The Hangman – Case of the Python’s Curse (1943 comic book) review…

The Hangman – Case of the Python’s Curse (1943 comic book) review after the break…

The Hangman – Case of the Python’s Curse (1943 comic book) review…

There is something to be said about the Golden Age of comic book superheroes. As one becomes older, it becomes easier to appreciate the efforts of generations past even if those efforts are now significantly dated in their delivery. Golden Age superheroes weren’t morally ambiguous as our modern-day superheroes tend to be. The superpowers, the villains and the story lines all seemed a little more simpler and innocent before the age of computers, Vietnam, the space race or even the Cold War. It’s hard not to smirk at the notion if some of these Golden Era superheroes crossed over to modern times and being flabbergasted at how radically the social culture has changed.

The Hangman is just one of many minor superheroes to have graced the Golden Era of comic books. Based on one comic, I couldn’t surmise the specific superpowers that this hero possessed. The comic book that I read was “The Hangman – Case of the Python’s Curse – Special Case #26.”

The plot of the story is that three men travel to India where they spy a golden opportunity to steal the “rare Ringed Python” from a street snake charmer. They manage to steal the snake but at the expense of leaving one of their accomplices (a man named Gorley) behind to suffer the consequences. The snake charmer puts a curse on the two remaining thieves and, this being India, you know that this curse will have some bite to it.

After the snake is sold for a whopping half a million dollars (approximately $6.2 million in today’s money), the curse takes affect. First, the thief named Baxter is killed in bed by the same ringed python. Then, the thief named Wiley is killed, despite making amends by sending his share of the bounty to Gorley’s widow. The Hangman, once stymied by the vile Snake Charmer, is not foiled again in his attempts to apprehend the seemingly supernatural villain who turns out to be… Gorley! While making a soliloquoy, though, Gorley is bitten by the very ringed python he employed to kill his other two accomplices. The End.

Eight pages is rather short to convey such a story but, even in the Golden Era where the credibility of every story was stretched incredibly thin, this story especially needed some extra pages to fully flesh it out. The story has some obvious plot holes, such as:

  • What happened to Gorley after he was seemingly strangled by a snake during the ringed python heist?
  • What, for that mattered, happened to the actual snake charmer?
  • What about Gorley’s widow? A man (Gorley) is so bent on revenge that he completely ignores his wife? Does Gorley even know that his “widow” received half of the bounty (more then he would have gotten had he “lived”)?
  • What was going to happen if Gorley succeeded? Remained hiding behind a secret identity his entire life?
  • And Wiley’s widow… No aftermath for her.
  • How did Gorley learn to charm snakes? From the snake charmer?

To be fair, The Hangman figures out an important clue in a fairly convincing way (Why didn’t the zoo report the python missing? Maybe because they didn’t know it was missing to begin with) and some of the story cuts are convincingly short (selling the snake requires only one panel) without needing too much further explanation.

Yet this is a story that desperately needs to be fleshed out in order for the revelation that the snake charmer is Gorley to have maximum effect. Why not have Gorley’s widow become a target (or an accomplice to kill the other two thieves)? Why not visit the zoo beforehand to establish the “impossibility” that the snake couldn’t be used in the crimes? Or that the snake is used for other crimes first as a feasibility test to see if the snake would perform up to task on the two real targets (Baxter and Wiley).

Without the story being fleshed out, the story itself has little impact. There’s no sense that the villain is a match for our hero – He demonstrates a single ability (charming snakes to do his bidding) and that Indian flutes are sturdy enough to blackjack a superhero. There also isn’t a lot of deduction or false leads. Eight pages isn’t a lot to tell this type of story and perhaps it would have been wiser to have altered the story to meet the page limitation. In all, this Hangman story left a lot to be desired.

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