Back in the 60s, 70s, and 80s, DC and Marvel fans sure loved the superheroes of the 40s. We would enjoy the current issues of Justice League of America or The Avengers, but every now and again there was an adventure that was kind of like “looking over our shoulders” at the past. The JLA would routinely get together with their historical antecedents, the Justice Society of America and there were so many tales to be told and retold of Captain America’s WWII teams, the All-Winners Squad and the Invaders.
But there was one of those old heroes that I kind of liked and I wasn’t sure why. Liberty Belle was a DC heroine who fought golden age criminals and saboteurs, like all those women did – in high heels. Created by Don Cameron and Chuck Winter, Liberty Belle debuted in Boy Commandos #1 (from Winter of 1942).
It took me a while to realize her greatest superpower was that she was (essentially) the Hollywood star, Veronica Lake.
Veronica Lake grew up in Saranac Lake and originally went by the name Constance Keane. (That seems like a pretty cool name to me too.) Her Hollywood star burned brightly – but flamed out all too quickly. Lake was a quintessential femme fatale in film noir thrillers and even the Bewitched prototype in I Married a Witch.
You can debate if she was a great actress or not. But she sure had a look. Maybe THE look. Lake’s blue eyes, slender figure and peek-a-boo hairstyle, the flowing waves of her blonde hair falling over her right eye, all captivated movie goers.
And comic lovers too, it turns out. Liberty Belle is clearly Veronica Lake. And one could argue that the Black Canary, in her early adventures, was too.
IDW’s Dark Spaces: The Hollywood Special is a new series that’s a part of Scott Snyder’s new imprint. “What we came up with was this idea of telling really dark, really emotional and psychologically compelling stories with absolutely no supernatural elements,” Scott Snyder revealed in a recent interview on AIPT. “Most of the books that I’ve done elsewhere have some genre elements that take them beyond the physical world, whether it’s sci-fi, speculative science fiction, or horror. This was really going to be tight, psychological dramas set in the real world.”
The fascinating part is that it stars a Hollywood Actress who’s enjoyed fame and suffered personal hardships named Vivian Drake. The series is written by Jeremy Lambert and illustrated by Claire Roe. Here’s the official write-up:
All aboard THE HOLLYWOOD SPECIAL, the 1942 luxury train touring the United States to support the war effort. On board is fading star Vivian Drake, doing her part to boost morale and finally give the tabloids something other than her nose-diving career and shambles of a family life to write about. But when the Special pulls into the coal-mining town of Minersville, PA, amid the collapse of a mine, Vivian finds herself facing every failure and bad memory she’s bottled up in the form of what the miners found in the dark—the thing they call the Mismatch Man, who feeds on pain and regret. And Vivian’s got both in spades.
There’s a lot to this issue – with a focus on nostalgia, class segmentation, parenting and the dichotomies of public personas and private struggles. Clair Roe’s art is solid and hustles the story along like a scolding babysitter. And yet, it still seems very fresh and pauses at just the right times.
There’s a plethora of covers available. The one that caught my eye was Cover C by Jacob Edgar, with a brilliant alternate logo.
It doesn’t look like this series was swept up in that recent, unfortunate wave of creator owned cutbacks by IDW. I hope that’s not the case because I’m anxious to read the next issue and see what happens to Veronica Lake Vivian Drake.
Eddie Muller and his gang do such an excellent job with their Noir City magazine. And comic fans will recognize the name of the Art Director/Designer Michael Kronenberg from all his excellent comic-related work, like The Batman Companion that he co-authored with Michael Eury for TwoMorrows Publishing.
I admit I’m a few issues behind for this fine publication, but what fun issue #36 is. The cover story is “Veronica Lake Centenary”, celebrating 100 years of the star.
And every other article is a one-way ticket down a rabbit hole of fascinating film facts, that makes the reader want to seek out and discover vintage films and re-watch old favorites.
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Interested in learning even more about Veronica Lake? Karina Longworth had an excellent episode focused on the star in her You Must Remember This podcast.