better.
How I imagine Professor Oscar Willard's alt future after these first, early stories: Eventually the whole "hey look, he's a skeleton!" wears off, and the strip kind of evolves into a Spirit/Plastic Man vibe--with less action and more Sherlock, maybe--and criminals and cops alike accept the reality of the character as he solves Golden Age Crimes, Willard's bony appearance coming off just like the usual super tights or what-have-you.
"Hey buddy, you're gonna be plenty sorry you infiltrated this private meeting of thugs and crimin--HEY! Cheese it, you lugs! It's the PROF!"
Then, eventually Bruce Timm comes along and turns those glasses into goggles, reinventing the character is an international spy during the Cold War.
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