There were several comics from the 1950s dedicated to the proposition that crime doesn't pay, and this March 1950 issue of Crime and Justice Comics is one of them.

This cover illustration, although prosaic enough, is in fact a surreal nightmare worthy of the twilight zone, conceals in the trappings of pulpish hackwork.

Let us first consider the villain, lying on his fainting couch in a yellow silk bathrobe. Yellow silk bathrobes are, of course, Satan's loungewear. Any guy wearing a yellow silk bathrobe at any time is of course evil. If he wears it while lounging on a fainting couch, he's FRIGGING evil.

The frigging evil guy in the yellow silk bathrobe is saying "I am of course, neither a murderer nor a kidnapper." But we, the readers, can see the damsel tied to a chair and gagged, looking pretty upset about it. And we can see the henchman with a knife sneaking up on the hero from behind.

Perhaps the damsel should alert the hero to her predicament and his peril ... wait a minute ... it looks like she IS in his eyesight! Or is she? It's really hard to tell because the perspective on this art is so darned screwy. Are those curtains behind or in front of her? We don't know.

And what about those stairs leading up to the landing or balcony or whatever she's on? Where exactly do they connect to the landing? And what about that one bannister that seems way out of line from the others?

Then there's the matter of the villain's fainting couch. It looks almost as if it's somehow built onto the landing, and is hanging in midair somewhere between the landing and the floor.

And what about that side table behind he villain? Those skinny, weirdly bowed legs on it don't look like they'd hold up so much as a postcard.

Then there's the damsel herself. Superficially, she's the usual attractive blonde in a bind. But her body is subtly off, especially her hips and abdomen. Sure, they're nice and rounded, but there's no real modelling, her lower torso is just a shapeless blobular outline, far from the nicely outlined torsos seen in most other illustrations cited here.

Altogether, a very puzzling artwork. My guess is, it was a last minute change by the publisher. The artist has had the confrontation between Mr. yellow bathrobe and the good guy as the visual center of the art, with the damsel peeking into the action from behind a curtain in the background, but the publisher had said, "Nah, that's all wrong. Put the dame in the front. Everybody likes to see a good-lookin' dame, even if she's tied up. Especially if she's tied up."

"But that'll make everything all WRONG!" the artist wailed. And then made sure it DID make everything all wrong, hence the deeply unnatural perspective. And the knight in armor carrying a wooden spear more suited to a neolithic hunter.

But of course, the publisher liked it better anyway, because there was a dame in the foreground, and he didn't know from perspective. You can't win against that kind of ignorance.

Finally, don't even tell me what that thing is in the painting on the wall. Just the little bits I can see tell me I don't want to know.

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