SF in all the Wrong Places - Myra North - Special Nurse(c) 2016, Arthur L. Lortie
email.jpg
Blog : Amazing Stories
[NOTE: If you find this or any of the strip collections I put together listed in the sidebar here or at my BookStork page to be useful, please consider making a donation of any amount to my PayPal account. It will help defray the cost of the many archival and library services I use for these and future projects. Please use the link and not my email address, which is not listed at PayPal. Strip collections are being added all the time -- and I even consider requests! :) ]

Four Color s1 003 Myra North Special Nurse (Dell).jpgCollectively, my ever-growing mountain of reference books on science fiction in novels, magazines, film, TV and comics immortalize the feats of every hero who ever fired a laser pistol or piloted a rocketship -- especially if that character is a woman!

Or at least it feels that way! Each and every obscure Fantastic Female from comics that I stumble upon has a citation in at least one book, from the space travelling flapper CONNIE to a caped superhero masking her true identity as MISS FURY.

Everybody received their ten minutes of fame! Except -- Myra North - Special Nurse.

MYRA had a respectable run for Newspaper Enterprise Association from February 19, 1936 to August 31, 1941 and, at its peak, appeared in 466 newspapers. She even came from the pencils and typewriters of two creators who would be familiar to the legion of fans of Frank Godwin (the creator of CONNIE), the WIZARD OF OZ or THE SHADOW franchises, or even just plain ol' good girl art!

Some of her adventures were reprinted concurrently in comic books of the 1930's and '40's, though hampered by reformatting and annoying continuity gaps. There was also a small collection in 1987 of a few uninspired daily storylines that, not surprisingly, failed to attract much attention.

Perhaps MYRA was overlooked because her daily adventures were somewhat ordinary. From Monday to Saturday, she was equal part Angel of Mercy, detective, and international spy, which made her unusual, but not necessarily noteworthy. She was a cookie-cutter perky blonde with a makeup kit, an assortment of wigs and a couple of dashing sidekicks. Her skills made her an expert medical diagnostician and crack code breaker, but the only superpower she displayed was her ability to poke her nose into everyone else's business in a single bound.

Or maybe nobody noticed her because of the strip's misleading title. A real life Special Nurse, by definition, just provides medical services in the employ of an individual, and quite often while hunkered down in the client's home. Our heroine certainly does show her bedside manner once in a while, taking time off from her snooping to cure a child's rare disease here, tend to a nogoodnik's gunshot wounds there or even save a world leader from poisoning -- but mostly that's just her part time job.

They never reveal what Oh-so-special Nursing School she attended, but unlike that ordinary nursing school in your neighborhood, their curriculum included classes in Sherlockian deduction, master-of-disguise makeup tips and Advanced Cryptology 101 (the school administration clearly knew that most dying patients were slipping their nurses secret messages before Death came a'callin'). She also took a graduate course in the proper techniques of derailing the dastardly plots of wanna-be kidnappers, jewel thieves, and tyrants!

Wotta gal!

One class she skipped, however, was weaponry. Sherlock had his Watson to cover his medical deficiencies, and Nero Wolfe had Archie to do his running and punching. Myra got herself not one, but two boy toys to compensate for her inability to hit the broadside of a barn with a howitzer. Her main squeeze was Jack Lane, a detective sergeant from Long Island; and the inscrutable Lew Wen, a Chinese secret agent spouting Charlie Chan-ish bon mots while plugging holes in double agents and despots, somehow always manages to show up in the nick of time to save their butts wherever they're trapped in this week.

There were a couple of daily subplots that bordered on the fantastic, featuring a gigantic war machine and a Dorian Gray formula to stop aging by using "electrical vibrations [to break up] cholesterol deposits in the blood", but for the most part, MYRA and her companions gleefully traveled wherever her good looks or inquisitiveness carried her, catching jewel thieves or spies or busting fake psychics.

The Sunday stories, however, that were sandwiched between a more-of-the-same beginning and her swan song that centered on an invasion of the good ol' US of A through Canada, included a potpourri of wonderful gadgets and science fiction plots.

