Chicago Spanking Review

Weird Spankings #24: Red Rube, Red Butt

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For the penultimate in our current series of Weird Spankings we visit Red Rube. If The Shield was Archie's best-known superhero character, then surely Red Rube was the least-known, and deservedly so as we shall see. Let's take a look at him from his origin story, in Zip Comics #39 (August 1943):

red rube splash page from zip #39

Story and art by Ed Robbins. Published by Archie (MLJ). Posted by the Web-Ed on 04/01/2011.

So how did Red Rube come to be? Let's follow the trail of Reuben, an abused orphan boy, as he finds himself in a strange hall of portraits.

red rube page 34 from zip #39

Hmmm - this is vaguely familiar (if you know your Golden Age heroes), and it becomes more apparent when he meets an old ancestor of his who basically tells him he will have the powers of all his ancestors when he shouts, "Hey, Rube!"

red rube page 34 from zip #39

By this time, you should have recognized Red Rube as a rather blatant rip-off of the original Captain Marvel, but if not, let's take a look at some comparisons. First, let's visit that portrait gallery again, then remember the mysterious subway tunnel that Billy Batson followed when he met the old wizard, Shazam, for the first time back in Whiz Comics #1:

red rube hall from zip #39
the great hall of shazam from whiz #1
red rube from zip #39 shazam! from whiz #1
the great hall of shazam from whiz #1

Like we said, blatant: just as Billy Batson changed into Captain Marvel (nicknamed The Big Red Cheese) by calling out old Shazam's name, so young Reuben changes into Red Rube by calling out, "Hey Rube!" Somehow, the time-honored carny cry just doesn't have the pizazz of "Shazam!", which is one reason why Captain Marvel is one of the all-time great super-heroes and Red Rube was pretty much forgotten about until now. Which reminds us - we never did present the spanking page. O.K., here it is:

red rube spanking page from zip #39

Red Rube again imitates Capt. Marvel by turning a bad guy over his knee. Now in a sense he is fully justified - this is the man who beat young Reuben cruelly, and with a whip yet - so as a child-abuser, he is truly deserving of harsh punishment. Actually, although RR refuses to use the whip, it would have been no more than justice had he done so. Perhaps Robbins or the editor thought that such strict justice would have seemed cruel to young readers, or wanted to uphold the ideal that no man should take the law into his own hands, for although technically a spanking is an extra-legal punishment, it might have seemed entirely appropriate to those same young readers.

In fact, a case could be made that seeing the villain spanked would relieve any tensions and fears the story had created in young readers by depicting Reuben's abuse (indeed, it was probably to minimize this that the actual beating is not shown, although we see the boy's back afterwards). Of course, an even stronger case could be made for not getting into this situation in the first place, which is one reason you would probably not see child abuse depicted in a modern-day mainstream comic book or cartoon.

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