The PopCult Bookshelf
Classic Hot Rods and Racing Car Comics
Written and Illustrated by Jack Keller
Edited by Mort Todd
Published by Ace Comics
Available from www.morttodd.com
$6.99 each, plus shipping
In honor of Charleston’s Rod Run and Doo Wop car show which starts today, we’re going to look at two great collections of overlooked classics that were originally published by Charlton Comics in the 1960’s. These are great comic book stories about hot rods and auto racing. These volumes present the adventures of Clint Curtis, the star of Charlton’s Hot Rods and Racing Cars. These reprints are part of the Charlton Neo movement, which I have raved about previously in my reviews of the Charlton Arrow.
These are terrific racing adventure strips, written and drawn by a cartoonist who knew cars inside and out. Jack Keller got his start in comics working as an assistant for Will Eisner on The Spirit. In the 1950’s he made his mark working at Atlas Comics (later to become Marvel) where he drew horror comics as well as the western series Kid Colt, Outlaw. In the mid 50’s Keller started working regularly for Charlton Comics, primarily drawing war and western comics. By the 60’s, he started specializing in automotive comics such as Drag ‘n’ Wheels, Grand Prix, Teenage Hotrodders, Surf ‘n’ Wheels, World of Wheels and Hot Rods and Racing Cars. Keller retired from comics in the early 70’s but continued his love affair with cars as a salesman at a Chevrolet dealer in Redding, Pennsylvania and at a hobby shop specializing in automotive collectibles.
Clint Curtis was a bit of an everyman, equally at home with hot rodders, Indy racers, dirt tracks, drag racers, and the custom car scene. The first volume presents Clint showing up a braggart, qualifying for a big race, racing in the Daytona 500, challenging “Psychedelic Sid,” the fastest dragster on wheels, and racing a cursed Indy Ford.
In the second collection, Clint is back at Daytona, this time in a Hemi. Then, on a day off from racing he has to run down a band of hot rodding robbers. We also see him enter a demolition derby, enter a race where he trades a Porsche for a TransAm, deal with a losing streak, and then agree to race a motorcycle against a dune buggy.
These are solid, simple, thoroughly entertaining stories presented in glorious black and white with the artwork reproduced directly from the original Silver Prints used by Charlton Comics. The art is crisp and you can see all the detail of Keller’s ink lines which was usually obscured by Charlton’s funky printing.
Classic Hot Rods and Racing Car Comics are a pure nostalgic treat for fans of the diverse types of comics that we used to be able to find on newsstands. It’s been decades since any hot rod or automotive comics have been regularly published by anyone. And that’s a shame because the medium lends itself so well to the genre, especially in the hands of a talented cartoonist who knows his stuff.
Each issue of Classic Hot Rods and Racing Car Comics is 64 pages of mostly comics, with the occasional short background article or cover gallery. If you like cars and comics, head over to Mort Todd’s website so you can order directly from him.