Now, I know a lot of nurses. I think they are ALL special. But none of them could hold a syringe to Myra North's medical bag of tricks in her Sunday adventures, where she really is a Special kind of special.

With some series, the adoption of science fiction stories made sense. By the late 1930's, daredevil aviators were still Rock Stars and earning the Big Bucks and wooing Hot Babes, but there were so many of them the poor writers of their fictional adventures had exhausted original ways for their high flyers could foil a drug smuggling ring from 20,000 feet. Sending their protagonists above the Wild Blue Yonder and into the Blackness of Space opened numerous plot possibilities to fill the void until Nazis and Japs became a go-to plot device.

Myra, however, couldn't use that flimsy excuse for her color adventures. Frank Godwin's Connie, that other bored comic strip damsel causing distress, had, perhaps, opened the door for this sort of thing.

In the second Sunday adventure for Myra and Jack, for example, an only slightly mad scientist invented a machine that "pick[ed] up deflected light rays in the stratosphere" and allowed him to view any event on earth. A nip here and a tuck there and the machine could see into the future, too!
S002.jpg
This little experiment in technobabble seemed to inspire Myra's creative team! This was followed in short order by a ray gun that could kill at long distances and a truly mad brain specialist who used "gland secretions" -- duh! -- to raise a chimpanzee's IQ just enough to make bank robbery part of its daily routine.

They were on a roll now and just because they could, I suppose, pulled out all the stops and threw in everything but a kitchen sink and drain for Myra's next outing! Ling Sin, a female Fu Manchu, plans to blot out the sun from the safety of her super-scientific underground lair. Tapping into the earth's core for energy, she's sustaining her legions on synthetic giant mushrooms and leafy greens, while plotting to create a Utopian matriarchal society after whittling down the competition. Ming the Merciless, Lex Luthor and a dozen pulp supervillains would have been envious!
S006.jpg

Our heroes eventually put an end to these shenanigans, rehabilitate her chief scientist, Dr. Wu (a brainy Oriental substitute for the daily's brawny Lew Wen), and escape in an antigravity strato-gyro, where they become troubleshooters for an organization of do-gooders called the High Consul.

More amazing adventures follow in rapid succession. They find themselves prisoners of a hidden advanced civilization "to the north of Greenland" and, afterwards, destroy a super-gun capable of firing bombs over 250 miles. A motley array of supervillains begin to parade through the strip, like Dr. Luna and his diabolical heavy water weapon; Dr. Zero and his legion of invisible men; and the hooded Falcon whose advanced technology steals the world's natural resources, especially oil. Even the dastardly villain Hyster from the daily strips shows up seeking revenge after he escapes from that lax prison all dangerous psychopaths seem to get sent to.
S007.jpg
They weren't through yet, though. Not with all these fantastic pulp plots just lying about unguarded just begging to be pilfered!

genie.jpgBesides the aforementioned US invasion by the monocle wearing ruler of some unnamed foreign power, the creators find time to throw in an ancient Chinese curse (the Yellow Peril is a continuing subplot here), dangerous mental projections, some solar powered weaponry; and, just for variety, a visit through time with Sinbad, the Roc and the Genie from 1001 Arabian Nights.

Whew!

The credited team here is Charles J. Coll, Jr. as artist and F. Raymond Thompson as writer. Both had artistic training and there's enough variety in style to make me think Thompson pitched in on pencils and inks from time to time. They may also have dipped into Philadelphia's seemingly endless pool of uncredited ghosts.

Charles J. Coll, Jr. has entries at Jerry Bails' Who's Who of Amerian Comic Books, Lambiek, the Shadow Wikia and comics credits at the Grand Comics Database -- but he has such extensive and interesting credits that I created a separate page to look at his career.

Ray Thompson's papers are stored at Syracuse University and they do a nice job of summarizing his career there, so I won't repeat it all here. The collection doesn't list any additional MYRA material outside of the basic strip clippings, unfortunately. But there is an intriguing entry for an unfinished book called The Golden Era of Newspaper Comics, 1900-1930.

