Retro Review: All-American Comics #80

A few years ago I was lucky enough to guest on popular comics show Midnight the Podcasting Hour, to talk Unexpected #202, which featured what has to be one of the most disturbing tales ever published in DC’s supposedly kid-friendly mystery mags – find out more here.

All-American Comics #80, while not featuring children dipped in chocolate and eaten by a giant rabbit, does contain pretty disturbing imagery, as Green Lantern and Doiby Dickles face ‘Long-eared larceny’.

The story begins with one John Carvel meeting cabbie Doiby after making a fateful purchase.

Meanwhile, Chinese whispers sees Carvel’s stamp purchase – large for 1946 – inflate to represent $10,000 worth of rare items.

On the way home, Doiby has regaled Carvel with tales of his exploits with ‘Green Lantrin’ and suddenly the morose man almost cracks a smile.

Doiby agrees to babysit, but for some reason, rather than bore the kid to sleep with tales of personal gallantry, he picks up some Beatrix Potter. Unfortunately, the unnamed boy isn’t the only audience as Doiby gives his ‘Tales of Peter Rabbit’.

Doiby is so charmed by his new playmates that he calls pal Alan Scott who, it seems, goes to beddie byes at the same time as your average five year old.

As Alan crosses Gotham City in his garish, gorgeous Green Lantern garb, the rabbit robbers try to make Doiby, whom they assume is close to Carvel, give the lowdown on the stamps’ location.

GL rescues Doiby as he falls, but soon needs saving himself due to his pesky weakness to wood.

GL comes to his senses but Doiby still thinks he’s in a dream.

A green energy parachute stops Doiby going splat. Hero and sidekick pursue the bad bunnies – who have hopped it with the stamps – across the city.

The chase ends in a fairground funhouse, where the stubborn cabbie continues to insist everyone else is but a player in his whimsical reverie.

In the dark, the staunch friends are split up.

Can you hear the Scooby-Doo jingle?

Outside, Doiby and the Lepus leader struggle on another attraction.

Finally, the crooks are caught and all is explained.

Oh boy, this was fun. Writer Alfred Bester sets up an absurd premise but Doiby’s daffy demeanour ensures it works. Alan Scott is a splendid straight man, getting ever grumpier as he fails to convince Doiby he’s not dreaming. And as for those balletic, gun-toting, man-bunnies, just try to unsee them! Then there’s the gag with the peeved seagull – priceless. The only note I’d give Bester were I his editor would be to tell us why Carvel craved stamps so… was there something we weren’t being told? Surely he can’t have been so very worried about not having a night out with the wife?

Paul Reinman, on pencils and inks, finds a tone that works for both walking cartoon Doiby and the more serious Alan, Carvel and co. His staging of the carnival scenes is excellent, with the giant slide going between decks of panels especially fun and that near pitch-black panel extremely effective. Reinman – who inked Jack Kirby on the first issues of X-Men and the Incredible Hulk – even makes an ordinary city street look magical.

This isn’t billed as an Easter story but if you’re looking for funny bunnies you could do far worse!

Happy Easter!

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