Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Inefficient Buccaneer!!

Remember when Alan Moore teased us in Watchmen with the possibility that the comic book market could be dominated by pirate comics?

Because it was oh, so close to happening:

Man, there is nothing at all in the subtext of that cover, am I right?

"The most Daring thing about that captain is his ensemble!'

Sorry, couldn't resist.

Anyhoo, when Quality comics put Kid Eternity out to pasture, Buccaneers took over the numbering, and it was all pirates, all the time:

Of course, since the era was not ready for a full-hearted embrace of the Geoff Johnsian "villians are more interesting than heroes," the stories usually featured "good" pirates. Noblemen forced to become pirates until they could clear their name; pirates really working for king and country; pirates who seemed to spend most of their time fighting "bad' pirates.

Well, sure, but romanticism and Captain Jack Sparrow aside, most pirates were right bastards. How to deal with that?

Text pieces!

That sounds like the title to a 1970's Disney movie with Kurt Russell...

Wait--there are rules that are unwritten AND secret? How the hell am i supposed to follow those?

Yup, we can't have cruel and bloodthirsty pirates. That won't do at all!

Again...a disgrace to the noble profession of...pirate?!?

Here's the full text piece:

William Fly was indeed a real--and cruel and bloodthirsty--pirate. It is also likely the true story here was a bit more complex--the text piece manages to never mention the fact that the Elizabeth Snow was a slave ship headed to pick up a new cargo, for example. And the bit where he had to teach the hangman how to tie a proper noose is pretty impressive.

I'm no historian, but I'd wager most actual pirates were closer to William Fly than to the wonderfully noble and roguish-but-safe pirates of Hollywood and comics. That's probably why they didn't, and wouldn't have, caught on, despite Moore's speculation--there's not that much demand for making blackguards and bloodthirsty killers into your leading heroes.

Until 21st century DC Comics came along...

From Buccaneers #27 (1951). The completely straight cover to issue #20 is from 1950

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