Many other web resources profile him as well, including Lambiak, and his lengthy list of comics credits are at the Grand Comics Database. He was extremely busy with his advertising career while working on MYRA, especially with two campaigns he created, the Three Little Men for an oil company and the fondly remembered Fleer Dubble Bubble Kids wrappers for a gum company. He also created other comic strips like HOMER THE GHOST, ghosted on THE SHADOW (for Coll) and CONNIE (for Frank Godwin) while writing radio scripts and feature stories in his spare time. I'm not sure when he slept ...
cartoons.jpg

db.jpg












I broke up the Myra North's continuous and overlapping storyline into distinct stories. In general, if the cast of characters remained the same, I treated it as a single adventure, even if it drifted from a jewel robbery to a military coup with a booze cruise in between.

Here's the daily stories with links, complete from Monday, February 10, 1936 to Saturday, March 25, 1939 -

D001 - Mister Hyster (19360210 to 19360819)
D002 - Professor Julius Garstin (19360820 to 19361003)
D003 - Shifting Volcanoes (19361005 to 19361128)
D004 - The Secret Circle Murders (19361130 to 19370109)
D005 - Lady Ainsley (19370111 to 19370227)
D006 - The Claw (19370301 to 19370428)
D007 - Bluebeard (19370429 to 19370623)
D008 - The Twins (19370624 to 19370918)
D009 - von Boden's Brain Experiments (19370920 to 19371117)
D010 - Elmwood Sanatorium (19371118 to 19380106)
D011 - Arnold Island (19380107 to 19380311)
D012 - Tipton County (19380312 to 19380611)
D013 - The Mystery Ship (19380613 to 19380813)
D014 - Skyway Bandits (19380815 to 19381112)
D015 - Hollywood (19381114 to 19390325)

And the (awesome) Sunday stories, complete from December 6, 1936 to August 31, 1941 -

S001 - Prince Adrian (19360712 to 19361128)
S002 - The Mechanical Eye (19361206 to 19370328)
S003 - The Blue Death Ray (19370404 to 19370620)
S004 - Doctor Duval and Caesar the Ape (19370627 to 19370912)
S005 - The Penthouse Mystery (19370919 to 19371121)
S006 - The Fiendish Plot of Ling Sin (19371128 to 19380522)
S007- The Forgotten Continent (19380529 to 19381113)
S008 - The Daring Crusade (19381120 to 19381225)
S009 - The Falcon and Toltec Canyon (19390101 to 19390423)
S010 - Alfton Ruy and the ISP (19390430 to 19390917)
S011 - The Miracle Weapon(19390924 to 19391119)
S012 - The Invisible Man aka The Purple Shadow (19391126 to 19400303)
S013 - The Mystic Dragon (19400310 to 19401013)
S014 - The Blue Death (19401020 to 19410119)
S015 - The Secret Terror (19410126 to 19410518)
S016 - The Pacific Pearl (19410525 to 19410831)

I've also thrown in a whole bunch of extras, too, to complete the Official MYRA NORTH Collection™ as future generations will, of course, refer to it. :)

I included all the scanned Reprints in comics that I found and that didn't belong into the above story collections because they were colorized dailies or reformatted Sundays. Interested Grand Comics Database indexers take note that the source of all is noted in the file names!

From newspapers, I found numerous Promos

Dell Comics apparently had a deal to create new Myra material for their books. This file includes -
...........Text stories
...................... Fourth National Bank Robbery (from Crackajack Funnies #9)
...................... Myra North Files A Claim (from Crackajack Funnies #9 and Four Color s1 #3)
...................... Sea Tragedy (from Crackajack Funnies #9)
...................... Traps the Jewel Thieves (from Crackajack Funnies #9 and Four Color s1 #3)
...................... The Wealthy Broker (from Crackajack Funnies #9 and Four Color s1 #3)
...................... Kidnapped (from Crackajack Funnies #9 and Four Color s1 #3)
............A special page from The Comics #3, which is an out of continuity recap of the first Sunday adventure by unknown creators
........... The cover to Four Color s1 #3 by unknown creators
........... The cover to Myra North Special Nurse and Foreign Spies Big Little Book #1497
........... An ad for Four Color s1 #3 from Popular Comics #48

Enjoy!