Apparently either sounds were a lot more muted in the 1940′s, or they hadn’t yet invented the exclamation point, or sheriffs just didn’t hit very hard. Whichever it is, something is definitely up with this image:
I love everything about this panel, from the awesome dialog (“A cloth-covered sledgehammer comes up from the floor …” — what the hell was his fist doing on the floor?!) to the look on the face of the outlaw, to how the sheriff guts out his apparently broken and/or dislocated shoulder to deliver a punch. And all done without the need for an exclamation point! I mean, come on, I’ve used two so far just in this one post, and yet you can cold-cock a guy into bug-eyed, broken-armed, raccoon-mascara-wearing submission without even getting out of a declarative mode.
Regardless, it makes for a very surreal visual. You’ve got this very savage beating taking place, but the onomontoPOWia makes it all seem very genteel, as if they’ll retire to tea and crumpets after the blood soaks into the sawdust. Just awesome.
The panel is from Avon Comics’ 1947 comic, “Cowpuncher” #1, courtesy of the awesome “Golden Age Comics” site. I’ve been having a blast going through these old issues from the dawn of comic books’ exploding popularity, before the Comics Code Authority intervened to put a bullet through the medium’s head. They’ve got romance comics, war comics, talking animal comics, pirate comics, cowboy comics, you name it and you’ll find some really cool examples of the genre. It’s fascinating to immerse yourself in this era of the medium’s development, and to appreciate just how pointed the visual language has gotten in the intervening sixty years.
I’d write more, but I have to go outside and practice punching things with a period instead of an exclamation point. I just hope I don’t have to dislocate my shoulder to get it done.