25 Oct 2012

The Indie Club: THE CLOCK STRIKES! #1

The Indie Club is an irregular feature where we take a closer look at any small press or self-published books that have crossed our path.

Writer: John A. Short
Art: Vince Danks
Kult Creations $4.99

Matt C: In his preface at the beginning of this issue, writer Short correctly points out that The Clock was the first masked hero to appear in American comic books (he debuted in Funny Pages #6 and Funny Picture Stories #1 in November 1936). He then posits that this makes him the first superhero in comics, rather than Superman who appeared in Action Comics #1 two years later. I'm not entirely convinced by this argument as, from my understanding, a superhero needs to possess superpowers, and at this stage of the game there was a much clearer distinction between superheroes and masked vigilantes. Still, the claim to fame is there, and a semantic argument becomes irrelevant quite swiftly once you become engrossed in this impressive one-shot offering.

The character of The Clock is now in the public domain, and bar the odd mention here and there across the years in various books he hasn't starred in his own adventure since 1944. With contemporary eyes he looks incredibly derivative, a kind of third-rate Shadow, and it's easy to see why no one has bothered resurrecting him in the past 70 years, but Short has found a way to make this faceless vigilante compelling again. The Clock isn't the protagonist of the piece; that falls to Lieutenant Brenner, a cop trying to cut through the urban legends that have quickly sprung up and find out who's punching the tickets of various hoodlums. With a verbal patter reminiscent of the Warner Bros crime pictures of the '30 and '40s, Short strives for a semi-authentic approach to the tale, and the slang he employs proves very effective in suggesting an era most of us only know from the movies. When the titular crimefighter finally appears, he doesn't quite live up to his press as he almost has his ass handed to him (by a dame, no less!) but this works in the story's favour, creating a more believable hero who's not perfect or indestructible.

Without an artist suited to the task it's unlikely that Short would have got the right tone he wanted, but fortunately in Vincent Danks he's found someone with ability to concoct some dark, edgy images that possess a powerful photorealism (and I'm sure certain characters were based on movie actors, as Forrest Whittaker seems to make an appearance halfway though!). It's stylishly rendered and very evocative, and the combination of words and pictures here is strong enough that you hope the creators get another opportunity to revisit this world and this character, as it would be great to see The Clock strike again. 8/10

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