The Press: Comic Battlefront

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The funnies, those staples of the daily press, were invented some 60 years ago to make people laugh—or at least chuckle. But where are the pratfalls, "Pows!" and "Kerflooies!" of yesteryear? Some comic-strip artists, recalling a simpler era, still let their cartoon creatures play it for laughs. But a growing number of characters in the funnies are much too busy for such nonsense. They are earnestly fighting the cold war.

Some of the characters are old hands at the game. Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon made his first foray against the Reds in 1947. George Wunder's Terry, like Canyon a U.S. Air Force pilot, is as good at outmaneuvering the Russian and Chinese Communists as he ever was against the China-coast pirates of the 1930s. Navy Commander Buz Sawyer has just set forth on a mission against the international dope trade—or, as Sawyer's creator. Artist Roy Crane, put it, "the sinister machinations of a World Power."

In recent months, a whole new contingent has entered the field. Joe Palooka, showing no effects of his 31 years as world heavyweight champion, recently outwitted the Reds to rescue a U.S. scientist in Austria. Smilin' Jack, the aerial barnstormer, smiles no more—he is doing his level best to keep the Russians from sabotaging the U.S. space effort. Winnie Winkle went to Moscow as a fashionable emissary of the U.S. Department of Commerce; alas, she wound up in the Russian pokey steaming away time in the laundry on trumped-up charges of espionage.

"Ray Gimmick." Of all the funny-paper freedom fighters, none is more dogged than Harold L. Gray's 38-year-old Orphan Annie, a mop-haired moppet who has empty circles for eyes* and a bald, dinner-jacketed billionaire for a foster father. Last month, Annie and her Daddy Warbucks were holed up on a tropical island somewhere just off the map. Suddenly "enemy" planes appeared, carrying H-bombs. But Daddy and his pals were forearmed. Using what he calls his "ray gimmick," Daddy exploded the H-bombs prematurely, atomizing the attackers.

Annie's previous adventure showed the U.S. how to handle Castro. A passenger on an airliner "sky-jacked" by unshaven pirates. Annie was taken to the island of Tributo, where General Mustashio Toro held her and her fellow hostages for $30 million ransom. But one of Daddy's aides hanged the General and herded Annie and company through a secret passageway to the Warbucks yacht. There, Daddy declaimed the moral: "I recall Teddy Roosevelt's advice! 'Never shake your fist and then shake your finger! That is the sort of Americanism I think an awful lot of us admire!"

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